2018 could be last year for Sidmouth Hopper Bus

The Sidmouth Hopper Bus in 2016 . Ref shs 21-16SH 6502. Picture: Simon Horn.

The Sidmouth Hopper Bus in 2016 . Ref shs 21-16SH 6502. Picture: Simon Horn. - Credit: Archant

‘Support it, use it or lose it’ or 2018 could be the last year that Sidmouth’s beloved Hopper Bus continues to run.

Those are the warning words issued by Sidmouth Town Council (STC), following an announcement that the service’s running cost will increase by more than 50 per cent this year.

Councillor Kelvin Dent, who co-ordinates the Hopper Bus, said the rise in the costs for 2018 were down to an increase in the charges of bus operators.

He added he could only speculate as to why the operators had been forced to increase their rates – which was perhaps down to the increasing costs of fuel, drivers and buses.

The service is backed by more than 30 Sidmouth businesses together with STC but it needs more support or will likely cease to exist.

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The free service was the brainchild of Cllr Tony Reed and Tom Cox, who wanted to help reduce parking pressures and boost business and tourism in the Sid Valley.

When it was first launched, it helped to transport between 2,000 and 3,000 people a year, whereas in its last season it carried more than 20,000 visitors.

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STC, which commissions the service, has decided to continue to provide the hopper for 2018 with Clyst St Mary-based coach and bus company Dartline.

However, the authority has warned that 2018 could be the last year that the service operates.

Cllr Dent said: “We need more businesses, particularly those who benefit from increased visitor numbers or whose customers benefit from the service, to come forward and help with financial support.

“The council have decided to carry out a review during the 2018 season to decide the future and viability of the Hopper Bus. Feedback on how the service is valued and any possible improvements will be welcome.

“Along with the council’s own contribution, the fares from passengers and businesses sponsoring provide the only means to continue the service.”

Town clerk Christopher Holland said: “The message to passengers and businesses alike is ‘support it, use it or lose it’.”

Anyone who is willing to sponsor the service should contact the town clerk by emailing eenquiries@sidmouth.gov.uk or by calling 01395 512424.

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