A 12-month extension is being recommended to the trial of a demand-responsive bus service that has been piloted in parts of North Yorkshire.
Corporate director of business and environmental services, Karl Battersby, and senior councillors will be asked to approve an extension of the pilot of the YorBus scheme when they meet on Friday, June 24.
The recommendation to extend the pilot to 30 June 2023, is to enable options for a wider roll-out to be explored in more detail.
The YorBus pilot was created a year ago to access an alternative way of providing transport. The service operates two 14-seater, wheelchair accessible buses using the county council’s fleet vehicles and staff. It was launched in Ripon, Masham, Bedale and surrounding villages in July 2021 and operates from 6.55am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and 9.am to 6pm on Saturdays. Customers book on demand via a dedicated YorBus app or through the council’s customer service centre.
The pilot has surpassed its targets in areas such as number of journeys, punctuality and customer satisfaction. Feedback from customers has been positive, and the high level of customer satisfaction is reflected in the number of repeat passengers using the service.
Between July 1, 2021, and May 9 this year, YorBus has carried more than 650 people on more than 10,000 journeys. Many are repeat travellers and some have completed more than 100 rides on the service. People are using YorBus to travel to work, to essential services and for social trips. In a recent customer survey, the most common mode of transport cited as that which would have been used if YorBus wasn’t available was a car.
The executive member for highways and transportation, Cllr Keane Duncan, said: “YorBus has proven to be a major success in its first year, with hundreds of passengers choosing to use our low-cost and speedy service to get to their destinations.
“With the Ripon, Masham and Bedale service working well, we’re looking at extending it for at least another year – hopefully with more villages included, new booking options and longer operating hours.
“YorBus is exactly the type of innovative transport we want to promote into the future, and we don’t want to stop here. It is our desire to introduce the service in other rural parts of the county as part of our efforts to provide even more residents with value-for-money public transport.”
During the period of the pilot extension, we would look at developing a telephone contact option for customers, consider how to roll out return booking, and undertake a fares review, including incentivising such options as group bookings.
We would also consider introducing limited pre-booking, extending operating hours, and seek further funding sources for the roll-out to other parts of the county.
As well as helping people with journeys such as commuting and attending medical appointments, YorBus has allowed tourists to visit attractions in the pilot area.
Grantley Hall is a luxury hotel and wellness retreat that welcomes thousands of visitors every year. It employs more than 300 employees, many of whom live on site.
Human resources manager Louise Helliwell said: “The launch of YorBus has been a huge benefit to staff living on site as many don’t have a car. Before YorBus there was no form of public transport to the hall, so it has made the local area more accessible for them to explore the beautiful sights of North Yorkshire on their days off.
“Many staff from the surrounding area have also made use of YorBus. Again, there’s a number of my colleagues, particularly apprentices, who don’t have cars.
“Grantley Hall was built to give local people job opportunities so it’s important to have reliable transport links to and from the hall. It’s great value for money and a good alternative for those who are environmentally conscious.”