Over 6,000 households which have no access to a car in Gloucester now have access to buses on demand.
A new on-demand bus service, ‘The Robin’, launched in mid-October, offers rural residents in the Forest of Dean and Cotswolds new access to public transport.
The new service will serve over a hundred small towns, villages and hamlets that have no public transport links or services with extremely low frequencies. These areas also include a large number of households with no access to a car: 5,000 households in the Forest of Dean and 1,600 household in the Cotswold area. Lack of transport options means that thousands of local people have very limited transport options – and may be dependent on friends or family to access essential services, jobs, education and go shopping.
The Robin will cover two areas. One minibus serves the southern area, the Forest of Dean, covering an area about 23 miles long, with the village of Huntley in the north and the small town of Chepstow in the south. The service can be booked from 70 villages and hamlets across the area, from over a hundred ‘virtual stops’. Two minibuses cover the northern section – the Cotswolds area, from Chipping Campden in the north to Windrush, 20 miles south, serving over 50 villages and hamlets. The service runs from 7 am to 7 pm, Monday to Saturday.
Users can book the service by phone, app or online and tickets can be bought online and in the app or with cash or card payment on the bus. The trips cost £2.50 for up to 7 miles and £4.00 over 7 miles, concessionary pass holders are free and children travel at reduced fares. The 16-seat minibuses are fully accessible by wheelchair and the wheelchair space is reserved on booking.
The service’s areas were designed to improve connections for people who have few or no public transport links close to their homes. As demand is difficult to predict in sparsely populated areas, fixed-line services can be difficult to run efficiently. DRT services run when people need them and the ability to book in advance offers certainty for people requiring onward connections. The new service is aimed at ensuring people can get where they need to go – including connecting them to fixed-line bus and rail services. People can book upto two weeks in advance and upto an hour before they want to travel. The DRT platform designs and optimises routes to ensure that people reach their destinations on time. The algorithm ensures that the service cannot be booked in competition with fixed route buses when are running – ensuring that any existing services are not undermined.
The Robin service is a two-year trial designed by Gloucester County Council, which was awarded £1.35 million funding by the government’s Rural Mobility Fund. Buses are operated by local bus operators, using the Padam Mobility DRT platform.
Data generated by the platform will help shape the services and inform future planning to meet the needs of Gloucester residents beyond the end of the trial.