Parish councils back call to save the Ely Zipper bus service as county council carries out transport review

The Zipper Bus,

The Zipper Bus, - Credit: Archant

News the Ely ‘Zipper’ bus could be under-threat because of county council cutbacks has prompted huge support for the popular service.

The Zipper Bus driver Robert Skinner with Councillor Bill Hunt.

The Zipper Bus driver Robert Skinner with Councillor Bill Hunt. - Credit: Archant

Several parish councils have requested a visit from Toby Parsons, transport policy and operational projects manager for Cambridgeshire County Council, to discuss the value of the service.

The move comes after Cambridgeshire County Councillor Bill Hunt, who represents Haddenham, sent an email to neighbouring parishes urging them to write in support of the service, which links Witcham, Haddenham, Wilburton, Stretham and Little Thetford with Ely.

He wrote: “The county council is reviewing its bus services and my passionate wish is to see the villages linked to Ely by an hourly service (as now). Please help me keep this service running.”

In response Mr Parsons emailed Cllr Hunt and said: “I’m more than happy to visit those parish councils. To confirm we’re still drawing up proposals together for Total Transport, and the feedback from the current surveys and engagement work will help to mould those.

“As things stand, though, I wouldn’t expect there to be any suggestion of withdrawing the Ely Zipper, or indeed of making fundamental changes to it.

“We’d like to discuss some options for minor changes, based not just on the need for efficiency but also reflecting some of the feedback received from passengers when we travelled on it.”

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He said one of the main focuses of Total Transport was on the council’s door-to-door minibus services, for example to day centres or Highfield School.

Councillor Charles Roberts, East Cambridgeshire District Councillor for Stretham and Councillor Kevin Hennessy, chairman of Wilburton Parish Council, both wrote to Mr Parsons.

Cllr Roberts said: “The Ely Zipper bus was conceived with extensive local knowledge and detailed consultation. It is unsurprising then that since it’s inception it has been tremendously well received in my Stretham Ward and beyond. Not only does the Zipper provide an essential service for the elderly, it also provides an affordable means for people from the villages to get to work in Ely and beyond.”

Kevin Hennessy, chairman of Wilburton Parish Council, said: “This service performs some important roles, for one it enables sixth form students from the villages to travel to Ely, or to the railway station to enable onward travel to Cambridge. The second important role it performs is to enable those without the use of a car to travel to Ely regularly. This includes many elderly citizens, who are not able to afford taxis, and are able to take advantage of free travel on buses.

“I would however welcome some consideration of the impact that the withdrawal of this service would have on local communities.”