All aboard for launch of new £700,000 on-demand bus service near Swaffham
People who live and work near Swaffham will be able to rely on a new on-demand bus service from today.
Aiming to transport people to work, study and shop, the flexibus+ service will be running between 7am and 7pm every day, except Sundays, and journeys can be booked by phone or online. The flexibus+ zone covers 85 square miles and has stops in Swaffham as well as 20 villages and hamlets in the surrounding area.
The scheme has been made possible with a £700,000 grant awarded from the government's Rural Mobility Fund. This money will allow the scheme to be set up and run for four years, in which time it is hoped that it can become self-financing and continue to run for many years to come.
Cllr Martin Wilby, Cabinet Member for Highways Infrastructure and Transport, said: "We know how important good public transport is and this scheme will bring good quality, modern and reliable public transport to more than 7,700 people who live to the south of Swaffham. Securing better public transport for Norfolk, particularly in rural areas can be challenging, but this is a big step towards a key aim in our ambitious bus service improvement plan.
"I'm proud that this scheme will now provide a service where sadly there hasn't been a regular service for many years. This takes the best elements of flexibus travel and updates it with the latest technology offering the choice of using a smartphone app to book and pay and get live travel information.
"The scheme is set to not only improve public transport links between Swaffham and nearby villages but also open up connections to onward journeys to King's Lynn and Norwich. If successful, this could be a model for schemes elsewhere in the county in the future."
Cllr Fabian Eagle, County Councillor for the Brecks division, said: "I am very pleased that this service is available for the villages as it will allow people to plan what they are doing and have a bus service that fits in with more flexible and varied lives."
The service will be operated by Vectare, a UK-based provider of specialist public transport solutions.
Peter Nathanail, Commercial and Operations Director for Vectare, said: "We're very excited to get this new service off the ground, we've already opened a new depot in Swaffham to support the contract, and created three new full-time jobs. People using the service will be able to enjoy a dedicated brand-new executive minibus, equipped with leather seats, USB charging and free onboard WiFi. This comfortable vehicle is also fully accessible for wheelchair users and is independently certified as a Low Carbon Emission Bus."
The smartphone app for the new service is being proved by Via.
Chris Snyder, Via's European CEO, said: "Via is proud to partner with Norfolk County Council to launch flexibus+ to provide convenient, sustainable, and affordable public transport to residents and visitors in Swaffham. Tech-enabled public transport services are revolutionizing the mobility experience in rural communities across the UK, and flexibus+ will offer a flexible and dynamic solution for the Swaffham community to get where they need to go. We look forward to seeing other councils in the UK follow Norfolk County Council's leadership in innovative public mobility."
Find out more about flexibus to download the app and book travel.
To help get people to work and study there will be a commuter service that can be booked to pick up people from 7am from any stop in the flexibus+ zone and drop them in Swaffham by 7.45am. The on-demand service will be running from 9.30am to 2.30pm Monday to Friday, and 7am to 7pm on Saturdays and can be used to go to and from any of the stops across the flexibus+ zone.
Concessionary cards (senior and mobility) are valid on the service, children under 5 travel free, and dogs are welcome for free.
People who download the app will be entitled to their first journey free - until 30 June 2022
Pick-up and drop-off will be available from the following locations:
- Barton Bendish
- Cockley Cley
- Great Cressingham
- Little Cressingham
- Little London
- North Pickenham
- South Pickenham