A shopper hopper bus which cost Watford Borough Council £17.36 per ride was not necessarily a “waste of money”, a councillor has claimed.

Transport multinational Arriva axed its ArrivaClick dial-a-ride-style service at the end of 2023.

The service cost the borough council around £1.5 million to run and served 88,344 passengers since it started in summer 2020.

At a council meeting on Tuesday, January 30, leader of the opposition councillor Nigel Bell (Lab, Holywell) asked Watford mayor Peter Taylor what his message was to taxpayers about where their money went, given the "failed scheme" was "one of his flagship policies".

The Liberal Democrat mayor said: “I think it’s important that when you stand on a manifesto and say you’re going to do something, you do it.

“I make no apologies for bringing forward a service.

“The numbers of people using it had increased over the course of the contract. I wish it were more and I wish Arriva hadn’t made the decision to finish that bus service.

“Ultimately, they are a private company who can make that decision."

He said being reliant on private companies for bus services is a “fundamental problem” in Hertfordshire, and suggested a franchise model such as the one in London would be better.

“That’s what I’d like to see in Hertfordshire, so we can have more control over bus services so they are affordable, better quality, more reliable services,” he added.

In early 2023, Hertfordshire County Council chiefs rejected calls for a franchise model and warned the authority would need to spend “a lot of money” to roll out franchising.

Cllr Marilyn Devonish (LD, Central) said at the meeting: “I do know there are people who are in this room who have made good use of the service.

“Whether or not it was a complete ‘waste’ – I’m not quite sure that’s the way I would phrase it.

“It’s unfortunate that it didn’t work and that for whatever reason there wasn’t a take-up, but I would say with the people that I’ve spoken to who did make use of it, they wouldn’t consider it a waste.”

Before the ArrivaClick service ended, a company spokesperson said: “Arriva invested in ArrivaClick, a joint venture with Watford Borough Council, as a way of developing an additional public transport choice in the area.

“It has attracted passengers, but sadly, not at the level needed to ensure it can be cost-effective for us as a business.”

ArrivaClick services still operate in Ebbsfleet, near Dartford in Kent, and Liverpool, where passengers can use an app to book their journey.

Watford Borough Council has supported a new shopper bus, which began at the start of 2024.

Passengers pay a “nominal” yearly fee of £10 for access to the service, which only operates on

Mondays and Tuesdays, with fares at £3 each way or £1 each way for accompanying carers.
Sign-up details are on the Communities 1st charity website: https://www.communities1st.org.uk/watford-shopper