Bus services for Wiveliscombe should improve if a £163m Somerset funding bid is successful.
In March 2021, the Government announced a £3bn fund to improve bus services. To access funding, Local Transport Authorities needed to prepare and publish Bus Service Improvement Plans by the end of October 2021.
Somerset County Council organised stakeholder workshops, which I attended over the summer, and a public survey, which had 1,549 responses. Findings fed into their improvement plan, which was approved on 20 October 2021. Proposals include:
- A core network of buses running every 60 minutes from 7am to 7pm every day (Mon-Sun), including route 25 to Wiveliscombe.
- 10-minute Park & Ride services to the Musgrove Park Hospital and town centre, with 15- and 30-minute services on key corridors between principal towns.
- Discounted fares for 16-25 year olds across all services.
- Trials for a £1 around town fare.
- A digital portal for information and tickets for all operators.
- Better integration with rail and coach networks.
- Upgraded bus stations and better bus stop design and facilities.
- More bus priority measures, such as bus gates and bus lanes.
- 100% zero emission buses by 2030, starting with Taunton Park & Ride.
The plans include a two-hourly link between Barnstaple and Taunton via Wiveliscombe, and an additional bus between Dulverton and Taunton, with links to Minehead and Tiverton. It is proposed demand-responsive Slinky buses will operate across the Exmoor area from Dulverton, with booking times reduced to an hour or less in advance.
Mobility hubs will connect the bus network to other modes of transport, including cycling and walking. Trials for rural mobility hubs are proposed, initially in Dulverton and later in Wiveliscombe.
It is proposed to work with community transport providers, such as Wivey Link, although little detail is given.
A Bus Advisory Board will be established with local bus operators, train operating companies, councils and bus passenger representatives.
It is expected to hear the level of Government funding awarded by March 2022 and an enhanced partnership with bus operators will be established by April 2022.
There is a long way to go to establishing a bus service that provides a realistic alternative to many car trips, but the Bus Service Improvement Plan should make buses better and allow some good steps forward. I hope the funding bid is successful and updates on service improvements can follow.