D-Day is approaching for campaigners who are trying to save local bus services from being axed or reduced as part of a cost-cutting measure by North Yorkshire County Council.
The authority’s Executive will meet on Monday to decide whether to make cuts to the subsidies of more than 150 bus services across the county.
Critics say that it will isolate some of society’s most vulnerable people.
But the council – faced with budget cuts from the Government – needs to balance its books and has been looking at cutting its bus subsidies by 25 per cent, equal to £1.1m a year.
Currently, around £4.4m is spent annually on subsidising services that are not commercially viable to help rural communities maintain a transport lifeline.
It has also emerged that these savings can now rise to around £2m following talks with contractors about how services are run.
In line for the chop in Ryedale are the 193 Malton and Norton Town Bus, which carries more than 45,000 passengers a year, and the equally well-used 171 Pickering Town and 170 Littledale Circular services, both in Pickering.
The Mercury understands they will be replaced with a Dial-a-Ride service – unless an agreement is reached with a service provider to run the Malton and Norton bus commercially.
There are also recommendations for several routes which serve the outlying villages and provide a link with the district’s market towns, including the 184 Malton-Leavening-Acklam-Malton Circular which, it is proposed, to reduce from three days to one day a week as is the case with the 173 and 174 services which picks up passengers from Rosedale and Hutton-le-Hole, and other villages, and takes them to Pickering and Kirkbymoorside.
Opposition to the cuts has led to hundreds of people in Ryedale signing petitions and also plans for campaigners from Pickering, Malton and Norton to travel to County Hall, Northallerton, in a last-ditch attempt to persuade the Executive to keep the town buses running.
Cllr Sue Cowan, the Mayor of Pickering, said: “I don’t think they realise how vitally important these bus services are. The impact will far outweigh the advantages of doing this.”
County Cllr Elizabeth Shields is pinning her hopes on the fact that Tuesday’s meeting had originally been postponed.
“Perhaps it is a good sign,” she said. “Maybe the council think that by shutting down the buses they really are hitting many people in this great rural county we have. Maybe they are having another think about either removing or reducing the subsidies of the buses. That’s my hope – that they will try and find the money elsewhere and see something that won’t hit the same people over and over again.”
Norton campaigner Paul Swain, meanwhile, thinks that the buses will be in even greater demand as there are current and future plans to build houses across Ryedale, along with Malton Hospital possibly opening 24 hours a day.
Cllr Lindsay Burr added: “There is no joined up thinking about this. We can’t say it enough.”