Mark Jenkinson MP has written to Cumberland Council urging them to make use of Government funding to subsidise bus services.
He has written to Denise Rollo, Executive Member for ‘Sustainable, Resilient and Connected Places’, asking for the council to capitalise on the considerable funding provided through the national Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP+) allocations.
Mark described it as an opportunity for Cumberland Council to put “some clear blue water” between the unitary authority and their predecessors on Cumbria County Council.
He has also encouraged Cumberland to develop a transport strategy and to follow the example set by Westmorland and Furness Council which has already looking at reviving cancelled services.
The comments come as Government have today announced additional bus funding for transport authorities, over and above the BSIP allocations – a total investment of £150m nationwide.
This comes alongside a 60 per cent uplift in mileage rates for the Western Dales Community Bus Service and Wigton and District Community Transport.
Mark said: “Bus services are lifeline for my rural constituents.
"The Government has underscored its commitment to local bus services: it is time for Cumberland to do the same.
"Instead of tinkering with timetables or refurbishing bus shelters, this substantial investment should be spent on reviving cancelled services, and supporting existing services which are at risk.
“The financial pressures faced by bus operators, and some subsequent service cancellations, are due in no small part to a refusal by the former Cumbria County Council’s failure to pass Covid funding for concessionary travel to operators.
“Previously, I had to push the Cumbia County Council to claim additional Government support for bus routes, after members informed the Department for Transport it had no need for it.
“The track record of Cumbria County Council was regrettably poor in supporting bus users, whether rural or urban.
“Now have significant numbers of constituents who have no access to a bus, despite receiving funding from central government specifically for that purpose."
In 2013, despite being in receipt of government funding for bus support, the Labour administration that took control that year pulled all subsidies for bus services – a position they maintained until the council was formally dissolved.
Cumbria County Council received £4m in government support, but there were reports that the money was sent back to the Government.
Mark said: “I now hope that Cumberland Council would wish to put some clear blue water between them and their predecessors, who let the public down so badly.
“However, I am disappointed to note the continued absence to date of a clear transport strategy from Cumberland despite confirmation of continued government support of almost £0.5m per year.”
By contrast, Westmorland and Furness Council have assessed 10 routes in their area and these have been deemed to meet their own criteria for being allocated BSIP+ funding.
These routes all ceased within the last 5 years, which the council are using as the cut-off point.
In his letter to Councillor Rollo, Mark has urged Cumberland Council to follow the example set by Cumbria’s other unitary authority.
This would enable the most recently closed services, such as the M1 (Maryport), the 60 Skinburness to Maryport and the 53 Northside to Workington, to resume.
It would also restore a direct bus route to Allonby, which could be further developed by the tourist trade.
The Government funding could also be used to assist the 400 to include the entirety of its current route, avoiding the proposal leave Skinburness without a bus service.
The MP for Workington has suggested that BSIP grant could be used to continue to support the 93 and 93a Bowness to Carlisle service.
Previously, Carlisle MP John Stevenson and Mark Jenkinson MP worked with Allerdale Borough Council and the former Carlisle City Council to secure £12,000 of funding to keep the service going in the absence of leadership by the county council.
To help people with the cost of living and save on everyday travel costs, the Government has invested £200 million to extend the bus fare cap, with single bus tickets capped at £2 outside London.
This was originally intended to be until the end of October 2023, but has now been extended to December next year.