COUNCILLORS have criticised bus companies after they said large swathes of both rural and urban areas are left without buses due to frequent cancellations and lack of services.

At a full council meeting this week, Mirehouse councillor Mike Hawkins said that there are often no buses for the whole Mirehouse estate due to frequent last-minute cancellations, and Gosforth councillor, David Moore said that 50 per cent of his rural, local communities hadn’t had a bus service ‘in years’.

The council has however been awarded a Bus Service Improvement Plan Plus (BSIP+) funding allocation from the Department for Transport of £464,743 - but there are fears that the funding does not go far enough.

In response to concerns about bus services, the portfolio holder for sustainable, resilient and connected places, Cllr Denise Rollo said: We are scrutinising bus companies and holding them to account. They do have service issues, but we need to be working with them.

“I think we've got a really good opportunity now, as Cumberland, to actually make things work on the road, rail and on the buses.

“The £464,000 sounds like a lot but is a pittance. It will cost something like £150,000 to support one route so when we've got the whole of Cumberland, it doesn't go very far.

“We are constantly pushing now, we are having our voices heard, and we are starting to see improvements.”

Green Party councillor, Jill Perry, raised concerns that the government funding was to ‘maintain’ services rather than to improve services but Cllr Rollo said that the council wanted to see improved services across Cumberland.

Speaking after the meeting, Tom Waterhouse, interim managing director of Stagecoach Cumbria and North Lancashire, said: “It is correct that Stagecoach has seen some minor disruption to our services in recent weeks which has been due to issues around staff and vehicle availability.

“However, I am pleased to say that we have lots of new staff joining Stagecoach who are currently progressing through our training process, so we are expecting the situation to improve significantly in the coming weeks.

"We also have a plan in place to improve vehicle reliability.

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“With regard to the wider issue of services in rural areas it should be remembered that Cumbria County Council stopped supporting any bus services in the county in 2014 which is why certain areas of the county, particularly those that are more rural, are not better served.

“Thankfully, we are already having positive and exciting conversations with both Cumberland and Westmorland & Furness councils about how we can work in partnership to improve bus services in our county going forward.”