Axed Prior bus route to be served by hoppa

A Berwick firm has stepped in to continue providing public transport to the Prior Park area.

By Ian Smith
Wednesday, 01 May, 2019, 12:40
The Berwick hoppa bus.

Borders Buses is withdrawing its B2 service from May 4, but Woody’s Taxis will replace it with immediate effect with its hoppa bus service.

The proposed merger of the Berwick hoppa and B2 service would provide Prior Park with a 30-minute frequency peak hour service (8am-9am and 5pm-6pm) and an hourly off-peak service.

The hoppa timetable will reduce from a half hourly service to an hourly service but with an increase in the hours of operation from 9am to 5pm.

It will also incorporate a diversion to Tesco, which is not currently served by public transport.

The new-look service has been planned with the support of Neal Easton, senior policy officer at Northumberland County Council.

He said: “This timetable can be delivered at no additional cost to wither Northumberland County Council or Berwick Town Council.

“Indeed, the additional patronage derived from serving Prior Park can help with the sustainability of the service and help towards the operator’s ulimate aim of being able to operate the service commercially at the end of the current contract.”

Berwick Town Council has welcomed the news.

Coun Karin Graham, Grove ward member, said: “I think it’s a great idea and I am grateful that Woody’s has been flexible enough to add Prior Park on to the route.

“It will help my residents who were at risk of social isolation if they’d been left without a bus service. Hopefully this will keep the numbers up.”

Coun Alan Bowlas said the council should send a letter to Borders Buses.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

“I think they should be reprimanded,” he said.

Clerk Gareth Davies pointed out that, with the exception of the hoppa bus, all bus services in Berwick are provided on a commercial basis.

He said: “We are getting into a position where the town council is a core funder of bus services in Berwick, whereas originally we were funding an add-on service. That is going to impose an expectation in future that you are going to continue that funding or even to increase if it turns out the service isn’t as commercially viable as the current operator thinks it is.

“That is a political decision but I will certainly pass on your disappointment that bus services are being lost from Berwick again.”

He said that subsidies were provided to very rural bus services in Northumberland but Berwick does not qualify.

Mr Davies added: “A review 18 months to two years ago concluded that besides the hoppa bus service, which is now effectively going to be the B2 service, no other services in Berwick would be supported. That’s a county council decision.”

Coun Georgina Hill, county councillor for Berwick East, responded: “Local authorities get a lot of criticism but I think in this instance the public in Berwick are lucky, firstly, that the town council invested in the hoppa bus and, secondly, that Neal Easton and his team have bent over backwards to help the bus service.

“We are also lucky that we have a local businessman who is obviously commercially-minded but also community-minded.

“This is very good news that the councils and local provider have come together to ensure a bus service continues.”

There are no changes to the hoppa bus evening service.