Rural businesses across Gloucestershire are set to benefit from Gloucestershire County Council’s successful bid for £1,352,000 towards improved rural transport in two pilot areas. The Forest of Dean and the North Cotswolds will benefit from bespoke minibus services as part of a pilot to bring affordable public transport to some of the most rural areas of the county.
The cash comes from the Department for Transport’s £20million Rural Mobility Fund, designed to support the Government’s National Bus Strategy announced yesterday (15 March). Gloucestershire is one of 17 successful trial areas which have been granted funding to improve rural transport.
The Gloucestershire pilot will focus on two of the most rural and isolated areas of the county, north east Cotswolds and south Forest of Dean, aiming to connect communities with on-demand bus services. This trial is similar to transport options available already in parts of Gloucestershire, where residents can book the trips they need when they need them. The on-demand services would either fill a gap in bus provision or complement existing timetabled series. The four new mini-buses – two in each area – will improve home to school transport options too, helping young people to feel less isolated.
Cllr Nigel Moor, cabinet member responsible for transport, said: “Bus travel is vital to many people in rural areas, and in particular for people who don’t have access to a car. This extra money will be a big boost to providing sustainable transport in the Forest of Dean and in the North Cotswolds. One of our next steps is to procure the minibuses and I’m very much hoping we can look at ‘low emissions’ vehicles. This is great news for rural parts of our county.”
The county council will operate four accessible minibuses offering affordable journeys for anyone who needs transport between designated pick-up/drop-off points such as existing bus stops or hamlet/village centres. These journeys, running 7am to 7pm weekdays and 8am to 4pm on Saturdays, will link to local transport hubs and train stations, offering a guaranteed link with main public transport services. The service aims to work with local transport providers to investigate integrated ticketing options to add to convenience.
The service will be live by autumn 2021, and bookings will be possible by phone or online via Thinktravel Journey Planner.