Buses: cut through the confusion

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East Sussex County Council’s proposed bus cuts come into effect from Sunday April 26 affecting some 29 services. But after months spent on consultation, deliberation, negotiations and lots of protests, the first impact may be total confusion. Routes have been changed and renumbered. Some have a new operator. Some buses stop where they did not stop before. Others no longer stop where they used to stop. Some buses will get bigger, others smaller. Some connections will  be better, a lot will be worse.

Across the county ten services will not change at all (including the Rye Dial-a-Ride), but five services will change on April 19 – and an additional 24 will change from April 26, including 10 in the Rye area. However it is not clear when timetables will generally be available, or indeed who may provide them. Stagecoach’s current Rye and district timetable covers three operators (Stagecoach, Rye Community Transport (RCT) and Rambler Coaches) and eight routes. However the Hastings to Tenterden and/or Rye timetable alone includes four routes, and the 326 table (mainly Rye itself) includes three routes – and a new operator will be running two routes and could publish its own timetable in future.

The county council has published new timetables with only one route per timetable making comparisons with the current situation difficult. Other changes, including new routes and different numbers, confuse the picture further. Rye Harbour, for example, is no longer served by the 312 which still goes from Rye Station to Tenterden. Instead Rye Harbour is served by a 313 which goes on to Northiam instead and forms part of the previous 344 route.

Rye town buses

Fewer cuts however seem to have been made in Rye itself where ESCC says the 326 service will continue without council funding. Instead it will be run solely by RCT with minor changes to the timetable and an improved Saturday service. But it is not quite that simple because, though the service has mainly improved, RCT has to raise the funding. Fares might increase if they cannot, or do not cover their costs, and the changes need to be compared in some detail.

Currently the timetable includes 326 journeys run by both RCT and Stagecoach, as well as some 342 Broad Oak journeys and one 344 journey into Rye from Udimore. In future however Stagecoach will no longer run any 326 journeys, and some 342 journeys will also be withdrawn. In addition the 344 is being renumbered as the 101 between Hastings and Rye and as the 313 between Rye and Northiam – and no longer seems to serve Udimore.

Two afternoon 342 journeys from Rye out to Tilling Green will continue, but two 342 journeys and a 344 which stopped at, or passed close by, Tilling Green on their way into Rye in the afternoon have apparently been withdrawn. However in the morning, an early 342 (now run mainly by Renown Transport) does now stop in Tilling Green itself, rather than passing by the end of Mason Road and stopping instead opposite the Gibbet Marsh car park.

Residents of the 100 plus houses in Valley Park will be interested in more buses coming into Tilling Green as a footbridge is due to be built this year by the developer into Cooper Road giving access to the bus stop there, thus enabling them to avoid the mud bath in the Old Brickyard. Currently no buses at all come into Valley Park, which will eventually have around 160 houses.

The net result of these changes seems to be only one fewer bus (Monday to Friday) out to Tilling Green in the afternoon and one fewer bus in the opposite direction. But the last bus into Rye will be earlier (14.20 instead of 16.17) because of Stagecoach’s 326 journeys and the 342 at 16.17 being withdrawn. However there is an extra early morning journey as the 342 will now come into Tilling Green at 8.27.

On Saturdays, however, despite there apparently being no 342 services, there will be extra RCT buses as the Monday-Friday 326 timetable will in future also apply to Saturdays as well, with eight round trips into and out of Rye – instead of the current six – but the last bus back from Rye will be 14.10 instead of 16.45. However the number of RCT trips Monday to Friday up past the Memorial Hospital to Playden and back via Military Road remains at three and these services will now also run on Saturdays according to ESCC’s timetable.

Services halved

There are savage cuts on some other routes though, and cuts to the 312 and former 344 route (now numbered 313) mean around 20 fewer buses calling at Rye’s Memorial Hospital every weekday. The 312’s off peak frequency (Rye-Tenterden) has been halved to approximately ever two hours, as has that of the 313 (replacing the 344 between Rye and Northiam), says ESCC. Both services will now be run by Renown Travel and subsidised by ESCC. The 312 (Rye-Tenterden) service is being cut (Monday to Friday) from nine journeys to six, and on Saturdays from five to four, and between Tenterden and Rye from nine to six (Monday to Friday). This means six fewer buses serving Rye’s Memorial Hospital on this route alone during the week.

