IT was Happy Birthday to the Free Town Bus!
The bus that runs around Huddersfield town centre at regular intervals, free of charge, is celebrating a year of success after being introduced initially only for a trial period of nine months.
And the service, launched by Metro and Kirklees Council on October 30 last year, grows in popularity each day.
The occasion was marked with a small birthday party at its St George’s Square bus stop with councillors Ryk Downes, chairman of Metro, and Martyn Bolt, Kirklees Cabinet member for Transportation and Green Services, giving away slices of cake to Free Town Bus passengers.
Clr Downes said: “Our research has shown that the service is particularly useful for people with mobility problems and parents with young children and that it has already encouraged an additional 22,000 shopping trips to Huddersfield centre.”
The three regular drivers, Melvyn Carter, Dave Fawcett and Richard Gee, were all happy to be part of the celebrations.
Mr Gee, 50, of Leeds Road, Deighton, said: “We take passengers that say they haven’t been able to get into town for years because of mobility problems. It is nice to know what a difference we make.”
Frequent users of the service were complimentary and stressed how much easier life is now they have the bus to rely on.
Wheelchair user, Malcolm Edward, 63, of Old Lane, Brighouse, said: “I have a very bad back and this bus makes it so easy for me to get right down to the market then back up to the bus station.
“The drivers are very friendly and help me get on and off the bus.”
An 83-year-old passenger, of Almondbury, said: “I think the service is great and couldn’t wish for anything better.
“It is the best thing to have come out of the council. My husband and I can come to town more often now and are able to carry heavy bags.”
The service has carried more than 250,000 passengers in the last year.
Bus station manager, Helen Schofield, 43, said: “All the drivers are trained in customer services, and it shows. I have received more verbal and written positive feedback for the FreeTownBus than any other service.”
Huddersfield Free Town Buses run every ten minutes calling at stops including the rail and bus station and the indoor and outdoor markets.
They run between 7.30am and 7pm Monday to Friday and 8.30am to 5.30pm on Saturdays.