Monday 10 January 2011

How to Ruin a Bus Service (Lesson 3)

Lark Rise to Confusion [from a contributor - adapted]
see also "How to Ruin a Bus Service (Lesson 3A)"

The long-running pantomime produced by Northamptonshire County Council.

Once upon a time Stagecoach ran a service 88 from the county town Northampton to Towcester and Brackley, the seventh and eighth largest towns in the county. About four buses each day continued on to Bicester and Oxford as service X88.
The service was supported by Northamptonshire County Council and so, when it came up for retendering, Stagecoach announced "The section from Northampton to Silverstone is commercially viable because we can provide an hourly frequency with two buses. If we go on to Brackley we shall need a third bus and some subsidy."

"The nasty big wicked bus company is holding us poor little County Council to ransom", cried Northamptonshire in abject horror, and together with neighbouring Oxfordshire went off and found another bus company to run the Oxford to Silverstone section for fewer pennies.

Oxfordshire liked this because the new Silverstone to Oxford service now went round all the pretty "Lark Rise to Candleford" villages between Brackley and Bicester.   [Fringford, below, is a typical example]  The service is still nominally numbered X88 - X for Xceedingly slow!   So the replacement tendered through service is now run by two different companies with no through fares and definitely no guaranteed connection at Silverstone. Stagecoach publicity at Northampton bus station merely advises anyone venturing south of Silverstone to phone Traveline for information. (Oh dear!)

Northamptonshire's public transport web site offers no interchange information at all on the 88 timetable - well it wouldn't, would it, because the Oxford link is, sort of, in Oxfordshire - so the "not really interested" policy applies. So you have to look elsewhere for the connecting bus and work it out for yourself. There's intergration for you!
The impressive interchange point is seen below. The white coach on the left is the bus to Oxford with Stagecoach on the right returning to Northampton.
Of course, if you want to go from Northampton to Oxford you catch a bus or a train to Milton Keynes Central station and then take the half hourly X5.   However if you live in Brackley and need to get to Northampton or to the local council offices in Towcester, then the journey is potentially more stressful.  It is not unknown for the Oxford to Silverstone bus to run so late that it misses connections leaving the brave through passenger to wait at those splendid interchange facilities!

One Friday afternoon in October 2010 Bus Users UK organised a public meeting at Brackley Town Hall as the worthy local populace were not a happy bunch.  (Appropriately, the afternoon Oxford to Silverstone bus went past; running half an hour late!). They were unanimous that they wanted the return of a through Brackley to Northampton service. 

Will the good folk of South Northamptonshire get their through bus back?  Watch out for Gloucester Old Spots flying over Brackley.

1 comment:

  1. Very well said FBB!

    I travel from Northampton to Oxford 6/7 times a year and the old X88 was almost perfect as it used to virtually pass my door on it's way out of Northampton.

    Since the "amputation" at Silverstone the first time a travelled the 88 was 15 minutes late arriving a Silverstone and connection was missed. Rather than wait several hours for the next X88 I went home on same same bus I travelled out on and took my car instead.

    I don't mind connections but this one is that bit too risky for my liking. Even going via MK means 2 changes and a much longer journey time so it's Oxford by car for the forseeable future.

    Strange really as I used to work for UCOC in NBC days and the Northampton-Oxford 338 (as it was then) was one of few routes to run at a profit! How times change.