Tuesday 1 May 2012

Bus Station Bludner : Not Big Enough

The Truth Emerges ...

Plans for the new bus station, which is due to be built in Northampton town centre, were met with an angry response when they were unveiled to the public way back in January.
Proposals to knock down the current Greyfriars building and replace it with a new bus station on the site of the Fishmarket in Sheep Street have been on the cards for a number of years.
This was what the local newspaper reported in January ...

Many bus users who stopped to look at the plans argued the new building would not be as good as the current, 36-year-old facility.

St James resident Lorraine Pannel echoed the sentiments of many bus users when she argued the current building just needed cleaning up. She said: “All they need to do with this building is give it a good clean and a lick of paint.
It’s well connected to the Grosvenor Shopping Centre and I don’t think the new building will be half as good. If it’s raining at the moment, you can get into the shops without getting wet. The new building will be all right in the summer, but not in the winter.”

Many other residents also expressed fears the Fishmarket site would not be big enough to accommodate the buses and passengers who currently use Greyfriars.

Sylvia O’Neill, from Parklands, said: “It’s an utter waste of money. We’ll be going back to the days of standing out in the cold and wet waiting for the buses. And the Fishmarket is too far out of town for people to walk.”
Rose Fisher, from Headlands, added: “Greyfriars is perfect for the shops. The building is not good, but if it was brightened up I think it would be much better than the one they’re proposing. I’m not impressed with the plans at all.”
Northampton's New Maths:-
13 bus stands @ 6 buses each hour
generate 102 buses an hour.
0 out of 10, try again!

As well as 0 out of 10 for Maths, the Council gets 0 out of 10 for local geography. The map above has Sheep Street and Silver Street transposed and thus in the wrong place.

Bus watching Northamptonians have repeatedly expressed the serious view that the new facility would be nowhere near big enough as a direct replacement for the already overcrowded Greyfriars. fbb himself, former resident of Northampton, expressed his modest opinion (?) that the only solution would be to disperse bus departure stands more widely (and thus less conveniently) around the town.

The six "open" stands in the Drapery (aerial view above, very top, behind the "yellow" buildings) were likely candidates for the frustrating fragmentation of facilities. 
Drapery, mid 60s!

"Not at all," said the 12 year old lad from the Council, "It will all work out splendidly."
But now, with the formal "launch" of the final product, the truth is out.
13 stands and 1 National Express at the bus station (Silver Street and Bradshaw Street; or it might be Sheep Street and Bradshaw Street; or Pall Mall and Park Lane : who knows?) mostly with departures every 10 minutes. The bracketed numbers are explanatory notes as follows:-
(1) Registered as "frequent" service, i.e. could well be more than 6 departures an hour
(2) Infrequent "works" service
(3) Frequencies quoted for Monday to Saturday daytime.

And where are the missing departures?
Yes, you've guessed it! Round the corner and down the road in the Drapery, including the prestigious Stagecoach "Gold" X4 to Milton Keynes. 
There once was a bus branded "gold"
That was luxury, glorious and bold.
It's comfort, you bet!
As you queue in the wet;
And you shiver outside in the cold!

Then there are some very critical "operational" questions. Where will the buses take their "layover"? Where will buses wait for their departure time if the previous bus is already on the stand? Where will the drivers go for their cup of tea and a read of the paper between spells of duty? fbb is absolutely sure that "the lad|" who take a break in the Drapery, and want a P and a T, will be only too pleased to walk back to the bus station in the cold and rain to cater for their "personal needs".

The Council "expert" proffers the view that buses will either use the two vacant stands (!) in the Drapery or trundle off to the depot at St James's. Whose depot? fbb is sure that First Bus will be only too pleased to have Stagecoach buses clogging up their depot!
It's not looking at all good, is it?

Thanks, as usual, to our Northampton correspondent for various pictures and quotes; eapecially those lovely Roe bodied Daimlers. Ah! Happy memories!
NEW Magicbus Rotherham to Wath
Started 30th April 2012
Online Timetable Update from Stagecoach
0900 Tuesday 1st May
see "Magic at Manvers" (read again)
 Next : Wednesday 2nd May 


  1. The maths on the bus movements may be right, as it looks as though a number of routes will have to circle right round the station. So although each stand may be handling only 6 departures, that could generate up to 12 movements along Silver/Sheep Street.

  2. Anonymous (above) : honestly, I can't think why. The bus station block surely operates as a simple roundabout. Why would a bus want to go round twice?Except for the fun of the ride?

  3. Alan (Northampton)1 May 2012 at 11:47

    The bus goes round twice (or more) because he can't get on to a stand and there is no provision for vehicles to layover in the design.

  4. Maybe the buses will have to go round many many times! Perhaps passengers will have to leap on, SAS style, as the vehicles go past. What fun!

  5. Well said FBB!

    There's an ideal spot with plenty of space for loading bays and layover parking - the Mounts car park opposite the police station, and it's right next to the existing bus station. It's also not beyond possibility to have a covered walkway from there into the Grovesnor Centre either (overground not underground that is!).

    How about St Peters way car park, even better for the railway station, easy walk into town (Gold street), and bloody perfect after a night out at the King Billy (assuming we have any late buses left)!

    Maybe I'm missing the bl**ding obvious?

    1. Alan (Northampton)3 May 2012 at 10:01

      Mounts and St.Peters Way are not so convenient for other traders not in the shopping centre which is a clone of all the others in the land. The consultants looked at The Mounts but decided the Fishmarket site which the council owned was best (happy coincidence). Unfortunately the council can't /won't buy out the other premises on the site which would give us a bus station with 20 plus stands.
      You would think a bus service which linked the railway station, bus station, general hospital and the largest industrial estate in the town couldn't fail. It can, and did, if Northants CC and First fail to do any marketing for it.

    2. Thanks for the reply Alan. Am going to play devils advocate...!

      For "not being convenient" I think that misses the point a bit. A bus station (aka interchange) doesn't itsself have to be dead centre, it's more about providing convenient loading and dropping points for customers throughout the central area of town.

      By using say St Peters Way there's no reason why you can't have a north-south through corridor via Far Cotton, St peters way, through the Drapery and onwards towards Kingsthorpe, passing not just the St Peters bus station but central loading points as well.

      For an east/west corridor route from the rail station, St Peters Way, Drapery, Mounts to Abington Square and onwards.

      This would then align (at least all local services) along a common section of route in the town centre making interchange possible at several points, giving customers a better choice, while serving as much of the trading community at the same time.

      Obviously non-local services will have to terminate somewhere, but if you have all north/south and east/west routes operating via the St Peters way interchange this would still offer easy connections.