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Saturday, 30 May 2015

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High demand for route that opens gate to whole country

THE Go North East 688 bus from Hexham to Allenheads is subsidised by the county council, but is not one of the services facing a funding cut.

However, a return journey along the circular route, which runs nine times per day, Monday to Saturday, clearly demonstrates the importance of public transport in Tynedale’s most remote communities.

The healthy number of passengers on board shows the strong demand from people living in isolated villages and hamlets.

Leaving Hexham railway station at 11.43am, the bus reached Allenheads before 12.30pm and, after a swift turnaround, was back at Hexham shortly after 1.15pm – even last Thursday with snow lying on the road sides.

A return ticket for Robert Forsythe and myself cost a very reasonable £4.20 per head for the whole route, and we watched as 11 people got on board at Hexham Bus Station.

Nobody took the opportunity to get on or off at Langley, but two more boarded the 688 at Catton and, as expected, there was a considerable changeover at Allendale Market Square.

The bulk of the passengers were retired Allen Valley residents, keen to make the most of a key transport link to Hexham.

One woman said: “We’d be lost without it. I travel on this bus three times a week because it gives me access to the shops and the bank at Hexham.

“I don’t drive, so if I want to go further afield to Newcastle or Carlisle by train, I have to use this bus to get to Hexham in the first instance.”

Another woman was travelling home to Sinderhope following a trip to London.

She said: “For me, the 688 is a gateway to the rest of the country, and the beauty of it means I can also use it for a short trip to Allendale.”

The bus carried four people from Allendale to Allenheads, with stops at Sinderhope and Spartylea in between.

On the return trip to Hexham there was another influx of passengers at Allendale.

Tom Dodds, manager at Go North East, said the company’s Tynedale Links buses provide regular services connecting Allenheads, Newbrough, Corbridge, Wylam, Matfen, Stamfordham and Ponteland with Hexham and Newcastle.

He explained: “We are able to do this on an agreed minimum subsidy basis with Northumberland County Council, which means the company carries the revenue risk, not local tax payers.

“While these services provide important links to many villages, we do rely on people to keep using them.”