In the New Year the green Connect2Wiltshire buses will no longer be seen in Marlborough High Street or in the villages of the Kennet Valley. Santa values (see below) are not apparent on all local bus routes this Christmas.
A new bus service and timetable replacing the Connect2Wiltshire Line 4 service that links Calne to Marlborough via the Kennet Valley villages comes into force on January 5.
Line 4 will in future be known as route number 42 and will not be a Connect2Wiltshire service, but will be run as an APL Travel service. APL Travel is a ‘family run coach and bus business’.
Line 4 used to run from Calne through Quemerford, Lower Compton, Compton Bassett, Cherhill, Yatesbury, Beckhampton, Avebury, Winterbourne Monkton, Berwick Bassett, West & East Kennett, West Overton, Lockeridge, Fyfield, Clatford, Manton and into Marlborough.
For people coming into Marlborough to work or shop the morning services up to noon have been reduced. If, for example, you were coming from West Overton into Marlborough you used to be able to choose one of five buses leaving before 1.00pm. From January 5 there will be three – if you include the one leaving at 1.22pm.
There are also changes to the early morning timetable which mean that if you start work at 9.00am in Marlborough, your own ‘get-to-work’ timetable will probably have to change. You can arrive in the High Street either at 8.23am (including, in term time, a diversion to drop of at St John’s Academy) or at 9.47am. On the existing service you could arrive in Marlborough at 8.45am.
Under the new timetable Winterbourne Monkton and Berwick Bassett get one morning bus a day west to east plus one afternoon service with set-down options. And three buses a day east to west, but only with an untimed set down option. Under the existing regime you could make ‘phone bookings for pickups in these villages at most times of the day.
The changes follow the consultation process that ended in May and changes were scheduled to come in three months ago. A passenger who has spoken to Marlborough News Online doubts the value of the consultation process as he was told that the tenders for the new services had to be in two days after the consultation closed.
The consultation documents made it quite clear that the aim was to reduce the cost of bus subsidies. The reduction in the grant from ventral government – expected to take another 1.8 per cent cut in today’s (December 18) announcement – and Wiltshire Council’s decision to freeze council tax for another year.
One of the main changes from January 5 is that journeys on this route will no longer be ‘demand responsive’ (which means passengers could ask for a pick up in one of the villages if that was booked in advance.) This route will no longer be bookable at all – saving the Council the cost of a call centre system. The review of Connect2Wiltshire services following the consultation said that if pre-booking was abolished for this service and for a similar one in the Pewsey Vale, the Council could save £70,000 a year.
Another major change is the scrapping of the ‘Night Bus’ service that left Marlborough at 8.45pm and 11.10pm each weekday and ran through the villages to Avebury.
The Council’s ‘bookaride’ website page says of the changes from the existing Connect2Wiltshire service: “This service will continue to be operated by APL Travel, but will run to a traditional timetable.”
The phrase ‘traditional timetable’ is assumed to mean a timetable for buses on fixed routes and fixed times with no need to book in advance. If it also means these services are no longer subsidised, they will need to be well used if they are to survive.
It is impossible to be precise as to how much these changes to Lin4/Route 42 are saving as the figures given in the review cover Line 4 and 5 as well as some Pewsey Vale services.
Other routes affected by the subsidy reductions include the ‘Calne Clipper Town Service’, Line 5 linking the villages of Stockley, Heddington and Quemerford with Calne, and the 33 and X33 route linking Chippenham and Calne with Bromham and Devizes. This latter route has been completely revised with buses only serving Chippenham approximately every two hours during the middle of the day.
The new timetable is available in printed form from Line 4 drivers. If any readers have first hand evidence of difficulties or hardship arising from these changes, please email firstname.lastname@example.org APL Travel can be contacted on 01793 778272 or email@example.com
Another meaning of the quaint phrase ‘traditional timetable’ was on view on Wednesday morning in Marlborough High Street as the Stagecoach service 80 was about to set off for Ludgershall. The driver assured us his beard came off before he drove the bus: