July 5, 2022

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On demand buses part of 'transformational' new service plan

On demand buses part of ‘transformational’ new service plan

Plans to improve bus services in Worcestershire could see passengers summoning buses via an app.

A free on-demand scheme that has been trialled in Bromsgrove for the past six months could be rolled out if the county council gets government funding.

The trial has “wildly exceeded expectations”, the council said.

Herefordshire Council is jointly bidding with Worcestershire for £104m to improve services across the two counties.

Since the start of September, bus travel has been free anywhere in Herefordshire over weekends and more than 62,0000 journeys have been made so far, the local authority said.

Councillor John Harrington, cabinet member for infrastructure and transport at the council, said if a “modern” service was to exist and succeed in the county then subsidising it had to be considered.

‘Bit by bit’

“If you’re trying to make bus a choice again, you’ve got to put investment and time into it. and if we’re not getting the money form the government to do that, we’re struggling to do it,” he said.

In Worcestershire, bus passenger numbers have declined by 45% since 2011.

But the scheme in Bromsgrove has proved popular with passengers who find their next available service and pick-up point via the app, called Worcestershire On Demand.

“It’s wildly exceeded our expectations,” said councillor Alan Amos, cabinet member for highways and transport, who said the service reached its maximum capacity of 120 people in one day this month.

The council, which is currently spending £4.5m a year on services, has bid for £86m for its bus service improvement plan and if successful, the authority would roll it out “bit by bit” across the county”.

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Mr Amos said it was a once in a generation opportunity to change the way services were operated.

“I think this is our opportunity to completely transform the bus services across the whole county,” added.