- £2.8 million investment in 30 smart new Mercedes minibuses for town
- New buses will be the first to accept contactless payment in the south east
- Massive frequency boost to bus routes serving the hospital, town centre, Kennington and Park Farm
- New ‘turn-up-and-go’ service will be the only one of its kind in the UK
- ‘Peoples’ launch party on Saturday 11 February at the Designer Outlet from 12 noon (celebrity attendance)
- Buses hit the road from Sunday 12 February
A fleet of smart new Mercedes minibuses will hit the road in Ashford from Sunday 12 February. Stagecoach has announced the launch of the high-spec minibus service, branded ‘little & often’, which will provide buses every five or six minutes along routes serving the hospital, town centre/rail station, Kennington and Park Farm.
The bus company has also promised ultra-convenient payment options so that customers won’t need to carry cash to buy a ticket. The new service will accept contactless payments made with debit and credit cards, as well as Apple Pay and Android Pay.
The company will be hosting a ‘peoples’ launch party at the town’s Designer Outlet on Saturday 11 February from 12 noon. Celebrity guests will be attending to help promote the new bus service which will be the only one of its kind offered by a bus operator in the UK.
‘Little & often’ buses will run from about 6am to 11pm every day including Sundays and bank holidays. Three buses an hour on the existing route B from Park Farm will become ten buses per hour. Kennington and Willesborough will also benefit from the ‘little & often’ service with up to 12 buses an hour running to and from the hospital.
Stagecoach says that this massive boost in frequency will offer greater convenience for people who won’t need to worry about planning their travel in advance.
Philip Norwell, Stagecoach South East managing director said “We're always looking for better ways to help people get around town. That's why, working with Kent County Council and Ashford Borough Council, we're introducing little & often – a new turn-up-and-go bus service.” He added, “What people want is convenience, and that’s what little & often is all about; quick and reliable bus travel from where you are to where you need to be - when you need it.”
Stagecoach say that they’ve invested £2.8 million in the 30 Mercedes ‘Sprinter’ vehicles which come with faux leather seats and ‘Euro 6’ specification low-noise engines - representing the very latest in clean engine technology. It’s hoped that the new service will ease traffic congestion in the town by attracting more people to use the bus as an alternative to driving the car.
Speaking about the new service, Cllr Gerry Clarkson, Leader of Ashford Borough Council said “We know that frequent and well connected bus services help keep car use down. This new venture underlines the commitment we have as part of the town's growth strategy to work in partnership with Stagecoach. Faster and more reliable bus journeys, fewer cars, and less pollution is better for everyone in and around our town.” He added “Ashford Borough Council therefore welcome this positive investment in Ashford’s transport network which is also the sign of another successful business investing in the borough.”
At the same time as the new buses hit the road there’ll be a shake-up of the bus routes and timetables in the town. Bus times on routes A and G will be adjusted and route E will be extended to serve the William Harvey Hospital. Routes B and C will become ‘little & often’ with a super-high frequency service. Kennington will be served by route B. More information is available here.