Bishop's Stortford Town Council puts brakes on failed Stride and Ride bus service
Bishop's Stortford Town Council is taking its Stride and Ride train commuter shuttle service off the road.
The council applied the brakes to the minibus operating directly between Thorley Park and the railway station after it flopped with passengers – despite a free trial designed to save the public transport initiative.
The service will cease after the evening journeys on Friday June 28. The town council decided continuing would require "significant public subsidy" which could not be justified, despite its drive to persuade train commuters to ditch their cars.
The town and East Herts district councils initially backed the initiative to the tune of around £3,600 each, and the town council's finance and policy committee had agreed in principle that a further £4,252 should be spent to continue the three-month trial in a "worst-case scenario", but ultimately they decided the project was not viable.
BSTC chief executive officer James Parker said: "Until we have the final accounts worked out, it's difficult to be precise about the cost, but the total is approximately £8,400.
"East Herts Council is contributing £3,614, leaving about £4,700 contribution required by Bishop's Stortford Town Council. Some of this is ‘in kind’ – i.e. extra work by existing staff – so the actual Bishop's Stortford Town Council ‘out of pocket’ expenditure is nearer £3,300."
The scheme was the brainchild of last year's deputy mayor Cllr Holly Drake, who is also an East Herts Council member.
She said: "Despite the hard work by the town council and local councillors, passenger numbers were too low to justify continuing support with public money.
"Public transport offers residents a cost-effective and green way to travel to and from work, and I remain committed to doing everything I can to support modal shift. We must ensure that residents are well connected to the town centre and train station in a sustainable manner."
Town council leader Cllr John Wyllie, who also serves on East Herts Council and Hertfordshire County Council, added: "I will be looking at all alternatives in order to provide a great service for local residents. I will also be working with the district and county councils to look for fresh ways to reduce the number of cars on our roads and improve air quality locally."
The service was launched on Monday April 29. In its first three weeks just one passenger climbed aboard. Weekly tickets cost £17.50, or £5 for a day pass, and a 75% occupancy was the target for the initiative to break even.
Councillors held a crisis meeting at the end of May to try to keep the minibus moving, but even a two-week free trial from June 3 was not enough to charm commuters.
The 15-seat minibus runs from the back of Sainsbury's in Friedburg Avenue, Thorley Park, direct to the Three Tuns pub bus stop, at the rear of the railway station, closest to the London-bound platform.
The council will now evaluate the potential of other routes.