A RURAL bus service made famous by a television documentary could be axed unless private funding can be found to save it.

The Sunday bus service run by the Dales and Bowland Community Interest Company, could be lost unless new, private funding can be found before its last remaining public subsidies begin to run out next year.

North Yorkshire County Council withdrew its subsidies from Sunday services in the county in 2013 and now the West Yorkshire Combined Authority - which currently provides £22,000 a year - has also indicated its intention to phase out their funding - over an unspecified period - from April next year.

The services under threat includes the number 830 Northern Dalesman bus which featured in a slow television documentary All Aboard! The Country Bus, which followed its 40 mile route from Richmond to Ingleton in “real time”. The programme attracted more than 900,000 viewers in 2016.

A few months later the Dales and Bowland Community Interest Company (CIC) turned to the crowdfunding website JustGiving in a bid to find funding and attract donations from people who use the service and others who appreciated its importance.

At a recent annual meeting of Friends of the Dales, commercial director of the CIC Paul Chattwood, said they were being forced down the road of “going with a begging bowl” to the private sector. The CIC is a volunteer-run subsidy of the Friends of the Dales charity.

“It means that non-car owners and people from the inner cities, all the very people we should be encouraging to visit the Dales, are being deprived of that opportunity,” he said.

“We are entirely dependent on volunteers to operate the service and now we are being forced down the road of going with a begging bowl to commercial organisations as public sector funds dwindle,” Mr Chattwood told the annual meeting of Friends of the Dales, formerly the Yorkshire Dales Society.

He thanked Acorn Stairlifts of Keighley, West Yorkshire, whose sponsorship has enabled the DalesBus Wensleydale Flyer service from Northallerton to Hawes to keep going, along with Northern PowerGrid, Harrogate Springwater, Northern Rail, and other private enterprises.

North Yorkshire County Council began withdrawing its subsidies for Sunday routes in 2013 and went on to axe a further £500,000 of subsidies for some routes as part of £170m worth of budget cuts it had to make between 2011 and 2020.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park says it doesn't have any public transport remit and would only be able to make one-off payments to help companies get off the ground from its sustainable development fund.

“It costs £70,000 a year to provide these Sunday and bank holiday services which in the great scheme of things is not much,” Mr Chattwood added, saying they needed “more assertive” campaigning.

“We must bang the drum for more public transport in the dales.”

In the 10 years since the not-for-profit company was formed, DalesBus had provided 345,000 journeys on Sundays and bank holidays.