Villages to be left without buses when Corby-Harborough service is axed

Gretton, one of the communities which will be hit by the loss of the number 67 bus
Gretton, one of the communities which will be hit by the loss of the number 67 bus

A rural bus service which connects villages to Corby and Market Harborough is to be withdrawn this summer.

The 67 bus runs several times each weekday and on Saturdays between Rockingham, Gretton, Corby, Cottingham, Wilbarston, Weston and Market Harborough.

Wilbarston, where there will be no buses at all if the number 67 bus is scrapped

Wilbarston, where there will be no buses at all if the number 67 bus is scrapped

Its withdrawal means some of those places will now have no buses at all.

Several campaigns have been started to save the service, which is being withdrawn after Northamptonshire County Council said it could no longer afford to subsidise each passenger journey by £16.65.

It said the service was the second-worst performing in the county and the subsidy is about six times what it would expect to pay for a service of this sort.

Bus operator Centrebus said it would no longer be viable to run the service without the subsidy so announced the whole service would cease on July 23.

But local people say this will leave people in their communities isolated.

People in Wilbarston have started a Save The Bus campaign and in Gretton, a Facebook campaign has been started.

A statement on the Wilbarston campaign page says: “Many of our community rely on the bus for medical appointments, work, education, visiting elderly relatives, shopping and leisure.

“Without this transport link, many of our senior community members will feel extremely isolated.

“Yet again, rural areas are being hit by financial cut backs.”

And in Gretton, Chairman of the parish council Andrew Royle said people in the village were hugely disappointed to hear that the service was stopping.

He added: “NCC were surprised by Centrebus’s decision to withdraw the whole of service 67 after July 23 as their understanding had been that the single vehicle operation on Monday to Friday was commercially viable, and Centrebus had given them no indication otherwise when they informed them of the likely withdrawal of their support for the service before Christmas.”

Corby MP Tom Pursglove has also joined the campaign and has written to county council officers to asking them to review the situation.

A county council spokesman said: “The subsidy for the part of the number 67 bus route, which took in the villages of Gretton and Rockingham, was removed as part of the council’s budget for 2016/17.

“This subsidy paid for the service on Saturdays and at peak times, though the service continued to run commercially off-peak between Mondays and Fridays.

“We have been made aware there are now plans to withdraw this commercial part of the service.

“The county council’s bus strategy aims to keep communities connected and, as such, we are investigating what can be done, working with the parish councils and local councillors.

“However, any measures suggested would need to be considered against the budgets which are available.”

Centrebus spokesman Bijel Mistry said: “I can confirm that service 67 between Market Harborough and Gretton will be withdrawn, with the last day of operation being July 23.

“The service was part-funded by NCC and following their decision to remove the funding on the service, we had to review the revenue and passenger numbers on route.

“Unfortunately it was found that it is no longer commercially viable for us to operate the service without any funding.

“Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience caused to passengers in the area, but unfortunately it is no longer sustainable for us to continue operating the service.”

It is hoped that a lifeline for the service may come in the form of the NCC Bus Strategy Documents, which suggests that a large village with 1,800 inhabitants should have a daily bus service.

This would include villages like Gretton.

The county council has confirmed it has now been given detailed passenger data from Centrebus which it can use to look in more detail at the cost of keeping the service.