New on-demand bus service to begin in September
A new pilot on-demand bus service is to begin operating in an area to the southwest of Shrewsbury this autumn – with plans in place to roll the service out across the county as part of Shropshire Council’s commitment to reinvigorate public transport in Shropshire.
Operated by Shropshire Council, the Connect On-Demand service will replace the under threat 20 (Shrewsbury to Radbrook), 544 (Shrewsbury to Lyth Hill) and 546 (Shrewsbury to Pulverbatch) bus services which are fully funded by the council but have, over a period of time, seen a reduction in passengers.
The new pilot service will operate from 7.30am to 6.30pm Monday to Saturday, from September, with people able to book via app or by phone. More details will be announced nearer the time.
The service will pick-up and drop-off at locations within the pilot zone, including Radbrook shopping centre, Meole Brace retail park, and doctors’ surgeries. There will also be additional drop-off and pick up points at Shrewsbury bus and railway stations, and The Square.
A Sigma 7 electric bus will operate in urban areas and offer a new experience for passengers, being the first fully electric bus operating in Shropshire. Smaller diesel vehicles are set to operate in more rural areas, to which they are better suited as they are better able to navigate lanes and roads less suited for larger buses.
A DRT (Demand Responsive Transport) team leader will shortly be recruited to help launch and operate the service, with driver recruitment following in the summer. The job adverts will be found on the Shropshire Council website at https://careers.shropshire.gov.uk/
Subject to funding, the council hopes to introduce a similar service in and around the county’s 17 market towns, enabling people to access services locally or to connect with bus or rail for onwards travel – and to access the wider regional and national transport network.
Ian Nellins, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for public transport, said:
“For many residents in Shropshire’s vast rural areas there are no local transport services to get them to work, leisure activities, medical appointments or college. This new service strives to change that and provide a crucial link for residents requiring affordable access to essential services.
“Connect On-Demand works in areas not supported by sufficient local bus services, providing people with essential transport to their nearest market town and links to existing local bus/rail services for onwards travel.
“For our pilot study we have selected an area south of Shrewsbury which currently has three fully subsidised services funded by Shropshire Council. These services have been identified as poorly used and – due to increased requirements for additional funding – have now become untenable. Through our discussions it has become clear that the area around and including these services would benefit greatly from a demand responsive model.
“Under the Shropshire Connect banner we plan to reinvigorate public transport in Shropshire, moving to a fully integrated network of buses and trains which give people attractive and affordable alternatives, giving flexibility and improved access for people without cars, and a genuine choice for people with cars.”
Connect On-Demand has the support of Shropshire Council’s cross-party public transport group, set up last year to discuss and consider ways to improve public transport in the council area.
The Department for Transport have also been impressed with the proposals, and after a recent visit to Shropshire officials plan to return later this year to see the service in operation.
Connect On-Demand is the first aspect of Shropshire Connect, the second being Shrewsbury Connect, a reimagined Shrewsbury Park & Ride service offering connectivity to a number of key strategic sites across the town, including the hospital and rail station. These two projects were the focus of a Levelling Up Fund (LUF) Round 2 bid to Government last year.
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