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Save our buses

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Roads to Nowhere

Standing up for buses in North Yorkshire

mabrams's picture
08.04.2014 | mabrams | Save our buses

It’s very easy to get caught up in the doom and gloom of bus cuts, but there are many good people who stand up and fight against them, Tracy Battensby is one such person and she tells her inspiring story here...

Tracy“Back in the summer of 2013 North Yorkshire County Council announced that it was considering cutting local subsidised bus services, including the 31x between York and Helmsley which I use to get to and from work in Ampleforth. Information wasn't widely available at the time, and I suspected something was in the wind back in June/July when a council representative came onto my bus and asked me a couple of questions - how often did I use the bus and did I drive?  

In August a small poster appeared pinned to the back of the bus driver's cab and there was also a paragraph about the proposals on BBC's digital text service. I took a look at NYCC's website and was shocked to discover that the council planned to cut ALL journeys apart from two - one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon - neither of which was of any use to me getting to work! 

After seeing a report in the Ripon Gazette about the residents' anger towards their proposed bus reductions I decided to start two petitions - an old-fashioned 'paper' one distributed in local businesses and an online one set up through change.org.

I had no experience of such stuff and it was all a little outside my comfort zone but I went ahead in spite of this. I kept petition distribution to a minimum - I wanted to get the proposals in the public domain but I felt that people can get fed up very quickly if confronted with the same information so chose businesses in Easingwold, Husthwaite and Helmsley as residents in those towns and villages would be the most affected. It also made keeping tabs on them much easier, and I allowed a month before I collected them.

Most of the local businesses I approached were sympathetic, although I have to say that a couple were rather less than helpful and didn't think it was worth getting involved - in fact, two got no signatures at all because both 'lost' the sheets at the back of their tills... I got letters published in two local newspapers asking for residents' support and e-mailed information to anybody I thought would be interested, including our local MP, Anne McIntosh.  

Quite a number of schoolchildren use my bus, as well as workers like myself, and I think the parents were under the impression that their kids would still be taken to school whatever the public outcome, until they got e-mails to the contrary. The route takes in some splendid scenery so attracts tourists and also customers to my place of work who wouldn't be able to come if public transport wasn't available. It's Downton Abbey country and of course Yorkshire is hosting Le Grand Depart later this year so adding to its attraction as a popular tourist destination. But the bus is also essential to the elderly, infirm and non-drivers - no service means extreme isolation. 

The cuts were getting wider public attention by October and I was interviewed by Radio York about how they would affect me, and what I had done campaign-wise. But by then there was very little else anybody could do except wait for the decision in January. I collected the petitions and sent them to NYCC. 

By January 2014 the council voted unanimously to increase the cuts to £2 million from the planned £1.5 million. My bus has suffered some reductions but the skeleton still remains, thank goodness, and I think the hard work has been worth it.

My brother was invaluable, encouraging me and helping with the legwork, the Campaign for Better Transport gave me excellent advice and John Dean, who is no stranger to campaigning, was full of good advice and kept me informed of the outcome of several meetings, and my boss Rachel deserves a 'thank you' as well for allowing me to put together and photocopy my petition.

There have been ups and downs of course - several occasions when I thought all was lost - but you have to stick with it and see it through to the end. Councils and the Government like to get their own way, but we all have a voice and we need to speak up for what we believe in."

If you have a campaigning story you would like to share or are inspired by Tracy's story then please get in touch here