In response to the Covid-19 crisis, Sevenoaks bus services 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8, operated by Go-Coach, will temporarily be replaced by an on-demand service from next week.
The three-month trial period is taking place because of falling passenger numbers and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
The protection of bus services for key workers, such as NHS staff, and for those that have no choice other than bus, has been the key task of operators and Kent County Council’s public transport team over the past few weeks.
KCC Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport Michael Payne said: “I’m grateful to Go Coach and my team at Kent Public Transport who have been able to react to the current situation and put this trial in place which offers the best possible service they can with the limited bus driver resource currently available.
“As the coronavirus pandemic continues with a country-wide shut down, bus passenger numbers in Kent have dropped dramatically. Kent Public Transport have worked hard with the operators to ensure services continue as best as they are able, whilst at the same time supporting the sustainability of their business operations.
“With this bookable service, which we have helped fund, residents will continue to be able to make crucial journeys to the shops, work or for medication, at no extra cost beyond their regular bus fares at this time.
“Those booking the service will be able to travel to anywhere within Sevenoaks, without the need to change bus, and additional links to Pembury, Orpington, Queen Mary’s and Princess Royal hospitals have been added to support those NHS workers who rely on public transport.”
Branded Go2, the service will be bookable, operating like a shared taxi, meaning that journeys will be made only when and where they are required.
The service will run between 6am and 6pm, Monday to Saturday and will usually pick passengers up within half an hour.
Austin Blackburn, owner of Go Coach said: “I’m very proud to be doing something positive to help our passengers during these very difficult times and whilst I appreciate it is not ideal, I hope it will help those that need to travel.
“Developing Go2 would not have been possible in such a short time without the commitment of our staff and our partners at KCC and ViaVan which has provided the technology to make this work.
“I’m also pleased to say that passengers will be able to exercise social distancing on this new service.”
Via the app, users will be able to track their bus’s movements both for pick-up times and any changes to arrival estimates.
Current bus fares will continue to apply, and people with bus passes can continue to take advantage of the concessionary schemes.
The new service starts on April 14 and further information can be found at www.go-coach.co.uk