Brighton Area Buswatch
Representing Bus Users
Andrew's August 2014 Buswatch News: continued
More 20mph zones in Brighton & Hove?
Brighton & Hove City Council is consulting on the third and final phase of introducing 20mph zones. These cover outer areas of the City including Mile Oak, Hangleton, Ovingdean, Rottingdean, Saltdean and Woodingdean. As with previous proposals some main roads used by buses are excluded. Warren Road in Woodingdean and Longridge Avenue in Saltdean are two roads where options are included for either 20mph or retaining 30mph. Please feel free to contact us with your views as bus users. The consultation is open until 6 October and can be accessed at www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/ If approved, the new speed limits would be introduced from April 2015.
Route 1 - Brighton & Hove's Alternative sightseeing tour?
(photo by Mike Cheesman)
Having reviewed the Stagecoach Coastliner 700 service a few months ago I decided to look at another very popular service, but this one doesn't go outside the Brighton & Hove City boundary. Brighton & Hove bus route 1 has a long history going back to 1850s when a horse bus service began between Sussex Square in Kemp Town and Hove. The current route is from Whitehawk in the east to Mile Oak in the west of the City. Daytime buses run every 6-7 minutes.
In my view a one hour trip on the No 1 is the ideal way to capture the real atmosphere of Brighton & Hove. The 1 may not be the most scenic tour but it is certainly a journey of contrasts. It serves social housing estates and affluent areas and passes quite a few well known landmarks. Much of the route is within a few minutes walk of the seafront although sea views are limited. Its users are many and varied. Young mothers from Whitehawk mix with Doctors from the hospital (yes they do use the 1) and teenagers from Brighton College public school. You may see students from France or Spain sitting next to cross dresser from Kemp Town or a grandmother from Hove. This is cosmopolitan and diverse Brighton at its best!
I began my journey in Whitehawk on a recent Friday afternoon. The first stop is Swanborough Drive flats at the north end of the estate where I boarded two year old Volvo 'Gemini' No 422 (enthusiasts will understand!) and took my seat upstairs. This is one of the highest points in the city so some residents must have fantastic views. While waiting for the bus I could hear a roar from the crowd at Brighton racecourse nearby. Whitehawk once had a bad reputation and some people still baulk at the prospect of going there, but in reality it is a very ordinary residential area. I didn't see any rows of boarded up houses or gangs of youths roaming the streets and none of the bus shelters were vandalised.
The service follows the length of Whitehawk Way before reaching Whitehawk bus garage where route 1 buses are based, near the Lidl supermarket. Our drivers changed over outside the bus garage which is very handy for them and we were soon on our way again.
Just ten minutes after leaving Whitehawk we pass through Sussex Square, one of the most exclusive regency squares in Brighton. Here we picked up a few students from the nearby language school. The area changes again by the time we reach the nearby Royal Sussex County Hospital. This will become a major building site for the next few years as a £420 million redevelopment takes shape. With restricted parking and almost thirty buses an hour (one very two minutes!), the hospital generates lots of business for passing bus services. Around twenty or so get on here plus a few more at each of the stops along Eastern Road and Edward Street, serving Brighton College, Gala Bingo and the Law Courts. The bus turns left opposite the Royal Pavilion to reach the Old Steine. With Brighton (Palace) Pier and the seafront in view this is a popular stop. 1/1A buses towards Whitehawk use St James's Street and Rock Gardens. Being August, St James's Street is festooned with rainbow flags as it becomes the focus for the annual Brighton Pride festival.
Next stop is North Street in the heart of the tourist area. The Lanes are on our left and the Theatre Royal, Jubilee Library and North Laine shops in Bond Street are on our right. North Laine has a more bohemian atmosphere than The Lanes. Shoppers flock here to browse in streets containing small independent shops which seem unable to survive in other towns but thrive in Brighton.
Churchill Square remains the main objective for shoppers containing all the big names you would expect to find in a large shopping centre. Opposite are Marks & Spencer and several other clothes retailers line Western Road as we continue our journey west.
The road network in central Brighton has hardly changed since Victorian times and buses get priority along a network of bus lanes. Unlike other towns and cities they don't get diverted onto ring roads and they are able to stop where people want to be. Without these advantages buses would be less attractive, roads would be more congested and cross city journeys would be almost impossible.
At Churchill Square we caught up with the 1 in front which looks full when we overtake, but as is common on the 1 our bus is almost full too. As we head along Western Road and into Hove, retail outlets continue to line both sides and will do so all the way through Church Road and Hove town centre. We pass by Brunswick Square and through Palmeira Square with its floral clock.
Hove town centre has a more relaxed atmosphere than Brighton. Cafe society is big in Hove with coffee shops on almost every corner in Church Road and plenty of restaurants too. A large Tesco dominates, opened about ten years ago. At the time people said it would threaten other stores in nearby George Street but that doesn't appear to have happened as there are few empty shops.
George Street is a busy stop and it takes several minutes for passengers to get on and off. Some people have suggested two door buses like those in London to speed up services, but these have the disadvantage of fewer seats. Beyond Hove town centre, Church Road becomes New Church Road. This is a straight and wide tree lined road. There are no shops here just large suburban houses, some of which have become private clinics or care homes. You might think buses would do little trade in this environment but the 1 doesn't have any quiet stretches. Our bus is as busy as it was at Churchill Square and we drop off a handful people at every stop until we reach Boundary Road in Portslade.
Portslade is yet another local shopping centre which serves areas further west. A few more get off and another dozen or so passengers board here for the final leg of the journey. We are just able to squeeze underneath the railway bridge in Trafalgar Road, carrying the Coastway West line between Hove and Worthing. The bridge enables us to avoid the level crossing at Portslade Station which causes delays to other bus services. After crossing the Old Shoreham Road we are soon in Portslade Old Village which as its name suggests is older than the town centre. About twenty language students leave the bus here and it occurs to me that some of them began their journey way back at Sussex Square, so they had a long trip of around 45 minutes.
After Old Village we enter Mile Oak Road, served only by the 1A. The 1 uses Valley Road which runs in parallel further east. Mile Oak Road is higher than Valley Road so there are some fine views towards the South Downs. As we reach Mile Oak terminus in Graham Avenue we are on the edge of the Downs and it feels a long way away from the hustle and bustle of Brighton. The journey has taken just over an hour and it is 5pm. I felt a little sorry for the driver who would have to return to Whitehawk through rush hour traffic after a short break.
Route 1 is an outstanding success story and usage has increased considerably over the past twenty years. During the mid 1990s the service had single deck buses but it is hard to imagine how it would cope with those now. For several years the service was marketed as 'Metro 1' suggesting an Underground type service and that is just what it does. Route 1 takes people exactly where they want to go at frequent intervals from 6am to midnight (later at weekends), enabling them to travel to work or make short hops without needing a car.
The route the No 1 takes has been unchanged for a few years and I'm sure many people live where they do because the service takes them to so many useful places. Long may it remain!
The next meeting with bus companies and Brighton & Hove City Council will be on Wednesday 22 October at 5.30pm. It has been confirmed that this can be held in Hove Town Hall as usual. Meetings are open to all members and supporters but please let us know in advance if you wish to attend as space is limited.
Buswatch News is written by Andrew Boag, Chair, Brighton Area Buswatch. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Printed copies of this newsletter are available from Hove town hall reception (and will continue to be available during forthcoming building works).
The next issue is due in mid September 2014.
Andrew is contactable by email at