An ambitious campaign to get a bus route in place from Ross-on-Wye to Ledbury via Newent is gaining traction.

The community group Buses4Us is fighting back against the closure of local bus routes by spearheading their own; however, they have to raise £250,000 for its first year of use to prove that it’s viable.

The campaign kicked off following the closure of routes from Ross to Newent and Newent to Ledbury. From that devastating turn of events community group, Buses4Us, was formed.

Cash raised will pay for six journeys per day each way, all-throughout the year. Commercial operators are not interested in developing the route so it falls to the community to fend for themselves.

The group have put together a funding portfolio. Herefordshire and Gloucestershire councils have said they’ll be able to make an contribution to the cause; on top of that applications for grant funding have been sent off, including a £50,000 request to the national lottery.

The group are now at the stage where they’re lobbying the three town councils of Ross-on-Wye, Ledbury, and Newent. The group are asking for a pledge equivalent to £3 per voter, equalling £26,000 from Ross, £15,000 from Newent, and £24,000 from Ledbury. As it’s a pledge, the councils are only expected to donate the cash if the overall campaign is successful. Whilst Ross Town Council are yet to vote on it, Newent council voted unanimously in support. Ledbury council are more hesitant to lend theirs, but it’s not completely ruled out yet.

The group were pleasantly surprised when the Forest of Dean District Council got in touch to put in £1,000. Other community groups have made contributions and Buses4Us are planning on lobbying local businesses for sponsorships. Another £1,000 was donated by an unnamed Herefordshire group and Buses4Us are talking with Herefordshire Bid in a few weeks time.

A survey commissioned by Gloucestershire County Council revealed that the closure of bus routes had left a number of villages were isolated with no buses and a lack of facilities within the villages themselves. A devastating realisation that came out of the consultation was that the routes, which were relied upon for over 70 years with trains being used before that, were severed, severely changing the community’s way of life.

Clare Stone from Buses4Us told the Gazette of how the public transport infrastructure fell into a state of disrepair as a result of bus routes not being advertised and promoted properly. Additionally, the Covid-19 pandemic was the final nail in the coffin for not just these bus routes, but several others up and down the country.

She said that with private transport being one of the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions, a good public transport service is key to fighting it, “IF there is public transport.” The group has been working with Gloucestershire County Council’s transport department to develop an outline for a route which hopes to work. The new route is a slight departure from the ones they’ve lost, as a direct bus route from Ross to Ledbury via Newent hasn’t existed for a long time. Clare Stone said that a direct route from Ross to Ledbury currently takes over two hours and involves a train from Hereford. The proposed bus route will be able to take people from Ross to Ledbury in under an hour; it will also give people the opportunity to change at Newent for a journey to Gloucester. Currently, getting from Ledbury to Gloucester is incredibly difficult, and given that there are a good number of Ledbury students who study at Gloucester, as well as many people who work in the city, the bus route hopes to give them an easier time.