Demand Responsive Transport – That’s a bus to you and me

This morning I went to Wickhambrook for the launch of the first on demand bus service in West Suffolk. Not a particularly impressed group of people gathered to hear how the service would work, which is a shame really because where its been piloted near Woodbridge people have nothing but praise for the service.

I have for a couple of years now been pushing for us to start the introduction of the service as I get to see just how much money we spend supporting a rural bus services and how little they are used. If you use a bus it’s a life line, often literally as it is used to get to Doctor and Hospital appointments, when I talk with older residents its a vital part of there lives and often community groups use them as part of how they plan their activities, yet at the same time many rural buses are virtually empty and rarely run at convenient times for people to go shopping or get to work.

Equally as fuel gets more and more expensive more and more people are going to need public transport, in towns and cities across the country elections are won and lost on the strength of the bus service, in Barnsley a Town I know well its bus station is one of the most funky new buildings I have seen in a long time, its right in the town centre and next to the rail station and buses trundle around the town stopping every 10 minutes are at hundreds of stops. But of course Barnsley is a large town with a relatively compact layout and so the bus company runs its services at a profit; in Rural Suffolk our population is rather spread out to say the least, and most of the current rural bus services requires the County Council to supplement each and every journey, and in this brave new world of ours can we afford to continue to provide, if we do not provide a rural bus service does that make life untenable for anyone who does not use a car and does it effectively make rural village unsustainable?  So if a rural bus services is the part of the rural community backbone we rightly should provide a service but can we do it better, yes we can.

 A couple of years ago I and some of my fellow Councillors challenged Officers to find a better solution, certainly in my case not really having a clue of how we could do it better just that I wanted it to be better. Anyway Officers looked around the country and came up with what is known as ‘wiggy’ buses now that’s not a reference to John (sorry bit of a private joke) but the nick name given to a system of transport provision that is sort of hub and spoke; where you have ‘main line’ buses run between hubs or towns as we might call them! and a sort of on demand service you can book a bus to pick you up that either takes you to each end of the hub or a bus stop on the way between the two.

With the use of an operator based in Ipswich and technology the theory is that you can received calls from people wanting to book the bus and that it can then trundle around an area picking people up and dropping them off that is both convenient to them and allows them to make connections into the main bus routes so that they can travel from their own front door to their destination. It’s not a taxi services but it’s as close as you can get with public Transport; and its green, yes the services will naturally be dodging here, there and everywhere but it will use less fuel that just travelling from A to B often completely empty. 

Of course to pay for this we have to withdraw other services and that was the clear issue for the residents to came to the launch in Wickhambrook; having seen the pilot near Woodbridge I am convinced this is the way forward but know when I get it to my Division I shall have a full post-bag of letters from concerned people as we roll it out, I naturally hope to have just as full a post-bag of letters from people saying they love the service once its is bedded in, yeah right!

About askcolinnoble
I'm a Conservative politician-lite, I dabble a bit in Party Politics with my main focus of working hard and being a strong voice for my community making sure local government delivers quality services and fellow residents get value for money for their hard earned money they pay in Council tax | Where this Gravatar appears and I am expressing my views or liking something I do so in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, the Conservative Party or come to think of it anyone else | But having said the above at an election time and to stay legal, anything I write is promoted by Lance Stanbury on behalf of Colin Noble, both at West Suffolk Conservative Association, Park Farm Cottage, Fordham St. Genevieve, BurySt. Edmunds, Suffolk IP28 6TS

2 Responses to Demand Responsive Transport – That’s a bus to you and me

  1. I’ll be really interested to find out how this goes, Colin. I’ve lived in the wilds of Cornwall and in a London satellite new town, and in each place there was a desperate need to tailor bus services to the needs of those who are their primary users.

    How can we hope to lessen the number of car journeys if the buses will not do our bidding? I would love to see a rose coloured future where people like me- workers with a couple of cars- use the bus because it’s simply more convenient.

    I can dream.

    • colinnoble says:

      I could not agree more, until we find ways to make using buses more convenient all the taxes in the world are not going to stop us using our cars, here we are hoping our new services will go some way to tailoring our buses to actual serve the needs of residents and communities, I will keep you updated as to our progress and fingers crossed, increases in the nubmer of people using the new services.

      I was at a conference earlier this year discussing rural access to health and social care provision and Cornwall figured quite heavily and we think were rural!

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