Trial of Demand Responsive Transport in Epping Forest

Back in August, we brought your attention to an innovative new way of operating bus services in Sevenoaks, Demand Responsive Transport (DRT). We will shortly have our own version in Epping Forest for a 3 month trial period, commencing 2 January 2021.

The service is being operated by Epping Forest Community Transport (EFCT), a local charity dedicated to meeting the needs of local people unable to use conventional public transport. It is great to see Epping Forest District Council using its transport subsidies to support a priceless community asset such as EFCT during these difficult times. The ‘DaRT87’ bus (DaRT means Dial-a-Ride Transport, a type of DRT) replaces the Arriva operated number 87 bus which will cease on 30 December. The two routes will be very similar.

But EFTAG does have some reservations about the format and timing of the trial. Our view is that present circumstances do not allow for a fair test of the viability of DRT and that must be borne in mind by those observing this trial. You can find out more about how it works on the Epping Forest District Council website; it’s quite different to the Sevenoaks system.

EFTAG would like to see Epping Forest trial DRT in a way which does not require complex pre-registration and where bookings can be made with a lead time measured in minutes, not days. We appreciate however that, with social distancing requirements and an official stay at home message, now is not the time to run such a trial. What is important at the moment is that our community and its assets remain intact, and this trial with EFCT is an appropriate compromise to that end.

Update 27/01/2021: The trial seems to be fairly successful within the limits that the ongoing pandemic sets. There is unused capacity on the buses and that has meant that passengers waiting for the old 87 have been able to be picked up without pre-booking (this is subject to space within strict capacity limits for social distancing). EFTAG is advised that those who would like to use the bus but haven’t registered or booked 3 days in advance should call Epping Forest Community Transport on 01992 579556, EFCT has been able to accommodate people this way.

5 thoughts on “Trial of Demand Responsive Transport in Epping Forest”

  1. I don’t know about ” appropriate compromise”!

    How can they possibly consider it a proper trial under current restrictions!

    I totally agree that there shouldn’t be complex-preregistation and booking so far in advance, I also object to being unable to use my bus pass, but would have to pay.

    This seems to be aimed at regular commuters, all well and good, but what about those of us who simply need to get on a bus in Epping, run by Arriva etc as an hourly service and go to Theydon Bois as one could on impulse and not have to wait a further hour and a quarter for the 418 bus, excellent though it is, but not practical in such cold weather with nowhere indoors to wait…

  2. Agreed Danielle – well said! It’s very hard thinking about how to develop bus services at this time when we’re being asked not to travel.

    (P.S. If you’d like to contact EFCT direct with your concerns you can on 01992 579556 or efct@efcommunitytransport.org.uk – they do like hearing from people. Cheers again.)

  3. This trial took place partially as a stopgap for the poorly communicated cessation on 31/12 of the Arriva 87 which ECC felt unable to continue to subsidise. NHS staff at PAH and St Margarets and other key workers needing local and tube station links still had to travel through the height of lockdown. A three month or longer gap in direct bus services between Loughton/Epping/Epping Green and SW Harlow would have eroded confidence/awareness and made reactivating bus usage much harder post lockdown.

    The DRT approach is still novel and had to start on a ‘section 19’ basis which requires registration/membership, which is not onerous. That approach has benefits too in terms of EFCT being able to text or call passengers in the event of service delays or cancellations. Fully cashless operation and trial of a passenger booking app and GPS vehicle location (but also telephone booking) make this more advanced than many bus services in Essex.

    Please continue to support this important trial.

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