A key bus service which links Preston, Clitheroe and Skipton has been saved.
The 280 bus service was under threat as the current operator, Rotala Preston Bus advised it could no longer provide the service commercially after 16 June 2019.
However, Lancashire County Council and Stagecoach Merseyside & South Lancashire have been working together to ensure the service continues. This followed a tendering exercise with other bus operators to establish the best value solution.
Stagecoach Merseyside & South Lancashire will take over operation of Service 280 route from 17 June 2019 meaning there will be no gap in service.
There will be some minor timetable amendments, but the service will continue to operate Monday to Saturday daytime every hour between Preston and Clitheroe extending through to Skipton every two hours as with the current service.
However, the route has been improved between Barnoldswick and Skipton to additionally serve Earby.
Lancashire County Council will initially provide more than £80,000 per year (80% of the total subsidy cost) to subsidise the route, Ribble Valley Borough Council has agreed in principle through its Officers that it will meet a further 10% of the overall subsidy providing “one-off emergency funding” to cover the cost of subsidies for the next 12 months giving the New Operator - StageCoach and Lancashire County Council time to improve the service so that it generates a sustainable revenue stream and ultimately “washes its face” becoming a fully sustainable and ultimately profitable route.
The Leader of Ribble Valley Borough Council, Cllr Stephen Atkinson states, “£6,000 of these monies provided by Ribble Valley Borough Council will come from outstanding Discretionary Grants from the current fiscal year with a further £4,000 being brought forward from the Budget for Discretionary Grants from the following fiscal year. This decision will be ratified at the Next Meeting of the Policy & Finance Committee which will take place on Tuesday 18th June.”
Cllr Atkinson continues, “In a series of high level discussions which took place with the Deputy Leader of Lancashire County Council County Cllr Keith Iddon who is also the Post Holder for Transport & Highways, the Lead Member for Roads & Highways, County Cllr Andrew Snowden together with Senior Officers of Lancashire County Council we were insistent and received assurances that this is a “one-off financial commitment and will not constitute a precedent”.“
It is also understood that Pendle Borough Council through the territory of which the service will be partly redirected are also being asked to provide a contribution to help facilitate the first year's operation.
Cllr Atkinson continues further, “I would like to pass on my thanks to all the Ribble Valley Borough and County Councillors as well as our MP, Nigel Evans who have worked very hard on this complex lobbying exercise. None of us are specialists in Transport Policy so we have had to marshal a raft of evidence and present it in a way that made our case incontrovertible. It has been a steep learning curve but the outcome has been more than worth it and I’m delighted for the general public who recently placed their faith in us by re-electing the Conservatives in the Ribble Valley. It shows we can do a good job for them.”
Ribble Valley Borough Councillor Ged Mirfin who has been campaigning to retain the service which runs through Whalley, the Ward he represents, states, “Undoubtedly the massive public response did an awful lot to convince Key decision-makers of the necessity of retaining the service. To date 801 People have signed the on-line petition to Save the 280 Bus Service - the largest number of people who have registered and responded to an on-line petition on the Lancashire County Council Site. http://council.lancashire.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?ID=237&RPID=16043450&HPID=16043450
Cllr Mirfin continues, “What the Petition clearly demonstrated was that on the basis of passenger load, length of journey, connectivity, fulfilling obligations with regard to education, work, health and welfare the 280 more than met the criteria for the receipt of a subsidy.”
Ribble Valley Borough Councillor, Mark Hindle, Cllr Mirfin’s fellow Ward Councillor in Whalley states, “It was absolutely right and proper that the service continued. The 280 Bus Service which operates along the A59 Corridor carries one of the heaviest passenger loads if indeed not the heaviest passenger load in the entirety of Lancashire - according to ticket machine data and on-bus surveys approximately 170,000 annual passenger trips - along one of the longest busiest routes.”
Cllr Hindle continues, “I’m absolutely delighted that the service is being retained not least for the very large number of people who have lobbied myself and Ged over the last couple of weeks who use the service on a regular basis - it will come as an enormous relief to them to find that they can still get to work, school, college, university or enjoy something as simple as a day out to sample the delights of both Lancashire and Yorkshire.”
County Councillor Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: "This is a well-used bus route providing thousands of people with a vital link between their home towns and employment areas such as the Samlesbury Enterprise Zone. Without it, people would struggle to get to work, school and many communities across our county would become isolated. We had to step in and take action to ensure the service continues without a gap and it's tremendous news that Stagecoach has agreed to operate the 280 route. “
James Mellor, Commercial Director at Stagecoach, said "Stagecoach is pleased to be working in partnership with Lancashire County Council to both secure and operate this vital local bus service and we look forward to welcoming customers on board without any gap in service."
New timetable leaflets will be available in the coming days, but for more information about the route, including the revised timetable for the service, please visit www.stagecoachbus.com.