Cheshire East residents are to be asked for their views on proposals to introduce an on-demand rural bus service.
Its aim is to reduce isolation in some of the more remote parts of the borough.
It would mean that a bus service could be booked using a mobile phone app or telephone call, with a doorstep pick-up service for less mobile passengers. If the trial is successful, it could be rolled out on a permanent basis, with the potential to extend to other parts of the borough.
Cheshire East Council has received £1.25m in government rural mobility funding to trial the innovative service. The three-year pilot will start at the end of August or beginning of September.
Known as demand responsive transport, it will cover a wide area south of Nantwich, taking in Bunbury, Wrenbury and Audlem, as well as some other villages, where no commercial services are available.
Some fixed route services are supported by the council but as many as 85 per cent of residents cannot access them conveniently.
Now the council wants your help to understand how the service is likely to be taken up by passengers and where the most popular trips could be.
A consultation will take place enabling residents to make suggestions. All feedback will help inform how the service is to operate to the best advantage of local residents.
Councillor Craig Browne, deputy leader and chair of highways and transport, said: “The council has been successful in securing this funding after submitting a strong business case to central government.
“Unfortunately, commercial services are not able to make some rural routes cost-effective. A demand responsive solution could enable people of all ages to reach GP surgeries, attend hospital appointments, access further education and training or go shopping.
“A service of this nature will also reduce car dependency and a sense of isolation, as well as contribute to the council’s own low-carbon aspirations. We will be monitoring this trial very carefully as we are optimistic it will offer a way forward for the future of rural bus services in Cheshire East.”
Demand responsive transport enables a resident, or group of residents, to request a bus for a specific journey. Two branded ‘midi’ 16-seaters would be available, Monday to Saturday, with low floor access. Booking will be via a mobile app or phone and the service will not be tied to a specific route.
The council will now consult with town and parish councils, also free car share schemes to ensure the service complements and not conflicts with existing travel arrangements. The council’s transport service, Transport Service Solutions, will purchase the new vehicles, provide distinctive branding and operate the booking system.
Pictured - Aerial view of Audlem village.