Ludlow Town Council today reversed its decision to hold an open air market even though this is permitted under government regulations. The socially distanced market was a good reaction to the growing crisis. It gives an alternative to supermarket aisles where social distancing isn’t possible.
As the crisis grows, our town bus services are being cut back by around 90% tomorrow and some communities will no longer be served. We could have put in place a better service if Shropshire Council had not dithered about emergency subsidies to bus companies.
The 435 service between Ludlow and Shrewsbury, travelling through Craven Arms, Wistanstow, Dorrington and Condover is still running on a Saturday timetable but that will be reviewed daily.
Stay indoors is the rule. But we are not in total lockdown and many people still need to get out to shop and go to the GP and pharmacy within the permitted rules.
Ludlow Town Council is yet to publish a statement. I understand the previous plans by the council to keep one of the country’s most successful markets going with a socially distanced household and food market have been scrapped. The market is now closed indefinitely. I understand this is on advice.
But I can’t understand why an outdoor market, allowed under the government regulations published last night, is being scrapped while supermarkets are still open?
I’d much prefer to buy from a market stall in the wind and rain, even the sun, than have to shuffle shoulder to shoulder along a supermarket aisle.
Ludlow’s mixed retail economy is a blend of national chains and independent traders. A prolonged market closure risks tilting the balance of our retail mix further towards the chains.
We won’t be the same town without our market. The regular traders. The casuals. The recognition that you are a frequent customer. The friendly chat. And good stuff to buy to go with it.
There is total confusion over town buses. The cabinet portfolio holder for transport said this afternoon that there will be an update in “due course”. But what are the times of the bus services tomorrow? What is the route? It will be very different.
My understanding from Minsterley is that a single 701 bus service will run from Ludlow Assembly Rooms at 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00. Note the two hour gap at lunch.
Details of the route are not resolved. The 701 will serve Tesco and Aldi, Ludlow Community Hospital, East Ludlow including Stanton and Bringewood. Rocks Green and the park and ride. Sandpits, Clee View and Parys Road. Probably not in that order. Tollgate Road, the Steventon loop and Old Street will not be served.
The timing and route will be decided during the first runs tomorrow. I am promised a timetable from Minsterley Motors as soon as it is agreed and I will publish it immediately.
The drop in passenger numbers is both understandable and necessary. But we still need to move people around the town. The lack of information from Shropshire Council on timetabling shows buses remain a low priority on its agenda. I have asked for the park and ride stop to be dropped to free up travel time. There are have been no park and ride passengers for days and we have almost empty car parks in the town centre.
We Ludlow and Clee councillors, with some other Shropshire councillors, have been calling for support for the bus companies. The subsidies we currently pay are mostly based on passenger numbers. Instead, we want an agreed proportion of the budgeted subsidy for 2020/21 to be paid regardless of passenger traffic. We councillors were promised a response to that this morning. It didn’t arrive.
When this crisis ends, we will still need buses. We cannot allow rural bus companies to go out of business.
Buses are at the bottom of the transport food chain for public funding, trailing well behind road and rail. And they seem to be at the bottom of the pile in the thinking of Shropshire Council’s cabinet.