Wiltshire Publications

‘Hopper’ bus axed

THEConnect2 RUH bus service – aka the ‘Hopper’ – will be terminated in May this year, after Wiltshire Council announced that there is no funding for the service.

Campaigners hoping to save the ‘vital’ service were dealt the final blow  to their almost year-long fight earlier this month when Wiltshire Council said it had decided to scrap the service.

A council spokesperson said, “Wiltshire Council has been investigating a sustainable joint funding solution, however this could not be agreed and as a result, the Hopper will stop running from May 2016.”

Wiltshire Council had previously been paying £130,000 per year to subsidise the minibus service, but Government cuts meant it could no longer afford to do so. Wiltshire Care Commissioning Group (CCG) said it would not help to joint fund the service, as the NHS body already provides patient transport.

The council has been criticised for making its final decision without further public debate.

Wiltshire councillor Terry Chivers, was instrumental in the campaign to save the service, and started two petitions which collected over 2,000 signatures between them.

Cllr Chivers said, “So much for democracy. Hundreds of Wiltshire residents have signed our petition to save the RUH Hopper service, yet Conservative Wiltshire Council has announced this vital service is being axed.

“I’m sure that Wiltshire residents will be shocked to learn that this decision has been made in a smoke-filled room by a handful of councillors without any debate in public.

“Both Wiltshire Council and Wiltshire CCG should hold their heads in total shame as both blame each other for the cutting of the vital service.

“The suggested alternatives – Arriva Non Emergency Passenger Transport (NEPT) and/or the local Link schemes are not really viable substitutes.

“NEPT has very strict criteria as well as reliability problems and the local Link schemes are in crisis with shortage of volunteer drivers.

“The truth is that hundreds of outpatients will find it near impossible to get to and from hospital. As always, the vulnerable and sick will suffer.

“Can I assure the public that we may have lost the battle but the fight to save this vital service will go on.”

The Connect2 service, known as the Hopper, offers a minibus pick-up and drop off service for people across the county to travel to the RUH. It offers a safer and more convenient alternative to public transport.