‘At risk’ bus route is saved from axe

The Maylands Link bus service in Hemel Hempstead

The Maylands Link bus service in Hemel Hempstead

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A busy bus route relied on by commuters is being taken over by a new company after Arriva said ‘it did not work commercially’.

The Maylands Link (ML1) route, which is currently operated by Arriva, runs every morning and evening between Hemel railway station and the town’s Maylands business park. But after consideration, Arriva decided it was no longer possible to run the service commercially, angering passengers who rely on the bus to get to work.

However, commuters won’t be left in the lurch thanks to bus firm Red Eagle picking up the service from Tuesday, August 30.

Since February 2013, Arriva has operated the route – which has 12 stops including Warners End, Chaulden and Breakspear Park – on a subsidised basis.

The Local Sustainable Transport Funding (LSTF) subsidy for ML1 was a total of £260,000 in revenue funding plus £90,000 in capital funding.

The grant was stopped in March last year, at which point passenger numbers were not high enough for it to be run as a commercial service.

Herts County Council and Dacorum Borough Council agreed to use Section 106 funds to keep a reduced service running for a further 12 months.

Hemel Hempstead county councillor Terry Douris also stepped in and handed over £3,000 from his locality budget to help the bus service keep running.

Alongside this, county hall used LSTF funds to run a promotional campaign in late spring last year, which contributed to a significant increase in passenger numbers, meaning a commercial service became a viable option once more.

Following a bid with Hertfordshire County Council in December last year, Arriva began running the service as a commercial venture.

A spokesman for Arriva said: “We took the route on commercially in March this year, but too few people used the service.

“Herts County Council helped ensure that a replacement bus service was in place rather than have a gap.”

Arriva was unable to provide passengers numbers for the ML1 service as a spokesman said their computer system was down.

Beth Kidd, who uses the ML1 to get to work at Breakspear Park, said: “I’m thrilled to hear the ML1 route is going to be continuing and I hope the service will be as reliable and frequent as it currently is.

“The route not only helps to link local business communities, but also helps with road congestion and reduces emissions.

“I will miss my ML1 drivers but look forward to using the new service.”

Following the conversion of ML1 from subsidised to a fully commercial service, the county council has since launched the Intalink Innovation Fund to encourage operators to identify new opportunities for public transport and exploit them on a match-funded basis, with county hall coughing up up to £10,000 per proposal.

On this basis, Red Eagle are launching a refreshed marketing campaign and have plans to install wifi on the ML1 later in the year.

To see the new bus times and revised route, visit www.redeagle.org.uk