Fringe Box



Opinion: The Problem With Buses…

Published on: 3 Oct, 2012
Updated on: 12 Oct, 2012

A bus arriving a Peaslake. It might be late but at least it’s here

By Flora Windebank

I have been shivering for 15 minutes or more. The 25 bus had slowly trundled through Peaslake and finally picked me up. The driver doesn’t even apologise for the appalling service. But at least it showed up. Sometimes, they don’t bother.

News that bus routes in many parts of Surrey have been severely cut came as no surprise to me when it was implemented on the 3rd September. Many bus routes in the Guildford, Mole Valley and Waverley Boroughs had their bus routes cut down and changed hands from bus company ‘Arriva’ to ‘Countryliner’.

A train from Gomshall arriving at Guildford. Plenty of passengers

And it isn’t cheap. For the eight mile journey to Guildford its £3.50 or £5 for a return, with no provision made for younger people. The nearby train from Gomshall only costs £3.90 for a return to Guildford and if you are aged between 16 – 25, a return is £2.60.It takes about half the time and is always on time.

If you were faced with these two options, which would you take? The only reason I ever chose the bus over the train, is that a small swamp separates my house from the train station and I’m usually not planning to wear hiking gear to meet friends for lunch in town. The bus wins by default, and it’s the same for many people in inaccessible areas. The bus is their only hope of getting anywhere.

Another empty bus from Peaslake to Guildford

It becomes a vicious circle. The fewer buses there are, the less they are used. The less they are used, the more they are cut.

I would do anything not to have to rely on the bus. But wading through the swamp or synchronizing my timings with parents or friends to get a lift in is a real pain.  It is no wonder that they are practically empty while the train is often busy. Clearly people had learnt which they can rely on.

If you go to more built up areas, the buses are more frequent and more dependable. Surrey County Council statistics for bus reliability show that on average between 2006 and 2010 75% of buses supported by Surrey County Council arrived within 5 minutes of their stated times. This average goes way down once you get to the rural villages. Budgets mean villages don’t get the same service as the towns.

Last month, I found myself waiting 45 minutes for a bus home from Guildford and thinking that a wait this long was a bit extreme, even for the buses, so I checked the timetable. I found out my bus route was one of six that had changed hands from bus company Arriva, to Countryliner. The routes had also been cut severely.

Now I am going to add to the problem. I have decided not to rely on the buses at all. Another empty seat. Another excuse for cutbacks.

But the cuts to date have caused my problem. They have been so harsh, the buses only go to Peaslake five times a day. While Countryliner are usually much better at getting their buses there on time, they just don’t come enough for it to be a proper option.

It might seem understandable that the council has reduced it subsidy leading to a decrease in service. Times are hard and Surrey County Council is expecting to save £723,000 from the new plans.

Perhaps though, if there  was a reliable and frequent service more people would use them and there would be less need for subsidy. Not everyone can afford a car and every bus passenger might be one car journey less.

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Responses to Opinion: The Problem With Buses…

  1. Ray Springer

    October 3, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    The railway fare from Guildford to Gomshall is NOT £2.70 return surely.
    I have checked with the National Train on line and it is £3.80 single so surely the return fare must be more than that.

  2. Flora Windebank

    October 3, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Ah my mistake, I use a 16-25 railcard on the train so think with those train fares. The return for the main fare will still be only 10p more though so still substantially less than the bus. As well as the fact that the bus has no provision for younger users, despite the fact that they are usually the people without cars.

  3. Ray Pettit

    November 1, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    I must say that the provision of supported bus services can vary quite a lot from council to council. Not so long ago, Cambridgeshire were to stop all their supported services, but in the end they relented.

    Surrey seem to have a policy of keeping as many small communities linked by some kind of bus service even if it is once a day or once a week. And they are to be commended for paying for a Sunday service on a few routes when such a service did not exist before.

    A rather negative outcome of bus services that are supported by counties is that people who live near a county boundary often lose out. An example being the Camberley to Basingstoke service. When Stagecoach said they could not operate this commercially anymore, neither Hampshire or Surrey were interested in maintaining the cross county connection. Only at the last minute was a service, operating twice once a day, albeit as far as Hook from the east.

    Another example where inter-county suffer is between Redhill and Sevenoaks where you have to make two changes if travelling by bus – you also have to change if using the train. If the two towns were both in the same county, or more to the point had bus funding from the same place, the public would get a better deal with direct link. Unlike railway stations, bus stops offer less information and facilities if you are left waiting and waiting…