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.