Go Coach and ViaVan have launched a new on-demand bus service in Sevenoaks to replace seven fixed-route bus lines due to lack of ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The three-month trial period is taking place because of falling passenger numbers and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
The protection of bus services for key workers, such as NHS staff, and for those that have no choice other than bus, has been the key task of operators and Kent County Council’s public transport team over the past few weeks.
Michael Payne, Kent County Council cabinet member for highways and transport said: “I’m grateful to Go Coach and my team at Kent Public Transport who have been able to react to the current situation and put this trial in place which offers the best possible service they can with the limited bus driver resource currently available.
“As the coronavirus pandemic continues with a country-wide shut down, bus passenger numbers in Kent have dropped dramatically.
“Kent Public Transport has worked hard with the operators to ensure services continue as best as they are able, while at the same time supporting the sustainability of their business operations.”
Payne said the new app-based bookable service will help residents continue to make critical journeys to shops, work or to get medication at no extra cost beyond the cost of a regular bus fare.
Those booking the service will be able to travel to anywhere within Sevenoaks, without the need to change bus, and additional links to Pembury, Orpington, Queen Mary’s and Princess Royal hospitals have been added to support those NHS workers who rely on public transport.
Branded Go2, the service will be bookable using a mobile app developed and powered by ViaVan, operating like a shared taxi, meaning that journeys will be made only when and where they are required.
Users can download the app in the iOS and Google Play store starting today (April 14).
The service will run between 6am and 6pm, Monday to Saturday and will usually pick passengers up within half an hour.
Austin Blackburn, owner of Go Coach said: “I’m very proud to be doing something positive to help our passengers during these very difficult times and while I appreciate it is not ideal, I hope it will help those that need to travel.
“Developing Go2 would not have been possible in such a short time without the commitment of our staff and our partners at KCC and ViaVan, which has provided the technology to make this work.
“I’m also pleased to say that passengers will be able to exercise social distancing on this new service.”
Via the Go2 app, users will be able to track their bus’s movements both for pick-up times and any changes to arrival estimates.