COUNTY Council representatives faced the public at a meeting about the future of the threatened 710 bus route last week.
Ian Coe, transport support manager, and coun Anthony Murray, also of Wooler Parish Council, addressed over 150 attendees at Glendale Middle School on Wednesday night.
There was anger at the wording of the original NCC statement that the subsidy, in which the service was described as providing “non-essential shopping trips”. “Who decides what is essential and non-essential?” asked Joyce Robertson of Wooler.
Coun Coe stressed that after the council’s “mistake” of announcing cuts to the service, without consultation, and a subsequent apology, the service is guaranteed to run until at least April 2014.
Now, he said, “it is important to see how the service can be continued, not whether it should be withdrawn.”
He explained the intricacies of subsidising the Wednesday and Saturday services, heavily used by passengers with bus passes on the route through Kelso, Coldstream, Branxton, Milfield and Wooler, through to Newcastle and the Metro Centre.
The Saturday service currently costs £138 per run, which adds up to £7,200 per year.
Parish councils on the route were asked by the councillors for thoughts on alternative funding.
“We have at least a year of grace,” said coun Murray, “and we should use it.”