A NEW timetable for the Midhurst Community Bus comes into operation next week, which includes a return to Stedham after a ten-year break.
And the new timetable coincides with news that the bus also has a major new sponsor.
Starting on April 7, the daily routes will take on board recent passenger experience and also the opening of the new Grange community and leisure centre.
But, added chairman of the Midhurst Community Bus Association, Nick Wheeler: “There are one or two more important changes with the inclusion of Stedham on Monday and Friday and the Mead Way, Midhurst on Tuesday and Friday.
“Stedham has been included on past timetables, but the new timetable will see the Midhurst Community Bus return after a break of more than ten years.”
Last November Mr Wheeler told Midhurst town councillors that the bus had its best year ever in 2012, with passenger numbers up to 5,000 from 3,000 three years ago.
This week he told the Observer: “We very much hope the new timetable will continue the recent positive growth in passenger numbers.”
The new timetable is available from the Grange Centre, Budgen’s, the Medical Centre and the Yellow Bus.
In addition, Mr Wheeler announced that the Seven Fish bar and restaurant in Midhurst’s North Street had become a major sponsor of the community bus association.
“We are very grateful for the tremendous local support we receive. We would like to encourage as many local residents as possible to use our services”.
David Stanton from Seven Fish said: “We are very pleased to be able to support such a worthwhile service. The Midhurst Community Bus provides a lifeline for residents who do not have easy access to transport.”
Last year Mr Wheeler said the association was looking for new ways of funding itself after losing finance from two school runs.
It had been earning extra funds from school runs to Petersfield and to Liphook, but as part of West Sussex County Council’s cuts it withdrew the Petersfield service and as children have got older and left the Bohunt, that run was also lost.
He said the losses meant the association was back to annual losses of some £2,000 and was looking for new ways to raise money.
He hoped the county council would continue to award the £2,500 annual grant
“I don’t mind using reserves for a year,” said Mr Wheeler.
“But we do need to be able to wash our face.”