WHO ARE FRIENDS OF THE 65 BUS?
In June 2018 passengers found out by chance that Monmouthshire County Council planned to withdraw the 65 bus service that connects Chepstow, Monmouth and the villages along the “Wye Valley High Road”. A regular passenger led a high-profile campaign to save the bus, supported by local councillors. Villagers along the route lobbied officers and members of the County Council, by writing letters and emails; they contacted the MP and the Welsh Assembly Member; they wrote to the local paper and spoke to journalists so that there was front page coverage in the papers and articles about the bus appeared over a number of weeks; they helped to circulate a paper petition round the villages and towns, and set up an online petition. As a result of all this work, more than 1400 people signed the petition and MCC decided to suspend the withdrawal of the bus service, pending completion of a strategic review of bus services across the county and the sharing of its findings.
In the wake of celebrating a successful campaign, we established a group called “The Friends of the 65 Bus”. Our aim is to promote and develop the 65 bus service for local residents and for leisure and tourism. We have made positive contact with the Passenger Transport Department at MCC and are in regular contact with them by email and in person. We have been in contact with each of the community councils along the route, as well as Monmouth and Chepstow Town Councils. We have been offered, and taken up, a place on the Monmouth Strategic Transport Group.
We are building links with walking groups and other leisure users. We have been talking to Visit Monmouthshire who have offered us a page on their website which makes available tourist information for people visiting the area. We are compiling a list of suggested walks from the bus.
We have a named contact in each of the villages along the route who takes responsibility for promoting the 65 Bus in their communities and looking after the bus stops in their village. There is, for example, currently no-one whose job it is to ensure that the bus timetables on display at each stop are kept up-to-date. Our village contacts will have a key to the bus stop cabinets and will ensure that they are kept clean and that the timetables are up-to-date. We have produced village-specific timetables and our “time-in-town” journey planners that show how long you can have in either Chepstow or Monmouth and which buses you need to use to do this.
Our objectives continue to be to: –
* work with Monmouthshire County Council to promote and develop the 65 bus service
* ensure the 65 bus is appreciated and passenger numbers are increased and sustained across the timetable
* join up and involve local communities along the route to ensure the 65 bus is well-used
* link with local tourism and leisure groups and facilities to promote bus usage