£1.85 rural transport scheme could be rolled out to Buckingham area if successful

On-demand minibus scheme is set to be trialled in Aylesbury and High Wycombe.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 4:33 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 4:34 pm
On-demand public transport schemes can offer greater flexibility in rural areas

Buckinghamshire Council has been successful in a bid for £1.85 million from the Department for Transport’s Rural Mobility Fund over the next four years to introduce Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT) in and around Aylesbury and High Wycombe.

None of the cash is allocated for services in north Bucks, but the council says the scheme could be rolled out more widely, if successful.

Buckinghamshire Council will receive £1,114,000 for a project that will see six 11-seater vehicles with wi-fi access and full wheelchair accessibility rolled out to boost accessibility to villages around Aylesbury. The scheme, which would enable passengers to book through a mobile app, would improve the links to villages such as Weedon and Hartwell where there are only one or two bus services an hour, and Halton, where there are no bus routes serving the village. It will also improve connections to Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

A further £736,000 will boost demand-responsive transport around High Wycombe, following a reduction in traditional bus services in the area. The county council will work with booking app providers to improve connectivity with the villages of Booker, Downley and Wooburn.

The service, which is set to run between 6am and 7pm Monday to Friday, is designed to help alleviate the social isolation of older residents in particular, and provide better access to shops, healthcare, education and employment.

Demand-responsive transport can be effective where fixed-route transport services don't meet local needs due to distance from bus stops, frequencies, journey times and connectivity to areas other than the town centres. DRT services offer greater flexibility, providing more tailored transport options closer to where people live and at a time that's more convenient to them.

People living in the rural and suburban areas of both towns will be able to book transport from their homes into the centre of each town so they can get to work, go shopping, enjoy leisure facilities or get to the main stations for onward journeys.

The aim of the Rural Mobility Fund is to deliver transport solutions that work better for local residents and create improved connectivity for communities. The two schemes will also help support the future development of Aylesbury and High Wycombe, reduce the pressure on local road networks and help reduce transport carbon dioxide emissions.

In preparing the bids, Buckinghamshire Council worked closely with local operators Arriva and Carousel. It will now be working to implement DRT in both towns, in partnership with public transport operators, local businesses and Chiltern Railways.

When asked by the the Advertiser why no similar scheme was planned for the north of Bucks, Cabinet Member for Transport, Nick Naylor, said: “The two schemes are focused on the rural areas around Aylesbury and High Wycombe, the largest towns in the council area.

"With the number of surrounding villages and suburbs, they also have the population density and demographics which were most likely to succeed in the bidding process.

"That said, these two schemes will act as trials to determine whether similar schemes could be rolled out across other areas of Buckinghamshire in the future.”

Cabinet Member for Logistics, David Martin, said: "If this proves to be a success, then we will be looking to expand to other areas of the county in the future.”