Another trial of an on-demand minibus service will end on June 30, with costs too high to continue and expand the scheme across North Yorkshire as originally envisaged, the council says, though it claims it will help in developing long term transport options in rural areas.
The pilot YorBus scheme was launched in 2021 across Bedale, Masham and Ripon areas with two buses operating on a loop around the three communities and customers booking seats online.
North Yorkshire Council claims YorBus, supported with Government Rural Innovation Fund money, proved popular with passengers, but was more expensive than conventional buses.
The council’s executive member for highways and transport, Cllr Keane Duncan claimed the pilot has provided valuable insights about transport in rural areas. “We launched the YorBus pilot two years ago to enhance our existing public transport network. It has allowed us to gather valuable information about the costs and benefits of running a digital demand responsive bus service.
“While YorBus proved popular with passengers, the service only operates in one part of the county and the cost per journey is significantly higher than the traditional, timetabled bus routes we support.”
“Without sufficient additional funding being available to expand the service so YorBus can benefit residents across North Yorkshire, and with costs per journey remaining so high despite efforts to improve value for money, the pilot will come to an end”.
Duncan said ending the scheme would allow the authority to be fair to all residents. “We can focus every penny of our limited resources on supporting bus services across the county at a time of unprecedented pressure. While continuing to work closely with operators to support at-risk services, we are also currently reviewing a number of initiatives to improve rural transport and asking the public for their views to help shape our future strategy.”
The service was launched for a one-year trial, but the former North Yorkshire County Council extended it for a year with the addition of a free, pre-booking scheme. The YorBus pilot cost almost £230,000 to operate a year. Figures showed YorBus journeys are more than double the cost of a scheduled service.
Last year, the county council was unsuccessful in its bid for £116m to invest in bus services in the Government’s Bus Service Improvent Scheme part of which funding was earmarked for the expansion of YorBus across North Yorkshire.
The authority says lessons from the YorBus pilot will help to form the first draft of the new Local Transport Plan.
The two YorBus vehicles will be returned to the council’s fleet for use on other local bus services.
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