Senior Hereford figures have defended the city's Zipper bus service following criticism of it from locals.

Coun Cat Hornsey, Hereford City Council’s representative on the Stronger Hereford board, said: “We know that quite a lot of people are getting on them at the station and from the south side and taking them into town, and to the hospital, which is saving on a car or taxi trip.”

On the model of buses chosen, the Chinese-made Yutong E9, for which sourcing spares has proved problematic, she said: “We wanted top-of-the-range models that we wouldn’t have to replace in three years. They have a battery life of 300km. The first three in the country were in Leicester but we have the next three.”


She added: “People elsewhere are talking about them, they are putting Hereford on the map. Bus enthusiasts have travelled here from Birmingham, Cardiff and East Sussex.”

Stronger Hereford is the umbrella body for 15 government-backed improvement projects worth £22.5 million around the city, of which the Zipper service, worth £2.4 million, is one.

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Former city mayor Coun Paul Stevens, chair of the city's policy and resources committee and a keen advocate of the service, explained: “Some people are moaning about the routes, but EU rules still in force prevent subsidised competition – so we can’t run them where there’s already a service, such as up Holmer Road or to the college.”

Asked about what will happen to the service when the initial contract ends after three years, Coun Hornsey said: “We want to keep it free. There are opportunities for advertising and for hiring them out in evenings and on Sundays, and other funding may become available.”

Figures from the city council show that 6,632 trips were taken in the first six weeks of the service, with the most common boarding point being Asda supermarket in Belmont Road, followed by the railway station.

Coun Hornsey added that this has now risen to 11,467, with the busiest day so far being last Saturday, January 27, when 402 passengers used the service.