Councillors furious at yet another cut to Ludlow’s bus services

“We are furious that there is to be another cut to Ludlow’s bus service. We are just as angry that there has been no public consultation or a public announcement about the cuts.”

That’s the view of Councillors Vivienne Parry and Andy Boddington after Shropshire Council sneaked out a new timetable for the town’s 722 service. From Tuesday 1 July, the bus service will be cut back from a half-hourly to an hourly service in many parts of the town. The new service will be run by Minsterley Motors, who took over the service last January.

Vivienne Parry says: “We were shocked to see this new timetable. Services to Parys Road have been halved to one an hour. The same is true of Rocks Green. There is no mention of the 722 serving the popular bus stop on Tollgate Road. The new timings will make it hard for people to get to the doctors in the morning. They will face long waits for a bus back from town. In a town like this with many elderly and disabled people, we should be investing in our buses, not cutting them back.”

Andy Boddington says: “The new timetable does little to improve the park and ride service. Visitors will face a journey from between seven to 16 minutes to get into town, depending on their time of arrival. That’s after they’ve faced a wait of up to 30 minutes for the bus to arrive. This is bad news for our tourist industry. We are already the only town in Britain to half a half hourly park and ride bus service. Other towns have at least a fifteen minute service.

“Minsterley Motors have been running an excellent service since they took over the bus contract in the spring. But I am concerned that the new contract has not been put to competitive tender. People on Bromfield Road have been crying out for a town bus service since the 704 was cancelled a couple of years ago. Their needs are completely ignored in this new timetable. This is yet again an example of people in Shrewsbury with little knowledge of Ludlow making decisions that are wrong for the town. What we really need is a third bus dedicated to the park and ride, not these cutbacks.”

Vivienne Parry adds: “I’ve spoke to a lot of people who use the buses and none know about this change of timetable. It’s been sneaked in without consultation with bus users and without any real consideration of their needs. If we don’t run regular buses we will trap people in their homes. That can’t be right.”

722 Timetable from 1 July 2014

All ‘Round the Wrekin on Ludlow’s park and ride buses

“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.

Ludlow Park & Ride should be closed until bus crisis is solved

Currently buses service the park and ride every half an hour, though sometimes the gap extends to fifty minutes. And it can take up to half-an-hour to get back from the town centre to the car park.

Many visitors have been appalled by poor timetable, let alone the scrappy state of the buses, some of which entered service in 1978. Several have said that they will never return to Ludlow again.

Now the park and ride will be served by just one bus an hour – and it will still take half-an-hour to get back from town. This level of service will only drive tourists away Ludlow.

Shropshire Council should close the Eco Park park and ride this weekend, and not reopen it until the bus service is resolved. It needs to cover over the park and ride signs approaching the town.

Hopefully a new regular bus service will be announced within weeks. We will be in desperate need of it by the time the tourists season kicks into gear in April.

But given the mess that Tory-controlled Shropshire Council has made of Ludlow’s bus services so far, I am not holding my breath.