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From Wharfedale Observer, June 6th, 2019
Written by Claire Lomax

A LIFELINE school bus service has been saved from the axe following a campaign by Ilkley parents. In March single mother Jenna Midgley, of Bolling Road, Ben Rhydding, was shocked to receive a letter from West Yorkshire Combined Authority informing her the P99 Mybus primary school service would be withdrawn on September 1 as it no longer met the authority's value for money criteria. The bus serves Ben Rhydding Primary School, Sacred Heart Primary School, Ashlands Primary School and All Saints CE Primary School. Jenna, 34, feared she would lose her job and her home without the dedicated bus to take her daughters Denver, five, and Darienne, six, to and from school. Her fight to save the bus led to the creation of a Friends of the P99 Bus service who met with the authority during a consultation period.

This week Jenna was delighted to receive a letter from WYCA informing her the bus will continue subject to a fares increase and a further review at the end of December. Fares will increase from 80p per trip to £1 or £8 per week.

Jenna said: "I'm just so thrilled and relieved that Metro are prepared to give the bus another chance.

"I never set out to start a campaign, I just circulated a letter to other parents who use the bus, to see if anybody was as upset as I was about the proposal to withdraw the service. The responses I got within hours of distributing the letter were shocking. Many from parents like myself, reliant on the bus so that we can get our children to school safely and go to work. Also from non-users of the bus who were equally shocked from an environmental aspect.

"It was then that I decided I needed to get in touch with as many people as possible that I could think of that could help me.

"When I moved to Ilkley last year I never imagined that I wouldn't be able to get my children into the local school. They were allocated places in different schools. It was a logistical nightmare having two children in separate schools, a good 20 minutes walk apart.

"Then I heard about the bus and it was the answer to our prayers. It meant I could send both my children to a school 30 minutes walk away, and work full-time.

"As a newcomer to Ilkley, I am amazed with the sense of community spirit and support for one another this town has, and I'm so grateful for the work and dedication of some very kind people. In particular Mr John Grogan MP who has been very hands on throughout the whole process, and has done a huge amount of work bringing people together and pushing for a positive result, so all credit to him and his team.

"Hopefully with more awareness and publicity being made available to potential users of the bus we can keep our beloved and very much needed P99 bus service for many years to come."

Ilkley MP John Grogan, who chaired two meetings of the Friends of the P99 Bus Service with WYCA and local councillors said: "This is an excellent result and is a consequence of the campaigning efforts of Ilkley parents and the willingness to engage of council officials. Now we have got time to try and boost numbers on the bus and secure the service for the long term."

Councillor Kyle Green (Con, Ilkley) said: "While I am delighted this vital service has been saved for now, the fight is not over yet. With a review meeting scheduled in December and more passengers still required to keep the bus viable the promotion of the service is now essential in keeping it secure for the future."

A West Yorkshire Combined Authority spokesperson said: “Earlier this year, the Combined Authority began an engagement exercise on the future of 20 primary school bus services which, between them, had just 480 registered users of whom 350 were travelling on a regular basis.

“In the light of reduced local authority budgets, the Combined Authority is committed to continuing the delivery of value for money for local tax payers. After evaluating the feedback, as well as the cost per pupil per trip and the availability of suitable public transport alternatives, the decision was taken to withdraw nine of the services under review.

“Arrangements for the remaining 11 services to continue have been made on the basis of increased fares.

“Letters have been sent to schools and parents affected telling them about the changes which will start from the beginning of the new school year in September.”

He added: "Service P99 (Ilkley Schools) will continue subject to a fares increase and a review in December 2019.

"Where fares are increased, the change will be from 80p per trip/£6 per week to £1 per trip/£8 per week. "