A REPRESENTATIVE from the Holsworthy Rural Community Transport (HRCT) scheme attended the recent full council meeting of the Holsworthy Town Council to explain the service and answer any questions councillors had, writes Zoë Uglow.
Councillors welcomed Mr Martin Prentice, chairman of Holsworthy Rural Community Transport, to the full council meeting.
Mr Prentice gave the council some background information about how the scheme came about. He said: “In 2012, when Tesco were going to be coming to town, there were three terms to adhere too under the Section 106 agreement. £300 for the regenerations of the town centre, £50,000 for transport schemes and £50,000 for the cycle trail.
“The town plan document put together by the council hoped to persuade Torridge [District Council] to transfer the money necessary for the rural transport scheme. It reads that ‘travel is woefully unapparent’ in the town. When Tesco didn’t come — and neither did the money — that appeared to be that idea dead in the water and Holsworthy was set to go without a local transport scheme.
“Well, there was a £25-million fund for transport set up for the whole country, which equated to something like 300 buses, which worked out to be about two for the county. Each bus is worth £50,000. Seeing that Holsworthy needed a transport service due to Tesco not bringing one, I chanced my luck and applied for two — which we got. We were now in a position where we had two buses and could begin putting a scheme together.”
The town shuttle service began on March 13, and runs from Monday to Friday weekly, offering an hourly service starting at 8.45am through until 4.43pm.
Mr Prentice said: “Everyone can benefit from this service. Visitors coming into the town, those needing to get to hospital, dentist and optician appointments, even people just popping in for a hairdressers appointment.
“We also have a catchment of around 300 houses down in Glebelands that can take advantage of the service, we really want to help connect the town.”
Cllr John Allen said: “I have heard very positive comments from everyone I have spoken to about this service. I just wondered whether you would look to extend the service to some of the outlying villages?”
Mr Prentice said unfortunately HRCT would be unable to do that at present as the route the shuttle bus will take is set out by the traffic commissioner, he said: “The route is set by the traffic commissioner, it took us a long time to get to this stage. From the get go this was to just be a town service.”
Deputy mayor Pat Smith queried one of the routes, she said: “One of the shuttle buses connects with the Exeter bus, but could there be one connecting with the returning bus as well? It’s just something to think about in any revise.”
Mr Prentice explained: “Unfortunately that would be classed as a change like discussed before. We aren’t able to stray from what the traffic commissioner has set out. We will get a lot of ‘you could have done this’ or ‘you could have stopped here for less of a walk’ but that would have happened however we worked it out.”
Cllr Helen Taylor quipped: “Yes, but it’s a lot less of a walk than it would have been before!”
The route the town shuttle takes follows a figure of eight pattern, which is centred on the library and church bus stops. There are around 25 stops, which will include the medical centre. The fare is £1 for a single journey, with children paying 50p with under-fives free.
Mayor Jon Hutchings said: “I think that pricing is very fair for the service people are getting. It will mean a mother and her children can get into town easily without having to pay out huge amounts.”
Cllr Hutchings asked Mr Prentice how much he thought the scheme would make in income from the charges.
Mr Prentice explained that the scheme was only in its trial stage, he said: “The only thing we know is what this venture will cost, not the income it will make.
“We have set up a six month marker stage to see whether it is viable to carry on. If we are running at a loss then we won’t carry on forever. In Holsworthy’s experience people don’t always use what they say they need, so we will just have to wait and see.”
The cost of the service will be about £30,000 per annum and HRCT will be offering advertising space on the side of the buses to local businesses to help support the scheme and provide some extra income to enable to service to continue into the future.
Mr Prentice said the message they need to get across is ‘use it or lose it’.
For more information contact Holsworthy Rural Community Transport on firstname.lastname@example.org