TRANSPORT chiefs have hailed the success of a scheme to offer free weekend bus travel in Herefordshire.

As we reported last week, the offer of free bus trips has come with extra weekend services covering Ledbury, Bromyard and Colwall.

Responding after the first weekend of the scheme, Herefordshire Sustainable Transport Group said: “At last a local authority that is travelling in the right direction.

“Over the last 30 years Herefordshire has seen a serious contraction of its bus network. The result of this has been drastically felt in rural areas leading to increased examples of rural isolation and deprivation particularly affecting young and old alike. 

“It is to be hoped that this welcome initiative by Herefordshire Council heralds a long awaited turn in the fortunes of the rural bus. 

“The Bus Service Improvement Plan currently being drawn up will now need to pay attention to the shortfalls in weekday services. Well done Herefordshire.”

Herefordshire Council launched the scheme in response to the pandemic crisis in public transport alongside the government’s ambitions to change the fortunes of bus transport. 

A government paper on the vision for buses in the UK, Bus Back Better says buses: “Bring people to jobs, study and local services; they liberate people who are old, young, disabled and isolated; they save millions of tonnes of carbon and pollution, and thousands of miles of traffic jams. The double decker bus is a symbol of Britain. Yet for decades, buses have been largely ignored by policymakers.”

County councillor John Harrington said he was delighted to be able to offer free and unlimited weekend travel for about a year through the Covid-19 Recovery Fund. 

“By making it easier and cheaper to get around, the scheme will help connect people and communities provide a kick start to the local economy by getting people back into enjoying our vibrant city and market towns.”

He also encouraged residents to develop their own ‘bus-it list’ – selecting locations, journeys and experiences in the county, such as Herefordshire Art Week, that can be enjoyed thanks to free bus travel.

Among the new Sunday services are the 420 Bromyard – Hereford; 426 Hereford – Bodenham; 454 Hereford – Fownhope; 600 Ledbury Town service and 675 Ledbury - Colwall - Great Malvern.