Friday, 11 March 2016

Surrey With The Fringe Cut Off (2)

fbb has tried to convey the essence of the document (below). It isn't easy to follow, but stick with it and you may be able to share something of the frustrations of the bus-riding public of Surrey.
Surrey County Council has published a consultancy document listing a somewhat mixed bag of definite proposals intertwined with more woolly "options". But a trend emerges.

There is an on-going threat to Saturday services and a reduction in frequency Monday to Friday, Another trend is the removal pf peak hour journeys, just leaving "shopping" trips in the middle of the day.
Guildford - Shalford - Bramley - Birtley - Grafham - Palmers Cross - Nanhurst - Elmbridge Village - Cranleigh
Proposed changes:
Revise the timetable with journeys at these approximate times:
Mondays to Fridays:
Guildford to Cranleigh at 0800, 1000, 1200, 1400, 1630 and 1800
Cranleigh to Guildford at 0810, 1010, 1240, 1440 and 1640

That is a mega-chop from an hourly service six days a week. Likwise "proposals" for the 23/25.
Guildford - Charlotteville - Warren Road - Boxgrove Park - Merrow (Great Goodwin Drive)
Guildford - Shalford - Bramley - Birtley - Grafham - Palmers Cross - Nanhurst - Elmbridge Village - Cranleigh

Here the "chop" is to merge the 23 and 25, reduce its frequency and cut out all Saturday service. Of course "main road" links will remain, but service to the fringes will all but disappear. The 23 is (sort of) Guildford suburban, but posh suburban. The 25 is rural but passengers will face longer and thus less attractive journeys. To what extent will this reduce usage still further?

As David Beaman asked (see yesterdays blog), will the cuts actually save any money at all when the social care consequences are added back into the equation. Of course they will never be added back; there is simply no "joined-up" thinking.

The next chunk of the Surrey Council "consultation" is less than clear.

The following Stagecoach services are also being reviewed. As some are operated on a mainly commercial basis, Surrey County Council has limited opportunity to influence the final decision but comments are invited using the enclosed feedback from.

There then follows a huge list of changes to (presumably) commercial services. These are tough to unravel and fbb would not claim sufficient knowledge to explain in a cogent manner. We will take a look at one of these proposals in a moment.

Four "fringe" services are proposed for a drastic chop or total withdrawal.

Hambledon - Hydestile - Milford (Manor Fields and Chapel Lane) - Godalming - Guildford and Shalford - Chilworth - Blackheath - Wonersh - Bramley - Farncombe - Godalming (Monday, Wednesday and Friday)
Reduced to two days a week between Shalford and Godalming, the rest withdrawn.

Milford Old Hospital - Busbridge - Brighton Road - Godalming - Guildford (Tuesdays and Thursdays
Worplesdon Road - Grange Park - Stoughton - Bellfields - Slyfield Green - Jacobs Well - Burpham Sainsbury’s Store (Tuesdays and Thursdays)

Withdrawn completely.

Aldershot - Tongham - Poyle Road - Ash Green - Ash - Wyke - Christmas Pie - Fairlands - Guildford (and also to Woking on Wednesdays)

This also is withdrawn completely. fbb tried to find out exactly where the 520 went, but a click on the service number on the new Stagecoach super-exciting (yawn) web site produced ...

... the frequent "Kite" main road route between Aldershot and Guildford. fbb does not think the Kits are being grounded!

In his letter to the Surrey Advertiser, local campaigner David Beaman wrote about Stagecoach route 46.

Aldershot - Badshot Lea - Farnham - Elstead - Cock Hill - Elstead - Shackleford - Hurtmore - Charterhouse - Godalming - Farncombe - Binscombe - Compton - Sunnydown - Guildford
It does a bit of everything!

Mr Beaman starts by referring to route 72 (seen bottom right on the map above).
The 72 is, effectively, a Godalming local service.

Stagecoach propose to replace this with another wiggle on the 46 in the Godalming area. To compensate (fbb presumes) several existing wiggles on the 46 will be withdrawn.
This decision is not directly related to Surrey Cuts.

Shackleford, Hurtmore, Charterhouse, Compton and Sunnydown would no longer be served. This would be due to current low usage of these services.

