CAMPAIGNERS have accused a council which has seen a sharp decline in public transport services in rural areas of failing in its statutory duty to investigate residents’ travel needs.

Following bus services in Helperby, near Thirsk, being cut to a single outbound service a day last month, nearly 130 residents have written to North Yorkshire County Council calling on the authority to consult with people with the aim of developing travel alternatives.

The Campaign for Better Transport has found between 2010/11 and 2016/17, North Yorkshire County Council cut bus service support by 78 per cent, among the highest reduction in the country.

Bus operators have reacted by cutting services where there is low demand.

One of the campaigners, music teacher Judith Laity, said the low uptake of the traditional bus service in Helperby was because it did not meet people’s needs and there would be much greater demand if other travel solutions were developed.

She said: “There are a lot of people living in villages such as Helperby who can’t drive and have no car access who are feeling increasingly stranded. The council needs to take a holistic approach to finding transport solutions as it greatly affects people’s quality of life.”

Another resident, former bus firm managing director and community transport manager Barry Connor, said the campaign was “about getting the council to recognise its legal duty to identify transport needs of people and look at ways of delivering those needs”.

He believes there could be a range of solutions at little cost to the public purse, such as demand responsive services, which would be able to meet demands that were not previously met by conventional services.

Other potential solutions, he said, could see the council promoting and developing a car sharing initiative.

Councillor Don Mackenzie, the authority’s executive member for access, said he refuted the claims the council was not carrying out its statutory duty to consult over transport needs. He said the authority had consulted with all parish councils in Hambleton and Harrogate districts about supported bus services in May last year, but no issues were raised about bus services in Helperby.

Cllr Mackenzie said the authority was supportive of community transport schemes and had invested significant resources into finding solutions for residents of areas where subsidising bus services was not viable. He added every elected member had an annual Locality Budget of £10,000 which could meet the costs of setting up such schemes.

Cllr Mackenzie added: “We spend £1.5m a year on subsidising rural bus services. When you consider the size of the county, North Yorkshire County Council is far more pro-active than the average authority.”