“Ghost buses” driving around Scarborough with no passengers need to be exorcised as part of a review into the town’s park and ride sites, councillors have said.
Members of North Yorkshire County Council’s Scarborough and Whitby Area Constituency Committee have been responding to the authority’s consultation on what to do with the sites in Seamer Road and Filey Road.
The sites, which both hold 600 vehicles and run a bus service into Scarborough every 15 minutes through the day seven days a week, are costing the county council a combined £473,000 a year to operate.
The council is now looking at three options; removing the service altogether, closing one of the sites or operating them both seasonally.
A number of councillors on the committee today spoke of empty buses driving through Scarborough with no passengers.
Cllr Tony Randerson (Lab) said: “I didn’t need a report to determine that ghost buses running around the borough that the park and ride system wasn’t working. It was deceased, dead.
“I think what North Yorkshire County Council and Scarborough Borough Council have to decide if they are fully supporting a park and ride system in Scarborough. They need to tempt people to utilise it if there is an insistence by Scarborough Council that we have town centre car parks, therefore, attracting more traffic into the town centre then a park and ride system will not work.”
Cllr Randerson said he would “get rid” of the park and ride if nothing changes.
Cllr Andrew Jenkinson (Con) said that when the report came out wanting to reduce the service he was “devastated” but had then seen the drop-off in the usage.
Figures show that in 2011-12 a total of 238,694 passengers used the Seamer Road site but that fell to 124,786 in 2017-18. The number of passengers using the Filey Road site also fell dramatically over the same period with 147,137 fewer people using it in 2017-18 compared to 2011-12 when the figure stood at 294,468.
Cllr Jenkinson added: “One of the biggest problems is free parking in Scarborough. That’s why the figures drop in the winter, if you can park for nothing [in town] you would be very silly to park in the park and ride.”
Scarborough Borough Council has a number of car parks that are free out of the main summer season to encourage people to use the town when visitors have left.
It attempted to introduce winter parking charges last year but the plan was dropped following an outcry from residents and businesses.
Cllr Liz Colling (Lab) said that she’d had many residents bring up issues with the buses.
She added: “Many have brought up the wastefulness of the ghost buses.
“I think the winter parking charge is a red herring as even if [Scarborough Council] did introduce parking charges it’s still easier to park in town than at the park and ride.”
Cllr David Chance (Con) added: “Like everyone else, I got sick to death of seeing the ghost buses it really is just money down the drain.”
The committee, on the whole, gave its backing to operating the park and ride sites on a seasonal basis, though with some flexibility over when the season would start.
The county council has proposed linking the opening to two weekends before Easter but councillors felt it needed to be earlier.
Independent councillor Janet Jefferson said she would like to see the buses operate later in order to support shows at the Open Air Theatre and Cllr Derek Bastiman (Con) said the council should explore if the park and ride buses could be used as “service” buses to pick up other passengers on the way into town.
A decision on the park and ride sites will be made later this year.