At the end of July, Wiltshire Council switched the operator of the Swindon to Marlborough 48 bus service which serves the villages of Baydon, Aldbourne and Ramsbury.
Swindon’s Bus Company, which lost the contract, had modern vehicles and regular drivers who were familiar with passengers’ needs and the meandering route. They were replaced by older Stagecoach buses with seating for 33 passengers.
Marlborough.news has learned that a problem has already arisen with the lack of capacity in term-time when the early morning service is used by pupils going to St John’s Academy. The 07.10 from Swindon is frequently full by Aldbourne – with pupils and adult passengers having to stand all the way to Marlborough.
And that is before they are joined by Ramsbury passengers and those at further stops. This overcrowding slows down boarding and alighting at stops – making the service sometimes run up to 15 minutes late.
A Stagecoach driver, responding to complaints about overcrowding, has said the roads were too narrow for double deckers. However a transport expert told marlborough.news that single and double deckers were normally the same width – 2.55 metres.
It is a widely held view that passengers having to stand on rural bus routes is undesirable as vehicles often have to brake sharply. One passenger has told marlborough.news it was ‘inexcusable’ that before awarding the new contract, the Council’s transport people had not ensured Stagecoach were able to cope with term-time passenger levels on this service to St John’s.