Bus provider promises to “retain lifeline service” throughout winter despite pandemic

Swanage’s key bus service provider, Morebus has stressed its commitment to keeping essential services throughout the coronavirus crisis – even as the slower winter months approach.

A study earlier this year suggested that Swanage is among the towns at risk of becoming a ‘transport desert’ – a place with a severe lack of public transport infrastructure.

But Morebus, which provides the crucial number 50 bus service that links Swanage to Poole and Bournemouth, said that it is committed to maintaining its services to a high standard.

Bus in Swanage

“It is difficult to predict the implications of a second lockdown”

Morebus head of communications, Nikki Honer said:

“Every winter, we do reduce the timetable for both the 40 and 50 routes – but they run throughout the entire year. Once it was safe to do so, we also reinstated our seasonal 30 route.

“It is difficult to predict the implications of a second lockdown, but we will follow government guidelines and, as before, we will retain lifeline services for active key workers across the region.”

Cars along Swanage Seafront

Many people rely on cars to get to Swanage

Could Swanage become a ‘transport desert’?

Swanage is among the Dorset towns at risk of becoming a ‘transport desert’ according to a study from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

In February 2020, the CPRE released a report showing that more than half of small towns across England’s south west are in danger of having such poor transport connectivity that they could become ‘transport deserts’.

In Dorset specifically, it said that 10 out of 14 small towns mentioned in the study were at such a risk. Other towns in the country listed as being at risk included Bridport and Gillingham.

Crispin Truman, chief executive of the CPRE, said:

“A thriving countryside depends on well-connected small towns and villages serviced by low carbon public transport that fit into people’s everyday lives.

“But it’s clear that, outside of England’s major cities, communities are being left high and dry in ever-widening transport deserts with completely inadequate bus and train connections.

“And this is having a dramatic effect on rural communities – young people are compelled to move away, older people are left isolated and lonely, while less affluent families can be sucked into a cycle of debt and poverty.”

“They handled it quite well”

However, in spite of this, Councillor Mike Whitwam, Swanage Town Council’s chair of the transport committee, spoke highly of the Swanage bus service.

Regarding their measures during the lockdown, he said:

“When lockdown first occurred, they didn’t really change the services but they just cut out some evening ones. They didn’t really cause any major grief. They handled it quite well.”

Bus in Swanage

Commitment to “high quality” service

Nikki Honer from Morebus added:

“We are fully committed to running high quality bus services in Dorset. In fact, just last month, we added extra buses to our Purbeck breezer services to accommodate extra passengers across the area.

“These buses have low emissions Euro VI engines because we want to encourage tourists to use our services and leave their cars at a base, whatever the time of year.”

Funding boost of £299,159

In August 2020, Dorset Council announced that it had been given a funding boost of £299,159 from the Department of Transport to support its bus services for 2020/21 as part of the Better Deal for Bus Users funding package. A Dorset Council spokesperson said:

“We intend to allocate some towards restoring lost services, some to improving existing services, and some to supporting new bus services/extensions to current services. The actual funding allocations and uses will be decided in due course.”

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