2016 was a really good year for the Chatterbus and the Board of Cobham Community Bus CIC would like to thank everyone whose support made that possible.
The Christmas Shopping season* saw a 30 % increase in passenger numbers and a 39% increase in revenue compared with the same period last year. The services to Brooklands Retail Park for price sensitive shopping were almost full throughout this period. (*5 weeks to December 31st)
Chatterbus is well on track to achieve 17,000 passenger journeys for the year as a whole, up from 14,000 last year, a massive 21% increase. These figures show that the service is going from strength to strength and is meeting a real need in the area.
A policy of constant improvement has, amongst other things, seen timetable revisions to enhance reliability, the installation of new ‘no parking’ zones at key bus stops and arrangements for concessionary bus passes to be issued at Cobham library. The Chatterbus team is not complacent.
Our regular users are our best ambassadors: “Excellent service and drivers. Essential for Cobham,” said one of them this week. “Great for making the commute a little easier, and a great local service all round,” said another. (Consumer Research 5th January, 2017)
Our three main sponsors, Surrey County Council, Elmbridge Borough Council and Chelsea FC Foundation, have provided invaluable support in meeting a variety of social need in the Cobham area. Surrey County Council has agreed to continue funding the bus in 2017-18, as it offers a good value, well supported service. We are now looking to our other main sponsors to help keep the bus on the road in the year ahead.
At the moment there is only one Chatterbus and its timetable is very demanding. We really need to have a more up to date bus to reduce our reliance on substitute, unbranded vehicles. We have applied to Elmbridge Borough Council for help with a new vehicle through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). If we are succesful in our application, we have a new electronic display ready to be installed on the front of the new bus, so the service will be both more reliable and more visible as it approaches the bus stops along the route.
Local businesses have also given strong support to the Chatterbus. This year there have been more advertisements inside the bus, including an offer from NFU insurance of a payment to the Chatterbus with every new policy. Local landmark, Painshill Landscape Garden, continues its support, with a free entry offer in January and February on production of a bus ticket. Individuals in the community have run fundraising efforts for the Chatterbus: people locally are ‘doing their bit.’
Like every new venture, Chatterbus has had its challenges, the chief of them being the Saturday service. Passenger numbers are totally unpredictable with no obvious explanation for excellent days or poor days. The Chatterbus team continues to tackle this issue head on. A major mailshot in the Fetcham and Leatherhead areas was funded by the local County Councillors to promote Saturday usage. Timetable revisions are planned to make the length of stay at different destinations more suitable. But there is a steely determination to try everything to make the Saturday route a success, there being no other East-West bus service in the Cobham area on Saturdays. In Leatherhead and at Brooklands, our residents can access the wider Surrey weekend bus network to make essential journeys across the county, thus meeting a range of social needs.
One of the objects of Cobham Community Bus CIC is to promote public transport usage in general. We are therefore delighted to promote the new Stagecoach 715 service, which has replaced the Abellio route to Kingston and Guildford through Cobham. Stagecoach started the route with a splash on 31st December 2016 by using some heritage Green Line buses. The new service is hourly and takes a more direct route. So things are looking up for public transport users in the Cobham area and we intend to continue to play our part in this.