Saturday 28th May 2022
As well as a new station opening in Reston, Monday also saw another DRT scheme take to the road; this time in Warwickshire thanks to £1.02 million from the DfT’s magic money rural mobility funding tree.
And if you’re thinking ‘haven’t I read one of your blogs about a DRT bus you got from Warwick Parkway station before?’; indeed so and what excellent DRT memory recall you have, but that scheme is part of West Midlands Bus On Demand and is in collaboration with the University of Warwick.
This new scheme is based exclusively in Warwickshire in an area to the west of Warwick and Kenilworth including the village of Hatton. I can’t show you the area covered precisely as the click through map on the IndieGo Plus (that’s the brand name being used) website takes you to this unintelligible mass….
Warwickshire have been operating three traditional Dial-A-Ride operations using the brand name IndieGo in Atherstone, Coleshill and Rugby for some time and a bit like in the Norfolk set up (Flexibus and Flexibus Plus) they’ve added the word PLUS on to the IndieGo brand name to indicate this one’s got an App as well as a telephone booking line, which in a rather bizarre twist I found out is answered by someone in a call centre based in South Africa.
Stagecoach Midlands have gained the four year contract to run IndieGo PLUS using four new Mercedes Sprinter minibuses (including a spare bus) to the usual interior spec based at Leamington Spa bus garage.
I’m guessing someone at the design agency given the task by Warwickshire County Council to come up with a bus livery has never travelled on a bus with contravision before as they wouldn’t have covered most of the windows with the stuff. They also don’t seem to know much about what makes for an attractive bus livery rather than a parcel van.
But livery, the South African call centre and the rather strange map aside, it was the usual DRT story for my try out experience of the service on Tuesday lunch time.
Being only the second day I guessed it would be quiet and therefore easy to book a couple of journeys at my desired times and on the train to Warwick I managed to manipulate the App by clicking on the list of prescribed ‘destinations’ which appear alongside the map shown above and easily booked a ride from Warwick Parkway Station to Hatton Country World which seemed an interesting destination to head to – it’s one of those Garden Centre PLUS establishments geared up to attract families with amusements and entertainments as well as artisan type retail outlets.
The nearby village of Hatton (two miles west of Warwick) used to be served by the Stagecoach operated tendered route 16 running approximately every two hours with some journeys continuing to Kenilworth as the now abandoned timetable shows.
The route has now been withdrawn in favour of IndieGo PLUS but Country World is located down a country lane not previously served by route 16 so it was a bit of a novelty to access it by bus.
My train was due to arrive into Warwick Parkway at 12:32 so I booked my ride for 12:40 receiving confirmation of a 12:42 pick up, later updated to 12:49. And just before 12:49 Simon appeared (having been on a well deserved break until then after starting at 06:00) and pulled up at the bus stop in the car park by the station entrance to pick me up.
We had a good chat during the ten minutes it took to drive to Hatton Country World. Although it was only the second day of the service Simon, a veteran bus driver of thirty plus years, was enjoying his new duties on IndiGo PLUS finding it a refreshing change from driving route 16 and other bus routes in the area as well as school buses which he drove for many years.
He dropped me off where the SatNav told him was as far as he could take me which was just off the road by the entrance to Country World and he popped off to the coach park while I wandered down to have a look around and grab a coffee.
It’s a pity the SatNav won’t allow the bus to continue further and turn in the car park as that would save visitors on the bus having to walk along the drive to the main entrance which motorists can drive along. I would have thought this ‘leisure destination’ was a prime target for users of this new service and it would be good to make it easy for bus passengers.
Half an hour later I walked back up the drive and Simon reappeared at the same spot and took me back to Warwick Parkway Station where one of his colleagues was also parked up waiting for custom.
IndiGo PLUS charges £4 for a single journey and £6 return, with children aged 5 to 15 paying £3 and £4.50 respectively. It’s all paid for via the App. Concessionary passes are valid for free travel and journeys can be booked up to two weeks ahead of travelling. Hours of operation are 06:00 to 19:30 Mondays to Saturdays with no Sunday service.
All the usual caveats re DRT apply and in this case of course, there is a customer base, albeit small, of passengers who used to have the certainty of route 16’s timetable but can now enjoy the gamble of booking when they desire travelling and enjoy the flexibility of other destinations in the area served – if they can work out where they are on that map.
And that’s another one done. Do let me know if you hear of any more DRT schemes starting up – there’s still some more Rural Mobility Fund winners yet to hit the road.
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