Capacity to double on popular Hopper service

PUBLISHED: 16:49 16 March 2016 | UPDATED: 16:49 16 March 2016

The Sidmouth Hopper bus launched for 2013. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 2997-21-13AW

The Sidmouth Hopper bus launched for 2013. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 2997-21-13AW

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The cost of a new Hopper Bus will be ‘significantly greater’ - but it will effectively double its capacity and improve disabled access.

Town councillor John Dyson is negotiating the best cost with Hatch Green Coaches, the current provider, for a 23-seat vehicle with standing room for nine passengers.

It should spell the end of tourists being left behind when the free bus fills up and bring in even more shoppers without filling the car parks.

“I think it will be greatly improved,” said Councillor Dyson, who manages the service. “We will have room to take bicycles and even wheelchairs and other forms of luggage, as well as well-behaved dogs.”

Now in its 13th year, the popular service showcases the Sid Valley and is funded equally by the town council, Sidmouth businesses and the Sid Vale Association’s Keith Owen Fund.

Last year it cost £22,000, but the council launched a tendering process for a new contract. Cllr Dyson has not revealed Hatch Green Coaches’ proposed price while negotiations take place. The previous model had 16 seats with no standing room - so at busy times passengers sometimes got left behind. The new vehicle’s increased capacity should prevent passengers being left waiting and the delays to the timetable from going back to collect them. It also boasts low-floor access to help disabled passengers on and off.

Cllr Dyson is looking to find a helper in the community to pitch in with the running of the bus. He said it is not a difficult role, but probably needs something done each day.

To help, contact Cllr Dyson on 01395 512416 or email the town clerk at town.clerk@sidmouth.gov.uk.

The Hopper Bus will run from May 26 until September 30, excluding FolkWeek.

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