Short for Call ANd GO, the Cango bus is not only a vital lifeline for local people who are unable to drive, but is also a service available to all local residents. The concept is that anyone who registers can phone a booking line and can then catch the bus at a convenient pre-arranged location close to (and sometimes even right outside) their home. The bus also stops at fixed (timed) points where anybody can board and disembark just as with any other bus.
Before we go any further, let us turn the clock back to 2003 when Cango was inaugurated. It was clearly meant to cover the problem whereby a fixed route serving rural locations was impractical and inoperable. By their very nature, rural villages fail to meet the norm for a modern fixed route bus service since there are no clearly definable routes that would take the bus close enough to all those who need it.
Added to this, the locations of those users changes over time. People move away and others begin to become more reliant on public transport. The route needs to be flexible enough to accommodate this.
The New Forest Cango bus services C32 and C33 operating between Lymington and New Milton are subsidised by Hampshire County Council. Standing for Call ANd GO, these buses run on a flexible route within what are called Roam Zones. They have fixed start and end points along with a few other stops termed Timed Stops.
The Roam Zones include all of Sway Parish, Tiptoe and Bashley, and the lower Buckland area of Lymington.
One of the most valuable benefits of Cango is that it can take you directly to Lymington New Forest Hospital. Appointments can usually be arranged to suit Cango times.
Anybody can travel on the Cango buses between Timed Stops but you need to register as a Cango User so as to be able to book your ride if you want to be picked up or dropped off at any other location. Registration and Booking line 01983 716956 is open 7am to 9am Mon-Fri. For full details refer to Cango Users Leaflet [261kb] which has been published by the Cango Users Forum. Click on the thumbnails below to view both sides of this leaflet.
The Hampshire County Council Cango Webpage also contains information but is not as easy to decipher. The Cango Users Forum chairman John Warden regularly presents his report to the Planning and Transport Committee in his role as Transport Representative.
The Cango booking service is funded through a partnership comprising New Milton Town Council, Sway Parish Council and Hordle Parish Council along with generous donations from the members budgets of Hampshire County Councillors Ken Thornber, Alan Rice and Jacqui England. Other Cango services in Andover and Alresford/Basingstoke areas no longer operate with a flexible booking system. They have become hail and ride services with fixed routes. We are extremely fortunate that our flexible booking service has been saved for the time being. This was wholly due to John Warden's tireless lobbying of Hampshire County Council in 2015.
The Cango service in its current form is relatively safe until 2018 when the bus franchise comes up for renewal. The booking service looks safe subject to annual extensions upon agreement of the partners until 4th May 2018 (see the deed of agreement appended to PC Meeting Minutes September 2015 [5Mb] for details). However, beyond that time the future of Cango is rather uncertain. In order to remain viable, there needs to be strong support from its users. John Warden regularly updates the Planning and Transport Committee with the latest usage figures, but quite often these are somewhat disappointing.
Remember it's a case of Use it or Lose it. Without your support this valuable service will not remain viable.
Life after Cango?
If the Cango bus and its booking service were to be lost, this could mean considerable hardship for those who depend upon it for their day-to-day transport for shopping, hospital appointments or just general travel and social interaction. In our rural communities, there are few other options. Sway Welfare Aid Group (SWAG) do provide a service to get people to hospital appointments, but are increasingly finding it difficult to find drivers. Losing Cango could mean many vulnerable people becoming more isolated resulting in more reliance on social services, or simply having to move away from the parish. This would be a great loss to the community.