I ought to be used it by now. But somehow when Shropshire Council says yet again that Ludlow can’t have funding because it is not Shrewsbury, it is still gut wrenching.
This morning we received Shropshire Council’s explanation of why Ludlow’s park and ride services can’t be free for a couple of weeks, paid for by the council, as they are currently in Shrewsbury. The miserable excuses from the council are that things are different in Shrewsbury. They are only different because the council has chosen to make the different. To give more to Shrewsbury while staring Ludlow of resources.
Shropshire Council promises action to help bus services in Ludlow in the future but only if grant bids are won. Meanwhile, the council won’t do anything to help Ludlow to recover from the pandemic.
This is the correspondence over the last few days.
Monday 26 April: Email to Andy Begley, Shropshire Council
Letter from Andy Boddington, Ludlow Mayor, Chamber of Commerce and Ludlow Destination Partnership to the chief executive of Shropshire Council.
Request for matching free bus transport for Ludlow park and ride
We read with interest the announcement of a free park and ride bus service in Shrewsbury from Monday 26 April for two weeks. The aims are to encourage bus use and to help Shrewsbury town centre during its recovery phase.
Ludlow town centre is also in a recovery phase. We are a town known for our independent shops. A few have closed, others are struggling. We need all the trade we can get in the coming weeks. We are promoting the town through various media but we are acutely aware that we are short of car parking spaces.
You may be aware that the major of one of our car parks, Smithfield, is the site of an NHS Covid-19 testing centre, which occupies most of the car park removing approximately 70 spaces. King Street, the narrow historic street leading to the Buttercross and market area, is closed from 10am to 3pm on Friday and Saturday for social distancing making access to the Castle Street car park difficult except for residents who know how to divert around the closure. The Galdeford car park fills quickly most days, especially Friday and Saturday.
We also want to boost use of buses, especially the park and ride service. We need to increase confidence after people were encouraged to drive rather than use public transport at the height of the pandemic.
For these reasons, we are disappointed that the provision of a free bus service between Ludlow’s park and ride and the town centre has not been offered at the same time as the Shrewsbury service announced on Friday.
We are asking that you to urgently consider providing a similar offer in Ludlow to match that agreed for Shrewsbury.
Tim Gill, Mayor of Ludlow
Andy Boddington, Shropshire Council for Ludlow North
Tish Dockerty, Ludlow Destination Partnership
Vicki Ortewell, Ludlow Chamber of Commerce
Thursday 29 April: Email from Mark Barrow, Director of Place
Thank you for your email, Andy [Begley, chief executive] has asked that I respond on his behalf. I trust you are keeping well.
I thought it would be helpful to firstly explain that the Shrewsbury Park & Ride service has in many ways different characteristics to the bus service operating in Ludlow and indeed other bus services in the other market towns across Shropshire.
In Shrewsbury, the dedicated Park & Ride service is operated on behalf of the Council by Arriva and the fare risk is borne by the Council. Passenger numbers prior to the suspension in January were very low and this promotion was put in place to raise its profile following this suspension.
One of our considerations here was that the Shrewsbury Park & Ride service does not collect any additional passengers on the way into town, so we knew that although the capacity of the bus is reduced we would not impact any passengers catching the service after it left the site and with a reasonably high frequency, passengers would only need to wait a short time for another bus to depart the site.
In comparison the Ludlow town bus service operated by Minsterley Motors which operates from the Park & Ride stop at the Eco Park then travels into town picking passengers up along the way, with the fare risk here borne by the operator. As the Ludlow service collects passengers as it enters the town from the Eco park officers would be concerned that a free fare promotion of the service whilst social distancing measures are in place, could have a negative impact on passengers catching the service at stops after it had left the Eco park
For some context here with the social distancing restrictions in place on Public transport the current passenger capacity on the Ludlow bus which is scheduled to operate every 30 minutes is 11 passengers, whereas the Shrewsbury Park & Ride service which only picks up passengers from the park and ride site, operates a 20 minute frequency and can carry up to 17 passengers.
With the Governments recent announcement of the National Bus Strategy and its ambitions to improve bus services throughout the Country we are sure there will be opportunities to revisit the promotion of the service in Ludlow along with any improvements that can be realised through this strategy, once social distancing measure on public transport are relaxed.
I trust that this helps to outline the process behind our promotion of the Shrewsbury Park & Ride service.
Thursday 29 April: Email from Andy Boddington to Mark Barrow, Shropshire Council
I am sorry but this does not stack up as a coherent argument.
You say that the Shrewsbury park and ride has “different characteristics to the bus service operating in Ludlow and indeed other bus services in the other market towns across Shropshire.” Yes. It is different because Shropshire Council has decided to create a dedicated park and ride service in Shrewsbury. We have been arguing for a dedicated park and ride service in Ludlow for at least a decade. Bus services in other market towns are irrelevant to this debate as they do not have a park and ride owned by Shropshire Council.
If the fare risk in Shrewsbury is borne by Shropshire Council, why is that not the case in Ludlow?
You don’t give a period over which “passenger numbers prior to the suspension in January were very low.” The pandemic has been raging since March2020 and Ludlow bus services have been as hard hit as those in Shrewsbury. I do not understand why Shrewsbury’s bus services need promotion because of low numbers and Ludlow’s do not.
The arrangements in Shrewsbury are different because Shropshire Council choses to make them different. The council choses to prioritise the county town and chooses to ignore the difficulties faced by market towns like Ludlow. I don’t see the difference between a park and ride operated by Arriva for Shropshire Council and a park and ride operated by Minsterley for Shropshire Council.
We have been arguing for a 20 minute service form the park and ride for many years. It is more than ironic to have it thrown back at us that because Shropshire Council won’t agree to a more frequent service, we don’t have enough capacity on the buses for to promote the park and ride!
Your bus capacity constraints do not accord with practice. They assume that everyone is social distanced from everyone else on the bus. In practice, park and ride customers arrive two, three and often four per carload and they sit together.
Ludlow’s buses do pick up passengers on the way to and from town. With an adequate commitment from Shropshire Council, this need not be the case as we have been arguing for many years.
It is fantasy to believe that buses will over capacity after leaving the park and ride in Ludlow. Has anyone from Shropshire Council looked at the data, or more importantly, travelled on Ludlow buses of late?
The reality is that Shropshire Council, which regularly issues press releases on Shrewsbury’s recovery, has done nothing to help with the recovery of Ludlow (other than pass on the LEP and central government grants). It refuses to promote anywhere else but the county town.
We have begun initial discussions on improving Ludlow bus services under the National Bus Strategy. But Shropshire Council has decided to promote Shrewsbury now. In Ludlow we are told that we must wait for a grant we might not get.
I am embarrassed for Shropshire Council which despite its work on economic strategies cannot see that market towns such as Ludlow are crying out for help. We have had the worst hit to our economy since the countryside was closed twenty years ago during the foot and mouth outbreak.
We are not asking for much. We are asking for equivalence with Shrewsbury on park and ride buses and help towards our town’s recovery.