PROGRESS has been made with expanding some bus services connecting parts of Pendle, Burnley and Skipton used by school pupils, college students and commuters, following councillors talks with a transport company.

Some passengers travelling between West Craven, Colne, Burnley or Skipton have faced being stranded at bus stops because there was not enough space on buses, Pendle councillors have said.

But councillors recently held talks with the Transdev bus company, which operates many northern services, and bigger double-deckers are being introduced on some routes. The number of people travelling on buses in the West Craven area also appears to be rising, councillors have said.

The recent talks focused on the M5 and M6 Mainline routes by Transdev. But councillors have ambitions for other bus routes too, such as express Witchway and Wizz services.

Transdev runs various bus services across Lancashire, including to Burnley, Blackburn and Blackpool, along with Manchester, Bury and Rochdale routes, and neighbouring Yorkshire areas including Skipton and Keighley.

Pendle, Burnley and Skipton links were highlighted at Pendle Council’s latest West Craven Area Committee meeting in Earby.

Lib-Dem Coun David Whipp, committee chairman and deputy borough leader , said: “Over the past couple of years, we have contacted Transdev on a number of occasions about inadequate bus services. Buses were full to capacity and passengers were left standing on the roadside, unable to get to school, college or work. There were problems in places such as Earby and Barnoldswick.

“There have also been changes to some services, such as the Wizz service between Burnley and Skipton, being replaced with the Mainline service, which is slower.

“Recently, myself, Councillor Susan Land and Pendle Council officers met Paul Turner, the commercial director at Transdev, for talks.  He acknowledged the bus capacity problems in the morning.  They have now put on extra journeys and more double-decker buses. At the time of our talks, they were still waiting for some more double-deckers. Mr Turner promised there will be further improvements when they arrive. The buses will be bigger and more reliable.

“There has been an increase in passengers, with over 12 per cent increase on the Skipton route and other increases for Earby and Barnoldswick. Overall, I think it’s a 6.3 per cent increase in passengers for the West Craven area.  More children are travelling to schools in Skipton and Colne by bus, and also into West Craven.”

Coun Susan Land added: “Transdev said they could not get parts for some of their buses, which had created problems. But other than that, the meeting was very positive.”

Coun Whipp said some new evening services had started, or will start, which was welcome too, Transdev was also making changes in nearby districts, such as the Ribble Valley. Further changes may come in future.

Updated bus passenger figures in March 2024 will give a better understanding of how things are going, March is a key month for surveys because there are no long holidays which interrupt regular travel.

Coun Whipp added: “After months, if not years, of frustration we were quite pleased at the positivity shown by Transdev. We didn’t get any improvements to services running past Burnley College or regarding cuts to some express services. Transdev said that was not feasible at the moment.”

In past years, fast ‘Witchway’ express buses connected Skipton to Pendle and Manchester. But the Skipton section was later ended, councillors ended., apparently because of driver factors.

Today, the Witchway X43 runs from Nelson, Burnley and Rawtenstall to Manchester. Elsewhere, there is a Stagecoach service between Preston and Skipton.

In other developments, Lancashire County Council has plans to install ‘real-time’ bus information displays at bus stops across the county, the West Craven committee heard.

Lib-Dem Coun Tom Whipp said: “I think Barnoldswick and Earby have been suggested for displays. Overall, I think the county is looking at a few hundred screens across Lancashire. If we want some more, or have specific locations, we could put in a request.”

David Whipp said Transdev recommended mobile phone apps for live bus updates. But Tom Whipp said a range of information was needed for different passengers. Some older people may only have basic mobile phones with no extra data or some may not have mobile phones at all.

He said: “It’s about a balance. If we want more people to use public transport, we need to make it as open as possible.”