Sandy Town Council campaigning for Sunday bus service for East Beds area

'You can't visit friends or your loved ones in hospital, and it's no good on a bank holiday weekend'

Thursday, 4th November 2021, 6:12 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th November 2021, 6:14 pm

Sandy Town Council is campaigning to restore a Sunday bus service for the East Beds area.

At a recent meeting politicians agreed to support a call for a bus to run from Biggleswade to Bedford via Potton, Sandy, Blunham and Cople, as well as travelling past Bedford Hospital.

Sandy Town councillors Nigel Aldis and Ruth Lock proposed a motion to get support for the idea.

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Raising one issue, Cllr Lock explained: “Many people do not have a car but need to get into hospital on a Sunday to see loved ones”.

Meanwhile, Cllr Aldis told the Chronicle: "The buses run during the week but not on a Sunday, and that's the issue - people who haven't got access to a car can't go anywhere.

"There was one for some time - I think it did get some support from Central Beds Council - but then they withdrew the funding.

"It's a constant issue and I believe there's a lot of interest in a Sunday service."

He added: "I spoke to someone who got a job in Bedford but she couldn't take it up because there's no buses on Sunday.

"They are used by the most vulnerable people and not having a Sunday service makes life more difficult. You can't visit friends or your loved ones in hospital, and it's no good on a bank holiday weekend."

The campaign comes as Central Bedfordshire Council publishes its Bus Service Improvement Plan, following the launch of the government’s new national bus strategy, Bus Back Better.

The plan sets out improvements to transform bus services in the area as well as a bid to access part of the £3 billion funding available to local transport authorities.

A Central Bedfordshire Council spokeswoman said: "The Bus Service Improvement Plan is the first step towards making an Enhanced Partnership between the council and bus operators. Once developed this will set out how the partnership will implement the schemes to encourage more people to use buses.

"Various measures will offer significant benefits for residents. They include: (short term) the launch of a ‘Get on Board’ campaign to encourage bus travel, post pandemic restrictions; (medium term) the introduction of multi-operator, multi-journey ticketing and fare capping; and giving buses priority through traffic signals; (long term) developing rural interchange hubs, allowing more connecting journeys to be made, and providing zero emission buses on the Luton-Dunstable busway network, to benefit the wider area."

The CBC Bus Service Improvement Plan states that in the longer term (2024/25 and beyond), opportunities will be explored to deliver "network integration".

Examples include: "A potential scheme serving the East Biggleswade expansion and the north-east Bedfordshire villages, providing connections with the core Biggleswade –Bedford bus services and Biggleswade station," and "A potential scheme serving the mid-Beds villages, providing connections into core north-south and east–west bus services and, potentially serving Flitwick Interchange/Ampthill and Shefford."

Reflecting on the Bus Service Improvement Plan, Cllr Aldis added: "The possibility for the return of the Sunday service is provided for by Central Bedfordshire’s Bus Strategy document. The government is keen to promote greater use of buses to reduce car use and help those who do not drive or have access to a vehicle.

"The strategy document calls for smart ticketing, more buses in the evenings and week-ends and better timetable information. Core services can also be restored on a Sunday. Sandy Town Council believes that a route from the East into Bedford on a Sunday should be one of those core routes.

"There was unanimous support on Monday at Sandy Town Council and I have contacted Potton and Biggleswade [councils] to get their support. I am also a member of Blunham Parish Council and have got it down for their next meeting to discuss it.

"I hope there will be support from Central Beds Council."

A Central Bedfordshire Council spokeswoman said: “We did support Sunday bus services in the past, including the Biggleswade to Bedford route but this support was withdrawn in early 2017 when we implemented our current Passenger Transport Strategy which was adopted by the council in autumn 2016: the strategy says that we will not support bus services after 18.30 on weekday evenings, after 15.00 on Saturday afternoons or on Sundays.

"It may be possible to reinstate some of these services once we know the outcome of the Bus Service Improvement Plan process.

"The Bus Service Improvement Plan is a document that we have produced as part of the Government’s national bus strategy, for the Central Bedfordshire area which outlines our ambitions for bus services to increase passenger numbers. The next stage of the process is to consult with residents on the council forming an Enhanced Partnership with bus operators which will explain the schemes we will be delivering to encourage more people to use buses. Once we have completed the process, we will hear back from the Department of Transport who will outline the amount of funding available. That will determine what we are able to achieve such as implementing new routes following feedback alongside many other ideas.”