The (possibly temporary) collapse of East Cambs Connect

A few days ago, users of the East Cambs Connect minibus service were told of immediate and significant reductions to the previous arrangements.

  • Instead of operating 7:00AM to 7:00PM Monday to Friday, hours are reduced to 9:30AM to 4:00PM.
  • Instead of serving multiple destinations across East Cambridgeshire, journeys will only be booked to Ely and back.
  • Bookings are now being managed by ESACT instead of by the county council.
  • All passengers will have to be dial-a-ride members (criteria here). If you wish to join ESACT and use their Dial-a-Ride service you will need to call 01353 661161 and request a Membership Application Pack.

The background to the changes is complex. A long-running investigation into community transport in Cambridgeshire (including ESACT) resulted in a number of contracts, East Cambs Connect among them, being re-tendered. No bids meeting the criteria were received for the full East Cambs Connect service. Limited alternatives have therefore been put in place for part of the service.

Mayor Palmer’s Combined Authority, not the county council, is now responsible for bus subsidies. The Combined Authority agreed to put in some additional funding for six months to slightly improve the new limited offer, but this was decided very late, with the result that users were given very little notice of the changes.

The booking line has transferred to ESACT, but the old booking line will remain open for two weeks during the handover period.

Specific dedicated transport has been put in place for people travelling to day centres. In the south of the district, the dial-a-ride service continues to be provided by the Voluntary Network from Newmarket.

The new arrangements will be trialled for six months, and usage monitored before the service is re-tendered towards the end of the year.  It is hard to see what will change between now and then to trigger an improvement in services for East Cambridgeshire residents.

  • If you were previously a user of East Cambs Connect, and need to use the new more limited service, has your application to join ESACT been refused? If so, I would like to hear from you: please get in touch with me at lorna@lornadupre.org.uk

7 thoughts on “The (possibly temporary) collapse of East Cambs Connect

  1. John Oakes says:

    Surely this is the very opposite of what should be happening? Is this a calculated running-down by Mayor Palmer of a much-needed bus service in such a way that applicants will fall to the point where it seems inevitable that the service will be closed altogether, due to “lack of demand”?

  2. Stuart Birt says:

    I suspect this is because there is no profit, or very little, to be made from such a service. I understand that investigations are underway and have been for a while, but the people who use such a service, usually, have very limited options available.
    The same could be said for cutting the unprofitable rural bus services! This is not, as is put about due to lack of use (in my opinion) but because the vast majority of those that use it are either retired, so get free travel or young & in education so get reduced or free fares.
    Those of an age to pay for the service are usually in work so therefore, due to the rural nature of the area, drive to work, shops etc.

    • Lorna Dupre says:

      There was absolutely no profit in the East Cambs Connect service, only a need for public subsidy to keep it going. And that was with senior citizens paying half fare rather than getting free travel with their bus pass.

      • Elaine Philcox says:

        My mum lives in Pymoor which has No bus service at all. This dial a ride is a lifeline for her independence. She would happily pay a bit more for this fantastic service. She might as well give her bus pass up because it’s no good to her.

        • Lorna Dupre says:

          The bus pass is worth a lot more in some places than others, isn’t it? Where would she want to go in addition to Ely (which she still can if she’s a dial-a-ride member)?

          • Elaine Philcox says:

            Perhaps Cambridge or the days out to different places. Just to have the choice is good.

  3. Jaq says:

    Mayor Palmer needs to get this sorted out 😡 it a disgrace that, in 2019, we can not provide a simple thing like community (RURAL) transport to those who need it!

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