A NEW set of wheels has taken to the roads in Upper Wharfedale after the old community-operated Venturer bus was put out to pasture and its replacement introduced to passengers.

The Upper Wharfedale Venturer bus service between Buckden, Grassington and Hebden has been providing a vital service for the communities of the upper dale since 2016 when the Pride of the Dales service north of Grassington was discontinued. Now, after seven years, almost 200,000 miles and some 8000 return trips down the dale carrying more than 65,000 passengers, the original bus has retired from service. All the passengers on the last run of the old bus were treated to a free ride.

The new Venturer is a Mercedes Sprinter 517 EVM Cityline low-floor vehicle which will improve accessibility for passengers with limited mobility. The bus has lower CO2 and particulate emissions than its predecessor and will provide a quieter, more comfortable ride. It has improved passenger information, internal and external cameras and USB charging points.

Like the old bus, the new Venturer is provided on loan to Upper Wharfedale Bus, by North Yorkshire Council. Upper Wharfedale Bus director, Peter Vetch said that the original Venturer has given sterling service over the past seven years, but was beginning to show its age, with increasing concerns about reliability. The new bus will address these concerns but additionally demonstrates North Yorkshire Council’s commitment to making public transport more accessible to all.

Mr Vetch said: "The low-floor design makes the bus much easier to access than the old Venturer for those with limited mobility. The new passenger information system includes external destination displays on the front, side and rear of the bus while current and next stops are displayed inside. Future developments will include next stop announcements to help the visually impaired, as well as the ability to carry a passenger using a wheelchair; the low floor and the ramp make this feasible. This will not be offered until all the drivers are trained in the safe loading, securing and unloading of passengers in wheelchairs; expected to be complete by the end of the summer.  With passenger numbers now back at pre-pandemic levels and a great new vehicle, the future of the Upper Wharfedale service is looking bright."

Volunteers play a vital role in the viability of the service and anyone interested in volunteering to drive the Venturer should contact Upper Wharfedale Bus at info@upperwharfedale.com