Rutland County Council have recently announced a consultation on their plans for the delivery of public transport services up to the year of 2036. Their strategy, called ‘Moving Rutland Forward’, aims to improve transport and highway provisions in order to support sustainable population growth, meet the needs of Rutland’s most vulnerable residents, and support a high level of health and well-being, including combating rural isolation.
Here in Rutland we face specific challenges as a rural area. We also have an increasing proportion of elderly residents, many of whom have reduced mobility and are unable to drive and are therefore much more dependent on public transport. It is critical that any future strategy ensures that residents without cars or with limited mobility are able to access essential services, such as healthcare facilities, and live independent lives.
This consultation comes at a time when bus service provision in Rutland has become a key issue for many. A number of constituents have written to me concerned about the changes Centrebus have recently made to its timetables. From my discussions with the Council I know that they have been working extremely hard to fill the gaps created by these changes, having already increased their funding for the RF1 service when Centrebus cancelled its original contract, and most recently commissioning bus operator Mark Bland Travel to provide additional passenger transport services along the Service 9 route between Oakham and Stamford. I understand the Council are still looking at options to protect this route further and I have every confidence that they will find a satisfactory resolution soon.
In a rural area such as Rutland it is not viable to provide fixed bus services for every possible route – so to work around this, the Council also supports a separate service that runs in response to pre-booked requests. This service is known as CallConnect, and operates between 07:00 and 19:00 Monday to Friday and between 08:00 and 18:00 on Saturday in areas without other passenger transport services.
Residents within the CallConnect area can use the service to travel to any location within the service operating area. Everyone is welcome to use the CallConnect bus service for any reason and as frequently as required. A 2016 survey suggested that only 38% of respondents were aware of its existence – so I would urge all who might benefit from it to look it up. You can sign up by calling 0345 234 3344.
There are a number of ways you can submit your feedback about the Council’s transport plans: fill in the online survey on the Council’s website; collect a paper copy of the survey from the Council’s Offices, your local library or from Oakham Bus Station; download and print a paper copy of the survey at home; request a paper copy to be sent to you by calling 01572 722577, or give feedback via telephone.
It is crucial that as many people as possible have their say so the Council can ensure that the County’s transport services are meeting the needs of its residents for the years to come.