Wednesday 24 July 2013

Bus Rail (Dis)Integration

Long-term readers of this blog will know that Northampton is to get a new railway station. Now that most of the archaeological excavation for the rotted remains of Queen Ælfgifu is coming to its historic conclusion, wok can start on the station proper. See "Ælfgifu's Nation at Northampton Station" (read again)

This involves some disruptive road works at the building site, and the closure of the bus lane and bus stops.
The council has been diverting utility infrastructure, and as part of this work, drainage now needs to be relocated. To allow this to happen, traffic will be restricted on Black Lion Hill to one lane in each direction from the evening of Sunday 7 July. A contra-flow traffic system will then be introduced from Wednesday 10 July.

On Monday 22 July, work will start on removing junction signals and creating the new road layout, which will mean a complete closure of the bus gate and bus stops outside the old train station entrance. Nearby, temporary bus stops will be provided.

For a brief period Northampton Transport ran a half hourly service 21 to the station yard ...
... but it was short-lived. Back in the not-so-past past, plenty of buses were available during the day at stops on West Bridge just at the top of the pedestrian steps.
Ironically, a temporary stop for buses to town has been provided in a similar location!
The works have come to a head this week and reaction from the bus companies has been mixed. First Bus seems to be hoping it is all a dream; just another nail in their rapidly closing Northampton coffin. Nothing, so far, from Uno and Country Lion also running buses past the station.

Meanwhile Stagecoach has made massive changes.

Disruption - Northampton Rail Station
Routes 3, 5, 9/9A, 12, 22/22A, 50/50A & 96, D1/D2/D3
From the 22nd July most buses coming into Northampton town centre from the West will need to be diverted to avoid roadworks at Northampton Railway Station and in order to maintain service reliability for our passengers. This page will give you details on how your bus route will be altered in order to provide you with a reliable service.

Most routes are simply (and inconveniently) diverted away from the station area completely.

Route 12 (every 15 minutes) and 22 (every 20 minutes) remain via the station, but diverted between there are the bus station. As can be seen from the map above, "connections" are available with routes 12 and 22.
Stagecoach doesn't say why ALL their services are not using this less-disruptive minor change, but they have published new timetables for the 12 and 22, presumably to cope with the inevitable traffic hold-ups. Will people risk such an ill-defined connectional facility?

Locals will choose to alight from diverted buses on Spencer Bridge Road ...
... and walk via St James Park Road.
And, of course, this option will be clearly signposted. Won't it?

In times past buses might well have been diverted via St James Park Road but that possibility is now unavailable at there is no vehicle access at St James Road (bottom of aerial map, above). So Shanks's Pony is the only viable option.

A more enlightened solution would have been to divert everything via Spencer Bridge Road, make no changes to timetables and then provide a minibus shuttle from bus station via Grafton Street, St Andrews Road, Station Car Park and return, free to holders of tickets for diverted buses. Or, even better, free to all passengers.

Passengers to or from the west could, of course, interchange at Grafton Street.

But such a scheme would have involved imaginative management, a bag or two of money, co-operation between bus companies, and a desire to help regular customers. So no chance on all four options!

In the meantime - enjoy the cones.
And a sort of P.S. - only Stagecoach information is up the pole, nothing from any other operator.
And it gets dafter all the time. This ...
... is the lavish westbound "temporary" stop even further away from the station exit. Our intrepid reporter also notes that no attempt whatsoever has been made to update (or countermand) bus information in the station itself; so you are sent in the wrong direction to closed stops on the closed bus lane. Get the tranquilisers out, fbb.

"At the scene" pictures from Northampton correspondent, Alan. Many thanks.

P.S. This blog has been written strictly from the point of view of interchange at the station. There are, of course, other problems. Particularly of concern is the lack of a service of any sort to some of the town's popular shopping streets. Traders there are far from happy.

 Next Bus Airport Blog : Thursday 25th July 


  1. Just so you know, First's final two services will cease running on September 15th (the 4 finishes a month before that).

  2. Alan - Northampton24 July 2013 at 11:46

    The thing to note about this is that it is planned to continue until at least November.
    Work on the new station is already behind schedule due to a poorly infilled cellar and finding the main sewer not where it is was shown on the plan. When a shuttle bus was suggested to our disintegated transport authority (a.k.a Northamptonshire County Council) their spokesperson said they had no money for it. Each participant in the scheme (contractors, Not Work Rail, London Midland Trains) is focussed on their bit of it and nobody (except Stagecoach who have put in a lot of effort) has given any though to the effect on local travellers , never mind visitors. The attitude of the County Council's portfolio holder for transport is "this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me but it will all be wonderful darlings when the work is finished"
    Lucky old First withdrew their services in the area about a month ago.

  3. Yes, indeed. I had forgotten that First were no longer in the mix for routes via the Station (or perhaps not via the station!).
    I do wonder whether all Stagecoach's expense (management time, printing, sticking up timetables, extra running time and thus staff etc.) has cost more than running a shuttle bus.