More than 40 villages in Harborough district hit by bus cuts

Mary Smith of Kibworth waiting to catch a rural rider.
Mary Smith of Kibworth waiting to catch a rural rider.

More than 40 villages in the Harborough district will be affected when 12 rural county bus services are axed on Sunday, May 3.

One parish council chairman said: “It’s ridiculous.

“Buses like these are a vital service.”

A regular bus service user added: “Alternative ways of funding these buses need to be looked at.”

And a county transport campaigner said: “This is going to cause problems for people in rural areas, there’s no two ways about it.”

The villages are losing their Rural Rider services, operated by Leicester-based bus provider Centrebus, under contract from Leicestershire County Council.

The 12 Rural Rider bus services were intended to connect isolated Leicestershire villages to market towns.

They operate between one and five times a week, depending on the service and the village.

But a Centrebus spokesman confirmed: “The contract expires at the start of May and the various services, RR1-RR12, will stop running at that point.

“It is correct to say that the services will stop because the contract has been ended.”

A county council spokesman said: “We have agreed to save £80,000 from the current Rural Rider contract costs of £103,000 per year, as part of savings facing the authority.”

The council says villagers will now be offered bookable taxi-style transport, available at bus fare rates.

Details of this new scheme have yet to be released.

But this new service will apply to only 24 of the Harborough district villages worst affected by the cuts.

The spokesman for the Tory-run county council said: “This will cost the council £23,000 per year and ensure there is still a link from the east Leicestershire villages to Market Harborough, Melton and Leicester.”

Great Bowden Parish Council chairman Paul Claxton said: “It’s ridiculous. You’ve got to link villages to towns with public transport.

“These are a vital services to outlying communities.”

Regular Rural Rider user Mary Smith, of Kibworth, said: “These services were Harborough’s best-kept secret.

“They needed to be better publicised and alternative ways of funding them should have been looked at.”

She uses the RR10 service regularly, which links Market Harborough to Uppingham and Oakham – via ten villages – every Saturday.

“I haven’t got a car,” she said. “I suppose the county councillors have all got cars.”

And Leicestershire’s Campaign for Better Transport spokesman Terry Kirby said: “It’s going to cause problems for people in rural areas.

“But we have to say some of these services were only picking up a handful of passengers.”

In the village of Cranoe, its parish meeting chairman Ian McCann said: “As far as I’m aware, we haven’t been told about this.

“It’s bad news if you haven’t got the luxury of a car, or have limited mobility.”

At Tur Langton, parish council chairman Tessa Bladon said: “It’s a real shame our Rural Rider service is going, but economically it can’t have been viable.”

And at East Norton, parish meeting chairman John Dyson agreed: “People rarely got on the Rural Rider in the village itself.”

But back at Great Bowden, Mr Claxton added: “Really, what’s £80,000 in a multi-million budget? It’s buttons. It’s not all about profit, it’s about a service to the community.”