Residents in a rural Cumbrian community will soon be on the move with their very own electric bus.
Alston’s new green public transport has been made possible by Alston Moor Business Association (AMBA) with the help of a £3,500 donation from United Utilities.
The water company has made the donation as part of a package of support for the town, thanks to an approach by AMBA, following the disruption caused by water mains renewal earlier this year.
Residents and tourists will be able to use the bus to travel from the South Tynedale Railway at the foot of the town, up the cobbled “Front Street” to the car park at the town’s highest point, and then back via all the main stopping points. The intention is also to make the bus available to community groups for special events in the town, and it is hoped it will help make a real difference particularly for elderly residents.
United Utilities has also pledged support for young people in the community by committing £1,500 towards transport costs for local school leavers who need to access further education in towns such as Penrith and Carlisle.
Ian McCoy, Stakeholder Relations Manager at United Utilities, said: “The people of Alston have been through a difficult period over the last year, what with the water mains renewal work on the main streets through the town and the terrible snowstorms which brought severe disruption in March.
“Although the water mains work is finished and already bringing better and more reliable water supplies for people in the town, and snow has long gone, we wanted to help get the community moving again following all the disruption, and we were delighted to help support a number of initiatives.”
The electric bus was originally bought for the community by AMBA but they were short of funds to carry out some maintenance and buy replacement batteries for the vehicle.
David Hymers, Chair of AMBA, said: “We developed a good working relationship with United Utilities and their contractors during the roadworks, and the team did everything they could to ease some of the disruption and arrange compensation for the traders affected. The company responded very positively when we asked whether they could do more to help support the wider community.
“Alston’s new electric bus should be ready for its first passengers by the beginning of December as our target is to assist mums, dads and kids riding the South Tynedale Railway “Santa Specials” leading up to Christmas as an extra event.
“We were also happy to introduce the idea of support funding to Ian Johnson, Samuel Kings School Headmaster, to cover a shortfall in transport costs. Carlisle College had already agreed to provide partial funding for Alston’s sixth form students to attend, and United Utilities has now provided the top up needed.”
United Utilities will also be joining with AMBA and Cumbria Chamber of Commerce at a training and careers advice day at Samuel Kings School on 18 October. Two of the water company’s apprentices will be on hand to talk about the opportunities available for 16+ year olds at the company.
Ian Johnson, Head teacher at Samuel Kings School, said: “Our students have a wide choice of sixth forms and colleges to choose from when they finish their Year 11. In the absence of any public transport, the difficulty is in getting them there. United Utilities' generous donation, arranged through the Alston Moor Business Association, makes the possibility of transport all the way from Alston to Carlisle College a reality and I really cannot thank them enough for it. It really could not be better news for this group of hard-working young people.”
Alston’s water mains refurbishment project took place between Easter and the end of June. The scheme saw United Utilities upgrade 3km of old cast iron pipework, some dating back 100 years, with its modern plastic equivalent.