Shropshire Star

Market Drayton's free bus service extended after first months hailed a success

A free weekend bus service in a Shropshire market town is being extended following its popularity.

James Willock and Ian Nellins at the launch of the service last year

Market Drayton Town Council introduced the free Saturday service in September 2023, and budgeted to fund the free service for the remainder of the financial year.

Due to the uptake on the service the council has now agreed to fund the service for the next financial year.

In July last year, the Town Council voted in favour of subsidising a trial initiative to provide a free Saturday town bus service until the end of March 2024.

The aim of the trail was to encourage the use of public transport, reduce the need to travel into town by car and offer residents the opportunity to travel into town for free.

The Saturday Town Bus initiative started on September 30, and the first three months have been hailed a success.

Councillor Ian Nellins, who sits on both Market Drayton Town Council and Shropshire Council, said nearly a hundred passengers a day were using the free service.

He said: "The average number of non-concessionary passengers travelling on the Saturday Town Bus did change dramatically. On average 93 non concessionary passengers took advantage of the free service on Saturdays between September 30 and December 31, 2023.

"During the same period in 2022 the average was 34. This is an increase of 185 per cent. The highest number recorded was 137 (non-concessionary) plus 88 (concessionary) passengers. That was on the first day of the trial which was also the Ginger and Spice Festival.

"This is encouraging, but of course the present town service doesn’t serve all of the town’s residential areas. This is an issue that is being addressed, and hopefully an improved service can be established in the near future."

He added that residents are reminded that the free service is offered on the Lakeside 301/302 service and does not include the Arriva 64 service.

The new funding will ensure the free service will continue until at least March 2025.