Funding for Lincoln’s Walk & Ride service operated by PC Coaches is due to be ploughed into the city’s Park and Ride operation.
The £20,000 funding is set to be removed from Walk & Ride in January 2018. Launched in 2001, the service carries 60,000 passenger each year, offering what PC Coaches describes as a “more door to door feel”, accessing the Cathedral Quarter, Castle Square and pedestrian areas of the city’s High Street at a frequency of every 20 minutes. There are two vehicles on the service, a pair of low floor, wheelchair accessible 16-seaters.
Lincoln’s Park & Ride service, operated by Stagecoach East Midlands, was devised by Lincoln Business Improvement Group (BIG), which aims to put Lincoln on the map as a retail and tourist destination. The service was created in collaboration with the operators and Waitrose, being launched in February 2017. Lincoln BIG has supported Walk & Ride financially alongside Lincolnshire County Council.
Sarah Westney, Operations Director at PC Coaches, said: “Lincoln BIG decided earlier this year to start the Park and Ride site. There was no tender process, it went straight to Stagecoach. There was never any discussions to work together.”
Commenting on the Walk and Ride service, she said: “We did a poll on Facebook and found a lot of people said the service was especially useful for the elderly. We have regular drivers who go above and beyond, they tell visitors about the history of Lincoln, about the places they can go and see. It is a friendly service, they help get elderly on and off. The drivers get to know all the regulars, it’s a personal service. If Lincoln BIG put the funding into the Park & Ride, how will they help passengers like this?
“The Park and Ride service is already served by services which are in place by ourselves and Stagecoach. Why do Stagecoach need the extra funding when a local business is already providing a much needed service? Lincoln BIG is supposed to be a business development group for the city of Lincoln! Our service is more personal, with smaller vehicles. They have not looked at the bigger picture.”
MD of PC Coaches of Lincoln, Peter Smith, said: “Obviously bus companies have to look at the commercial viability of bus services, especially with the financial climate we are in, but good bus services are vital and it is a matter of community need and we cannot simply isolate some residents. I think that elderly and vulnerable members of our community will be severely affected when the service is cancelled. While there are a number of other mainstream services in the city that operate in the vicinity of the Cathedral, they do not go that extra mile to offer exactly what the local residents want. Much to our disappointment for its regular passengers, PC Coaches of Lincoln have to look at different options but without any support the service could have to cease early next year. Although it remains well used it does not generate sufficient income to operate on a commercial basis.”
Lincoln BIG Chief Executive, Matt Corrigan, said: “After supporting Walk & Ride with more than £50,000 of sponsorship over a period of years, we felt it would make more sense to put our resources into creating a new City Centre Travel Zone, incorporating the Park & Ride service, as well as other local buses. The changes have been instigated by Lincoln BIG as we feel it will provide a better service when the new bus station opens and a more effective use of our funding, which comes from our City Centre business ratepayers.”