Cambs DRT pilots may bridge bus cuts

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Proposal approved which could see £34m of public sector transport contracts put up for tender

Cambridgeshire County Council has approved three Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) pilot projects, which it hopes to develop to replace subsidised bus routes.

The trials are part of the Cambridgeshire Future Transport scheme which could see £34m of public sector transport contracts put up for tender if the services are approved.

Entrepreneurs or charities will be handed a minibus which they will use to honour a contract, such as a school run or taking patients to hospital, but would then be free to use the vehicle for other purposes, such as launching timetabled routes or running a dial-a-ride service.

The first two pilots will launch in December, with one providing connections to Whittlesford station for villagers from the Duxford and Linton areas. The other will link Swavesey and Longstanton to guided busway stops and carry out county council work linked to Over Day Centre.

The third pilot, which will launch in January, will act as a community bus in the Haddenham and Wilburton areas.

It is expected setting up the three franchises will cost around £160,000.

When Cambridgeshire Future Transport is fully up and running, franchisees will pay an annual fee, but this will not be charged during the trial.

The County Council’s cabinet approved the pilots last Tuesday.

Planning chief cllr Ian Bates said: “The franchise idea will not only help create local transport but encourage enterprise and therefore the economy as well.

“I am pleased we are making progress in bringing pilots forward as well as the work going on with other partner councils and agencies to look at how local transport solutions can be created.

“This nationally recognised project could bring together the millions of pounds local public bodies spend on transport and use it to help create more locally targeted schemes.”

Support to franchisees will include vehicle tax, insurance and maintenance, business support and administration, and access to a strong brand.

The cabinet was also updated on the progress of a partnership designed to examine public sector transport co-ordination, which will be known as Transport for Cambridgeshire. NHS and district council contracts will be included, taking the total value of the work available to around £34m.