Spirit buses founder Steve Hurst at the depot in Rothbury from where they operate two buses on routes across rural Northumberland. Photograph: Christopher Thomond
As more than half the world’s population live in towns and cities (many of us in cities like London with great public transport systems) and it’s easy to forget, how difficult to get around it can be for people in rural areas and without access to their own car.
I have just been staying with my mum in Garstang between Lancaster and Preston. Garstang, a town and immediate surrounds with a population of around 7000, is very close to the West Coast rail mainline, but lost it station post Beeching cuts.
So I have a choice of getting off the train at Preston or Lancaster and then either hiring a car or getting a bus. Whilst it’s a faff (hence nudging me to empty my mind in this blog) the bus service is far from a disaster.
Garstang whilst being deprived of the convenience that is the train is better served than many rural areas and we should all support initiatives like Steve Hunt’s bold and public spirited bus initiative in Northumberland. This says it all:
“Bus driver Steve Hurst, 29, set up Spirit Buses, having spotted a “gap that’s long needed filling”. Growing up in the market town of Rothbury it was impossible to go to the cinema in nearby Alnwick without getting a lift from his parents. Though just 12 miles away as the crow flies, the journey by bus took a whopping two-and-a-half hours, requiring a change at Morpeth in completely the wrong direction. Friends in the hamlets of Snitter, Alwinton and Harbottle weren’t even that lucky – no buses at all ran through their villages.”
It is worth reading the full story of this young man’s public spiritedness and what he has done and is sacrificing to serve his community. I hope the community support Spirit Buses.
Whilst it won’t get much of a mention (if at all) in the run up to the General Election, Labour have recognised rural transport as being an important driver of quality of life. Michael Dugher, the shadow Transport Secretary, told The Independent in this article:
“Like the energy market, the bus market is broken. Developing a thriving not-for-profit sector is one way Labour will rebalance our bus market. The significant development of not-for-profit model will help city and county regions break the stranglehold that the big private bus operators currently have. There is a proud and growing British tradition of community transport in the UK. It is a sector that serves both rural and urban areas, often operating in areas the commercial operators have turned their back on. In government, Labour will ensure that communities cannot be held to ransom by operators threatening to pull buses and cut services.”
Politics and politicians that recognise issues like this, issues that are often referred to “micro issues” should be applauded. But, it is down to the Steve Hirst’s of this world and then ultimately us, the public, to support these initiatives (in doing so support those without access to a car).
To me this is the kind of “big society” thinking that Cameron promised to support and seems to have drifted right off his agenda.
– Wayne Hemingway