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Fears grow for future of rural transport.

Byline: By Hayley Beattie

Transport links in rural Northumberland may suffer from the closure of a support organisation, it was claimed last night.

Tynedale Rural Transport Partnership was established seven years ago but reductions in funding has meant it can no longer continue and it will come to an end next month.

Transport user groups in the district say they area concerned there is nothing to fill the gap and are worried communities may lose out.

Partnership officer Peter Mogridge said a lot had been achieved in the seven years but it had become more and more difficult to make a real difference because of a lack of funding.

"I would like to think we have made a dent in addressing some of the problems raised, but whilst we tinker away at the edges we can't actually make a real difference for the community when it comes to major changes," he said. "The budgets are smaller and the costs are going up and we just don't have the clout as a partnership."

The partnership's successes have ranged from providing a new bus service from Blanchland to Hexham to larger projects such as securing pounds 600,000 for a Government bus-meets-train initiative. Overall it has brought more than pounds 3m worth of funding to the area to improve transport links.

Malcolm Chainey, chairman of the Tyne Valley Rail Users Group, said the news was bad timing in the light of recent announcements over cuts to bus services across the district.

He said: "It is not the best of timing given the fact that Northumberland County Council is strapped for cash and is making cuts to services in this area.

"The partnership helped people to find the ways and means of organising transport links but unfortunately this funding has dried up and I am not sure what if anything will be put in its place.

"It is going to be a real miss and I would like to see it replaced quickly but unfortunately I don't think that is going to happen."

Since 1999 the partnership has been funded by the now defunct Countryside Agency.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 27, 2006
Words:353
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