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Further details of community bus service bid revealed
A PLAN to set up a community bus service for some rural parts of Darlington will need on-going funding in future years, despite council warnings that it will not commit to financially supporting any scheme.
A bid for funding to set up the Darlington Rural Transport scheme, dubbed the Dart, which would provide a timetabled minibus service for elderly people and students living in Sadberge , Bishopton and the surrounding villages, was entered two weeks ago.
The main aspect of the bid, revealed at a meeting of Sadberge Parish Council, is that the service would require an on-going subsidy of £18,000 a year from Darlington Borough Council.
The council has a pot of money from the government to help community groups set up local bus services which will provide start-up and operating costs for the first two years, but previously said it will not fund any service beyond that point.
Councillor Brian Jones, one of the people behind the bid, has argued that if the area could sustain a bus service without the need for a subsidy, there would be no need for a community bid and that commercial buses would be in place.
If the Dart bid is successful, the group would purchase a minibus with a one-off grant and commission a local transport group to run a timetabled daily service, using the proposed subsidy and passenger fees.
The plan was formed by a group of people from Sadberge, including parish clerk Alastair Mackenzie and Coun Jones, who hope to set up the service in the New Year, after subsidised services come to an end.
The Dart service would operate independently as a business with nine initial directors, registered as a charity, but has won the backing of Sadberge Parish Council.
Speaking at the meeting Coun Jones said: “If Darlington Borough Council are asking for a self-sustaining service without subsidy then they are kidding themselves.
“We put in the bid on the basis that it cannot be self-sustaining from year three. The subsidy we are asking for is a lot less than they were paying to the commercial operator to run our current services.
“The council has a moral duty to help people who live in rural communites.”
The Dart bid, along with others submitted from other areas, will be discussed by the council’s cabinet next month.
HURWORTH HOPE FOR SADBERGE BUS SUPPORT
Members of Hurworth Parish Council have also discussed a proposed community bus service for their village, which members hope will tie in with the Sadberge Dart proposal.
Hurworth is set to lose its subsidised evening services and local councillors hope to run an evening schedule by making use of the Dart minibus, which would only be used during the day in the Sadberge and Bishopton areas.
Hurworth Parish Council and Darlington Borough Council member Joe Kelley carried out a survey into the effects of the cuts in Hurworth, which were discussed at the parish council meeting this week.
Parish chairman Ian Holme said: “The loss of the evening bus services has severely impacted a number of people across our commmunity, the effect of these cuts cannot be underestimated.
“We have been able to develop a scheme offering an evening bus service, six nights week, which has been designed to complement the bid made on behalf of Sadberge.
“We were very pleased to receive the support of both Jenny Chapman and Phil Wilson for our proposal, which we feel will go a long way to dealing with the problems created for our community by the cuts to the bus subsidies."