Brighton Area Buswatch

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July 2013 Newsletter

Welcome

As summer finally arrives, our buses are busier than ever. Brighton & Hove Coaster route 12 which links Brighton and Eastbourne is particularly popular and our photo shows a packed bus arriving in Brighton on a sunny morning.

People often write to The Argus claiming high parking charges put people off visiting Brighton and many drive to Eastbourne instead. Anyone who regularly uses the 12 will know that is nonsense. They are coming to Brighton by bus instead because it is much cheaper!

We have plenty to report this month with details of bus service changes for the autumn, more new buses on the way, real hope for improved Key Card validity and more changes to explorer ticket prices.

Much of this information comes from our latest meeting with bus companies and Brighton & Hove City Council. With Martin Harris, Managing Director of Brighton & Hove and Metrobus, Andrew Dyer, MD of Stagecoach (South) and Chris Chatfield, MD of Compass Bus present we had a great opportunity to raise issues with the decision makers. Councillor Ian Davey, Deputy Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council with responsibility for transport was also present.

Thank you to everyone who attended on 10 July, including our members who came up with some challenging questions. We greatly appreciate the willingness of bus company directors to discuss some controversial matters openly and directly without sounding defensive.

 

Key card developments

Good news - at last! The Brighton & Hove Key Card should soon be available on Council supported services operated by Compass Bus and The Big Lemon. We understand the technical issues have been resolved and only funding stands in the way. The amount is not huge but with Council budgets stretched, alternative sources are being investigated. In some parts of the UK the Government has given grants to introduce smartcard schemes.

In the longer term there is a possibility of a Brighton & Hove area smart card for all services, including Stagecoach buses. When asked, the main bus companies were open to the idea which is very encouraging. As we pointed out last month, a similar arrangement already exists in Oxford and there is another scheme in the Solent area. The price may be slightly higher than an existing Key Card or it may cover a smaller area. Brighton Area Buswatch will continue to press for this - if Oxford and Solent can do it, so can Brighton! Incidentally, Brighton & Hove Key cards can already be used on Metrobus routes 270/271/273 between Brighton and Patcham.

Explorer ticket prices

Brighton & Hove Buses is increasing the price of a Family Explorer from 9 to 11 from 28 July. A 9 Family Saver ticket will continue to be available as an M ticket (on a smartphone) but this can only be used on Brighton & Hove buses. It seems rather unfair to impose this increase just as the school holidays start, especially as the new Family Explorer fare is higher than the 10 price published in Bus Times and other fares publicity. We wonder whether visitors will be prepared to submit their bank details to sign up for M ticket to gain the discount for one day.

However some bus companies have expressed their concern at the viability of Explorer tickets at current prices. It would obviously be a retrograde step if operators began to withdraw from the scheme. Nationally, Bus Users UK is pressing for Explorer tickets to be available throughout the country.

We discussed this issue at our meeting and members had an opportunity to quiz heads of the bus companies. As a result we hope a way can be found to achieve a formal agreement between all local bus operators to continue to sell and accept Explorer tickets. Ideally the passenger should pay the same price on any bus but this may not be possible due to commercial considerations.

The principle of the current scheme is straightforward; each participating bus company keeps the revenue from tickets sold on its buses and accepts Explorer tickets issued by other participating companies.

 

Low emission zone for Brighton & Hove?

Brighton & Hove City Council is considering the introduction of a low emission zone which would restrict roads to vehicles that can comply with the latest EU standards. Some cities, including London, have already done this. Local monitoring has shown that Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels have exceeded EU limits at various times during 2012 with the highest NO2 levels recorded in North Street, Brighton.

Action to reduce these levels is required. Last year Brighton & Hove buses introduced 13 hybrid buses on route 7, accounting for up to 16 buses an hour in North Street. This year it is adding 38 low emission Euro 5 standard diesel buses to its fleet, enabling a similar number of older, less environmentally friendly buses to be replaced. The company says it is also involved in projects to lower emissions from other buses. Further hybrid vehicles are only likely to be viable with government grants. Compass Bus already uses Euro 5 standard single deckers in North Street as does Stagecoach on route 700. The Big Lemon buses run on used cooking oil so could have the lowest emissions!

