A NEW commercially run bus service was launched on Monday about three months after the collapse of the long-standing Pennine bus company.

Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire will run its Craven Connection service six days a week, linking Skipton, Settle, Ingleton and Kirkby Lonsdale.

It follows an agreement with North Yorkshire County Council.

County councillor Richard Welch, who was on the first bus to leave Skipton Bus Station, said it was a fantastic result.

"Everyone rallied round but we now need to maintain the service. It is a case of 'use it, or lose it'," he added.

The service will run for a year to see whether it can generate enough revenue to make it viable.

Colin Speakman, a member of DalesBus organisation, which has been pressing for the new enterprise, said because the service had to survive on a commercial basis, it had been suggested that senior pass holders might consider "keeping their passes in their pockets" for one journey in four.

It is estimated that between 250 and 300 passenger journeys were made on Monday.

Mr Speakman added: "This all augurs well for the future and congratulations go to everyone who made this possible, but specially to KLCH team who have put their jobs and company on the line in terms of making this a success, but above all to the people of North Craven who have already taken this bus service to their hearts. It is the people's bus!"

But he warned: "We must keep up the momentum and ensure that Monday was not a flash in the pan and numbers continue to grow even on the wet days of autumn and winter."

Meanwhile the county council is continuing to use its own minibuses to provide services to Carleton, Embsay and Skipton's Horse Close estate.

However, the service has not satisfied villagers in Carleton who claim they have not been treated fairly in comparison with people living elsewhere. There are three buses a day to Carleton, compared with eight to Embsay and six to Horse Close.

Steve Richardson, chairman of the Carleton transport pressure group, said: "In the face of all logic, North Yorkshire County Council continues to cut services to our village."

A spokesman for the county council said the authority provided bus services in response to the demand from communities. In Carleton, there were between 25 and 30 users a day, whereas there were twice as many in Embsay.

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