New and better bus routes starting in Lancashire next week will see public transport restored to a number of villages, and more frequent services making travel much easier on other routes.
The improvements are coming in from Monday 11 December after Lancashire County Council’s new administration agreed to make an extra £1m available to support bus services, increasing the budget from £2m to £3m.
Key priorities have been to restore lost links between communities, particularly in rural areas where people who don’t drive or own a car rely most on public transport, increase the frequency of services on routes where there is more demand, and stabilise the network to support routes which might otherwise disappear.
Key improvements to services due to start from Monday include:
• A network of Fylde Villager services to restore links to rural villages and increase the number of buses on routes between Preston, Lytham and Blackpool. These services will be operated by Rotala Preston Bus.
• Improvements to buses serving areas of Preston, Chorley, South Ribble and West Lancashire, restoring links to rural villages, and increase the number of buses. These services will be operated by Rotala Preston Bus.
• A new network of Pendleside Link services to restore rural village links and increase the number of buses across the Ribble Valley, Burnley and Pendle. These services will be operated by Boomerang Travel.
• Improvements to some services in Lancaster, with revised timetables for the Carnforth to Silverdale service, and the Lancaster to Knott End service to provide better links with trains and improve service reliability. These services will be operated by Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire Ltd.
County Councillor Andrew Snowden, lead member for highways and transport, said: “These new buses will transform travel in many rural areas of Lancashire by restoring public transport to villages which currently have none, and making it far more convenient to use the bus in other places where there are currently only a handful of services each day.
“Good public transport supports our economy by making sure that everyone has the opportunity to access work and education. It is also vital for people to carry out everyday tasks such as doing their shopping, visiting family and friends, and getting to health appointments.
“We’ve worked hard to make sure these proposals make the most impact with the resources available and already know from feedback we’ve received that many people are looking forward to having a decent bus service again.
“A lot of improvements are starting next week but we’re also continuing discussions with bus operators in some areas of the county where we think the best option is to enhance an existing commercial service to better serve communities.”
Amongst many improvements across the county, revisions to the 347 service, and a new 337 service will restore rural village links and mean more buses on routes across Chorley and West Lancashire to Chorley, Southport and Ormskirk.
Barbara Parkinson, who lives in Charnock Richard, said: “There are a lot of older people living in this area who use the bus to get into Chorley to do their shopping or to get to hospital appointments. Charnock Richard hasn’t got the shops it used to have and people need to be able to get into Chorley.
“It was a brilliant bus service every hour, but it has been a lot more difficult for a lot of people since they went to being far less frequent. You can catch the first bus into town in the morning but if you miss the return service around midday you have to wait around until 3.30pm to get the bus home.
“Because there are fewer buses they are a lot more crowded, and by the time they get to us there is standing room only. That’s fine if you’re in good health but my husband had a stroke two years ago and isn’t fit to stand up for a bus journey as it goes through the lanes.
“We’ve been lucky as I can still drive but those who can’t have started getting together to share taxis to get into town. We used to use the bus a lot and we’re looking forward to having an hourly service again.”
The Pendleside Link Service 64 bus serving the village of Sabden in the Ribble Valley is also being improved, with an extra journey early in the morning and in the evening to help people get to work and access education. The bus will also link right through to Burnley, meaning passengers will no longer have to change at Padiham.
Gwenda McCullough, from Sabden, said: “I have to travel to Burnley several times a week, and a direct bus service will be a massive help to me. It will mean I can get to uni without having to get different buses. Not only will it be much more convenient, it will also save me money as I won’t need to buy more than one ticket at a time.”
You can see the improvements coming in on Monday 11 December here www.lancashire.gov.uk/roads-parking-and-travel/public-transport/bus-service-changes/improvements-to-local-bus-services.aspx.