'Bus cuts are stopping me visiting my son's grave'

Janette is pictured in her garden holding a photograph of her son Bradley in militrary uniform
Janette’s son, Bradley Parks-Duckett, took his own life in 2019 at the age of 21 [BBC/Richard Edwards]

A mother says cuts to bus services in her area meant she now struggled to visit her late soldier son’s grave.

Janette Thompson, from Selby in North Yorkshire, used to catch Arriva’s 405 service to the cemetery in Doncaster after her son Bradley Parks-Duckett was laid to rest there in 2019.

But the 405 service was withdrawn in 2022 after Arriva said it was costing too much to run.

Ms Thompson said the consequences of the bus cuts had been "heartbreaking" for her.

A photograph of Janette's son Bradley in military uniform
Bradley Parks-Duckett [Supplied]

“Bradley was one of the most amazing young men I can ever think about,” Ms Thompson said.

“Funny, intelligent, so witty, a cheeky young man."

Mr Parks-Duckett, who was in the Royal Engineers, died after taking his own life aged 21.

She said the cancellation of the bus service to the South Yorkshire city had made it harder for her to visit his place of rest.

The train service to Doncaster was less convenient and cost more than the bus, she explained.

"It means the world to be able to go through and sit with Bradley for a few minutes. But they cancelled the buses, it was heartbreaking," Janette said.

"Please re-instate at least two buses in the morning, two buses in the afternoon, just so I have half-an-hour with my son.”

A spokesperson for Arriva said: “The 405 was withdrawn in 2022 because it was costing us too much to run. For people living in Selby and Doncaster, there is a good train service between the two locations, with trains taking just 15 minutes.

"Our business is all about connecting communities and we feel sorry for our passengers when we have to cancel services.”

'Use it or lose it'

Janette got in touch with the BBC as part of the Your Voice, Your Vote campaign, where member of the public message with the issues that are important to them ahead of the general election.

Public transport has been an issue which has topical in the region for a number of years.

Bus services across York and North Yorkshire have been under pressure since Covid, as passenger numbers were slow to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Officials have said numbers are now back to about 90% of pre-Covid levels.

Cuts to buses in York were confirmed in February, while in March North Yorkshire Council issued a “use it or lose it” warning after it put money into extra services.

Bus passenger Philip Lawton pictured facing camera in front of a brick wall
Philip Lawton says buses work when there is no time pressure involved [BBC/Richard Edwards]

We went to Selby bus station on a busy weekday morning to see what other passengers thought of bus services in the area.

Philip Lawton, 83, had travelled from Sherburn-in-Elmet, to have a bacon and egg sandwich and a cup of tea at Lola’s Garden Café in the town.

He said the buses, which run every two hours in either direction between Sherburn and Selby, worked fine when there was no time pressure involved.

“But if you’ve got something like a hospital appointment, they are not so good,” Mr Lawton added.

Jude Wright is pictured in a summer dress on a spot of grass near Selby bus station
Jude Wright says cuts to buses would make it hard to get her son to nursery [BBC/Richard Edwards]

Meanwhile, Jude Wright, 30, was taking her son to nursery in Escrick before heading into York.

She said the service between Selby and York was “fantastic,” but her home village of Barlow had only four buses a day to Selby.

She said she was concerned any cuts to that service would mean her son would not be able to attend nursery.

“If we lost the first bus of the day it would mean we would be paying a full day’s nursery but he would only be there an hour,” she added.

Celina Smith, 26, spoke to the BBC before she caught the 415 to York Designer Outlet, where she works.

She said: “The service is really good.

"Really affordable for the everyday person. This bus is every 15 minutes so if I miss one I can get the next one. It is really handy.”

What do the candidates say?

Five candidates are standing in the Selby constituency at the general election.

Conservative Charles Richardson said, if elected, he would push for the 405 to be re-instated.

“Selby is a rural community. A large number of people in Selby rely on bus or train services. It is hugely important that those services are up to speed and can be relied upon.”

Angela Oldershaw, who is standing for The Green Party, said many people depended on buses for their independence.

She said: “The infrastructure is geared towards car owners. But not everyone owns a car. We need more active transport and more public transport.”

Keir Mather, standing for Labour, said his party – if it won the election – would lift restrictions on local councils setting up their own bus companies.

He said: “This would allow public ownership options to be available.

"We have a problem in this county where broken bus networks hold back our elderly people, or young people. It desperately needs to change.”

Liberal Democrat candidate Christian Vassie said his party wanted to see local authorities given the powers to extend and create new public transport services – especially in rural areas.

“People are open to using cars less. But they want reliable public transport,” Mr Vassie said.

Reform UK candidate David Burns has been approached for a response.

A graphic which reads 'more on general election 2024'
[BBC]

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