Letter to Keith Iddon, the Deputy Leader of Lancashire County Council & Cabinet Member for Transport from the Leader & Deputy Leader of Ribble Valley Borough Council Stephen Atkinson & Simon Hore on the 280 Bus

Keith,

We are contacting you as a matter of extreme urgency regarding the decision by Preston Bus to de register the commercial operation for the 280 Bus Service which runs from Preston to Clitheroe and onto Skipton which will be withdrawn on Saturday, June 15 which means it will no longer be running from Monday 17th June.

The route currently serves rural communities including Mellor Brook, Copster Green, Billington and Whalley en route to Skipton.

This has severe implications for the Ribble Valley severing the only public transport artery to Skipton and cutting off the only public transport bus link to Preston via a number of outlying villages. This is the only cross-Ribble Valley Bus Service that runs along the A59 Corridor. This would prove a Transport disaster for residents of the Ribble Valley affecting a number of key groups who use the service to reach a number of key destinations on the route between Preston, Clitheroe and Skipton, including:

* Students who attend schools over the border in Skipton (in particular Skipton Academy, Skipton High School for Girl’s, Ermysted’s Grammar And Craven College)
* Students attending Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
* Students attending Cardinal Newman School and the University of Central Lancashire in Preston
* Key Service Workers who work for the NHS in Preston Royal Hospital
* We would further draw your attention to the fact that this is the only regular Bus Service that runs past Clitheroe Hospital and is well used by both Out-patients and Hospital Visitors alike
* Patients attending Medical Facilities in Preston and Clitheroe
* Knowledge Workers who work for various High-Tech companies including BAE Systems in Salesbury, Skipton Building Society at their HQ in Skipton and various other companies in Clitheroe and Chatburn which are on the direct Bus Route.

It is important to maintain transport connectivity in the largest Borough geographically in Lancashire not least to combat the issue of growing rural isolation. There is also a very real danger that businesses will be put off locating to the Ribble Valley because it will prove difficult to hire workers without an adequate public transport infrastructure.

And of course let us not forget the severe disruption it will bring to Tourism. Pensioners in particular regularly use the Bus Service to enjoy days out visiting the Markets in Skipton and Clitheroe and visitors enjoying the Ribble Valley Food Trail enjoying the wide variety of hostelries and eateries on offer. This will have a direct impact business large and small.

We both feel that action urgently needs to be taken to re Register and restore the service via the possible provision of a subsidy or alternative operator. At the very least a temporary or emergency service provider needs to be put in place to ensure that the service continues to run whilst you are searching for an alternative provider.

We know that you have received representation from a number of Ribble Valley County Councillors Albert Atkinson, Ian Brown And Alan Schofield through whose Divisions the 280 Bus Service runs and that you have sent out a briefing to them outlining the current state of play and the available options. We know also that an alternative provider is being sought and that Lancashire County Council have issued a tender, inviting bids from local bus operators to ascertain the potential cost to replace the withdrawn commercial service but we would like to point out that time is of the  essence and that an alternate service needs to be put in place to ensure minimum disruption.

This is a critically important service for Ribble Valley Residents and we have already received urgent representations from a number of Ribble Valley Borough Councillors the residents of whose Wards will be directly affected by the potential withdrawal of this service, all of which have already received a large amount of correspondence on the issue, including:

* Ian Brown (Salthill)
* Mark Hindle and Ged Mirfin (Whalley and Painter Wood)
* Tony Austin and Ruth Baxter (Langho and Billington)
* Louise Edge (Clayton Le Dale And Salesbury)
* Stella Brunskill And Noel Walsh (Mellor and Balderstone)
* Richard Sherras (Gisburn and Rimington)
* Gary Scott (Chatburn)

We are also concerned about the circumstances in which Preston Bus took the decision to de-Register the service whilst retaining other more profitable services which is redolent of cherry picking and would question whether an investigation of the circumstances of the granting of the Service Contract under the previous Labour Administration at County Hall is required.

If Preston Bus are under no contractual obligation to retain the service as part of a package of contracts and we understand that the Service Contract was awarded without the request for the provision of a subsidy to maintain the Service we would ask you to consider carefully whether the provision of a subsidy going forward for this vital service is now required.

We understand that you are meeting as a Group on Tuesday morning and that this issue is on the Agenda of the Group Meeting and that all the County Councillors identified above will be making interventions.

We would therefore be grateful if you could contact us a matter of urgency to explore all options.

Yours Faithfully

Stephen Atkinson
Leader Ribble Valley Borough Council
cllr.atkinson@ribblevalley.gov.uk<mailto:cllr.atkinson@ribblevalley.gov.uk>
07718 806286

Simon Hore
Deputy Leader Ribble Valley Borough Council cllr.hore@ribblevalley.gov.uk<mailto:cllr.hore@ribblevalley.gov.uk>
07800 753401