CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating the introduction of a dial-a-ride demand response bus service to Long Lawford.
Some parts of the village have been without a bus for more than 18 months, prompting a petition signed by more than 500 people calling for it to be reinstated.
But Warwickshire County Council (WCC) has now announced it plans to deliver a dial-a-ride demand responsive service – where residents can book journeys for the same day or the future. It will initially be available between 7am and 7pm Monday to Friday.
Much of the campaigning has been done by the Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.
Bus campaign co-ordinator Pete McLaren said: “This news has come as a very pleasant surprise and shows how strong campaigning can bring results.
“We are particularly pleased this will be targeted at meeting the travel demands of residents in the village who have suffered reductions in public transport provision.
“Our campaign was centred around the restoration of a bus service through the heart of Long Lawford where most of our elderly, infirm and vulnerable residents live, and this new service will do that.
‘It will operate on any route for which bookings are received, collecting residents from outside their own homes. This will make life so much easier for those residents who found it difficult, or even impossible, to walk the extra distance – up to half a mile – to an existing bus stop after the 3A bus route was axed by Stagecoach.
“For the cost of a phone call or click of an app, residents throughout Long Lawford will now get a door-to-door service into Rugby, a cheap or free ‘taxi’ service.”
But the campaigners still have concerns as some details are yet to be finalised.
Mr McLaren added: “We do not know how responsive this new service will be if only one or two people book it, or how flexible times will be. One of our main worries is that the funding for this new service is only for 12 months, although we have been assured the council will continue to fund the new service after this additional 12-month funding ends ‘if usage is acceptable’.
“Overall, we are delighted that there will now be a bus service that is once again accessible to those in Long Lawford who need it the most.
“While the details still need to be confirmed and announced, campaigners feel that this announcement is a massive step forward in terms of rural transport provision, and it may yet be that demand responsive transport services are the future for retaining public transport services in rural communities.”
Council transport spokesman Coun Jeff Clarke said: “WCC is committed to protecting and supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities. This new bus service will help to tackle the possible isolation that people living in our rural communities might feel, and give them a means of travel so that they can access facilities and amenities in nearby towns. I’m pleased we’ve been able to help to arrange this.”