Hambledon residents have until this weekend to write in support of the village’s threatened bus service, the 503. The consultation period ends on Monday (March 14th) at 9am.
Surrey County Council, which subsidises the 503 and other rural bus routes, wants to hear the views of villagers before making a final decision on the fate of the service. It is reviewing all bus routes in the county as it looks to make cuts to its budget.
Details of the Local Transport Review can be found at https://www.surreysays.co.uk/e-i-directorate-programme-group/ltr
Hambledon Parish Council strongly opposes the proposal to axe the 503. It is asking Surrey County Council to reconsider the issue and perhaps look to amalgamate the service with the 523 Milford Hospital service, which is also under threat. With more than 100 new homes being built beside the hospital, and a proposal to build affordable homes at Lane End, Hambledon, the council believes Surrey County Council should examine how to better integrate the service before making a final decision.
Here is Hambledon Parish Council’s submission to the Surrey County Council review.
Surrey County Council Local Transport
Hambledon Parish Council remains committed to the continuation of bus service 503 and urges Surrey County Council to reconsider its proposal to withdraw this service.
The 503 is the only public transport service that runs through the village. It is used by residents, particularly the elderly (who comprise nearly 20 per cent of the village’s population according to 2011 census figures) to reach surgeries, banks and supermarkets. None of these is available in Hambledon. Passenger numbers are inevitably small because the 503 only operates on three mornings a week and not at times which would be helpful to commuters or school children. But it is a vital service for those who do use and rely upon it.
It is not acceptable to provide older residents with bus passes and then take away the only bus service available to them.
Bus service 71, which operates along the A283 (Petworth Road), is not a viable option for most Hambledon residents, particularly the elderly. The nearest bus stop, at Lane End, is some distance from the centre of the village, more than a mile away for many people and two miles in the case of Hydestile which is currently served by the 503. Hambledon has narrow lanes, no pavements and no street lighting.
The Hoppa dial-a-ride is not an alternative. Older residents have told the Parish Council that the 503 is important to their sense of well-being and independence and that they do not wish individually to request a mini-bus when they can use the 503, travel with friends and build the bus times into their weekly schedules. Hoppa trips have to be booked in advance.
Almost more important, bus passes are not accepted on Hoppa. A Hospital Hoppa visit to the Royal Surrey costs £10 each way, plus £2.50 each if a carer needs to accompany the passenger. How many people who qualify for bus passes can, or should be expected to, afford that?
It is the view of residents and the Parish Council that a timetabled and regular bus service is much better for the environment, has the potential to reduce congestion on roads and provides our small and somewhat isolated community with an essential link to facilities that are not available in the village. Hambledon Parish Council therefore asks Surrey County Council to examine how the 503 might be better integrated with other bus services and local, expanding communities. A more holistic approach is needed.
For example, the Transport Review is also proposing withdrawing the 523 which operates between Milford Hospital and Busbridge. More than 100 new homes, some affordable, are being built in the immediate vicinity of the hospital. The nearby Tuesley Fruit Farm employs a great many workers who live on site and need access to shops, etc. In addition a new affordable homes development is being proposed for Hambledon, adjacent to where the 503 starts its service.
Hambledon Parish Council, together with neighbouring Busbridge Parish Council, would welcome the opportunity to explore this suggestion with Surrey County Council. It urges that no decision is taken on the 503/523 until further discussions have been held and all opportunities explored.