The network of leisure bus services providing access to the Dales for hundreds of visitors from the surrounding towns and cities is to be reduced for the 2004 summer season.
The cuts include the withdrawal of the through Summer Saturday service from West Yorkshire to Upper wharfedale and Hawes, which facilitated overnight stays in the Dales; the withdrawal of the Summer Sunday service from West Yorkshire to Hawes via Swaledale; reduced services in Wharfedale on Sundays, including the withdrawal of the only bus from Bradford; and a shortened season for the only Summer Sunday service from Lancashire.
The “Dalesbus” services operate on summer weekends providing an environmentally friendly way of visiting the Dales, and are especially valued by many elderly people who are no longer able to drive, and by many non-car owners.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and North Yorkshire County Council have recently reviewed the contracts for the operation of these services. Unfortunately, the amount of funding needed to allow the continuation of the full service that operated last summer has not been made available. This is despite the increased visitor numbers that are expected in the Dales this year, as a result of the publicity surrounding the National Park’s 50th anniversary coupled with exposure in the popular Calendar Girls film.
The Yorkshire Dales Public Transport Users Group (YDPTUG) is appalled by these proposals. “The National Park’s anniversary this year has commendably incorporated a theme of reaching out to the Park’s surrounding communities,” noted the Group’s Chairman, Mr Howard Handley. “People are rightly being encouraged to use public transport to access the Dales, but it is clear that little thought has been given as to how they might actually be able to do so. The level of service into the National Park will be significantly less this year than last from the major conurbations of West Yorkshire, East Lancashire and the City of York.”
"There is currently much talk and emphasis on “sustainable tourism” and social inclusion in the Dales, but the reality of the National Park’s actions is very different, and actually encourages social exclusion."
The YDPTUG has analysed the services to be provided in 2004, and estimates that around 30% less seats will be available on leisure bus services into the Dales this year. This is the result of some routes being cut completely, whilst others will run for a shorter period or use smaller buses. “These cuts just don’t make sense - with all that is happening in the National Park this year I would have expected to see an increase in leisure buses to the area, not a reduction”, said Mr Handley. “The National Park really does not understand the importance or the practical reality of implementing sustainable tourism. As a result many people will no longer be able to visit favourite places in the Dales, whilst the Dales themselves will suffer from increased congestion and pollution, but less visitors."
The YDPTUG is now encouraging anyone who is adversely affected by these cuts to make their views known. It remains hopeful that the National Park Authority may yet have a last minute change of heart, and provide a sustainable and socially inclusive public transport service. However time is short, as a properly designed leisure bus network would provide a full service from Easter onwards.