COULD a night bus finally be laid on for Foresters?
It’s one of several ideas being explored by Anna-Marie Hitchings as she gets to grips with her role as the district’s community transport co-ordinator.
Her post is funded by a five-year £300,000 lottery grant secured last year to get public transport in the Forest better connected.
It means more reliance on community and voluntary transport schemes, like Lydney-Dial-A-Ride and Lydcare, supplementing the existing Stagecoach bus routes.
And it would be those community organisations who would probably have to step in if the late-night service so many in the area crave is to become a reality.
“Bus routes in the Forest can be quite sporadic,” said Ms Hitchings. “We’re trying to raise awareness of community transport which hopefully attracts more visitors and, in turn, more volunteers.
“One of the organisations I’ve been working with is the Forest Youth Forum and a big thing they’d like to see is a night bus.”
She stressed it was very early days for the night bus idea and is canvassing for opinion.
“We would have to think about how it would work,” she said.
“Could we get young people trained to operate it, for example? It also depends on the demand.”
One of the big challenges of her role is convincing residents that community transport is for everyone. The perception is that dial-a-ride services are just for the elderly when, in fact, absolutely anyone can take advantage and a major marketing campagin for the initiative is due to be rolled out soon.
The partners in the community transport initiative are Bream Voluntary Car Service, Lydcare, Lydney Dial-A- Ride, Newent Dial-A-Ride, Forest of Dean District Council, Gloucestershire County Council and the Gloucestershire Rural Community Council.
Pippa English-Penfold, manager at Newent Association for the Disabled, which runs Newent Dial-A-Ride, said: “I think there’s a lot of misinforation out there about what we do, particularly about costs.
“My message would be ‘if you’re not sure, call us’. Wherever possible, our drivers also go with you to appointments and you don’t get that service anywhere else.
“I think the community transport initiative is going to become critical for the Forest of Dean with all the changes public transport has had.”