Villagers Invited to Trial New On-Demand Bus Service

As Hambledon’s 503 bus service enters its final months of operation, more details have been announced about its on-demand replacement.

Over the past year, Surrey County Council has been rolling out “Surrey Connect”. It will arrive in Godalming in September, when the Hambledon to Milford, Godalming and Guildford timetabled route will cease.

Instead of Hambledon’s scheduled service, which operates just three days a week, passengers can instead request an accessible electric mini-bus to collect them from designated pick-up points in the village to anywhere in the Godalming zone.

It is already available for journeys to and from Cranleigh.

The new service will operate Monday to Friday from 7am to 7pm and on Saturdays between 8am and 6pm. Proposed pick-up point include the village shop, Malthouse Lane, Merry Harriers and the Hydestile Crossroads.

This type of bus operation is known as Digital Demand Responsive Transport (DDRT). Passengers need to registered for an account, and then can use either a call centre number, a mobile phone app or go online to book a single or return journey.

All journeys must be within the greater Godalming area (boundaries yet to be announced) with an adult single fare ranging from £2 to £6, depending on the distance travelled. For onward journeys, passengers would need to request a DDRT from a neighbouring zone.

Advance booking is requested and a destination and preferred arrival time provided so that the operators can arrange the journey, which may be shared with others who have booked from nearby locations.

When this service was first announced it was intended that collections would be from individual homes, but this has proved impractical. Instead, agreed collections points, similar to conventional bus stops, will be agreed and Hambledon Parish Council will ask for suggestions and negotiate with Surrey Connect.

In the meantime, Surrey Connect has already arrived in Cranleigh and Hambledon is just inside its zone. If you want to request a journey there to see how it all works you will need to register; either online at www.surreyconnect.org.uk, via the App “Surrey Connect” or by ringing 01428 681710 Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

Members of the parish council will be undertaking some trial journeys to put the new service to the test and would be interested in hearing the experience of other villagers. Please contact parishclerk@hambledonsurrey.co.uk to share your experience. Any feedback will be given to Surrey Connect ahead of the introduction of the Godalming zone. Currently, the service is operating locally in Farnham, and parts of Guildford as well as Cranleigh.

Hambledon Parish Council has successfully lobbied in the past for the retention of the 503, operated by Stagecoach but subsidised by Surrey County Council. Its service and passenger numbers have declined over the years and it is now limited to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with just one outward and one return journey.

Surrey Connect represents a big change, but its promoters say that it will open up more flexible public transport compared to the restrictions of traditional rural bus timetables. To find out more please visit www.surreycc.gov.uk/surreyconnect.

If you take a trial journey to Cranleigh, please let the parish council know how it went. And if you have any suggestions for pick-up points in the village other than those previously mentioned, please let us know.

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