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University of York backs new bus funding

First published in News York Press: Photograph of the Author by , Chief reporter

A ROW has blown up over a University of York decision to subsidise a new bus service.

The Press reported earlier this week how York Pullman has launched a new Unibus service, which links the old and new campuses and also runs into the city centre.

We also reported how First was also extending its Number 4 ftr route to serve the same route.

Now it has emerged that while First is running its service commercially, without subsidy, the university is paying one to Pullman.

Dave Alexander, regional managing director for First UK Bus in the north of England, queried the arrangement.

He said: “We are the only bus company running commercially on this route and it is interesting, in these times of tightening the purse strings in higher education, that the university has decided to pay a subsidy to another bus operator.”

But the university staunchly defended the subsidy.

It said with the extension of the university, it had an obligation to provide good access for students to both halves of the expanded campus.

A spokesman also said it spent more than two years in negotiation with First York with a view to it extending the Number 4 service to Heslington East, but it consistently declined to do so, despite the university’s willingness to discuss financial support.

He said the university then entered into “very positive” discussions with York Pullman which resulted in the agreement to provide Unibus.

The subsidy was on a sliding scale, with a view to the Unibus service becoming self-sustaining over time.

He added it was “interesting” that First York’s route extension, with substantially discounted fares, only materialised after discussions with York Pullman became public and Unibus began operating.

A First spokesman said it had always had a good relationship with the university and look forward to working with it in the future.

He said it had always been First’s intention to extend the service to take in the new campus.

Tom James, managing director of York Pullman, said it concerned him that First fares had only been substantially reduced after competition emerged on the route.

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