FlexiLink bus - Cheshire East Council

Fares could be introduced for bus pass holders in Cheshire East who currently travel free on a FlexiLink ‘dial-a-ride’ service for elderly and disabled people, writes Belinda Ryan.

That is one option Cheshire East Council is considering in a bid to keep the FlexiLink service running as passenger numbers drop.

Another is changing the eligibility criteria so more people could use the service.

FlexiLink offers a personalised, door-to-door service and operates in a similar way to a traditional ‘dial-a-ride’.

It is funded by the council as part of the supported bus network.

To use the service, residents must be aged 80 or over, have a disability or live beyond the reach of any other public transport.

Nearly all passengers are concessionary pass holders who travel free of charge.

A report to next week’s meeting of the highways and transport committee states: “Only 1% of passengers are paying the standard fare of £3. During 2022/23, the revenue collected on FlexiLink was £837.”

The FlexiLink fleet consists of 10 vehicles and seven operate across the borough.

The service integrates with the provision of home-to-school transport for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) which means the core hours of operation for FlexiLink are between 9.30am and 2.30pm, Monday to Friday.

The report states: “The vehicles are not fully utilised due to the low levels of demand for the service.

“Currently, if telephone bookings are not made, there is no reason to deploy the vehicles.

“Across the borough, the average number of passengers per journey is four.”

The council is now looking at various options for the service including:

introducing a new fare structure, including a charge for concessionary pass holders
expanding the eligibility criteria to serve a wider population
expanding the operating hours and days
improving integration with the mainstream network
modernising the booking and scheduling system

The report says a public consultation will take place in early August to understand the transport needs of existing service users, residents and stakeholders, and to seek their views on the proposals to change the service.

The review only applies to the FlexiLink service and does not apply to ‘go-too’ which is a separate service.

The highways and transport committee meeting takes place at Macclesfield Town Hall on Thursday, July 20 at 10am.

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