Vital role of bus services stressed by town council

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Berwick Town Council has stressed the importance of the local bus network in supporting rural residents and tourism.

Contracts for local bus services are currently being reviewed by Northumberland County Council, with special attention being given to the level of subsidy by the authority.

At worst, some services may be under threat, but another possible scenario is that a reduction in connections will make bus travel less feasible or attractive to existing users.

The routes being reviewed include key services for residents and for communities such as Wooler which help to sustain Berwick retail businesses,

They also include a number which are essential if Berwick is to market itself as a car-free visitor destination.

Tentative plans were being made to see how better integration of bus and train services could be achieved, and this too could be at risk, members of the town council’s environment and regeneration committee were told.

Councillor John Robertson, committee chairman, said: “Whilst we are fortunate to live in a relatively well-serviced town, with our frequent bus service from north of the town to Spittal and Prior Park and our perhaps more unique rail timetable for a town of our size and location, we must remember that there are those in the rural community which use Berwick as the provider of numerous services from retail to banking, from dining to culture.

“Those who will be most particularly hit by the reduction in rural bus routes will be the elderly, an ever increasing section of our community, who unfortunately don’t pay directly for the service as they are entitled to concessionary fares.

“There is a need therefore, to make these routes more profitable by encouraging other users and key to this may be rail borne visitors to the area.

“Using Berwick as a hub, they should be encouraged to use rural transport to take day visits to Lindisfarne/Bamburgh/Seahouses/Wooler and even Alnwick. This shift in emphasis will not happen overnight, so I appeal to our county councillors to push for a breathing space to develop this form of sustainable tourism which ultimately could be the lifesaver for smaller communities in north Northumberland.”

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