TransWilts CIC and TransWilts Community Rail
Public and sustainable transport in Wiltshire

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RUH Hopper - experience and thoughts forward

I wrote a bit about the RUH Hopper the other day - the Wiltshire to Hospital service that's currently out for consultation - see [here] for those initial thoughts.

I've used the service (20th October 2015) for my own hospital appointment - further thoughts ...

What an excllent trip! The RUH Hopper picked me up from the road in front of home at 07:20 and got me to the RUH main entrance at 08:20 for my 09:00 appointment. Through by just after 10, I had a quick cup of coffee and caught the 10:30 back, being dropped off right outside work at 11:00. Curteous and helpful drivers and all for £10.80 - I can see why people love and defend the service, especially when compared to the current alternatives.

The lousy location of the RUH is emphasised by the Hopper picking its way through a windly maze of obscure back and residential streets, with other cars on the rat run, 20 m.p.h. restrictions and sleeping policemen too, with waiting at multiple places to get through the steet reduced to single alternate way traffic by parked cars.

Alas - just four of us on the Hopper into the hospital (that's one member of staff, a couple on bus pass discounts, and myself as one of the 7% who actually pays the full fare). On the return, just myself. The drivers tell me there's no pattern on which services are busy and which are quiet, but judging by the number of trips and number of passengers quoted for the service, these two averaged out as being pretty typical.

Departure / arrival point at the hospital - right beside the main extrance, where the "walking wounded" ambulances and service buses also call - a couple of No. 14s came in / out while I was there and waiting - good numbers of passengers, but equally with enough space for some more.

I can see why people love the Hopper. And I can see why the current alternative - of service buses with intermediate changes in the city centre, followed perhaps by local transfers at the residents town end, are very unattractive. But I question the cost of the Hopper - I paid £10 and Wiltshire Coucil subsidised me to the extend of £20 - about which I don't feel guilty because the service runs anyway. I find myself all the more convinced, having used the service, that the financial solution is NOT to reduce the service and increase th efares. The solution is to provide a better rounded alternative, running buses that go into Bath anyway from Witshire through to the hospital, with a balancing reduction in through runs between the bus station and hospital on route 14.

Bath RUH is open 7 days a week, and 24 hours a day. Extending buses from th ebus station will increase Hopperesque coverage from 5 to7 days, and with extended hours too. It will provide good coverage with reduced cost, it will eliminate the need to prebook and re-schedule if appointments overrun and it will remove the cost of a service with an average of just 2 or 3 people each hour. Local transfers from bus stops / pick up points can be arranged for remaining towns for the last leg home for people - an arrangment that's already in place with the Hopper in places like Chippenham and Devizes anyway - so is traied and tested at least in that form.
(written 2015-10-20, updated 2015-10-22)

 
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