TAUNTON'S former bus station will re-enter service next year as Somerset Council delivers the town’s new “mobility hub” – at a cost of around £2.7m.

The bus station on Tower Street closed on March 27, 2020 after 67 years of operation, with Buses of Somerset claiming it was no longer economically viable to maintain the building.

Somerset County Council put together a bus service improvements plan (BSIP) following a request from the Department for Transport (DfT) under the government’s ‘bus back better’ initiative in late-2021, being awarded nearly £12m for various improvements in April 2022.

Somerset Council (which replaced the county council in April 2023) has now confirmed the bus station site will be brought back into use using some of the remaining BSIP funding, and would reopen some time in 2025.

The bus station site was acquired by Somerset West and Taunton Council shortly after its closure, with the council originally intending to turn the site into a temporary car park until a more permanent scheme could be approved and funding secured.

The car park plans ultimately never materialised, with then-district councillor Ian Aldridge suggesting in February 2022 that the existing building should be turned into “thriving fast food outlet”.

NHS Somerset used the bus station as a vaccination centre during the coronavirus pandemic, relocating its temporary vaccination centre from within the Firepool site in March 2022.

Rosa Kell, from the Wells Bus User Group, pressed for an update when the full council convened in Bridgwater on Wednesday afternoon (May 22).

She said: “The bus-travelling public of Taunton are being inconvenienced on a daily basis by the closure of the bus station at Castle Way.

“We are unable to understand how this site can be used for a vintage bus experience when passengers can safely board buses but this site is not available for daily bus travel.

“I therefore would like to ask the council if it can advise us bus passengers of their target date by which the Taunton mobility hub should be open?

“Can we have confirmation that it will have a waiting room, refreshment area and toilets?

“Has the DfT set any deadline by which the Taunton mobility hub must be open?

“Is there any risk that further delay could result in the DfT funding for the Taunton mobility hub being withdrawn?

“We have asked other committees for updates and to date no satisfactory response has been received.”

Within the updated BSIP for 2024/25, a total of £2,715,050 of capital funding from the DfT has been allocated to deliver a “Taunton urban hub” for bus services.

Councillor Richard Wilkins, portfolio holder for transport and digital, said there was little to no risk of this funding being withdrawn by the government.

He said: “The bus station was originally closed due to a commercial decision by the operator ceasing to use the site.

“It was then bought by the former district council and we are now seeking to improve the site as a mobility hub. It was not closed due to safety issues.

“We would like to change the layout of the scheme to minimise reversing manoeuvres and improve pedestrian movement. It is considered safe for heritage buses to pick up from the site.

“The scheme is in the development phase. The details are still emerging as we work through the process.

“The work is due to be completed in 2025 and is subject to planning permission. The opening date will be shared when the information is known.

“The DfT has not set a deadline regarding the delivery of the mobility hub, and we are updating them regularly.”

The DfT funding comprises two different aspects: capital funding for new infrastructure (such as the £4.7m allocated for new bus lanes and other improvements in Taunton town centre) and revenue spending on existing services (such as the £1 Taunton fare zone or subsiding the cost of the town’s park and ride).

The council’s updated BSIP for 2024/25 was published ahead of a meeting of its planning and transport policy sub-committee on Thursday (May 23), outlining priorities ahead of its formal submission to the DfT for final approval.

The plan stated that the new facility will “incorporate a multi-bay bus interchange and will bring inter-city coach services into one place at coach stops adjacent to the mobility hub.

“The mobility hub will include elements such as bus EV charging points, waiting spaces for public transport customers, bike storage and repair facilities, e-scooter facilities, other concessions as required following user consultation, travel information (including access points to Somerset’s Think Travel Portal), real-time passenger information, and taxi/ private car drop-off facilities.

“The local bus network will be redefined to see all local and intra-urban services operate through the mobility hub, providing direct links from the hub to Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton railway station, local enterprise zones and business parks, and the Taunton park and ride sites.

“The scheme is entering the detailed design and planning phase and delivery proposed for 2025.”