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Lifeline rural bus routes in Rothbury saved by Labour's Northumberland County Council

Labour Council bosses have stepped in to save lifeline bus routes in rural Northumberland.

Spirit Buses had cancelled its services in the Rothbury area after low passenger numbers meant they were no longer viable.

But Northumberland County Council has now stepped in providing funding which will allow the company to continue providing two of its services for the next year.

We reported earlier this year how Rothbury based bus driver Mr Hurst had set up Spirit last September in a bid to help residents in the valley around the village who are hindered by a lack of public transport.

The company was carrying around 20,000 passengers a year.

However, Mr Hurst found that passenger numbers were not sufficient to ensure the viability of his services.

Spirit gave notice that it was to cancel its operations as of last Saturday, September 19.

Yet following talks with the county council, the authority agreed to provide a minimum subsidy to ensure two of the routes can continue for the next year.

Mr Hurst said: “I am very grateful on behalf of all the residents, businesses and visitors to Upper Coquetdale that Northumberland County Council is able to support the continuation of our core 15 and 16 services.

“Our first year of operation has been pioneering and shown us that us that there is definitely a demand for our rural lifeline links although to make them truly viable and cement their future we do still need to increase patronage especially on some of the journeys.

“We hope to use this as a new start and look forward to working closely with the local authorities to develop what Spirit Buses can offer to the community over the coming year.”

Rothbury councillor Steven Bridgett, who campaigned to save the bus services, said: “Following lengthy discussions, I am pleased that the council has been able to offer various forms of support to this unique service.

“The Coquet Valley is one of the most remote and sparsely populated places in England and this service has proved to be a lifeline for many residents.

“However, in the future we will be keen to also see some financial support forthcoming from local parish councils to support this much needed service.”

Coun Scott Dickinson, business chair at the council, said: “We have many rural and isolated communities in the county and these bus services can provide a lifeline for the residents who live there.

“Spirit Buses have proved popular both with residents and tourists since they started last year and we are pleased to be able to support them to enable their services continue into the future.”

New timetables will be available soon on the county council and Spirit websites.

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