A NEW bus service connecting Rugby with surrounding villages has been cautiously welcomed by campaigners who have been without a local service for two years.
Warwickshire County Council (WCC) and the charity Warwickshire Rural Community Council (WRCC) have this week teamed up to launch the IndieGo service, a new demand-responsive minibus for people of all ages who do not have access to public transport.
Three wheelchair-accessible vehicles, which all comply with Covid-19 regulations, are now operating from three different zones to the north, west and south of Rugby.
The buses make a number of set journeys between Rugby and villages in the borough at key times. Outside of these times, they can be booked for journeys to work, GP or hospital visits and, when restrictions are lifted, for shopping and leisure.
Wherever possible, it picks up and drops off at points of passengers’ choosing within Rugby or one of the three zones.
It operates Monday to Friday from 7am until late and, in most cases, can be booked on the same day.
The new service was welcomed by residents in Long Lawford who have been campaigning to bring buses back to parts of the village on the old 3A route, which was cancelled by operator Stagecoach two years ago due to falling passenger numbers.
Long Lawford resident and Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) spokesperson Pete McLaren said: “This will be a very welcome addition to public transport opportunities in Long Lawford. It goes a long way to restoring a bus service through the heart of the village where most of our elderly, vulnerable and disabled residents live.”
But he said he still had concerns about timings of set journeys, the practicalities of the booking system, and fares – which, at £4 for an adult single, and £6 for a return journey, he described as “quite expensive for those who do not have a bus pass”.
He also claimed it was not the right time to launch a new bus service as the pandemic worsened.
“WCC assures us the buses all comply with Covid-19 regulations, which we are sure is accurate, but people will remain wary,” he said.
“There is likely to initially be a low take-up, so we ask the council to run this new service as best they can in the short term but plan for a re-launch once vaccinations begin to kick in and we are encouraged to travel again.”
WCC transport spokesman Coun Jeff Clarke said: “These buses offer lifelines to those, including key workers, who can’t ordinarily access bus services.
“It’s reassuring that passengers’ safety is of the utmost importance as these buses will be servicing some the county’s more vulnerable residents. They can pick up at their passengers’ doors and drop off pretty much wherever they need to go.”
WRCC chief executive Kim Slater said: “We know that reliable, comfortable, accessible transport is so important for people in rural communities and we hope that this service will help to reduce isolation and increase access to essential services for all.”
Visit https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/public-transport/indiego/2 for more information. Call 0345 263 8139 to book a journey.