Ludlow town bus services to go out to tender before we have fully tested new timetable

We have just about got the Ludlow town services settled down but now they are to go out to tender.

The 701 and 722 are running around town giving a good service. They are usually on time after recent changes to the timetable for the 722 bus that serves the park and ride. The buses are new, with low floor access and friendly, helpful drivers.

Ludlow residents will remember how bad the service used to be not much more than a year ago. Buses broke down regularly, ran late or when it was icy, just didn’t turn up. Often there was no low floor service, excluding disabled people from public transport.

Ludlow busesThe previous bus service

The current services were introduced by Minsterley Motors in January 2014. It’s taken a while to settle the timetables down.

Shropshire Council pays Minsterley a daily subsidy of £600, c. £185,000 a year. Forecast passenger numbers in the 2014/15 financial year are 122,504. So that’s an average subsidy of £1.50 a passenger. The large majority of passengers have free bus passes. Those without pay £1.20 a single journey. Park and ride passengers get a deal with a £1.25 return.

Shropshire Council is to issue a new tender the service from 1 September. It is seeking comments about the current bus timetables and the service provided. Comments should be sent to tony.harrison@shropshire.gov.uk by 30 April.

It is right that Shropshire Council should follow best practice and regularly retender contracts for buses. We have assurances from Conservative councillors that any future buses will be low floor and that the quality of service provided will be a major factor in any tender decision, not just price. That’s vital as we cannot countenance a return to the awful bus service we had before.

I travel on the 722 most days and the 701 occasionally. I get the impression that town folk are quite happy with these services. Park and ride passengers sometimes grumble a bit because of what they see as a curious routing of the 722 “all ‘round the Wrekin”.

Although I would like a more frequent and simpler service from the park and ride, I don’t think we will get that. I am also reluctant to see timetables change yet again. It concerns me that we haven’t seen how the new 722 timetable operates through the summer. We could do with a period of stability after so many service changes.