FRODSHAM, Helsby and surrounding villages are set to benefit from a £1.075 million Rural Mobility Fund as part of a three-year trial of an innovative public transport service for residents living in rural and suburban areas.
Instead of being a bus service operating along a fixed route, the trial will be based on a service with a flexible route that can be varied to only go where passengers are travelling to or from.
Cheshire West and Chester Council has been awarded £1.075m from the Government and will now develop a trial for Helsby, Frodsham and the surrounding rural communities including Kingsley, Crowton, Acton Bridge, Norley, Hatchmere, Oakmere, Flaxmere, Commonside, Delamere, Manley, Mouldsworth, Alvanley, Hapsford, Ince & Elton.
Councillor Karen Shore, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport said: “This is excellent news for our communities that haven’t had the same level of access to public transport as people living in larger towns and the city.
“The funding will be based in an area with challenging public transport connectivity.
It provides an excellent opportunity to look at more innovative solutions that will support economic growth and activity, as well as to improve vital connectivity from rural to urban areas.
“We will also be looking to improve air quality and deliver sustainable transport solutions, where otherwise travel by car would be the only option.”
The Government has also announced a new major National Bus Strategy for England. The National Bus Strategy sets out a vision for high frequency main road services in cities and towns with better services in the evenings and weekends.
For places unserved or barely served by conventional buses, such as rural villages and out-of-town business parks, the vision is for more demand responsive services.
The Rural Mobility Fund trial plans to include specific journeys that passengers will pre-book on to. Those routes should be ‘crowd driven’ so there is a demand for the transport that is needed and therefore should be used and sustainable. Fares that reduce as more people travel is one of the opportunities to be tested, working towards greater ‘crowd funding’ for a sustainable service.
The suggestion is for journey requests to be made through a website or a mobile application whilst also providing a non-electronic alternative. An App could have the capability to receive journey requests, allocate passenger journeys to vehicles and provide real time tracking.
Offering flexible routes has the potential to transform the local transport offer in areas where demand is more dispersed and the distances involved make it more challenging to maintain or provide services which meet residents’ needs,
or in areas where links to existing transport are often less developed.
Neighbouring MPs Mike Amesbury (Weaver Vale) and Justin Madders (Ellesmere and Neston) have welcomed the funding and are delighted residents will benefit from the demand-responsive bus and taxi service.
Mike, who wrote to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in support of the trial, said: “This is fabulous news. Where there is sufficient demand, the service will deliver green journeys for workers, shoppers and students while addressing social isolation, including among older people, in the rural area.
“The lack of public transport in Frodsham, Helsby and the surrounding areas has been a major concern for some time.”
He added: “Huge credit must go to the Labour council for the work it has done on this.”
Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders is also happy the service will cover villages including Elton and Ince, communities where he has long been trying to help constituents who have been concerned about poor public transport links.
He said: “The lack of public transport in these and surrounding areas has been a major concern for some time. There is a long way to go before we have the public transport links we would like, but this is a good start.”