There used to be 12 buses each day (Monday to Saturday between Rye and Northiam, now cut to six (Monday to Friday) and five on Saturdays – with the two Sunday buses withdrawn. Similar cuts have been made in the reverse direction between Northiam and Rye, and that means on weekdays another 12 buses on this route are not calling at Rye’s hospital, with 14 less on Saturdays and none at all on Sundays.

Harbour suffers

Rye Harbour’s current 312 Stagecoach service will be replaced by the 313 with fewer services and more only going into Rye. Some will go through to Northiam (but may involve changing buses in Rye), and for travellers from Rye Harbour there will be poor connections to Tenterden, and little apparent improvement in connections to Hastings.

Currently the 312 goes from Rye Harbour through to Tenterden eight times a day (though one bus has a 10 minute wait in Rye) along with four shuttle journeys only between the Harbour and Rye Station, Monday to Friday (a total of 12 journeys daily). On Saturdays there are five journeys through to Tenterden and four shuttles (a total of nine journeys). The new 313 service will have only nine services from the Harbour Monday to Friday (three less than now) and six of them will be shuttles.

In the case of four shuttles however (as there is no onward connection), waiting for and catching the next bus from the Harbour is actually the best choice in order to get to Northiam and, even so, there could be a half hour wait in Rye. In two other cases the wait is 25 and 54 minutes for 313 services that start from Rye Station and not the Harbour. Indeed the 313 service (formerly the 344) between Rye and Northiam has been effectively halved during the off peak period (to every two hours) and the Sunday service withdrawn. Ironically Rye Harbour has no Sunday service, but had been lobbying for one, while the new Northiam service has just lost its Sunday buses.

Longer journeys (to Northiam now, rather than Tenterden) may involve changing buses or longer waits for connections as, while current connections on the 312 can involve some waits in Rye of 15-30 minutes, the 313 will involve more and longer waits of between 25 and 71 minutes – a definite worsening of service.

Connections from Rye Harbour to Tenterden in future will be mainly around 50 minutes, though coming back from Tenterden they are around only a minute which is cutting it tight, but as Renown now run both services they should connect. However one connection is nearly an hour so shopping trips to Tenterden are much less likely, and the Harbour apparently has become more, rather than less isolated.

Fewer links to Conquest

Closer to Hastings and the ward of ESCC transport spokesman and Rother District Council leader, Carl Maynard, the cuts seem less drastic. The former 344 route between Hastings and Rye via Fairlight and Winchelsea Beach, with links to the Conquest Hospital, is now to be the 101 operated by Stagecoach with larger capacity buses – which may struggle with the traffic and narrow roads between Fairlight and Hastings.

The service seems unchanged, but the links to and from the Conquest Hospital have significantly reduced. The current timetable into Hastings shows ten connections (Monday-Friday) to the Conquest, while the ESCC’s new timetable shows only six. In the opposite direction from Rye on the 101 route a few cuts have been made to the existing 100 route, including its current “short journeys” between Rye and Camber, but the 101 has taken these over and the new combined 100 and 101 timetables seem to provide Camber with a small improvement in the service to and from Rye.

Ashford extension

The 340/341 between Tenterden and Hastings via the Conquest is now numbered 2, is provided commercially by Stagecoach, and has been extended to Ashford. The existing limited 342/343 services between Hastings, Rye and Northiam, now being run by Renown with funding from ESCC, have had some cuts and the 347 service between Hastings and Pett has lost one service in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Rye Harbour, Northiam and Tenterden however seem worst affected by the cuts with the Harbour becoming more isolated and having fewer links beyond Rye, with services to Northiam and Tenterden now being two hourly – with the major consequence of around 20 fewer buses serving Rye’s Memorial Hospital and the frequency of services to the Conquest Hospital also suffering. And pedestrians walking down from the hospital will have to risk their lives in Deadman’s Lane where new homes being built have raised concerns about traffic issues and pedestrians’ safekeeping.

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