A MASSIVE campaign has been launched to get more people in the South Downs National Park using buses and trains on Sundays and bank holidays.
The park authority is using part of a £3.81m department for transport grant to pay for a comprehensive new timetable of buses to Midhurst, Petworth, Fittleworth, Fernhurst, Stedham, Trotton, Rogate and Petersfield. These link to trains at Haslemere, Petersfield and Pulborough.
Midhurst county councillor Gordon McAra said: “This is great news for people visiting the park who don’t want to use cars and it means people who live in Midhurst and the surrounding area who don’t have a car, can get about.
“But this is for an experimental period and I would urge people to make every effort to use the buses because that is the only way we will keep them.”
Chairman of Petworth Town Council Ken Lintill said: “It means people will be able to get in and out of Petworth on a Sunday again.
“There are an awful lot who rely on buses and when they stopped, it really made them housebound, so this is excellent news. It’s obviously a ‘use it or lose it’ situation and so I do hope people use them.”
There was an outcry two years ago when West Sussex County Council axed Sunday services. Community leaders said the measures left the towns at the heart of the national park isolated.
Among the restored bus routes which will start on May 4 for a trial period are the Stagecoach Sunday No 1 service between Worthing and Pulborough. It will be extended every two hours to Midhurst via Fittleworth, Petworth and Tillington.
A new Sunday and bank holiday Stagecoach No 70 service will operate between Midhurst and Haslemere Town Hall via Fernhurst and Haslemere train station on an hourly basis.
A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said “guaranteed connections will be available with the existing service 60 from Midhurst to Chichester and Bognor Regis.”
In addition a new two hourly Stagecoach no. 92 Sunday service will run between Midhurst and Petersfield station through Stedham, Trotton, Rogate and Sheet.
National park authority officer Allison Thorpe said: “Restarting the Sunday services will help reconnect the community and visitors with Pulborough and beyond and is just part of wider work to make transport more sustainable across the park.
“We’re working with West Sussex County Council who are signing a one-year contract with Stagecoach. Encouraging more people to use the service will be vital – it has to become commercially viable.”