Councillors park party politics to keep rural bus routes running

Local councillors from Coniston, Broughton, Askam, Ulverston and Barrow have put party political differences aside to help support rural bus routes, working hard to raise money and securing £1,000s in local members’ funding to maintain vital links such as the X112 from Coniston via Ulverston to Barrow and the X7 route connecting Kirkby and Askam with Dalton and Barrow.

Cllr Matt Brereton, a Conservative who represents High Furness on Cumbria County Council and Broughton & Coniston Ward on SLDC, recently pledged his entire £1,000 locality budget from SLDC to the Friends of X112 group, which helps raise funds and boost user numbers of the X112, X70 and now X7 routes. Other local councillors have also pledged council cash and helped organise vital fundraising activities, including coffee mornings, cream teas and organised coach trips, including Tory SLDC councillors Anne Hall from Coniston and Ulverston’s Janette Jenkinson.

And following a partial withdrawal of the X7 service from Millom and Haverigg to Barrow by operator Stagecoach, Cllr Ben Shirley, the Conservative member for Dalton North on Cumbria County Council, worked with X112 and X70 operator Blueworks to reinstate a weekly service so residents in Grizebeck, Kirkby, Askam and Dalton can travel to Barrow to do the weekly shop or attend hospital appointments. The service usually

Cllr Brereton comments: “The ‘Friends of’ bus group has worked incredibly hard to secure rural bus services in the face of the County Council withdrawing direct subsidies nearly four years ago.

“It has been very encouraging that at the local level Councillors have been able to work across party lines to aid this group and the routes it supports to provide funding, both directly and indirectly from our members’ budgets, to assist in fundraising and to offer guidance when dealing with red tape.

 “Some of the fundraising ideas are quite creative; in recent weeks I’ve approached Barrow model shop Crafty Hobbies to see about commissioning a special limited-edition model bus the group can sell to supporters and collectors to help raise funds.

“I’m also working with my next-door neighbours, Stuart and Linda Johnson, who run the Prince of Wales pub and brewery in Foxfield, to see about creating a special batch of beer, with each pint being sold contributing to the Friends of… coffers.

“I hope the operator Blue Works buses might also run a ‘last orders’ special service to coincide with the beer festival they are planning in May to mark their retirement from the pub they’ve run for more than 25 years.

“It would be quite something recreating the packed X7 bus service that used to call at closing time to ferry drinkers between Barrow and Millom, both raising funds for the Friends of… group and also offering a timely reminder to Council bosses how popular some of these rural bus routes can be.”