A new type of bus service for the Marlborough and Pewsey Vale area? Pick up the mobile to call a bus? That is what is being considered (proposed?) for this area. Described by Cllr Dr Mark McClelland, Cabinet Member for Transport as “a bit like an Uber-style service for buses”.
‘An improved flexible, on-demand bus service’ stated Wiltshire Council who are keen for people, potential customers, to give their views. Details and an online consultation can be accessed by clicking here.
Wiltshire Council has been awarded £1.2m of Department for Transport (DfT) funding to launch this service, which follows successful models operational elsewhere in Europe.
What is it and how will it work? Wiltshire Council’s press release describes the service as ‘Flexible, on-demand bus services do not run to a set timetable like usual buses. Instead, they enable people to phone or book a bus service via an app, to take them anywhere within the service area at a time to suit them. App users will be able to book their journey, see in real-time when the vehicle will arrive and make payment. For people who cannot or do not wish to use the app, telephone booking and on-bus payment will also be available.’
Where will it serve? ‘the area it will cover takes in much of Pewsey Vale; from the eastern edge of Devizes, north to Beckhampton and Marlborough, and east to Collingbourne Ducis, Shalbourne and Froxfield, including Pewsey, Burbage, Great Bedwyn and Everleigh. This rural service would provide links to Devizes, Ludgershall and Tidworth, so people can take bus services to other towns.’ See the map of the area:
There are several questions, the obvious being – will the funding from Central Government to launch this service take the place of existing subsidies to the operators? Marlborough.news posed this question and the answer from Cllr Dr Mark McClelland, Cabinet Member for Transport, was: “The funding received from the Department for Transport (DfT) Rural Mobility fund is in addition to the normal funding that we as a council provide to financially support bus services.”
The other major question relates to will this be in addition to existing services, or will it replace any? The answer received was: “No decisions have been made as yet, but it is likely that there will be some changes to existing bus services. It is important that the service is designed to meet the needs of the community, therefore we would encourage people to take part in the survey to help us shape the service going forward.”
Adding: “Since Covid, trends have changed and usage of local bus services are still lower than pre-pandemic, but with increasing operating costs. It is therefore important that the wider public transport network in the area is considered as part of this project to ensure journeys are in place that people wish to make”.
There are many other questions, particularly covering operational issues such as ‘how many buses’, ‘What times of the day will they start/finish?’ ‘How long will a caller have to wait before a bus arrives?’, and many others besides.
A fundamental change to any public transport service has to embrace existing needs, patterns and usage. Whilst this type of service has been operating successfully elsewhere, we understand that the services ran in urban environments where distances are shorter and passenger numbers generally greater, so across this extremely wide low population density area of the Pewsey Vale and beyond, Dutch or other experiences need to be countered with the opinions expressed by the potential customers.
So your chance to give an opinion that might help form a successful and innovative future bus system.