Enthusiasm for Northampton's new bus station declined from 60% "for" to the 2.35% (above) during the first full day of operation on Monday 3rd March.
And no wonder!
According to the local press, emergency late night meetings were held between all interested parties. This led to a series of remedial procedures, including box junctions, extra staff on duty and more "rigorous" enforcement or traffic and parking regulations.
So when fbb visited last Saturday (8th March) all should have been sorted and running smoothly.
And it was; and it did! Which would make for a somewhat boring blog post; but let us look more closely. Here is fbb's bus from the station arriving at the vehicle entrance on Greyfriars.
Almost immediately there was a queue blocking one lane of Greyfriars and blocking the exit from Sheep Street, just behind fbb's bus. The hold-up was caused by a bus waiting to get on its stand; see its rear end poking out by the "no entry" sign. The hold-up cleared in less than half a minute but it shows how frail the infrastructure actually is when put under any small episode of pressure. Note the extra man in the high-viz jacket.
One of the bonuses of the old reviled but efficient bus station was that manoeuvres from stand to stand and from stand to parking areas could be made without recourse to the public highway, as seen here:-
No "ordinary" traffic to get in the way. According to our Northampton correspondent, buses have been seen turning into North Gate, finding their stand full of another loading bus, and responding by doing another circuit of the streets to try again! Daft design.
Similar cloggage problems occurred at the exit from the bus station before fbb's very eyes.
The single deck at the back wanted to pull on to stand 13, already occupied by the double deck. The decker could not pull forward because service 43 was waiting on stand 14, and had been for some time. Remember, there is nowhere to park a bus during a break between trips.
While this delay developed, the back single deck was partially blocking the exit for all other routes. This allowed a flock of cars trying to get through the town's impenetrable one-way systems to grasp victory from the jaws of defeat and keep the nasty buses penned in to their cosy little station. The back-up took a minute or two to clear because of red lights and more buses at the junction with Sheep Street and The Drapery (where fbb was standing to take the snap below).
Note another batch of extra staff on-hand to sort things out. Note also temporary railings to "encourage" the bus riding folk of Northampton to obey the crossing lights. But those awkward and troublesome creatures, people, were still dodging lights, buses and railings, despite occasional snarlings from high-viz vest bearers and despite pleading requests to the contrary..
Another in-built frailty of the "design", for want of a better word.
Sooner or later, the hoardes of high-viz helpers, extra police, traffic wardens and stagecoach supervisors are going to melt away. The costs will be horrific and a misplaced sense of self-confidence will set in. Then all it will take to clog up the town will be a minor (or a major) accident, a fire, a vehicle breakdown or some outbreak of civil unrest and everything will go belly up - again.
Meanwhile, Northamptonian bus passengers are beginning to realise that North Gate has wider ranging problems than being too small and in the wrong place.
As fbb found out on his short bus ride from Northampton Station up to the town.
Next bus blog : Tuesday 11th March
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