Call to 'get on' with trial of electric shuttle bus to boost city access

·2-min read
Cllr Christian Vassie, inset, and City of York Council's West Offices
Cllr Christian Vassie, inset, and City of York Council's West Offices

A YORK councillor has urged the city to “get on with it” and carry out a trial of an electric shuttle bus to boost access to the city centre for people with mobility issues.

Cllr Christian Vassie said the council was wasting time waiting for government funding for a scheme which could be “transformative” for people with mobility needs.

The Liberal Democrat pushed for funding last year as a way of mitigating the impact of the ban on blue badge parking in the city’s footstreets.

City of York Council committed to a £50,000 feasibility study last year and intended to use government bus service improvement plan (BSIP) cash to fund the study.

York was awarded £17 million for improving bus services citywide in April, but the Department for Transport (DfT) has not yet released the funds.

Cllr Vassie, chair of the council’s climate scrutiny committee, said he had contacted a firm that had offered to trial its shuttle bus in York before Christmas at almost no cost to the council.

He said: “I am glad to learn that the council is not abandoning the electric shuttle feasibility study but I just wish we would get on with it. We waste so much time waiting for Government to give us permission to show vision and initiative.”

A trial in September would allow disabilities groups, councillors, council officers and businesses to see how a shuttle bus would work in practice, Cllr Vassie said.

“York residents need us to be testing solutions rather than sitting on our hands waiting for someone else to give us permission,” the Wheldrake councillor added.

Reaction from disability campaigners to the idea of the bus has been mixed.

Activist Flick Williams said while it was “never going to be any real mitigation for closure of the footstreets to blue badge holders”, it could prove valuable for older people with mobility issues.

James Gilchrist, director environment, transport and planning, said the feasibility study would be co-produced with people who might use the bus before seeking further approval from senior councillors.

He added: “Whilst the council has been told it will receive this [BSIP] funding with part of the bid specified to trial this service, to date the DfT has not released any funding nationally for BSIP.

“There are no plans to scrap the feasibility study, indeed the executive will in its July meeting be updated on the progress of the action plan [for improving city centre access] approved in November 2021 and be asked to progress the feasibility study through alternative funding sources.”

Executive member for transport, Cllr Andy D’Agorne, said: “I am very much in favour of co-production. I believe it can be effective if people have the opportunity to experience the proposed service directly.

“These operate in other cities and I would like to see them running on the streets of York to get feedback before committing to a more permanent arrangement.”

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