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The new bus timetable which came into force on Monday, November 28 has been welcomed by Heart of Eden Development Trust, who say it shows what local people can do to improve services in their area.
The 563 Grand Prix service linking Kirkby Stephen and Penrith now stops in the centre of Kirkby Thore at 7.20am and 4.10pm providing villagers with a public transport link to and from Penrith.
And the first bus to stop outside the Cherry Tree Garage in the village was welcomed by local councillors and residents who set up a petition to get the service changed.
The minor re-routeing of the service off the A66 follows a public meeting organised by the Parish Council where residents asked County Council officers why the bus could not turn off the A66 to include the village in the service.
And welcoming the first 563 on Monday was local mum Caroline Meldrum, Carolyn Harrison of Barnardo’s Kirkby Thore Children’s Centre, Cumbria County Councillor Gary Strong, Eden District Councillor Henry Sawney-Cookson and Kirkby Thore Parish Councillor and Chair of Heart of Eden Development Trust, Barry Thompson. And Queen Elizabeth Grammar School student Lewis Wyatt-Taylor was one of the first to use the new stop to get to school.
Caroline Meldrum said: “To get onto the bus before we had to cross the A66. You take your life in your hands crossing this very busy road, and it wasn’t suitable for mums with young children, older people and the children going for the school bus. A lot of people haven’t been using the service because they are afraid to cross this road. I am sure more people will be using the bus service now that it has a stop in the village, especially the elderly and parents of young children.
“The idea came from parents who took it to the Parent’s forum at the Children’s Centre.”
Carolyn Harrison of the Children’s Centre added: “From the parents forum we then took the issue to the Parish Council and the petition was organised.”
Cumbria County Council agreed to support the operation of the change to service after Kirkby Thore Parish Council made a request to make additional journeys into the village from the A66 at the beginning and end of the day.
As a result of a meeting that took place with the local County Councillor Gary Strong, representatives from the Parish Council, officers from the county council’s Integrated Transport team and the operator Grand Prix, the additional journeys will be provided with effect from 28 November 2011.
The cost of the additional journeys will be funded by Kirkby Thore Parish Council and it is hoped that this will increase the number of people using the service from Kirkby Thore. It will be particularly beneficial for the children and families attending the Children's Centre.
Cllr Gary Strong, who has supported the change to the service, said: "I am delighted that we have been able to make these changes to the service. The 563 is an important extremely important bus service in the area and this should improve the viability of the route. I hope that people take advantage of these additional journeys into the village."
Cllr Tim Knowles, cabinet member for transport said: "Every opportunity to increase public transport usage is something to celebrate and I am pleased that the residents and visitors of Kirby Thore now have more sustainable transport facilities available to them."
Chair of Heart of Eden Development Trust, Barry Thompson said: “It is through the determination of the Parish Council that the service will now call into Kirkby Thore, and it highlights just what can be achieved by local people.
“We hope a bus service will also continue through to Long Marton in the future, providing more rural areas with a regular, reliable form of public transport.
“Heart of Eden has learnt that a new tender will be going out in January 2012 to run the service between Kirkby Stephen, Brough, Appleby and Penrith from September 2012. We now propose to learn from the success of Kirkby Thore Parish Council and plan to work together with other parish councils to ensure we can improve the local bus services to other villages on this route.”