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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Cumbrian bus firm had no consent to operate from town stop

A coach company is to axe three busy summer services with the loss of four jobs.

Chris Reay photo
Chris Reay

Wigton-based Reays claim they have been forced to remove the services from their timetable amid a row over access to Keswick’s only bus station.

Supermarket chain Booths, which owns the station, says access is being refused because of road safety concerns and because Reays has never had consent to operate buses from the stop.

Once the design of a layby used by buses is redone, the store chain says it may consider giving other operators access.

Reays says the 555R provided the only opportunity to use an open-top bus to Bowness from Keswick.

It was due to resume service on April 5 after its winter shutdown.

The two other services operate a summer timetable, featuring open-top double-decker vehicles on the 78R from Kesdwick to Seatoller, and a specially-adapted bus with bike rack on the 77R Keswick to Cockermouth via the Honister Pass.

Chris Reay, Reays’ managing director said: “We wanted to carry on running all three services after they proved so popular with passengers last year, but unfortunately Booths have refused us permission to use the bus station.

“Having attended an on-site meeting with Booths and county council and highways representatives, including local county councillor Andrew Lysser, we have sadly had to withdraw our registration for all three services.

“No-one has been able to provide us with any viable alternative location for a bus stop in Keswick.”

Mr Lysser had said at a Keswick Town Council meeting last week that Reays had said it would be dropping its services from the town this year.

He said: “They can’t find anywhere to operate from. We went around with them, investigating an alternative which is not a Stagecoach drop-off point. Booths are looking at re-drafting their car park plan and it doesn’t include Reays.

“It is disappointing. Competition is good and we could do with cheaper buses, but they have to have somewhere to operate commercially from and we couldn’t get a consensus on that. It is a long protracted story.”

The supermarket and car park are leased by Booths from local businessman Keith Graham.

Booths said in a statement: “Stagecoach have been operating bus routes with consent from Booths outside their Keswick store for many years, using the bus layby.

“Reays’ use of the layby has never been authorised, and as a result of this unauthorised use serious congestion has been caused, raising a number of important safety concerns, including a number of near misses.

“Booths have acted with the full knowledge of the Traffic Commissioner to prevent the continued unauthorised use whilst the business reviews the operation and safety of the bus layby.

“Booths have commissioned a redesign of the facility and have started work to improve the layby. Following these improvement works, Booths will consider expanding the use to other operators.”

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