TRANSPORT: No thought for the future of bus travel

As reported in the Gazette, a public engagement process was instigated by the Northumberland County Council running for eight weeks from January 29, concerning the subsidised bus service.

For the past two months, my letterbox has been contaminated by propaganda from the Liberal Democrat and Tory parties, with no mention of public transport until Ms Trevelyan suddenly came up with a unique idea.

Because of lack of public transport she intends to press the Government for a reduction in fuel duty for motorists.

How this benefits those who by choice or age, elderly and infirm and visitors without a car, I can’t understand. No doubt she will enlighten us.

A Centre for Cities study reports that, between 2004 and 2013, the city of Newcastle created 29,300 new jobs, one of the highest percentage increases in England.

None of these jobs are available to local people unless they have private transport without incurring more than four hours per day travelling due to the lack of coordinated transport between Alnwick and Alnmouth railway station.

What is the Tories’ response to this? ‘Get on yer bike’, I suppose.

For the Liberal Democrats, our MP in his Diary of a Commons Man (Gazette, April 24, 2014) advises us that despite the setting up of the North East combined authority, which includes Northumberland, bus services will remain in control of the Northumberland County Council.

He tells us this will protect our subsidies from being used by Tyneside, presumably referring to the Nexus plan for a quality contract scheme for bus services in the NECA area – he is wrong.

Since his ‘piece’ of April 24, 2014, we have had the X18 services north of Alnwick to Berwick halved and now we have the NCC looking to cut £200,000 from the bus services budget, despite a recent study stating that they are comparatively modest anyway.

In the House of Commons Transport Committee’s report on ‘Transport in Isolated Areas, July 2014’ commented critically on the Government’s decision to reduce by 20 per cent the bus service operators grant, citing its likely effect on services.

In a letter to Sir Alan Beith, I asked him to take up the issue with the Chancellor with a view to getting it restored (November 7, 2014). His reply of November 13, 2014, contained a welter of pro-Government propaganda and obfuscation running to some seven column inches. One word would have done, ‘No’.

The cost of this loss of grant within Northumberland for this coming year is around £100,000, roughly half the amount the council seeks to save. No need to say more, this speaks for itself.

Looking to the future, the Office for National Statistics predicts over the next 10 years a fall in the working population in Northumberland of 5.3 per cent and an increase in over 65s of 23.7 per cent.

What are our short-term politicians’ projections for public transport over the next 10 years? On the basis of their current interest in the future, NIL.

NC Walker,

Hotspur Court,

Alnwick