|In June this year we found out by chance that Monmouthshire County Council planned to withdraw the 65 bus service that connects our village to Chepstow, Monmouth and the other villages in between. A regular passenger led a high-profile campaign to save the bus, supported by (amongst others) our County Councillor Debby Blakeborough and Trellech Community Councillor, Larry Stoter. Villagers along the route lobbied officers and members of the County Council, by writing letters and emails; they contacted David Davies MP and Nick Ramsay, AM; they wrote to the Beacon and spoke to journalists so that we had front page coverage in the local papers and articles about the bus have appeared over a number of weeks; they helped to circulate a paper petition round the village and to other villages, and we set up an online petition. As a result of all this work, more than 1400 people signed the petition and MCC decided to defer withdrawing the bus service, pending a strategic review of public transport across the county.
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 Transport Department at MCC and are looking forward to meeting with them shortly. We have been in contact with each of the community councils along the route and have either visited them or have a date to visit and speak with them at an upcoming meeting. We have also spoken to Monmouth Town Council and hope shortly to speak to Chepstow Council. We have been offered a place on the Monmouth Strategic Transport Group and attended our first meeting there.
We are building links with walking groups and other leisure users. Visit Monmouthshire have offered us a page on their website which makes available tourist information for people visiting the area. We are currently putting together a description of the route, photos from along the road, information about places to visit in the villages that the bus passes through and ideas for linear walks. We have set up an email address, a Facebook page and a Twitter account. We’re using these to offer regular bulletins with ideas on ways to use the bus together with news of what we’re doing. We are in the process of setting up our own website, again with support from Marilyn.
We are seeking a friend in each of the villages along the route who will take responsibility for looking after the bus stops in their village. There is, for example, no-one whose job it is to ensure that the bus timetables on display at each stop are kept up-to-date. We have produced village-specific timetables that show how long you can have in either Chepstow or Monmouth and which buses you need to use to do this.
We think we’ve achieved a lot in a very short space of time. We have gained a lot of respect and support from influential quarters – our AM; the office of the Future Generations Commissioner and from the Commissioner herself; and our local county, town and community councillors. We are very grateful to all those of you who supported us during the campaign and since, for all that you did whether it was a signature on a petition, or a letter or email. The number of our followers on social media is growing, which reflects the value of having a Friends group and helps to give us the confidence to continue with what we’re doing. But the most important and influential thing you can do now to support us is to use the bus whenever you can. If we are to retain the bus service for the benefit of the whole community, importantly including those who depend on it as their only means of transport, then we want as many of us to use the bus as possible – to town for shopping or to meet friends, around the village, to make linear walks (with dogs) to go to the pub or Trellech Teas, for longer trips… and if you have a pass then it’s free!
For more up-to-date information please join our Facebook page.
Rosemary Corcoran & Jane Gilliard
Friends of the 65 Bus