Published: 06:00, 21 July 2021
Most of the Island's buses have changed colour after Sittingbourne firm Chalkwell took over the bulk of services last Monday.
Instead of a fleet of light blue Arriva buses, Sheppey is now served mainly by red Chalkwell vehicles - although sometimes they can be seen side by side at the Tesco supermarket in Sheerness where Arriva still operates a Maidstone and Sittingbourne service.
Now even more red buses are expected when Chalkwell introduces a free Island Hoppa pilot from Swale council to give everyone the opportunity to make the most of what’s on their doorstep this summer.
The round-the-Island service is costing £26,000 and starts next Tuesday (market day). The Hoppa will also run on Thursdays and Saturdays from 9am to 5.30pm until September 4. An evening bus service will connect Leysdown to Sheerness from 6.30pm to 11pm every Friday and Saturday night.
Cllr Monique Bonney, Swale's cabinet member for economy and property, said: “We’ve committed £26,000 from the government’s welcome back fund to help boost the local economy around the Island with The Island Hoppa bus.
“Locals and visitors will be able to hop-on and hop-off the bus free of charge as they visit nearby restaurants, museums, beaches, holiday parks, the harbour, theatre, shopping centre and heritage centre.
“Chalkwell will be running the service, and if it goes well, we can look at funding it every summer."
She added: "It’s important to us that we support local tourism on the Island. Nationwide restrictions are starting to ease and we expect to have high numbers of visitors heading to Sheppey for a holiday with the current international travel restrictions still in place.
“Local businesses, holiday parks, shops and restaurants need a boost after surviving two lockdowns. We hope the Hoppa bus service will deliver the much-needed custom they need this summer.”
However, not all are happy with the new route. Peter West who manages the Eastchurch Aviation Museum, asked: "Just what does the museum have to do to get some recognition?
"The new Swale/Chalkwell Hoppa bus service running around the Island from July 27 doesn't come near our location although there is a bus stop at the junction of Wrights Way and Brabazon Road.
"We applaud the introduction of the service, designed to promote tourism, but how did we get missed off the itinerary?"
It's round trip starts and stops by Nutts Farm Holiday Park, Leysdown, and will take in the former Merlins entertainments complex, Warden Bay, Eastchurch, Shurland Dale holiday park, Bell Farm Lane, Back Lane Minster, The Broadway shops, Abbey Hotel, White House, Barton;s Point Coastal Park, Ship on Shore pub, Invicta Road, Holy Trinity Church (for Sheppey Leisure Centre), Aldi, Sheerness railway station, Criterion Theatre Blue Town, Queenborough and Neats Court Morrisons before returning along the same route.
The Hoppa bus timetable will be available shortly at www.swale.gov.uk/island-hoppa.
* Arriva still operates the 341 service between Sheerness and Sittingbourne and the 334 service between Sheerness and Maidstone calling at Marine Parade, The Broadway Minster, Barton Hill Drive, Halfway, Queenborough Corner and Neats Court retail park.