More than 2,000 students across Mansfield, Ashfield and beyond are now travelling on local bus services thanks to a student travel scheme.
The scheme has been developed by Nottinghamshire County Council alongside West Nottinghamshire College, Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and local bus operators, Stagecoach East Midlands and trentbarton.
College students previously travelled on the college’s twice-daily contracted bus network, but the scheme’s introduction means that 16 old double-decker buses have been taken off the road.
They can now benefit from unlimited bus travel across most of Nottinghamshire and parts of Derbyshire, all day, seven-days-per-week, using a new travel pass.
The travel pass can be used on most Stagecoach East Midlands and trentbarton buses across the network, giving students the flexibility to use it for studying, working and socialising. Since the scheme’s launch in September, more than 250,000 trips have been made by students, with a significant number travelling at evenings and weekends.
West Notts College’s four main campuses on Derby Road and Chesterfield Road in Mansfield, the Construction Centre in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, the Engineering Innovation Centre in Sutton-in-Ashfield, and NTU’s Mansfield Hub located on the college’s Derby Road campus are now all connected by bus as part of an enhanced network which has been achieved by Stagecoach East Midlands and trentbarton adding a number of additional peak time journeys on high demand services in the area.
To help connect the campuses together, trentbarton has extended its Ripley to Sutton-in-Ashfield 90 service to operate through to Mansfield and this is being supported by Nottinghamshire County Council, West Notts College and Section 106 developer contributions from Oakham Business Park.
Councillor Neil Clarke MBE, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “This is a real positive for students who now have greater flexibility and choice when it comes to travelling to access education.
“As part of our Bus Service Improvement Plan strategy to increase passenger levels on Nottinghamshire bus services, we worked closely with West Notts College and NTU as well as local bus operators to develop this student travel scheme and it is really pleasing to hear about the positives this has created.
“Since the scheme’s launch in September, it is thought that around 1,000 students are no longer travelling to college by car which is great news for the environment.
“The phasing out of older vehicles from the college’s previously contracted fleet which had higher emissions is also good news and we remain committed to offering Nottinghamshire residents of all ages sustainable modes of transport.
“The new scheme also means that students can participate in college extra-curricular activities beyond the college day, knowing they can catch a public bus home, when previously they may have had to catch the college bus at a set time.
“We also know that the offer of the discounted travel pass has meant that students are able to use this in the evenings and on weekends to travel to part-time jobs and to see friends.
“I am also pleased that this scheme has injected in excess of £700,000 into the local bus network at a time when post-covid recovery has been challenging at times.
“It is all round good news for students and is a great example of the county council’s ongoing commitment to local bus services and making sure that our communities can access them.”
Andrew Cropley, Principal and Chief Executive at West Nottinghamshire College, said: “I’m delighted that our students are able to benefit from the greatly enhanced bus service now on offer to them and to other local residents, and that they can do so at very low cost and in a way that opens up so many other options for them.
“This partnership has reduced our carbon footprint dramatically and has secured the future of a number of routes, which are additional, important benefits.
“I’m very grateful to our partners at Notts County Council, Stagecoach and trentbarton for helping us launch this scheme and I look forward to exploring further enhancements going forward.”
Gavin Peake, Director of IT and Estates at West Nottinghamshire College, said: “We are really excited to be able to offer our students such a cost-effective and flexible travel pass.
“Our previous contracted bus service only ran once in the morning and once in the afternoon and now students can access buses at any time of the day and also at weekends.
“In addition to travelling to and from college, students use their pass to attend work placements, enrichment and sporting activities, and for social and leisure purposes, which is great for their confidence and independence.
“We are really pleased with this collaboration with trentbarton and Stagecoach and are thankful to Notts County Council for all their hard work in bringing this to fruition”.
Katie Stanford, Head of Operations for the Mansfield Hub at Nottingham Trent University, said: “The student travel scheme is a great example of education institutes and transport providers working together to make education more accessible and affordable for their students. The extended timetable and additional buses gives our students at NTU more options on when to travel – whether they choose to arrive at university earlier, or leave later in the day.”
Matt Cranwell, Managing Director at Stagecoach East Midlands, said: “Our partnership with West Notts College gives students travel flexibility at great value on the local Mansfield area bus network, helping to make the most of life on and off campus. Using the bus for commuting and leisure journeys reduces traffic congestion and improves air quality, and we know young people are very aware of the importance of looking after their local environment.”
Tom Morgan, Managing Director at trentbarton, said: “We’ve been delighted to work in partnership to deliver this scheme, which offers much greater flexibility for students travelling in the area.
“It’s fantastic to see the increase in usage of the local bus network, in which we have recently invested £4 million in brand new vehicles.”