THE thorny issue of rural bus services needs to be looked at as a matter of urgency.

Just two years after Pennine Buses folded, another local service comes to the end of the road this weekend.

In both cases, their demise is blamed, at least in part, by the concessionary bus pass scheme.

Operators are obliged to accept such passes, but are only reimbursed for a small proportion of the cost.

The latest casualty is the Saturday X75 bus, which connects Skipton to Harrogate and York.

It is run by the Dales and Bowland Community Interest Company, which claims that, even with fully-laden buses, the service cannot make enough money to ensure its survival.

Even though well-used, the service attracts mainly concessionary bus holders, who are costing the company about £100 per day.

Unsurprisingly, after two years of digging deep in its pockets, the company has decided to withdraw the service and concentrate on other more vital transport links.

Managing director, Colin Speakman, says the root of the problem is the fact the concessionary bus scheme is based on urban travel, where the thousands of commuters help to fund any shortfall from pensioners.

But in the Dales, where transport costs are already high, the commuter flow is almost non-existent and the buses are used by mainly concessionary pass holders. It is a lethal cocktail – and, sadly, it is the elderly, young and those who are on low incomes who suffer when services are withdrawn.

It is time rural areas were given a better deal.

It is not all doom and gloom though. The service between Skipton and Preston has been saved from the axe, and volunteers from Upper Wharfedale are about to launch a new Monday-Saturday minibus service, offering up to five return trips a day between Grassington and Buckden.