Brighton Area Buswatch
Representing Bus Users
Andrew's November 2014 Buswatch News: continued
New buses for Coaster route 12
Brighton & Hove Buses has ordered 24 new double deck buses for Coaster services 12/12A/12X between Brighton & Eastbourne. They are due to be delivered in the spring and will be painted in a blue and green livery unique to this service. A new feature being trialled is that one set of seats upstairs will be arranged with a table and socket so passengers can sit in a group or use lap tops.
Some free Christmas parking again.
Opposition Councillors on Brighton & Hove City Council joined forces to vote through a proposal for free car parking at certain Council run car parks. It will apply on three weekends in December. A similar promotion last year had little impact but with elections next year Councillors are keen to be seen to help motorists - at the expense of bus and rail users, cyclists and pedestrians who also vote. Car ownership in Brighton & Hove is way below the national average, so non residents who drive into Brighton and clog up our streets searching for a free space will benefit most.
Random Rides through the Sussex countryside on route 143
Compass Bus service 143 runs from Lewes to Eastbourne via Ringmer, Laughton, Golden Cross, Hailsham and Polegate. There are five journeys in each direction on Mondays to Fridays only plus extra school buses serving Ringmer Community College. The total journey time is 70 minutes.
My journey begins in Lewes Bus Station, not the most inviting of bus stations. In fact like Brightons Pool Valley it has become badly neglected. Lewes Bus Station does at least have a covered waiting area close to bus stops and a cafe specialising in pizzas. The building was once owned by the Southdown bus company and then Stagecoach until they ceased their Lewes based bus operations in 2005. While their commercial bus services were sold to other operators the premises were not included in the sale. Stagecoach clearly thought they could make a lot of money selling this prime location. So it is odd that nine years on nothing has happened, despite a thriving town centre and amongst the highest property values in Sussex.
It is half term week and Lewes town centre is busy. The weather is warm and sunny; it seems odd to see people wearing light summer clothes in late October. Older folk are generally less trusting of the unseasonal weather and most have warm coats on. At 1220 a bus parks up at the 143 stop. Its driver gets out and closes the doors. Then another bus appears and stops in the roadway beside it. Passengers walk out to get on; they must be used to the routine! The destination on the side shows not in service so is this the 143 I ask? Yes replies the smiling driver Ill change that display now.
Our bus is almost new, (13 reg) and clean and I count seven other passengers on board as we leave the bus station of which only one has paid for his fare. The rest are all travelling on concessionary passes although I am using a Brighton & Hove Saver scratch card. I had heard rumours that some Compass Bus drivers wont accept B&H Saver tickets but Ive never experienced any problems. The services on which Saver tickets are valid are clearly shown in Brighton & Hove Bus Times. Brighton & Hove Key Cards and M tickets are not valid on any Compass Bus services at present.
At Tesco we pick up another handful of passengers and then it is out into the countryside passing the delightfully named Earwig Corner. A new cycle way is being built next to the road which will provide a safe route for cyclists between Ringmer and Lewes. The white wind turbine at Glyndebourne marks the skyline on one side while the other side there is a good view across the meadows towards Uckfield. At Ringmer our 143 turns right passing the shopping parade to reach residential roads away from the main street, providing the only service through these areas. One stop is particularly busy with three alighting six passengers boarding, all concessionary pass holders. Wheres Michael one passenger asks. Dont worry hes got a day off, back tomorrow replies the driver. Regular drivers are clearly valued although it would be hard to make any complaints about our stand in driver who was friendly and courteous and drove carefully.
After Ringmer we arrive at Laughton where we stop at the Roebuck pub which has been painted green and cream, allegedly to resemble the traditional colours of Southdown buses. That is the local story anyway! The pub has been closed for years but should reopen soon. Then on to Golden Cross where one of the few fare paying passengers gets off. There is a traditional view that apart from pensioners and children, only women travel by bus, but the only adult fare paying passengers throughout the journey were male and most looked under 30. Times are changing!
After Golden Cross our bus turns off the main road to serve Deanland Wood, a purpose retirement village built in a secluded woodland setting with its own shops and pub. Several passengers alight here and a couple board too. It felt very remote to me but the locals were all chatting away and seemed very happy. Lower Dicker and Horsebridge are the next villages and a few minutes later we arrive in the town of Hailsham. Here we are joined by several Stagecoach bus services for the journey into Eastbourne. In an area with a large elderly population I am amazed to see that Stagecoach is using old buses with high entrance steps and no wheelchair access on busy route 98 to Bexhill and Hastings. This will have to change soon as the Disability Discrimination Act requires all single deck buses to be fully accessible by 2015.
After Hailsham we approach Polegate and more passengers board. Those travelling to Wannock rely on Compass Bus services but as we reach the edge of Eastbourne we are paralleling much more frequent Stagecoach services. The fine weather has clearly encouraged people to travel and by Eastbourne town centre our 36 seat single deck bus with bus is almost full. While some of those could have used other services I feel all those travelling should be counted as genuine 143 users. East Sussex County Council (ESCC) claims only 85 passengers use the 143 service on a typical day, which averages just 8.5 passengers per journey. I estimated at least 45 passengers travelled with me over the course of the 70 minute journey from Lewes. If all those returned by 143 over 85 passengers would have been carried on just two buses. So the official figures seem to have been seriously underestimated. I have raised this with ESCC and I am awaiting a response.
My journey was made on a Thursday. If ESCC cuts are implemented in full, this journey would no longer run on a Thursday and 45 people would have to change their travel plans. They would no longer be able to choose which day of the week to go shopping. Arranging hospital appointments wont be easy where clinics are on fixed days. Young people will find their social activities are severely restricted. They will become dependent on lifts or cycling along unlit country lanes.
The next meeting with bus company managers and Brighton & Hove City Council will be on Wednesday 21 January 2015 at 5.30pm. Due to building work in Hove Town Hall the location will be confirmed later. Meetings are open to all members and supporters but please let us know in advance if you wish to attend as space is limited.
Buswatch News is written by Andrew Boag, Chair, Brighton Area Buswatch. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Printed copies of this newsletter are available from Hove town hall reception (and will continue to be available during forthcoming building works).
Andrew is contactable by email at