Slimmed-down timetable for Hitchin and Bedford bus service unveiled

Stagecoach has unveiled its slimmed-down timetable for routes in North Herts, Central Bedfordshire and Bedford (File picture)

Stagecoach has unveiled its slimmed-down timetable for routes in North Herts, Central Bedfordshire and Bedford (File picture) - Credit: PA

Stagecoach's bus routes are set for a shakeup in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.

The changes - which come into force on Sunday, October 30 - include a slimmed-down timetable for the 9a and 9b Hitchin to Bedford route.

Stagecoach also plans to withdraw routes 72 and 73 between Biggleswade and Bedford, and the 915 between Royston and Cambridge.

Hitchin, where Stagecoach has plans to cut the 9a and 9b timetable

Hitchin, where Stagecoach has plans to cut the 9a and 9b timetable - Credit: Will Durrant

Royston is set to lose its 915 bus connection to Cambridge (pictured) in a Stagecoach timetable shakeup (File picture)

Royston is set to lose its 915 bus connection to Cambridge (pictured) in a Stagecoach timetable shakeup (File picture) - Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

A bus company spokesperson said the new timetable is adapted to accommodate travel patterns following the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns which began in March 2020.

They said: "Bus use in the UK has only partially recovered since the pandemic.

"Local bus operators, including Stagecoach, have been working to re-base local bus networks to take account of changes in people’s travel habits, lower passenger numbers, rising costs and labour challenges.

"This will ensure we can provide a sustainable network that we hope can grow over the longer term."

In Hitchin, Henlow, Arlesey, Shefford and Bedford, routes 9a and 9b currently both run to roughly hourly timetables.

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The new guidance for 9a and 9b reads: "Each operate every two hours, providing a combined hourly service to Henlow."

Saturday and Sunday buses will run hourly.

A statement on 72 and 73 Bedford to Biggleswade, via Sandy and Potton, and on 915 Royston to Cambridge, reads: "Withdrawn as unsustainable."

A new route - MK1 - will combine old routes 81 and 99 between Bedford, Clophill, Barton-le-Clay, Luton and Milton Keynes.

The decision comes after a push by the then-Boris Johnson government - with transport secretary Grant Shapps MP as transport secretary - for a "Bus Back Better" scheme post-pandemic.

A £1.08 billion funding pot was opened up to local authorities. Through a bidding process, councillors and officers could present bus service improvement plans to the government in the hope they would receive cash.

Central Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Luton were among the successful councils, which received £3.1 million, £29.7m and £19.1m respectively.

Luton Council received £19.1 million to improve bus services

Luton Council received £19.1 million to improve bus services - Credit: Will Durrant

Announcing the funding, Grant Shapps MP said: "Buses are the most popular way of getting around in this country – but for too long people outside of London have had a raw deal.

"The investment we’re making today to ramp up the bus revolution will drive down fares at a time when people’s finances are tight and help connect communities across England."

Grant Shapps, former secretary of state for transport, championed the "Bus Back Better" programme while in government

Grant Shapps, former secretary of state for transport who championed the "Bus Back Better" programme while in government - Credit: Danny Loo Photography

Additionally, in Biggleswade, Central Bedfordshire Council and Homes England are investing £2.3 million into a transport interchange, which will feature a bus interchange near the railway station.

Construction began on the project in August 2022.

Councillor Kevin Collins marking the start of the £2.3 million Biggleswade transport interchange construction

Councillor Kevin Collins, Central Bedfordshire Council's planning and regeneration executive member, marking the start of the £2.3 million Biggleswade transport interchange construction - Credit: Central Bedfordshire Council

In Cambridgeshire, which makes up a large part of the Stagecoach East network, a Change.org petition has been set up in a bid to stop a cut in the Cambridge, Ely and Newmarket (Suffolk) areas.

The petition is online (https://bit.ly/3R2YN8u) and raises concerns about children and young people's access to colleges, as well as older people's access to vital services.

It reads: "This cannot be allowed to happen.

"People will become even more isolated, people will struggle to get to work, the elderly may lose their only form of transport to get from A to B, and the government wants us to use buses to reduce pollution  and traffic in cities."