Three Cs could help save Wisbech Tesco Bus says mayor after he takes a ticket to ride it
The future of a community bus facing the axe lies within the people who use it.
That's the view of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor Dr Nik Johnson who visited Wisbech on Wednesday (23) night to find out just why he should put his hands in the Combined Authority's pockets and stump up cash to save Bus 68.
The well-attended meeting, organised by the Labour party and held at the Rosmini Centre, made an impression on Nik who said it was good to see so many people turn out in support of the service which is also known as the Tesco Bus and is operated by Fenland Association for Community Transport.
It is facing the axe because funding for the service, which was initially provided through Section 106 developer's money, is about to run out. The Combine Authority has already stepped in once to provide temporary stop-gap funding, but that ends at the end of this month.
After the meeting Nik said: "I have had letters from people, I have had lobbying from councillors but it was not the same as hearing exactly how important Bus 68is to the people of Wisbech from their own words.
"If there had been a poor turn out on Wednesday night then I would have my answer, but there were a lot of people there and it was clear they were passionate about saving the bus service."
In fact he was so impressed by the impassioned pleas from those at the meeting that on Thursday morning, after a night at the Rose and Crown Hotel, Nik took a ride on Bus 68.
He completed the full route and chatted to passengers, many of whom were on board simply to meet him having missed the previous evening's meeting.
Nik said: "I was there with my head of transport Rowland Potter and it was good to meet the passengers and see the route and the community it serves for myself. They were very passionate and it was clear there is a real community spirit in Wisbech."
He said attending the meeting and riding the bus was all part of his commitment to the three Cs he set at the start of his term in office last May. They are Compassion, Co-operation and Community.
By listening to people and their concerns over the bus service, he said he was showing compassion rather than simply dismissing what people had to say.
When it comes to co-operation he said he was working with his team and others to try to find a solution but he pointed out that he must ensure that when it comes to the Combined Authority's money it is spent in a way that provides good value for money.
Part of that co-operation also needs to come from the community and that involves encouraging more people to use the bus so that it becomes sustainable in the long-term.
He also suggested that a scheme operated in West Huntingdonshire could provide a solution for Bus 68 and that is where there is almost an Uber style bus service in operation, which runs on user demand rather than on a set route.
He said if there is co-operation from within the community, then hopefully a sustainable solution will be found, which he said would be a victory for all.
One of those at both the meeting on Wednesday and the bus ride with Nik on Thursday was regular user Angela Haines she said: "The upshot seems very hopeful. He seemed to take on board just how important a life-line Bus 68 is to people like me, who do not have a car an rely on public transport. Fingers crossed he can find the money to save the Tesco Bus."