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ShropshireLink: improving rural bus services without increasing running costs

  • Shropshire Council’s approach to offering public transport access across rural areas combined with the benefits of the latest map-based routing systems have delivered a great many positive results.

    Cllr Simon Jones, Portfolio Holder, Public Transport, Shropshire Council

Shropshire Council’s ShropshireLink has replaced the old one-day-a-week fixed-route, market day rural bus service with a fully flexible offering based upon Ordnance Survey data and software from Mobisoft.

The challenge

Due to a background of static and/or dwindling passenger trip numbers and the increasing costs in providing traditional subsidised, fixed-route bus services, staff members at Shropshire Council were tasked with improving rural accessibility to public transport services across the whole of the county. The target was to achieve a minimum of two days’ access per week for every rural household to ‘essential services’ in their local market town.

The solution

Underpinned by Ordnance Survey’s OS MasterMap® Integrated Transport Network™ Layer, comprehensive mapping software supplied by Mobisoft was populated with information on existing bus stops, end destinations within market towns and skeletal service information. This allowed the maximum amount of flexibility to be offered to the users within prescribed and mapped service areas. Although not the primary driver, cost savings were delivered from the implementation of the new ShropshireLink service. Simply put, if there was no demand the service would not travel to a particular area.

Conversely, where there was demand, the mapping and optimisation software combined trips automatically into the most efficient and heavily- loaded route option. This happens ‘behind the scenes’ and the user is then offered the time of travel best matching their request whilst creating such efficiencies. The ShropshireLink scheme has consistently seen large trend increases in passenger trips since launch.

Although there is no membership criteria or barriers to access, the service is on a pre-booked basis only. It remains a registered local bus service available to all and on which national concessionary travel passes can be used. By default, the scheme uses established bus stops and gathering points in villages, hamlets and deeper rural locations and also offers door-to-door pick-up based upon a passenger’s limited mobility or rural isolation. Information and updates on bookings, journey planning and navigation is relayed in real time to on-bus units that remain in constant contact with the booking line. As patronage continues to rise, the net cost falls further and additional efficiencies and financial savings have arisen from combining ShropshireLink with the provision of statutory transport to school in the same rural areas. The service continues to be monitored and the offer varied in line with customer demands and passenger flows wherever possible. Underpinning this continuous evolution is the mapping- based journey optimisation system that allows all such changes to be made whilst retaining the most efficient routing patterns.

The benefits

  • Costs for running ShropshireLink have remained comparable with those of the previous fixed route bus services; however, the number of rural households now able to access a subsidised rural bus service has risen from 57% to 97%.
  • Using ShropshireLink for the provision of statutory transport to school in the same rural areas has delivered additional efficiencies.
  • User satisfaction levels have risen to 96%.
  • National Transport Award for ‘Dedication to Access for All’.

The products used

Download this case study PDF – 714kB


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