Free Sidmouth Hopper Bus back in service

Town councillors with Sid Vale Association chairman Allan Darrant (far left), Sidmouth Chamber of Co

Town councillors with Sid Vale Association chairman Allan Darrant (far left), Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce chairman David Wheaton (in black), and John Crouch, the Donkey Sanctuary visitor engagement manager(third from right) - Credit: Archant

A free service that reduces parking pressure and boost business and tourism in the Sid Valley is back on the road.

The Hopper Bus has relaunched for its 14th season after ferrying more than 20,000 passengers around shops, scenic spots and accommodation providers last year.

It is backed by some 40 businesses and the Sid Vale Association has again supported it from its Keith Owen Fund.

Town council vice chairman Councillor John Dyson, who this year hands over responsibility for the service to Cllr Kelvin Dent, said: “I never thought when I came to Sidmouth I’d be running a bus service.

“The Hopper Bus saves parking spaces by bringing people into town without their cars - that’s probably the biggest single benefit and it suits the businesses well.

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“It also takes people to the Donkey Sanctuary and other interesting places without their cars, and it shows them the countryside.

“We’ve got the same drivers as last year, who know the route and how to keep to the timetable.”

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Cllr Dyson thanked coach company Hatch Green, which last year provided a bigger vehicle – with 23 seats and standing rooms for nine passengers – to replace the minibus of previous years in order to meet demand.

He added: “I’d like to thank the Keith Owen Fund, because they have supported us ever year, more or less, since the commencement of the Hopper Bus, and been its biggest single beneficiary.

“I’d also like to thank Kelvin Dent, who has volunteered to take over this service and has already had quite an influence over it.

“I’m confident it will continue for the benefit of businesses and residents.”

The service cost £30,128 last year to run with donations from Sidmouth Town Council, businesses, Sid Vale Association’s (SVA) Keith Owen Fund and passenger donations. Cllr Dyson says in the next few years donations will become more important as the SVA will stop funding the service from next year.

He said: “The SVA has been helping us off the ground for the last six years and we are very grateful for its contribution. We have got to the stage that we have to stand on our own two feet.”

As well as sponsorship, there is also a donation box for any passengers who want to support it.

The route stretches from Mutter’s Moor and Peak Hill to the Donkey Sanctuary, taking in Connaught Gardens, Manor Road car park, the Esplanade and Bedford Lawn car park, the Three Cornered Plot, Salcombe Hill and the Norman Lockyer Observatory.

The Hopper Bus runs until September 30, excluding Folk Week.

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