16 August 2011

People will soon be able to register to use Northamptonshire County Council’s innovative CountyConnect bus service, a new transport system which will help to link rural communities.

The demand response system will focus on five separate areas in Northamptonshire and centre round hub towns, where passengers can then connect with regular inter-urban buses.

People who want to use the service first need to register and from August 22 this can be done by contacting 0845 456 4474 or by going online at www.county-connect.co.uk

From Tuesday, August 30 people will be able to start booking journeys either through the contact details above or by texting CountyConnect followed by their message to 82727.

The service works on a first-come-first-served basis and journeys can be booked up to a week in advance to travel to any other stop in the area served, not just the local town centre.

The CountyConnect service starts to operate on September 5 and for many small rural communities it will be the first time they have had access to public transport, and in scores of others, infrequent services running less than three times a week, will be replaced by daily services.

Cllr Andre Gonzalez De Savage, county council cabinet member for infrastructure and public protection, said: “This new system offers reliable bus journeys but one of the other advantages is that because it is demand led costs are kept to a minimum.

“The financial challenge we face as a council has meant that we had to re-examine the way we run all of our services including the provision of subsidised public transport.

“However, this new flexible approach makes much more sense today and therefore I believe CountyConnect will provide a better service for everyone not just financially but practically too.”

As well as the existing CallConnect branded service in North East Northants, the new CountyConnect service will be launched in September across:

  • Nene Valley, focused on Oundle, Thrapston and Raunds
  • Welland Valley, focused on Market Harborough
  • Long Buckby and Daventry
  • South Northants, focused on Towcester and Brackley, including off-peak links to Banbury

CountyConnect differs from conventional bus services in that customers book a seat on specially designed low-floor mini-buses either by telephone, text message or via the internet and arrange to be picked up at a specific time at their nearest village bus stop.

Technical support for the service will be provided by Lincolnshire County Council which has been operating a similar transport system for a number of years.

Additional information:

The new service comes as part of a complete overhaul of the way the county council provides subsidised public transport in the county as the authority attempts to make £73 million in-year-savings.

The council consulted with every settlement in Northamptonshire to assess what sort of transport would provide the best solution for each area, while working on a greatly reduced budget.

The council’s budget for subsidised public transport had been £3.1 million and this was used to subsidise conventional bus routes that were not deemed commercially viable.

The council’s budget which was approved in February scrapped this funding pot but a new fund of £1 million was introduced for a variety of solutions to provide subsidised public transport.

As well as demand responsive transport the authority will also continue to provide subsidies on some conventional bus routes and will adapt existing community transport schemes so they can provide travel to a wider customer base.