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New ways to get around: ‘little & often’ service kicks off in Ashford

We are changing the way we travel. Rail and road travel is on the increase while bus use is falling fast in some places. Uber style ‘hail and ride’ type services and van deliveries (home shopping!) are growing fast. This is happening while bus services are being pruned as local authorities juggle difficult spending decisions. There are lots of different reasons behind all this but how should the bus industry respond? There was a very interesting debate, which I chaired, at the recent Transport Times Bus Summit.

Should bus companies start to snap up private hire firms to get into the on-demand market? Should everyone stop worrying about bus franchising as that is fighting the last war, not planning the future? Is the future of local road transport going to look very different with bus only supplying high-capacity, very high-frequency routes? Or is all this a fad that won’t fundamentally affect the way we move around?

So credit goes to Stagecoach for trying out something different in Ashford, Kent. Big buses have been replaced on some routes by more frequent minibuses. Contactless and other payment methods are possible on this service. So, a few more barriers to bus travel removed: no need for a timetable, no need to worry about exact fare. It will be very interesting to see how this works out.

So maybe it’s not such a big step for buses to become driverless (more drivers needed for more buses which must eat into the economics) and more on demand. Maybe the glimmers of the future are emerging?

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