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New-style bus service for Derbyshire Dales gets the go-ahead

A new type of bus service for a part of the Derbyshire Dales is to be launched by Derbyshire County Council early next year.

‘Derbyshire Connect’ is being funded by the council and will run as a pilot in the wider Ashbourne area, starting on 13 February 2017.

Initially it could run for up to a year and if successful, could then be rolled out to other rural parts of the county.

The trial service will be operated as a Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT) style service – the first of its kind in Derbyshire. 

It will provide journeys to and from villages in an area to the north, east and west of Ashbourne, up to, and including Wirksworth. 

Because passengers have to book before they travel, the bus will call at any of the places within the operating area, depending on where people have stated they want to get on or off.

This makes it more flexible than a traditional bus service which generally has the same start and end point each day and stops at timetabled stops along the way.

The timings of Derbyshire Connect journeys will be able to vary depending on passengers’ needs, so the bus may travel at different times on different days. Passengers will be told where to pick up the bus when they book. It may also be possible to collect and drop off passengers door-to-door.

The earliest passengers can book is a week in advance and the latest up to two hours before they want to travel. Details of the booking line will be announced shortly.

The benefit of Derbyshire Connect is that it will be open to a wide range of passengers including people who currently use traditional, timetabled services, community transport Dial-a-Bus (DAB) ‘shopping bus’ users, older people, schoolchildren, other young people, visitors and groups, and potentially for non-emergency patient transport.

The service will use a fully-accessible vehicle and run from 7am to 6pm weekdays and 8am to 6pm Saturdays. It will not run on Sundays.

Because it is a pilot, operating rules mean that Derbyshire Connect can initially be run by Ashbourne Community Transport. But if it continues beyond a year or is rolled out to other parts of the county other bus companies may bid to run the service.

Fares will be £2 adult single, £3.80 return and £1.20 child single, £2.40 return. Gold Card holders will be able to travel free-of-charge after 9.30am weekdays and at any time on Saturdays. b_line 2 cardholders will get a 25% discount off adult fares. Primary and secondary school children will either pay the child fare or travel free if they qualify for free home to school transport. Derbyshire Wayfarer tickets will also be valid.

Derbyshire County Council Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Infrastructure Councillor Dean Collins, said:

“We’re conscious that we have limited experience of running this type of service so we’re hoping that by trying it out we will get a better understanding of how it may work should we wish to roll out Derbyshire Connect to other parts of the county.”

Councillor Collins added:

“Due to cuts we’re having to look at a range of ways to make savings and this includes looking at how we can provide rural bus services in the future. The benefit to passengers is that Derbyshire Connect can be much more flexible than a regular timetabled service. It will take people where they want to go at a time convenient to them so we would encourage people to use it to help keep it running in the longer-term.”