I have been on buses in other towns and cities a lot of late. One thing I have noted is that people sit in their seats until the bus has come to a halt at a stop. This doesn’t happen much in Ludlow. Passengers in our town, many elderly, stand up well before the bus stop despite the “Stopping” sign having been illuminated. This is dangerous and completely unnecessary. Passengers should remain seated until the bus comes to a halt at the stop. It is time to ditch this dangerous habit. We don’t want anyone injured. We want our bus services to run smoothly for the benefit for everyone in our community.
Doom and gloom have surrounded the rural bus network for many years as services are relentlessly cut back or axed altogether. But every now and again, there a glimmer of hope.
With thanks to work by Bus Users Shropshire, Lugg Valley Motors will be introducing an improved 490 bus service between Ludlow and Leominster and onwards to Hereford from next Monday, 2 September. The service calls at Overton Touring Park, Richard’s Castle, Orleton and Luston. The new timetable adds additional services to and from Ludlow on weekdays and Saturdays, and the bus will call at Ludlow School on schooldays.
The service is subsidised by Herefordshire Council. Shropshire Council does not contribute.
The mood is changing on buses. For many years, rural bus services have been cut back. They are threatened with more cuts as council finances dwindle. Now Shropshire Council has said it will roll back some of the planned bus cuts after a consultation produced an unprecedented response from bus users. But the council still lacks an up to date bus strategy and a plan for long term investment in the bus network.
Bus campaigners are stepping into the gap. At the end of last month, the Foundation for Integrated Transport (FIT) has published a report on Shropshire Rural Buses. The author, Professor John Whitelegg says failure is embedded in the current system and change is now necessary. His report concludes:
“It is in fact very easy indeed to provide high quality rural public transport in a way that supports vibrant, healthy, economically successful rural communities and contributes to keeping young people in those communities.”
That’s ambitious. But why shouldn’t we be ambitious for the future of buses? It is time to halt the endless cutbacks and invest in the county’s bus networks.
Shropshire Council has teamed up with the West Mercia police commissioner to launch a road safety initiative. A free driver awareness course is on offer. A drop-in session will be held at Ludlow Mascall Centre on Monday 8 July, 5pm to 7pm. Details of the Road Focus sessions.
Anything that might improve road safety is important. But the record of the council and commissioner on road safety initiatives is poor. Neither supports a 20mph limit on all residential streets in the county. Safety schemes outside schools have been delayed indefinitely.
If we slow traffic in an already slow county, we will reduce both the risk and severity of injury. That would achieve more than four drop-in sessions and a single awareness course. This sadly looks like little more than a PR exercise from a council and commissioner that want to show they are working on road safety without investing in making our roads safer.
Shropshire Council has been consulting on drastic cuts to local bus services. The council is only concerned with saving £455,000 – plus an unspecified saving on concessionary fares. This is a slash and burn exercise driven by a council that doesn’t have a strategy for the future of public transport in the county.
The proposals will cut Bishop’s Castle off except for the school run. It is bad news for sustainable transport in Shrewsbury with a substantial hike in park and ride costs. In Ludlow, the popular 701 town service will be cut by a third.
These cuts will disproportionately disadvantage older and vulnerable people, along with those of limited mobility. Shropshire Council has failed to assess the impact of the cuts on people, communities and the environment.
Buses are a social service. By providing access to medical, retail and social facilities, they promote health and wellbeing. That lowers costs elsewhere in public sector, including the care sector and the NHS.