Demand responsive transport is set to be introduced in North Somerset enabling many people who are currently without a local service to get back on the bus.
The new 'demand responsive transport' (DRT) services will go where they're needed and run without a set timetable, typically using smaller vehicles than fixed route bus services. North Somerset Council and the West of England Combined Authority have been working together on contracts for these new services which are due to start running from Monday 3 April this year.
A number of supported and commercially-operated bus services failed in North Somerset last year so this will be particularly welcome news for the affected communities.
Demand responsive transport will bring public transport to areas of North Somerset which have traditionally struggled to sustain timetabled services due to low passenger demand, or that may have been inaccessible to larger vehicles.
The areas to benefit from DRT zones are still being considered and will be adjusted over time to cater for demand, but the broad areas where they are expected to begin to operate are:
• Weston-super-Mare(Locking, Hutton, Worlebury and surrounding hamlets)
• the south east of North Somerset, including Bristol Airport
• the south west/south east of North Somerset, including Axbridge in Somerset.
Cllr Steve Hogg, North Somerset Council's Executive Member for Highways and Transport said: "This development is such good news for those communities which have been struggling to access public transport since a number of commercial services were withdrawn last year in the wake of declining passenger numbers post-covid. Having a demand responsive service will enable the buses to go where they're needed, and using smaller vehicles will be better for the environment.
"We have high hopes for DRT. It's not a silver bullet, but it is an important step. There’s no fixed route and there’s no fixed timetable - the bus comes to you."
Initially there will be 16 buses in North Somerset running from 7am until 7pm, Monday to Saturday. Passengers will be able to book their journeys by phone or through a mobile app.
The buses will be available for short trips or to connect to the wider public transport network.
Pricing will be in line with fares for local buses and Diamond Travel concessionary passes will be accepted, along with the West of England multi-operator ticketing for seamless onward travel.
In May 2022 the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that North Somerset Council would be awarded almost £48 million in capital funding, to improve bus services in North Somerset over the next three years. The Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) outlines a major investment programme by North Somerset Council in partnership with the West of England Combined Authority. The ambition is to improve the quality and provision of bus services to a level that creates an attractive alternative to the use of private vehicles.
Cllr Steve Bridger, Leader of the Council, added: "Our ambition is to make public transport available to everyone who needs it. Providing demand responsive services in low-density areas is key to this and will also help us to accelerate the decarbonisation of transport - a key priority for us as part of our commitment to tackle the climate emergency."
More details will be shared over the coming weeks ahead of the services launching in April.