The Harpenden Hopper community bus service : Route HH1
What is the Harpenden Hopper?
The Harpenden Hopper is a community run ‘Hail & Ride’ bus service that links the town centre with residential areas of Harpenden that are poorly served by other commercial bus companies.
Who operates the Harpenden Hopper?
A charity (Reg Charity No. 1172748) called Harpenden Connect has been set up by a group of community-minded local people, with the backing of Harpenden Town Council. The Trustees of Harpenden Connect run the business, and the buses are driven by fully trained and qualified drivers. Everyone involved in providing the Hopper service is a volunteer.
How is it funded?
The running costs are met by grants, donations, commercial sponsorships, fares collected from passengers and community hire charges, with the backing of Harpenden Town Council.
Why has the Harpenden Hopper been set up?
Harpenden Connect’s primary motivation is to provide an economical public transport service to those areas of Harpenden that aren’t well served by public transport. As a result of this ambition, we aim to reduce loneliness and isolation by providing a friendly service that enables people to get out and about. Additionally, we aim to provide an environmentally sensitive alternative to car usage for the wider community, helping to reduce air pollution, traffic congestion and the ever-increasing demand for limited parking space in the areas we serve.
When does it run?
Our trained volunteer drivers provide a service that runs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday every week, other than on public holidays. On each day, we run two services in the morning and two in the afternoon. The timetable is designed to provide short journey times and to give passengers useful amounts of time at their destinations – primarily the High Street and Southdown village centre. The first service into town leaves Kinsbourne Green at about 09:30 and the final return trip from Church Green leaves at about 16:30. The first Southdown service leaves the town centre at around 10:00, and the last one returns at 16:00. For precise details of timings click the Timetable tab on the website, and to see where we run, see the Map tab. It’s all a continuously operated route with a slightly extended break over the lunch time period.
Where can I obtain a timetable?
Timetable leaflets showing all the information are available from the Town Hall, Park Hall, and Library, as well as some cafes and shops. Official bus-stops on the route display a timetable. Drivers will always be able to give you a leaflet on the bus, tell you how to get to where you want to go, and point out any returning services. 8000 households near the route received a leaflet around the time of the service launch in April 2019. If you’re near the route haven’t got yours, ask a neighbour or get a new one – you never know when you’ll need us!
What are the buses like?
We operate the Hopper Service with two brand new (in April 2019) 16 passenger Peugeot minibuses that have been specially adapted for ‘bus route’ operation. They are quiet, comfortable and spacious and are fitted with age-adjustable seatbelts, so we can accommodate school-age children without using booster seats. The driver-operated sliding door opens wide once the bus stops, and an automatic step (with a brightly lit leading edge) extends to assist passengers on and off from road or pavement level. There are high-visibility grab poles, and once on board, passengers find only one shallow, illuminated step before reaching the entirely flat high-grip floor. You’ll easily spot the Hopper by the bright green front displaying our ‘hopping frog’ logo. For the environmentally conscious, the fuel-efficient buses conform to Euro 6 emission standards – the most stringent regulations of their type currently in use. Drivers are trained in ‘Safety and Economy’ techniques.
Who can use the Hopper?
The service is there for everyone. We charge a single journey flat fare of £2.00 per adult, £1.00 for children under 16 years, and babies travel for free. (As do well behaved small dogs at the driver’s discretion!) This fare covers a single journey from boarding to alighting. We are happy to accept all concessionary tickets – including pensioners’ bus passes. Tickets are issued as cash receipts, but concessions are simply recorded for processing.
Are the buses accessible to disabled people?
The buses we use have a wide opening side door with an illuminated step and high visibility grab poles. Our buses are fitted with a manually extendable wheelchair access ramp but a number of factors prevent its use on the timetabled, Hail and Ride Hopper service. Four seats have to be removed and stored, and the boarding process – setting up the ramp, boarding and securing the wheelchair and installing the passenger seatbelt takes around 10-15 minutes. We train our drivers to the nationally recognised MiDAS standard – the ‘Best Practice’ accreditation for minibus operators – and offering wheelchair access would require all of our drivers, and a similar number of mandatory Assistants, to gain additional MiDAS qualifications. The service depends on almost 20 volunteer drivers and we cannot attract a similar number of Assistants. However, we make the buses and our drivers available to other local organisations such as the Town Council and local charities who need transport to organise community activities. We have our own MiDAS trainer who works with these organisations to assess their needs and ensure safe operation of the equipment. Our Hopper drivers are trained to be sensitive to the needs of passengers and are always happy to assist boarding and alighting, especially for those with shopping or small children.
Do you keep to published times?
Traffic and other factors like building material deliveries along the route sometimes cause delays but as far as possible, we try to keep to the published timetable. As we offer a Hail and Ride service, we never know where or for how long we’ll have to stop when picking up or dropping off passengers so timings can drift a little. We always try not to get too far ahead of the timetable but sometimes it’s not safe or courteous to other drivers for us to travel very slowly, so we may get a little ahead of ourselves. For this reason, it’s best to be in place and looking out for the Hopper at least a couple of minutes before its scheduled arrival time. If we’re early picking you up, at least you’ll have somewhere comfortable to sit while we get back on time! We have two modern, reliable buses and will always use a backup if necessary to run the service. Only extremely bad weather (dense fog, snow, ice) may get in the way of operation as our drivers have to use their own discretion to maintain safety. If your journey is critically important and you want reassurance, call our contact number to confirm that the service is operating.
Can I join the Hopper team?
If you are someone (or if you know someone) who enjoys driving and meeting people, we’ll always be delighted to hear from you. Our drivers work between one and around 6 half-day ‘shifts’ each month and know when they’ll be working about two months in advance. We provide full training in both driving skills and service operation and as a trainee, you’ll be ‘buddied’ with an experienced driver until you’re comfortable taking the Hopper out on your own. The buses can be driven by anyone between 25 and 79 who has a standard ‘B’ driving licence for manual gearbox cars. You will need to undertake an informal driving assessment in your own vehicle before being accepted as a MiDAS trainee, but this is a short practical exercise covering the route so you can see where we go and we can see how you cope. (To comply with the law, over-70s need to take a D4 Medical Examination when they renew their licence or when applying for the necessary endorsement. Get in touch to discuss if this applies.) A polo-shirt and fleece ‘uniform’ is also provided to drivers. And if you don’t want to drive but want to give some time to the community, still get in touch as we’re always looking for energetic supporters who can help with marketing, fund-raising and public relations as well as potential candidates for Access Assistant training when we develop the service further for wheelchair access.
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