“We’re going all ’round the Wrekin,” she said to her husband.
A few minutes later, she almost shouted: “We’re ’round the Wrekin again.”
That’s not an unusual sentiment on Ludlow’s park and ride service. Take a bus from the park and ride at the Eco Park and it first takes you to Toll Gate Road. The bus then doubles back to go along Parys Road, before turning around and returning along the same stretch. It was at this point that the visitor made her first remark about going ’round the Wrekin.
After Parys Road, the bus does a short loop around Greenacres before whizzing down Weeping Cross. At this point, passengers feel we are at last getting to town. But alas, the bus turns left to sweep around Steventon, before once again breezing down Weeping Cross. It was the sight of Countrywide for the second time that caused the lady to shout her second complaint.
The couple had come from Wellington and were among around 20 people the 722 picked up at the park and ride. It’s a popular service, free to park and, for pensioners, free to ride. But so often, I hear passengers groaning about the tour around Ludlow’s housing estates. They are even more perplexed that on the way out of town, the bus goes off in a completely different direction, crawls around Rocks Green, before rushing along the bypass to the Eco Park.
This bizarre routing occurs because we don’t have a dedicated park and ride service. The 722 is primarily a town bus, serving local people. The need to call at the Eco Park often leads to it running behind schedule. Sometimes it is 15 minutes off schedule, so you don’t know whether you are getting the bus before you expected or the bus after.
The 722 only runs every half hour. Are we the only town in Britain not to have a fifteen minute park and ride service? Or the only town to have a park and ride that acts primarily as a school run in mid-afternoon?
Minsterley Motors are running an excellent service. It’s not the bus company’s fault that the bus goes down Weeping Cross twice. It’s not its fault that there is only one bus every half an hour.
That responsibility lies with Shropshire Council which should pay for a third bus to service the park and ride. This would free the 722 to give an hourly service to poorly served areas of the town such as the leisure centre and Castleford Road.
Of course there is not much cash around at the moment. But in Ludlow, we raise £476,000 from car park charges and £165,000 from on-street car parking. That’s £641,000 compared to the £232,000 Shropshire Council spends on subsiding the bus and maintaining the car parks.
There’s surely enough money within that budget to pay for a dedicated park and ride service.