Cheshire East Council is to restart its FlexiLink bus service on August 3rd, providing an alternative means of travel for Cheshire East residents who have either a disability, are aged 80 or over, or who live beyond the reach of any other public transport.
There will be new safety measures and restrictions, however, to ensure the risks of spreading Covid-19 are minimised.
The services have been suspended since March 23rd to protect and safeguard users, many of whom are in high-risk categories due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prior to their being suspended, there was a marked reduction in the use of these services as people responded to government guidance to stay at home and adopt social distancing measures
Councillor Craig Browne, deputy leader of Cheshire East Council, said: "This is really good news and I am delighted the council can now look to restart these important services for our older and more vulnerable residents.
"The suspension of FlexiLink, and our Shopmobility service in Crewe, was a necessary action to protect staff and service users, who are almost exclusively elderly and/or vulnerable, during the peak period of the virus. That phase has now passed, thankfully, and changed government guidelines – and the reopening of non-essential shops – now allow more scope for flexible transport and 'accessibility providers' to gradually reintroduce services.
"By restarting our FlexiLink and Shopmobility services, we can begin to reduce the loss of independence for some elderly/vulnerable residents with only those classed as extremely vulnerable expected to remain 'shielding' and advised not to travel, when not essential."
There will be some changes to the services due to the impact of Covid-19, including:
● Reduction in the number of passengers on FlexiLink vehicles, to ensure social distancing;
● Reduction in journey numbers, to allow for additional cleaning;
● Mandatory wearing of face coverings, unless medically exempt; and
● A new booking process for Shopmobility customers and additional cleaning measures.
The Council says FlexiLink will be kept under review and usage carefully planned and monitored to ensure safety measures are robust and remain in place, subject to changes in government guidance.
The fare is £3 per journey if you do not have a bus pass. All journeys must be pre-booked so that routes can be planned efficiently and depending on demand, there may be a need to prioritise journeys by purpose.
FlexiLink services will continue to run between 9.30am and 2.30pm. To book a journey, call 0300 123 5110 between 9.30am and 12.30pm, Monday to Friday. Customers registered to use FlexiLink can request a booking by calling between 24 hours ahead and one month in advance of when they wish to travel. This is the same service as provided prior to lockdown.