Cheshire East Council is to launch an ‘on demand’ rural bus service to help reduce isolation in some of the more remote parts of the borough.
The three-year £1.25m pilot service has been funded by the Department for Transport’s Rural Mobility Fund and will cover a wide area south of Nantwich where no commercial services are available.
The bus service will be booked using a mobile phone app or phone call, with a doorstep pick-up service for less mobile passengers.
This will allow a resident, or group of residents, to request a bus for a specific journey and as the service is not tied to a fixed route, it will allow for quick and efficient shared trips without lengthy detours or fixed schedules.
Two branded 16-seater ‘midi’ buses will be available between 7am and 9pm, Monday to Saturday, with low-floor access and a third vehicle may operate at peak times, subject to demand.
If the pilot service is successful, it could be rolled out to other parts of the borough.
Commenting, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council and Chair of the authority’s Highways and Transport Committee, Councillor Craig Browne said:
“This is a really exciting and innovative pilot scheme that will make a remote area of our borough more accessible and reduce social isolation for local residents of all ages.
“The council continues to support the fixed-route bus network, but we are aware that traditional services are not a convenient method of travel for all residents. This scheme helps address this problem.
“Unfortunately, commercial services are not able to make some rural routes cost-effective. A demand-responsive solution will help enable people of all ages to reach GP surgeries, attend hospital appointments, access further education and training or go shopping.
“This new bus service will help reduce car dependency and a sense of isolation, as well as contribute to the council’s own low carbon aspirations.
“We will be monitoring this pilot carefully, as we are optimistic it could offer a way forward for the future of rural bus services in Cheshire East.”
The ‘go-too’ service starts at 1pm on Monday 4 October and tickets for the bus service will be £3 for people aged 16 and over and £2 for under-16s and concessions.
For every five journeys taken, users will get the sixth journey free.