Plans for Shrewsbury town centre are up for discussion tomorrow, 8 March at Shropshire Council’s cabinet meeting.
Shropshire Council wants to sell the bus station and the bus layover car park as housing land. There is vague talk in the Big Town Plan (BTP) about another location for a bus station but no location is proposed.
Rural bus companies have now written to Shropshire Council saying that current plans to end inter-urban and rural buses at the park and ride sites, with a transfer onto local buses for the journey into the town centre, is not feasible. The plan will lead to a drop in passenger numbers and some services being withdrawn.
There is no doubt that the town centre down from Pride Hill to the River Severn needs regeneration but it is far from clear that the plans from Shropshire Council and Shrewsbury Town Council are the right approach or achievable. The council wants to sell the bus station site off for housing and bank the cash to help pay for other projects. Several projects planned for Shrewsbury such as the new Civic Centre on pride Hill and the North West Relief Road look underfunded, no matter what current Shropshire Council leaders say.
The Big Town Plan proposes a new transport plan for Shrewsbury:
This plan outlines the high level, mass transit strategy for Shrewsbury. Rural bus services will call in to the Park & ride sites (Zone 3 parking) and interchange with frequent, high quality bus routes in to the town centre. the Park & Ride bus services will also operate on routes and timetables to improve connectivity and interchange in the town, improving the accessibility of abbey Foregate, railway station, Meole Brace, Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Flaxmill.
It is the problems with the interchange that is causing consternation for bus operators and passengers. The operators say:
“To meet the expectations of passengers, a state of the art, centrally located bus station with well managed facilities is vital.”
As any bus passenger knows, the operators are dead right on this. The convenience of connections and a warm place to transfer between services in vital to the future success of bus services. It is also vital to the success of Shrewsbury as county town that serves a broad rural hinterland.
Letter to council leader Peter Nutting from rural bus companies
Dear Councillor Nutting,
As a group of bus operators serving Shrewsbury, we have a major concern regarding the Movement section of the Big Town Plan. We would like you to refocus your plans regarding bus access into town.
Our companies are important stakeholders in the provision of sustainable transport into Shrewsbury and we duly pay to use the existing bus station every month. Yet, to date we have not been advised concerning the possible options regarding the ‘re-provision of bus station or alternative facility due to redevelopment of existing location’ (Report to Cabinet 8th March 2021). There has been no mention of other possible sites such as Barker Street in the same zone.
The lack of communication with regard to the Movement Plan is not an appropriate way to take this matter forward; we would like to help shape a solution with Shropshire Council which involves more than a ‘facility’.
Our main concerns are as follows:
- Truncating inter-urban and rural buses at one of three enhanced park and ride sites is not feasible. There are many practical issues, but the most important point is that passengers will not accept a time and price penalty of interchange, particularly passengers with concessionary travel passes who will now have to pay for part of their journey. Furthermore, passengers will be worried about a return journey to the Park and Ride site so as to make the connection home. There will be a considerable loss of patronage. Added together, this could lead to tipping the balance between profit and loss of operating bus services, and then to the withdrawal of non-supported services or surrendering of contracted services.
- Many of our services, for example the 501 bus, serve in-town areas such as Battlefield or the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and a diversion to a P&R site will lead to a further loss of passengers. If local bus services which operate inside the Park & Ride ‘ring’ cannot enter Shrewsbury town centre, then they will be withdrawn and residents left to find an alternative means of travel. In many cases people will travel elsewhere or those who can afford it, use the train hence reducing patronage even more.
- Buses are delivering thousands of passengers into town every day. To meet the expectations of passengers, a state of the art, centrally located bus station with well managed facilities is vital. Bus stops on highways may well work for short distance urban routes, but not for inter-urban services. Why have so many other towns (including Bath, Gloucester, Preston, Truro) recently built bus stations? The group would welcome suggestions as to an alternative location, as referred to on page 133 of the Masterplan, if the existing site is not chosen.
- The current proposals will also mean fewer people spending on Shrewsbury’s high streets. One survey of rural bus users travelling to Hereford found that they spend £38 on average per visit. Buses return an economic benefit which is often understated. A bus station for inter-urban routes need not be ‘space hungry’ and fits with government priorities for future transport.
- Finally, many of the group also operate coaches into Shrewsbury and it is important for the Big Town Plan to cater for coach management and parking. We would welcome details of your plans regarding this element of movement.
We would be grateful, therefore, if you could advise the group of your plans for bus movements into Shrewsbury and a central bus station bearing in mind our concerns. I have copied this letter to other members of your Cabinet and officers.
Phyl Davies, Director, Celtic Travel
Neal Hall, Managing Director, Lakeside Coaches
Lee Jones, General Manager, Minsterley Motors