Cllr Ernie Fox, front, and IslandLine's Steve Wade aboard the new bus to St Lawrence from Shanklin Railway Station. Picture by JENNIFER BURTON.
By Jon Moreno
A COMMUNITY partnership to establish a bus link between the Ventnor area and Shanklin railway station has had its efforts rewarded but warns the public needs to use the service to ensure it continues.
Representatives of the regeneration partnerships of Ventnor and Shanklin and Ventnor Railway Association (VRA), which has campaigned for the best part of a year to establish a dedicated bus service, saw their dream become reality with the launch of its WightBus service at Shanklin rail terminus on Monday.
All have contributed funds to help kick-start the service, together with IslandLine, the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) and the IW Council.
Cllr Brenda Lawson, on behalf of the Ventnor Regeneration Partnership, which contributed £40,000 towards the initiative, said: "This is all about interests working together — a true partnership.
"It has taken ten months to get through the red tape but it has been worth it.
"It is not just good for Ventnor. The link also gives St Lawrence its best bus service for years.
"October is a good time to launch it. If it works during the winter months, if enough people use it, the summer should take care of itself.
"But we need to make sure it is a sustainable service, so the message to people is simple: Use it."
Cllr Val Taylor, who chairs the VRA, joined Cllr Lawson in her keenness to stress the role played by the Ventnor community in getting the service established.
The bus provides 12 daily return journeys, except Sundays until March, starting from St Lawrence at 6.39am and ending with the 6.40pm service from Shanklin.
Uniquely, passengers can buy through tickets to any IslandLine station and Portsmouth Harbour and return bus tickets, which passengers cannot buy on Southern Vectis buses.
The service accepts the Islander and Youth Mover concession cards. It does not, however, accept Rover tickets.
The VRAs £2,000 contribution has paid for the branding of the single-deck bus.
Cllr Taylor said: "It's the next best thing to having our trains back.
"It goes to show what can be done when people work together for the good of the community."
John Tiedman, who chairs the Shanklin Regeneration Partnership which contributed £20,000 towards the service, said: "It's a two-way thing. Not only does it give people leaving the train at Shanklin the chance to continue through to Ventnor, it also provides a new, direct link into Shanklin and increases the possibilities available to people from Ventnor for visiting our town's amenities and attractions.
"We saw it as being of great benefit to the whole area."