The project to extend HS1 rail services to Hastings and Bexhill has received further positive news through the ESCC report towards regenerative effects.
With continuing positive commitments from both the treasury and department of transport, the focus can be expanded to take in another crucial area of public transport – our bus services.
Whilst there can be little doubt that operating suburban bus services is a complex and often thankless operation, the lack of competition within Hastings may not be conducive to regular service frequency in some areas, route variety and travel options.
It is an established fact (source: ESCC) that bus passenger numbers are increasing.
The centres and density of population within Hastings have changed over time, as have the concentration of attractions and destinations.
Yet the majority of suburban services share the same routes which lead to both traffic and passenger congestion.
Indeed many of our current routes can be mapped closely to those from the early 1960s.
There seems to be little appetite or incentive to depart from the safety-net of existing, but bunched, service patterns.
Over the last six months HATRIC has submitted a number of service-revision ideas to Stagecoach for their consideration including:
A variation of Arrow service routing within St Leonards to decrease traffic congestion, improve time-keeping and give more travel options;
An hourly bi-directional circular route which will offer a better service and choice of destinations to areas of town which have seen a recent decrease in service frequency;
Reorganisation of town centre bus-stop service allocation to alleviate passenger congestion;
Moving one troublesome town-centre stop to a nearby and more traffic-friendly location; expanding the Wave services to provide an over-lapping service between Eastbourne and Dover, including a direct service linking Bexhill and the Conquest;
Alternative inner-Hastings routing for some rural services to improve time-keeping;
A new service between DGH and Conquest incorporating a 1066 Tourist trail linking Pevensey Castle, Battle Abbey, Hastings;
Service provision at the unused Ore Station terminus;
An express version of Wave 99, mirroring the success of Brighton’s 12X.
Whilst these have been politely received there is no evidence of any of these being taken on-board, although some ideas may be ‘on hold’ pending the actual opening of the Combe Valley Way and anticipated improved traffic situations along the A259 corridor.
In that context Stagecoach should be congratulated on their planned extension of service 21 to serve Bexhill via Combe Valley Way, although that still eschews the opportunity to provide a fast link from Bexhill to the Conquest.
Their other proposed adjustments to assorted inner-Hastings routes are also positive.
Another issue that should be addressed is the non-acceptance of rail tickets by Stagecoach buses for local journeys during unplanned disruption.
To be fair this is not restricted to Hastings and Bexhill, but as an effective short-term passenger alternative option this lack of inter-operator agreement is a candidate for a new thought process.
The next MP sponsored Hastings Rail Summit, scheduled for March, 2016, will form a wider transport debate to include a presentation from a senior national representative of Stagecoach, giving their visions for the future of Hastings’ and Bexhill operations.
Perhaps discussions before, during, and after that event will be creative towards a regeneration of bus services within our area, whether they remain under one operator or a selection.
Brighton offers five. Eastbourne has four.
Yet, excluding the irregular visit of Renown service 95 to the Conquest, and the Metrobus 380 night service to Bexhill and Gatwick, Hastings has just the one national operator.
Maybe some competition, or more proactive thinking from Stagecoach, will be welcomed by and be of benefit to passengers?
Martin Woodfine o.b.o.
Hastings Access, Transport Regeneration, Inter-modal Connectivity
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