County council ‘saves 350,000 bus journeys’

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Newport Bus will, at times, use electric Yutong buses on the newly acquired routes. RICHARD SHARMAN

Following an exercise to find new providers for bus routes cut by Stagecoach West, Gloucestershire County Council has appointed new operators

Gloucestershire County Council said that it acted quickly to try and ensure that no one would be left isolated following the cuts announced recently by Stagecoach. However, it conceded that not all the routes could be replaced, and in those cases alternative ways of getting around are being promoted instead, including making use of other modes of transport such as dial-a-ride, community transport and ‘The Robin’ which has recently been launched in the Forest of Dean and the Cotswolds. In addition, personal transport planners will be made available to anyone who needs extra help.

Notably, Bennetts Coaches of Gloucester will now operate the route that serves the Arle Court park & ride site from 28 November, whilst the site itself is also having a £20m upgrade to encourage sustainable transport and reduce congestion.

Councillor Philip Robinson, Cabinet member for Education, Skills and Transport, said: “I promised communities across Gloucestershire that we would work tirelessly to avoid people being left isolated when these routes were cut by Stagecoach. In an extremely challenging context, the team have been able to save 350,000, about 70%, of these journeys. Where no bus provider could be found, we are promoting alternative transport solutions such as dial-a-ride, community transport and the new ‘Robin’ service.

“Stagecoach has left many communities across the county high and dry. This is unacceptable to the county council and it’s one of the reasons why I reported Stagecoach to the Traffic Commissioner. We are not prepared to let Stagecoach get away with treating communities this way. The people of Gloucestershire deserve better, and I will remain steadfast in my commitment to them and my efforts in delivering public transport that works.”

Newport Bus is another operator that has been announced to operate replacement services. The municipal company announced that it extended its network from Chepstow to serve Beachley and Lydney in the Forest of Dean from 21 November. Two routes will start from Chepstow; route C4 will be a new Chepstow town service serving Sedbury and Beachley, and route 72 will be a new rural service to Lydney in the Forest of Dean. Newport Bus said it will operate the two new routes ‘with a dedicated team of drivers to improve efficiency and quickly create a sense of familiarity.’ At times, it said that customers will also benefit from some of the newest zero-emission electric buses in the its fleet.

Alex Clarke, Commercial Officer for Newport Bus, said: “We are pleased to be working in partnership with Gloucestershire County Council to provide these new services. These routes complement our existing network in and around Chepstow.”