Takeover of bus services linking South Cambs villages with Royston welcomed by many despite ‘surprise’ fare hike
PUBLISHED: 11:55 03 August 2017 | UPDATED: 09:52 06 August 2017
A takeover of bus services in Bassingbourn and the surrounding areas has been welcomed by villagers concerned about the future of these services, although there has been some criticism about the surprise fare price hike.
The new operator of the 127/128 routes, A2B Bus and Coach Ltd, took over from previous contractors Cozy’s on Monday.
The swift changeover meant there was no break in service and the buses, which are under threat in South Cambs and subsidised by Cambs County Council, could continue to reach rural villagers who depend on them to get to Royston and other areas.
Regular bus user Sue Chandler, from Bassingbourn, said: “The new red 127/128 is clean and comfortable and the drivers are friendly. We must use it or we’ll lose it.”
Hazel Lord, 90, also from Bassingbourn, said: “I’ve just been on the bus! My destination was Morrisons of Royston. It’s a very comfortable bus and the driver was very pleasant. It’s a new service so the driver is learning the route. Generally speaking I’m very pleased with the new service.”
And Meldreth’s Jacky Clark said: “I was very impressed with the changeover to the new bus operator of the 127/128 bus route, as everything proceeded normally and with no delays or problems. The new people were very helpful and obliging and made our journey very comfortable indeed.”
There has been some criticism online that the fares have doubled in some cases, without warning.
An A2B spokesman said: “Unfortunately with regards to the fare structure of the service the fares are set and administered by the county council, I have no input or ability to change the fares or concession rates and, although I agree based on what passengers have said of the increases being substantial, I wasn’t aware of the previous prices and having only commenced the contract, I am only aware of the current charges.”
Susan van de Ven chairs the Cam Vale Bus User Group – which was set up in April to provide a stronger voice for residents in Bassingbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon in matters of bus travel.
She said: “This service is so important. People’s livelihoods and independence are at stake. At the first Cam Vale Bus Users’ meeting in April, people said they would be willing to pay a bit more to be sure that the service continued.
“We will be fighting very hard this coming year to persuade the council to continue subsidising essential bus services, to enable them to operate.”
A Cambridgeshire County Council spokeswoman said: “The county council has a contract with A2B to provide bus services to villages in South Cambridgeshire. “The fare for the 127/128 services has recently increased for the first time in a number of years to ensure the long term viability of this service. The increase is in line with other fares across the county.
“The council subsidises this service at a cost of £68,000 per year after income. Keeping services, such as this, available to residents in smaller villages is important to the county council.”
Another cause the BUG is concerned with is the 26 bus, which has been reinstated on a hourly basis – connecting South Cambs villages with Cambridge via the Trumpington Park and Ride at off-peak times.
The group is also looking to set up a Bassingbourn-Whaddon-Meldreth station run specifically for post-16s to get to education/training in Cambridge, after the 27 bus was withdrawn.
Mrs van de Ven said: “We are doing this locally, thanks to the support of Royston and District Community Transport, with no input from the county council except that they provide a grant to RDCT.
“RDCT is a not-for-profit organisation, so the fare per seat will be calculated to cover costs and is looking to be in the region of £3.55 return.
“The 16-seat minibus is already oversubscribed and so RDCT is hoping to deploy a second smaller vehicle from its fleet. They will need to hire a driver and someone to help co-ordinate the service in order to guarantee daily reliability – most of their lifts are provided by volunteers.
“Everyone is welcome to join the bus users’ group to help make the case. Our next meeting will be Sept 27, at 7.30pm, Meldreth Elin Way Community Room - lifts to be arranged.”
For more on the group email firstname.lastname@example.org.