The minibuses, that residents will be able to book by an app, website or phone, will be part of the largest on-demand bus scheme in the UK, reconnecting communities and offering many people who are currently without a local service the opportunity to get back on the bus.
As part of the trial period, the buses will cost £2 per adult, £1 per child, and concessionary bus passes are accepted. These prices will then be charged at standard commercial service costs, in line with Government guidelines from July.
The service will run Monday to Saturday 7am – 7pm. There will not be a service on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Areas are separated into zones, with North Somerset having the largest area including some of Weston, Nailsea, Clevedon, Portishead, Bristol Airport and Chew Valley.
Steve Hogg, North Somerset Council’s Executive Member for Highways and Transport, said: “WESTlink will make a positive difference to communities that no longer have a bus service available to them, reconnecting people to key train and bus services, offering them public transport to medical appointments or even a trip to the cinema with a friend.”
“Booking is easy – you put in your destination time and the system will calculate when you need to be at the nearest active bus stop to you. There will also be ‘virtual stops’, which will be made clear when you book.
“This service won’t solve all our bus problems, but it will make a positive difference to those that need it the most.”
Jonathan Hampson, Head of UK Partnerships at Via, the global leader in TransitTech, said, “Via is thrilled to partner with North Somerset Council to introduce WESTLink, an innovative demand-responsive minibus service. Via’s intelligent software will work to fill transport access gaps in remote areas and make it easier for locals to travel without a private car. Passengers can download the WESTLink app and start using the service in just a few weeks.”
Introducing the WESTlink service is part of North Somerset’s Bus Improvement Service Plan (BSIP). Following a successful bid to the Department for Transport (DfT), over £105m of Government funding has been allocated for bus improvements, with £48m earmarked for capital improvements in North Somerset alone. £57.5m will be used as a pooled revenue fund with the West of England Combined Authority to enable delivery of the Bus Service Improvement Plan.