York councillors have welcome news that an under-threat bus route has been given a temporary reprieve.
First York announced in December that it was to withdraw the 12 and 12A service from 23 January, citing a slow recovery in passenger numbers, increased operating costs and a shortage of drivers.
Currently, the service runs from Monday to Saturday approximately every half an hour between Foxwood, Woodthorpe and York city centre, and approximately every hour between the city centre, Heworth and Monks Cross.
Under the short-term contract, the new operator will receive £59k in financial support in the form of a subsidy from the council to keep an hourly service running until the end of March.
The council will use part of its 2022/2023 bus service improvement plan funding, provided by the Department of Transport, to meet the cost.
It follows a campaign launched by Liberal Democrat councillors and campaigners to save the number 12 bus, which has seen more than a thousand residents sign a petition and more than 40 attend a public meeting on its future.
Cllr Simon Daubeney, Westfield, said the news was “a major relief” to residents in Woodthorpe, Acomb Park and Foxwood who were facing “the loss of their only public transport service”.
Cllr Stephen Fenton, Dringhouses and Woodthorpe, added: “The reduction in frequency from every half hour to every hour is disappointing, but if it is a more reliable service, then hopefully more people will be attracted to using it.
“It’s really crucial now that as many people as possible use the service to ensure that once April comes around, the operator can see the benefits and financial case for sustaining the service in the long term.”
A separate tender exercise for the period after March will now take place, but the council has warned that it cannot provide unlimited subsidies if users don’t return to the buses or Government funding is not extended after March 2023.
It has also stepped in to support the 13 and 412 services over the short-term in recent weeks.
The council now says it will now focus on preserving routes, rather than bus frequencies – and it will not fund current commercial services where a reduction in frequency is an option for the operator.
Cllr Fenton added: “This intervention by the council is no substitute for a sustainable long term approach to running bus services which are facing unprecedented challenges.”
The new operator will be revealed once the contract has been awarded.
A spokesperson for City of York Council, said: “Given the need to ensure the service was safeguarded before the end of January, we’ve taken swift steps to carry out a short-notice tender exercise to seek a replacement service between 23 January and 31 March 2023. This tender process has now concluded, and the award will be announced shortly.”