A million-pound investment in a flexible minibus service to connect rural areas to main bus routes has been welcomed.
David Williams, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Highways and Transport, said he was delighted by confirmation of the authority’s successful bid to the Department for Transport (DfT) to fund the £1.038 million scheme in the Staffordshire Moorlands.
Three wheelchair-accessible 16-seat minibuses with bike racks will be bookable by phone, online, or by phone app six days a week – plus Sundays in summer.
David Williams said: “This will make a real difference to residents living in the more rural areas – particularly those who don’t drive or have access to a car and struggle to reach nearby towns for medical appointments, work and education.
“People will be able to book the service and have guaranteed connections to key bus interchanges with a single ticket structure at affordable prices.
“We very much want to work with the District and parish councils about how we can build on the existing Moorlands Connect service and integrate this expansion with the local bus network.”
The money will also fund work at interchanges, including improved shelters and lighting and, where possible, the introduction of real time passenger information.
Work will also be carried out with the Peak District National Park to support tourism in the area but reduce reliance on cars at the most popular destinations.
The funding from the Rural Mobility Fund was announced alongside the National Bus Strategy which aims to introduce more frequent, more reliable services with easier, affordable ticketing policies.
David Williams said: “In normal times there are around 15 million bus journeys a year in Staffordshire and we have strong working relationships with local operators, so we will look at this new initiative with interest to see how it may benefit the county’s residents in the long term.
“We know that the pandemic has knocked commercial transport and as the economy recovers we want to see the return of a strong, resilient bus network.
“We will study the detail when it arrives to make the most of any opportunities, particularly where we may replicate successful bids such as the one won this week.”