- Gareth Davies
Hereford City Bus Services. September 2019
Updated: Aug 31, 2021
1. The Present
A majority of people consider the current bus service to be poor and unattractive for a city the size of Hereford. Why is this? Primarily because the network has suffered considerable decline over the last fifteen years. The chart below shows the contraction of the network in terms of service frequency.
Between 2002 and 2017 the number of single journeys per weekday declined by over 50%. A similar trend is seen on Saturdays whilst Sunday services have all but disappeared. Whilst a good proportion of this journey reduction was accounted for by the wholesale withdrawal of evening and most Sunday services, a further proportion was accounted for by operational cost savings. These cost savings were achieved by combining services and thus extending journey times. The need for such cost savings was as a direct result of the wholesale withdrawal of local authority financial support for city services during the swingeing budget cuts of 2014 and 2015. The disappearance of financial support reduced the ability of the operator to support a network in partnership with the local authority. The result was that in 2015 the city network became virtually 100% commercial. This in itself tipped the balance of profitability of the FirstBus Hereford depot which led to the decision by the company to withdraw from Herefordshire and close the depot. The local operator, Yeomans Canyon Travel, took over the FirstBus network but further economies were needed. This has left Hereford with the current operation and network.
Whilst the current operator is to be credited for holding the current network together, in a commercial world there is no guarantee that this can continue without some form of assistance. Such assistance does not necessarily mean wholesale subsidy of the network. It also includes assistance with the development of the network aimed at improving the image and profile of buses and increasing patronage.
2. The Future
The completion of the new Link Road and the planned transport hub at Barrs Court Railway Station, together with the plans for Newmarket Street, Blueschool Street and Commercial Road provide the opportunity for the re-design of the city bus network and arrest its decline. Having invested in a transport hub, its optimum use for bus and rail interchange in the city is paramount.
Experience elsewhere in Britain and Europe indicate that an effective public transport system can do much to aid economic and social development whilst reducing an over dependence on the private car for internal city journeys.
A modal shift from car to public transport can assist with campaigns such as Herefordshire Council’s ’Choose how you move’ and help achieve the visions, aims and policies as announced in the Local Transport Plan.
Four main elements influence travel by bus: These are 1. frequency of service throughout the day: 2. reliability of the service: 3. improved journey opportunities: 4. cost of travel.
Improved journey opportunities through the provision of good interchange of services can also help to stimulate suppressed travel demand as well as encourage bus usage. Existing means of easing traffic pinch points and low-cost bus priority should also be examined.
A good city network can comprise 10 well defined routes centred on the transport hub for maximum interchange and operating at 15/20-minute frequency throughout the day. Route length should be no more than a 60 min round trip hub-outer terminus-hub. Cross city routes are avoided as unreliable and cross city journey opportunity is enhanced by maximum interchange at the hub.
It is recognised that the Local Transport Authority (LTA) is constrained by what influence it has with the city network which is virtually 100% commercial.
The Department for Transport does recognise this limitation and the Bus Services Act 2017 goes some way to providing local authorities with mechanisms to influence the planning and operation of local bus networks.
Section 9 of the Act creates a new Enhanced Partnership option. LTAs are encouraged to develop partnerships where the bus operator (or operators) is an integral part of a collaborative development process. The scheme can set out:
¨ facilities that the LTA will provide such as the transport hub/passenger waiting areas and passenger timetable information;
¨ improved infrastructure measures that the authority will take, including the introduction of electric buses and low cost bus priority and
¨ requirements that bus operators in the scheme area will need to comply with.
Hereford Council are encouraged to examine the opportunity for an Enhanced Partnership and an application for grants under the Department for Transport Green Bus Initiative and Better Bus Areas schemes.