New hopper bus service launched in Faversham and surrounding villages after Stagecoach axed route number 3

A rural bus service that was axed by Stagecoach and left villagers isolated is being revived thanks to a new volunteer programme.

There was consternation when the company dropped the number 3 bus, which served villages around Faversham, saying it was rarely used and was no longer viable.

The new rural hopper bus serving Faversham and surrounding villages

The June 2022 cuts, which also affected other routes in the Canterbury district, left many villagers without a car and unable to access shops and other services such as doctors and dental practices.

But a travel survey carried out by Faversham Town Council (FTC) confirmed a demand from people living in Newnham, Doddington, Lynsted and Oare and last week the new hopper bus service was launched.

The vehicle, a 12-seat Mercedes Benz Sprinter bus with wheelchair provision, was purchased following a successful bid by the FTC for a £60,000 Kent County Council Community Transport Grant.

mpu1

Rob Gibbs, community transport project manager at the council, then began recruiting a number of volunteer drivers, all of whom have a background in public vehicle services or truck driving and are appropriately licensed.

Two routes were identified with the FH1 bus providing a circular service connecting Oare and the outskirts of Faversham with the city centre, but only on Wednesdays.

The new bus will be driven by volunteer drivers

However, the FH2 bus runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, connecting Newnham, Doddington, Lynsted, Teynham, Oare and the suburbs of Faversham with the city centre.

Concessional bus passes are accepted on both services, with fares of £2 or £3 depending on the distance travelled.

Full timetables and further information can be found on the council’s website and available in hard copy from the Faversham Visitor Information Center at 12 Market Place.

The new services have already been well received and resident Alastair Greason said: “Well done to everyone involved in setting up and running this invaluable service.”

Passengers in Oare when Stagecoach canceled their bus in 2022

Passenger Alex Freeman-Bate added: “Thanks to the volunteers who helped me with my wheelchair today, it made me feel safe on the journeys and I will definitely be using the service a lot now that I know the process.”

Chair of the FTC’s Community Transport Working Group, Cllr Claire Martin, said: “This has been an excellent project to work on and I would like to thank everyone involved.”