It is a commercial re-organisation of non-subsideised services by Stagecoach. In happier times, however, SCC would step in a provide some serves to the cut-off communities.

But not any more.

Repoeatedly in the document we read phrases like this:-

Surrey County Council would be keen to support local organisations to deliver any possible community transport initiatives, such as a Dial-A-Ride service for areas uniquely served ...

For the 46 specifically, SCC says:-

However, there may be an opportunity to provide limited links to Godalming and Guildford during shopping hours. Alternatively, the council would be keen to work with these communities to assist with possible community transport initiatives.

Clearly this decision is Stagecoach's alone, but the people of these communities, hardly out in the wildest of sticks, will not be well served by the replacement, more so with little chance of council funding.
What can we conclude from all this?

It would appear that Surrey Council is doing its very best to save money but balance this with keeping as many communities as possible linked by public transport. The pressures are from central government which claims to want to maintain rural communities (provided that someone else pays?); claims it wants to reduce the environmental damage caused by too many cars (as long as it's not theirs that are removed?); and at the same time wants to maintain the myth that buses can (always?) be provided commercially.

For the good people of Surrey this agenda is simply not working.

 Next bus blog : Saturday 12th March 


  1. Precisely. They also expect operators to invest in more environmentally friendly vehicles to meet air quality targets on their local patch and a host of other things ............but don't send an invoice, it can be paid for out of the unnecessarily large profits the bus industry is making!!!!!!!!!!

  2. A similar consultation is imminent in Kent following a meeting at County Hall today. As usual some of the budget savings have been able to be made by helpful actions undertaken by the operators but some cuts remain. A UKIP councillor called for the County to be harder with operators!!!!

    The same one who has just pushed through a TRO to close part of Sittingbourne High Street to permit relocation of a small market. This only occurs on Fridays but the road is already closed on a Saturday when there are noticeable traffic delays on alternative roads. The suggested alternative route for buses is slightly longer, and in places may be difficult for larger buses to negotiate. The operators had consistently voiced their concerns and indicated that the only alternative would be for a standard all week pattern of services and bus stops which would mean the displaced buses using the limited bus stopping facility at the rear of the Forum Shopping Centre. These concerns were mirrored by objections from many bus passengers and groups but ignored. It was indeed claimed that the bus companies had not raised any objections until the last moment!!!!!!!

    There was an alternative site for the market in a council owned car park.

  3. Surrey have tried very hard to maintain services and after the consultations so far West Surrey has actually ended up with I'd argue a better more robust service with very few cuts. These changes are more serious but so were the previous ones before they were watered down. Surrey's biggest issue is it's operators as apart from Stagecoach and Compass we have Abellio, Arriva, Carlone Dickson and Buses Etc all of whom are appalling with maintenance, reliability, driver friendliness and timekeeping and coupled with crazy high fares (£3.80 for 3 stops in Woking) they do the council no favours in driving passenger usage.
    The 446 is an excellent link from Woking to Heathrow and sometimes can be quicker than waiting for the next Rail Air and it is also less than half the price. The problem is that it's run by Abellio Surrey and so has a bad habit of breaking down and running over 30 minutes late and so just isn't reliable enough. The 462/3 diversion through Ripley is nuts as it takes ages to do the U-turn and it's only around 10 minutes walk to the stop at the top of the road to Send Marsh. The problem with the 462/3 is again reliability and timekeeping. The 0735 is often cancelled or very late even though it comes direct from the depot. Yesterday it was 20 minutes late and the previous day the 1442 arrival in Woking broke down. The 520 is surprisingly busy with full seated loads on it's weekly Woking jaunt but it is almost all pensioners so is not economically viable.
    Recently Arriva has converted the 34/35 to Arriva Max by just putting a new livery on 10-12 year old buses, replacing the comfy fabric seats with faux leather and adding wifi. This came after the recent frequency reduction and despite the incredibly poor reliability and punctuality. Add to that that half the time you end up on an unbranded 14 year old bus with no wifi and it's hardly Stagecoach Gold!

    1. Arriva and co have been generally sub-par for years. It seems to be part of the bus culture around Guildford and Woking. Fortunately, living next door in Stagecoachland, I can keep my experience of their dubious delights to a minimum.