A NEW community bus is being launched to give residents in isolated parts of Widnes improved access to shops and leisure facilities.

The Shoppa-Hoppa starts on Monday, February 17, and links West Bank and the Lowerhouse Lane estate to the town centre, library, swimming baths, ice rink and cinema.

It’s a ‘hail and ride’ service which means passengers just have to put out their hand along the route and the driver will stop.

Derek Hughes, aged 57, who runs Widnes Commercial Motors Limited in Halebank with his son, Paul, aged 25, will be operating the service.

The 16-seater bus has received a grant from Halton Council and has a ramp for wheelchairs.

Dad-of-two Mr Hughes, from Hough Green, said: “It is aimed at pensioners and mums with children at school to help them get out to do their shopping or visit the library and leisure facilities. It will circle the town centre shops and The Hive leisure park.

“Stewards Avenue is a heavily populated area that last had a bus service many years ago. History states the old Widnes Corporation once run buses there in the 1920’s.

“We’re hoping the service will prove popular and expand to half hourly in a couple of weeks.

“It will be a good community bus.”

To begin with , the hourly number 8 service will run from 9.30am to 2.30pm, Monday to Saturday, for a six month trial, with a fare of £1.50 for adults and 50p for children. Under fives and job seeker benefit claimants travel free. All passes are valid.