Funding to restore or improve bus routes and services in Westmorland and Furness is to be targeted at reconnecting communities and boosting access to public transport.
Bus Service Improvement Plan Plus Funding of £412,130 awarded to Westmorland and Furness Council for 2023/24 will be used to support routes which have been withdrawn or reduced within the past five years in areas where they are most needed to ensure communities are reconnected and access to public transport services restored.
The restored services (subject to confirmation after going out to tender) are:
- Kendal Town (Service 40): Retain Sunday service when funding expires
- Penrith – North Lakes School (2): Restore the afternoon service
- Sedbergh – Kendal (564): Restore Monday to Friday service
- Penrith – Carlisle (104): Restore half-hourly service (currently hourly).
- Windermere Town (597): Restore Friday service (currently Tuesday and Thursday only)
- Kendal –Penrith (106): Restore Wednesday service (currently Tuesday and Friday only)
- Alston – Carlisle (680): Restore twice a week service
- Grange – Cartmel Circular (532): Restore local service three days a week
- Arnside – Kendal (552): Restore Tuesday; Thursday; Saturday service. Currently three days a week
- Appleby – Kendal (561): Restore Wednesday service
A further £178,885 is to be used to support access to employment opportunities in the hospitality and tourism sector to provide improved transport connectivity for workers.
Those improved services, also subject to confirmation after going out to tender, are:
- Barrow – Windermere (6): Extra buses at work times, evenings and Sundays
- Keswick – Penrith (X4/5): Increase frequency from every hour to every 30 minutes and offer an evening service Thursday to Sunday
In addition the council will receive £412,130 for 2024/25 and proposals for utilising this will be considered at a future meeting.
The improvement plan and funding was approved at today’s Highways and Transport Strategic Board.
Councillor Neil Hughes, who is deputy chairman of the board and Cabinet Member for Transport and Environmental Services, said: “Buses play a vital role in our communities and are hugely important if we are to meet our net zero ambitions. An efficient public transport system enables our residents and visitors to access education, employment, services, visitor attractions and events, shopping, health, social and leisure opportunities.
“We shouldn’t underestimate the challenge we face in making public transport affordable, reliable, and sustainable. Many of the problems are caused by market failures and deregulation or the particular challenge of providing a viable transport network in sparsely populated areas where patronage is low, and working within increasingly limited budgets. Westmorland and Furness is England’s most sparsely populated local authority area, which in itself present challenges in terms of sustaining public transport, and connectivity.
“What we do know is that buses offer a lifeline for many of our residents, particularly those in more rural areas and those without access to a personal vehicle. For many people without access to a car, buses are the only way they can travel to health services, to shops and leisure, to places of work, to colleges and further education. Poor bus provision, particularly in rural areas can amplify social, economic and health inequality.
“This one-off grant funding will enable the council to implement some much-needed bus service improvement and support bus operators to provide essential bus services where there is an unmet need. This sends a strong message that we believe public transport is essential and we are willing to subsidise routes.”
Other initiatives funded by Westmorland and Furness Council to support bus routes and services include the A2B Now card, a reduced fare bus travel card for 5-20 year olds living in Westmorland and Furness outside school travel times. It is valid on local bus services within Westmorland and Furness and entitles holders to bus travel for £1.80 (single) and £3 (return). If the normal fare is less than this travellers will pay the normal fare.
Open until October 20 is the 16 to 19 Education Travel Bursary Fund, which supports young people in Westmorland and Furness pay for transport for educational purposes – whether that be bus, train, taxis, fuel costs for private transport or students who travel by bicycle.
And earlier this year the Local Sustainable Travel and Transport Fund saw a total of £900,000 delegated to the Eden, Furness and South Lakeland Locality Boards to support the development of local sustainable travel and transport schemes, including footpaths and rights of way, cycling, school streets and community transport.