Monday 17 March 2014

Latest on Northampton Bus Station Fiasco & A Driver's View

Further to our recent report about the chaos surrounding the opening of Northampton's new Bus Station here  we understand that the situation is so finely balanced that if just a few vehicles illegally use the Drapery then the whole gridlock situation will be repeated again. 
Derek Taylor, who owns Meridian Bus, which has one daily service to and from the station, said new traffic orders, which appear to have solved the traffic jams and delays of the first day, could be easily upset if only a handful of motorists acted illegally.
He said: “The new traffic orders in The Drapery [no deliveries between 10am and 4pm] are going to be very difficult to keep to.
“There are businesses up there, particularly the four banks, who can’t have deliveries during those times. “It just takes a couple of vehicles to park in The Drapery or Sheep Street when they shouldn’t and it brings the whole system to a halt again.”
Mr Taylor said he was not satisfied with Northampton Borough Council’s level of consultation with bus companies. Read more here

In the meantime we bring you a driver's eye view of what its like to use the new facility from Malcolm Tales. His comments about how disabled bays are mixed with coach parking bays in Victoria Street are, in particular, very worrying and illustrate how such things shouldn't be designed and implemented by people who lack the necessary knowledge and skills.

"I now have first hand experience of our new bus station having driven the Hamiltons/Buckbys Coaches Wednesday service 304 – Desborough and Rothwell to Northampton via the villages. Arriving into the North Gate Bus Station I had no problem in driving onto our allocated bay 5. I did notice that the bays are only marginally larger than a bus – obviously to squeeze as many bays as possible into a small area. Reversing off the stand it is noticeable that there is very little space before the run through road where a couple of buses were waiting for their bays to be vacated. No problem leaving the bus station and driving round to park at Victoria Street.
The new bus station is not large enough to take coaches so National Express now leave from Victoria Street. The road has been remarked with a coach sized bay, then a 12’0” yellow square with a disabled marking, then a coach bay about two coaches long followed by another yellow square and a final coach bay which is about a coach and three quarters long. The yellow boxes are apparently intended for cars with disabled badge holders but how you park in or leave them if coaches are in the bays is a bit of intrigue, and likewise for coaches if cars are parked there. Anyway, I parked in the last bay as the first bay was occupied by Goodes Wednesday service 289 which runs in from Paulespury and the middle bay had a mobility minibus and NatEx coach in it. Stagecoach also use the street for some crew changes and to stack buses between service as there is nowhere else close to the new facility. Shortly after I arrived the NatEx coach left as did the minibus to be replaced by a Stagecoach bus. A NatEx pulled in behind me but was partially blocking the car park exit. The driver walked the length of the road and decided to move to the front of the middle bay. He attempted to reverse into the space before finding it wasn’t long enough so drove round the block. Unfortunately two Stagecoach buses had now arrived behind me so when he returned he couldn’t even get into the street! Presumably he was supposed to be on his break by now.
Time for me to return to Bay 5 and collect my passengers. A good run round to North Gate but a Uno 21 on the stand so I have to wait on the run through road and almost immediately notice two Stagecoach buses behind me, the second of which is still partially on Greyfriars. Onto the stand and load, reverse off and leave fairly easily although it took me 3 minutes to exit and clear the bus station.
The fiasco of Monday when the town was brought to a standstill has not been repeated thanks to overnight work to alter road markings giving buses priority (why wasn’t that done in the first place?) and lots and lots of yellow coats controlling pedestrians and preventing unauthorised traffic movements. It is rumoured that Stagecoach took 44 buses out of service on that day and there was considerable lost mileage by all operators.  What will happen when all this supervision and enforcement disappears remains to be seen. Bearing in mind that intending passengers need to wait for their bus to take its’ turn to pull onto the stand the circulation/waiting area on the concourse seems very confined. The Council have praised the new facility for the impression it will give to visitors arriving in the town. However, the majority of people arriving at North Gate will be residents arriving on local buses whilst visitors to the town are likely to be on NatEx and other coaches which arrive at a wind-blown street stop in Victoria Street  without any facilities other than a couple of small bus shelters, no real shelter, seating, toilets or refreshments and no easy access to the town or new bus station.
As a final note the Hamiltons/Buckbys Wednesday and Saturday services will run for the last time on 22 March. The services are long standing routes originally operated by Buckbys Coaches and were taken over by Hamiltons Coaches following  the unfortuate death of the owner. They are service 304 Desborough High Street (0900), Rothwell Market Hill (0907) to Northampton (0945) returning at 1220 and becoming service 302 at Rothwell (1300) and then running to Desborough Library (1309) and Leicester Humberstone Gate (1348) returning to Desborough and Rothwell at 1715. It is hoped that Volvo B10M/Alexander PS K729 DAO may be used on the final day.    

Malcolm Tales