We welcome measures to reduce emissions and hope acceptable solutions can be found that don't adversely affect bus users.
[From the Secretary: If all buses were forced to immediately comply to the latest Euro (Euro 5) standard; then the devastating effect this would have on local bus services needs to be recognised, as only about one third of existing buses would still be running.
It is hoped that a suitable solution can be found; although I would expect the bus company to incur considerable cost, if forced to retrofit the majority of its buses with Euro 5 compliant engines, and that this would be passed on as a significant increase in bus fares. ]

Andrew's newsletter resumes in the next column

July 2013 News: continued

September bus service changes

The Brighton & Hove Bus Company has announced its timetable changes for the autumn and winter period which start on 15 September. The main changes are:
  • More buses on route 6 to provide a 10 minute daytime frequency, strengthening the link between Brighton Station and Churchill Square/Western Road. This will also provide providing extra capacity through Hove and along New Church Road, helping to relieve overcrowding on busy routes 1/1A
  • A more direct daytime route for the 2A in Shoreham so buses towards Steyning don't get delayed at the level crossing three times; although this does mean Shoreham Station is no longer served at these times
  • Extra peak time buses on routes 5/5B from Patcham and Hollingbury and changes to the times of 5B buses to the Universities. In future the 5B will run direct from Sussex University campus to Falmer Station, not serving Brighton University or Amex Stadium stops.
  • More Saturday morning buses on Coaster routes 12/12A
  • Slightly fewer daytime buses through Queens Park on routes 81/81B with the current 10 minute service reduced to a 12 minute frequency; with the two busiest peak journeys operated using double deckers buses. New early morning buses will serve Hove station to connect with commuter trains.

A full bus on the 'Coaster' route 12

 

Stagecoach 10p child offer

Once again Stagecoach will be offering a special rate of just 10p for each child travelling with an adult on a day ticket during the summer holiday period. More details on www.stagecoachbus.com

 

Lewes Road scheme update

Progress remains ahead of schedule and road works between the bus garage and Falmer should be completed by early September (three months early) in time for the new school and University terms. The bus lanes are being marked out and lots of shiny new shelters are being installed.

Last month we reported that consideration was being given to the design of a northbound cycle lane through the Vogue gyratory and could involve the loss of the bus stop outside Sainsbury's. Some people weren't happy with this! The good news is that a new design has now been developed including an island style bus stop outside Sainsbury's, similar to those further along Lewes Road, with cyclists passing behind the bus stop.

 

New buses for Compass services in Lewes

Compass Bus has been awarded two year contracts to operate services for East Sussex County Council in the Lewes area. These are mainly services that were formally run by Countryliner which the company took over at very short notice last October. Also included is route 126 which is partly operated by Renown Coaches. Compass is buying 7 new single deck buses for these services.

 

More new buses!

Brighton & Hove is expecting a further batch of 18 Volvo double deckers in the autumn. These will complete the conversion of routes 5/5A/5B to this type, enabling the existing four or five year old buses on these routes to upgrade other services, notably route 27.

Crawley based Metrobus is expecting 28 new buses, mostly for its 'Fastway' routes serving Gatwick Airport.


Route 52 consultation outcome

Last month users of this service were asked to consider three options for the timetable of this hourly service which currently runs between Woodingdean and Brighton Marina via Ovingdean. The options were: no changes at all, extend some peak hour buses into Brighton, or extend all buses to Brighton on a reduced frequency of every 90 minutes.

A majority of respondents were in favour of extending the service and it has been confirmed that the third option will be adopted. This means the entire service will run to Old Steine or Brighton Station every 90 minutes. The revised timetable will come into operation on 16 September. Further information on the outcome of the consultation is available on www.thebiglemon.com

 

Bus Stop improvements at Brighton Marina

Good news for bus users travelling to the Marina is that the last bus stop opposite Cineworld now has a raised kerb so wheelchair users, buggies and other less able bus passengers can alight onto a level footpath. Thanks are due to the Marina Estates company for carrying out this improvement and to Jo Goddard for her persistence to ensure it happened!


This newsletter is edited and produced by Andrew Boag, Chair, Brighton Area Buswatch, with a few minor changes by the Secretary. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Printed copies of the newsletter are available from Hove town hall reception.

The next issue is due in mid August.