Ring for a bus? Dial-a-ride bus drives change

10 September 2014

The debate about rural public transport will continue. Providing scheduled bus services to a thin timetable just does not seem to meet the needs of many rural and small-town passengers. Providing more dial-a-ride, or demand-responsive services (in industry jargon), seems like a sensible way forward.

We have done a bit of work on this which shows how useful these services are to passengers. We asked passengers using a conventional fixed-timetable link as well as Shropshire Council’s ‘Shropshire Link’ dial-a-ride service. It showed that many passengers really relied on these services to do the basic things in life.

When mention is made of cuts to scheduled bus services, I always worry this is not showing the full picture. Some passengers have other choices such as community transport, dial-a-ride or other health or school-related services. I am not sure that a ‘map’ exists that shows all these options in any particular area: please prove me wrong!

So, good to see developments with the Nene and Welland ‘Call Connect’ service. This dial-a-ride service, funded by Peterborough City, Lincolnshire and Rutland councils, serves Peterborough, Stamford, Oakham, and lots of smaller towns and villages in between. New routes have just been added and a mobile app offered.

So now you can book via the app (as well as by phone), see where the bus is, understand how long it will take to come and instantly learn of any delay. Not only that, but the information looks modern, snappy and reliable. A far cry from peeling, dirty timetables in grotty shelters.

Talk about passenger-focused services – this looks great. I would love to know how many passengers there are and what they think. With all the fuss being made about the Uber taxi app, are we missing a quieter revolution under our noses?

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