This is a guest post from Bus Users Shropshire (BUS). It proposes rejuvenating our town’s park and ride service. BUS says allowing more access for the car has been eroding the core attraction of Ludlow town centre for years, diminishing the appeal of walking around amid historic buildings and browsing in small shops. The group says there has been a lack of maintenance of the park and ride. Marketing of the service has lapsed.
I might add with the proposed closure of King Street and High Street during the middle of the day at peak periods, the park and ride service will be even more important. We should grasp this opportunity to ensure we have the high quality park and ride service our town deserves as the lockdown eases and ends.
Rejuvenating Ludlow’s Park and Ride Service 722 by BUS
This discussion paper is addressed to Ludlow Chamber of Commerce, Ludlow Town Council, Ludford Parish Council, Shropshire Council as well as the bus operator and several voluntary groups and asks:
- That you join in a partnership to rejuvenate the 722 Park and Ride Service.
- Commit resources to make this project work to good effect.
- Monitor the results so that the bus service’s future can be determined more effectively.
Shropshire town councils are thinking about how they can attract people back into their high streets once the current ‘lockdown’ is eased. Whilst we argue that the principal aim for Ludlow should be to encourage visitors to arrive by train, bus and coach most will still come by car, the least sustainable form of transport. Allowing more access for the car has been eroding the core attraction of the town centre for some years now diminishing the appeal to walk around its historic layout and browse in small shops.
The purpose of this discussion paper is to encourage the rejuvenation of the Park and Ride service as part of a sustainable transport solution for Ludlow. It is time for a re-think as campaigns to increase the number of car trips into the centre of town are not compatible with an urgent need to develop space for social distancing as well as enhancing wellbeing through the encouragement of cycling and walking. There’s no better time than now to progress this.
Timing is crucial given that bus users are currently concerned about using buses; demand is at an all-time low. This is despite bus operators introducing strict cleaning routines and social distancing on board so as to safeguard their passengers. The message is not getting through to the public. Demand is therefore likely to build slowly in the short term. As user confidence increases demand will increase more rapidly.
It is assumed that there will be an initial testing Covid 19 period from June to July when the frequency and possibly route in the town centre of the 722 is temporarily different. Therefore, we are looking at a second stage when demand starts to build more steadily as the pandemic recedes, planning for late summer and 2021.
This proposal does not replace the one presented recently by Ludlow 21 Sustainable Transport Group regarding the provision of electric buses on the 701 and 722 services which is subject to a wider bid to government and will be dependent on its outcome. This is an interim proposal.
Refreshing the Service
The core investment in the Park and Ride, for example, at the terminal and car park at Ludlow Eco Park, roadside signage and bus stops with flags is already in situ. However, in recent years there has been a lack of maintenance and the marketing of the service has lapsed. Service provision is reliable with clean, spacious buses and friendly drivers, but simply re-instating the pre Covid service will not stimulate the market and usage will fail to reach its potential.
This proposal outlines a number of low cost upgrades which would refresh the appeal of the service so as to attract increased numbers of day visitors. These users in turn will help to maintain a town service which serves many residents who rely on it.
The main elements are discussed below:
The terminal at the Eco Park is no longer attractive and there are several additional minor additions along the route which would enhance the overall service. These are outlined in Appendix A.
Frequency of Service
There are no other park and ride bus services in the UK serving small resorts/tourist towns which operate all year. Ludlow is unique in this respect a fact that needs to be highlighted.
The 30 minute frequency will be the best that can be achieved in present circumstances and especially during the winter months. This will deter some visitors, but if marketed well, the simple message that buses leave the Eco Park at 15 and 45 and back at 00 and 30 minutes will be acceptable to a wider cross section of the visitor market. It needs to focus on how they will benefit personally and how they are helping Ludlow too. If demand builds sufficiently then there is a case for a 15 minute frequency on Saturdays.
There will, of course, be service augmentation during major events as in previous years. This is an incredibly important facility for events marketing.
Marketing the Service: Identity/Brand
As it stands the 722 Park and Ride service is neither memorable nor particularly engaging for visitors. There needs to be a stronger identity which reinforces Ludlow as a destination and which spells out the key element of the service, connecting the Eco Park/Smithfield car parks to the railway station, medical and other facilities, town shops and historic core for the visitor. We can learn from the developments being made with regard to park and ride in Shrewsbury. In addition, publicity about the service needs to reinforce the benefits:
- the need to make the town centre more attractive by reducing congestion/pollution
- to alert users to its competitive price and the convenience of not driving around looking for a parking space
- to enhance wellbeing of visitors and residents by freeing up space to encourage walking/social distancing in town
- to connect key locations such as the hospital, railway station, Corve Street shopping, market square and upper town shopping/historic core.
The brand can be used on digital and paper promotional material, on bus stop flags (vinyls) and bus timetables posted on the route as well as possibly on the bus livery.
There is a need for an upgrade to the bus stop and shelter information, i.e. improved design of poster information and no Sellotape/gaffa tape adhesion.
Marketing the Service: Tourists from further afield
The Chamber of Commerce and other tourist marketing agencies do an excellent job in providing essential information to attract visitors, but there is a need to encourage more sustainable modes of transport in this message. However, to capture car borne visitors it is imperative to plant the idea of the Park and Ride in the mind of the driver prior to making a trip to Ludlow.
We would hope that this scale of marketing could be maintained.
Marketing the Service: Residents
We would also encourage the print of a simple timetable leaflet for door to door delivery to dwellings within 100 metres of the route as many users will now have lost the habit of using buses in Ludlow and it can reinforce the message that buses also practice social distancing. This could be distributed by Bus Users Shropshire.
Marketing the Service: Pricing
There will also be a need to review fares so as to ensure that they are competitive with parking fees in Ludlow. There might also be a case to offer a special flat fare on all of the Ludlow town services for a short term trial period to encourage use.
Marketing the Service: Monitoring
Monitoring changes in demand and if possible motivation and purpose of travel of users will help enormously to tailor the service for the future. Ludlow 21 Sustainable Transport Group (STG) had planned to monitor the route prior to the lockdown. Bus Users Shropshire and the STG could provide survey work in due course.
How to take this forward
There are several ways to do this and we welcome responses accordingly.
The project envisages a partnership which encourages respective authorities to join forces to make the 722 project happen. This might comprise Ludlow Chamber of Commerce, Ludlow Town Council, Ludford Parish Council, Shropshire Council as well as the bus operator and several voluntary groups.
Bus Users Shropshire suggests, for example, that this is taken forward by an existing working group or by establishing a new one. It is expected that a representative from key organisations would join the group. It would also be necessary to determine the contribution which can be made from each partner as well as an agreed Action Plan to make this happen. Clearly there needs to be a lead partner to coordinate key tasks and budgetary measures relating to infrastructure and some elements of marketing.
In this way we can move in the right direction to make Ludlow a more sustainable destination and continue to provide for residents who are becoming more cognisant of the need to address Climate Change as well as post Covid society. This is a responsibility of all those who have embraced the Climate Emergency declaration.
Appendix A: Maintenance of Existing Infrastructure
The Eco Park bus terminal needs to be cleaned, one polycarbonate panel to be replaced, timetable case refurbished and weeds removed from paving area. The panels need to be cleaned. This would be the minimum required. There’s a case for a state of the art bus shelter (a larger version than the shelter in Corve Street) plus a Ludlow town centre interpretation board similar to those mounted at the railways Station. Wild flower beds would enhance the location from early Spring through to late Autumn, i.e. the main season.
Bus stops on the route
Ludlow residents know where the bus stops are along the route. However, there is a need to highlight a number of stops so that it can encourage greater use by visitors.
Stop for the Travelodge
The stop before the turning to Green Acres (inbound) is nearest to the Travel Lodge, Squirrel pub and retail outlets. It needs a timetable case and preferably a stop on the opposite side of the road by the NFU building for outbound trips. Ideally, the inbound stop would benefit from a shelter as it is exposed to the elements.
Stop for Charlton Rise
There is no hard standing or bus stop inbound for residents of Charlton Rise at the stop before Sidney Road
Stop for Steventon New Road
The bus stop (outbound) leans like the tower of Pisa; it needs to be repositioned away from the junction, and repaired or replaced by a new pole and case
Smithfield Car Park/Ludlow Mascall Centre
The nearest stop for visitors parking at the Smithfield Car Park is adjacent to the Ludlow Mascall Centre. There is no identified point for the outbound stop. A stop adjacent to the car park would be ideal but the road layout is likely to make this option less likely. Nevertheless, there is a case for trying to integrate Smithfield into the park and ride service publicity/pricing so that people can be encouraged to park and ride or walk into town.
The inbound stop has a pole and timetable case. However, there is no identified stop on the outbound section. People stand by the portico just beyond the Dog Rescue shop.
There is a stop on the outbound leg but not inbound. Is there a location between the road entrance to Tesco and the junction by Aldi which would be suitable?