The bus service that usually operates from Swanage town centre up to Durlston Country Park and back via the hospital will only run for six weeks this year.
Introduced as a summer service to allow more people to visit the country park who don’t have a car or who would prefer to leave the car at home, it will only operate in 2022 from Saturday 23rd July to Saturday 3rd September. This is because of rising costs.
The Durlston Explorer service operating in Swanage in 2021
Subsidy rose to around £15,000
Durlston Country Park has subsidised the bus in the past but this year the cost for a full summer service rose to around £15,000.
Even with a contribution from Swanage Town Council, it was seen to be unaffordable by Durlston Country Park, owned by Dorset Council.
However rather than scrap the service altogether, it’s been agreed to operate the bus for the peak six weeks over the summer school holidays.
Durlston Castle is a popular place to visit for both residents and tourists
“The costs have gone up”
Senior ranger at Durlston Country Park, Katie Black said:
“The key reason why it won’t run for the whole of the summer this year is money. The costs have gone up. We have to find this subsidy from our own pot of money at Durlston and even with a contribution from Swanage Town Council, it was uneconomic for us.
“If we want a bus service in the future, there needs to be more money from elsewhere, as we just can’t justify it on our own.
“The positive thing is that there will still be a bus service this year – just for a shorter period of time. Hopefully more people will use it, which will show that it’s worth running the service, and that way we can make a better case for next year.”
Breathtaking views from Durlston Country Park make the journey from Swanage town centre worthwhile
“A big need for a proper community bus service in Swanage”
Last year the Durlston Explorer bus, operated by Morebus, ran from Saturday 29th May to Saturday 18th September 2022 and it was expected that there would be a similar service this year.
Chair of Swanage Area Forum, Mel Norris said:
“This is a disappointment for many residents and visitors. There’s a big need for a proper community bus service in Swanage – not just for six weeks or just the summer but for all year round.
“It’s about accessibility for those who are less mobile and living in a hilly seaside town that’s really important. It not only gets people up to Durlston Country Park but also drops off at the hospital, providing a much welcomed service.
“Six weeks is better than nothing but I’d like to think that in the future we can all get together – businesses and organisations – to achieve something better for next year.”
In 2021 the Durlston Explorer bus stopped near Swanage Hospital, providing a service for patients and staff
Bus Back Better government grant
Dorset Council did put in a bid for a slice of £3 billion government funding aimed at rejuvenating local bus services, but the application was unsuccessful.
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council was awarded £8.9 million from the fund, while Cornwall received £23.5 million and have used the money to reduce bus fares by up to 40 percent.
It’s understood that if the council had been able to secure a Bus Back Better grant then services like the Durlston Explorer route could have been better supported.
The Durlston Explorer will only be spotted in town for six weeks this summer
“I will continue to lobby central government for funding”
Councillor Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for highways, travel and environment said:
“I’m pleased that what we have planned for the Durlston Explorer bus service will cover the main time period when the service is most used, but we’re obviously disappointed to not be able to provide it for the whole summer.
“This is despite the efforts of the brilliant team at Durlston, who have not been able to secure the extra funding needed to run the same service we’ve had in previous years.”
“Although we weren’t included in the first release of the recent Bus Back Better funding from the Department for Transport, we have been notified that further funding will become available in the future.
“We will work towards this in partnership with operators and passengers, and I will continue to lobby central government for funding, so we can provide a better public transport offering to the people of Dorset.”