A new hoppa community bus service is to be launched in Whitehill & Bordon to address residents’ concerns about a lack of public transport in the growing town.
The hoppa service has been promoted by the Whitehill & Bordon Regeneration Company (WBRC) and it is now waiting on Hampshire County Council (HCC) to give the final go-ahead for the service to begin.
If approved, the new service will embark on a two-year pilot scheme funded by WBRC and Section 106 developer contributions, with buses providing frequent, local trips around Whitehill & Bordon, following two circular routes around the town.
The anticipated start date for the scheme is July 2023. The pilot scheme will assess which places people most need to travel to, and if there is sufficient local demand to sustain the long-term success of the scheme.
Whitehill & Bordon has long suffered from an absence of adequate public transport with most bus and train services slashed or cancelled entirely.
But it is hoped the town’s new hoppa service will solve this issue, and set the groundwork for more transport improvements in years to come.
The service will be operated by the Waverley hoppa Community Transport under contract from Whitehill & Bordon Regeneration Company (WBRC). hoppa will also be responsible for maintaining the buses.
Stakeholders in the scheme include Hampshire County Council, East Hampshire District Council, Whitehill Town Council, East Hampshire Community Rail Partnership, Community First and the Whitehill & Bordon Community Trust.
If Hampshire gives final approval for the pilot scheme, this will provide full funding for two years. WBRC will then fund the purchase of the buses and the conversions required to make them wheelchair and pushchair accessible.
James Child, WBRC project lead, said: “Whitehill & Bordon has, for too long, been totally neglected by publicly-subsidised transport solutions like buses and trains and, as of yet, we’ve not seen the long-awaited town-wide community travel plan which will outline the local government’s proposed solution for delivering the services required.
“Through various stages of public consultation and research, we’ve concluded a hoppa community transport service is the best way to start plugging the public service gaps that are holding the town back. It is not by any means the ultimate solution to our problem, but we hope it will be a big help to local residents and that they’ll support its existence to help us prove to the local government that our town wants and needs a permanent, comprehensive and reliable solution.”
Councillor Andy Tree, Whitehill Town Council leader, first put hoppa in touch with WBRC in July 2022, and said this week he was “delighted that discussions have progressed to this exciting stage”.
“However,” he added, “Hampshire need to come through for us and agree to fund the pilot. I am concerned that continuous delays are caused by bureaucracy, when we need the county to get a move on and support our residents with this.”
Cllr Tree added he would like to see the hoppa service extend and provide a link to a train station.