CCTV placed on some Stroud’s school buses since the start of the current academic year are said to have reduced incidents of anti-social behaviour by as much as 80 per cent, according to Stroud Life. Only three pupils were banned since the cameras’ introduction. So successful has the pilot been the county council is considering a wider roll-out. It relies on match-funding from both operators and the county council. Of the six participating schools, Marling, Stroud High for Girls, Archway and Thomas Keeble (Eastcombe Manor) are in and around Stroud.
A “sudden surge” in passenger numbers seems likely to result in a relaxation of the 1997 traffic order that restricts buses using Stroud town centre to just 33 seats.
The order was designed to keep bigger buses out of London Road at the time when there were concerns about fumes and congestion. It dates back to 1997 when the bus station was reopened. At the bus station’s closure in 1992, buses had been using on-street stops. This arrangement, though introduced for good reason, had never seen widespread approval from the people of Stroud. The idea behind the order was therefore to restrict town centre access to local services only.
These local buses are principally operated by Cotswold Green whose services have enjoyed a 25 per cent increase in the last 12 months, partly as a result of changing school catchments. Cotswold Green is said to struggle to meet demand with its smaller buses, without passengers standing, and wishes to use 40-43 seaters.
The order is subject to a sixth month trial and consultations.
It’s rather ironic that modern DDA compliant easy access single decks seating some 33 passengers are almost as long as traditional 10m double decks that the order bans.
It rather reminds me of the positive stories of which you used to read in the Bristol Omnibus house journal, “Bristol OMNIBUS Magazine”. There were always a few pages dedicated to inspectors, drivers and conductors who’d offered good service.
In the December 2008/January 2009 edition of Nailsworth News, a correspondent applauds BOC successor Stagecoach for the way in which it operates the “outstation” service between Nailsworth & Minchinhampton. It’s a “pleasant social occasion” with the driver known well to passengers as he swings the bus through The W. Not too much swaying, we hope.
Each of Gloucestershire’s districts is reported as in financial trouble owing to the April 2008 national free concessionary travel scheme.
And, each district appears to deal with this issue separately. There are now calls for a county-wide scheme, administered by transport co-ordinators at Gloucestershire County Council.
Ian Manning, Stagecoach West managing director, welcomed the possibility but warned, “The fact remains that the government has to fund free travel for pensioners adequately, which it’s not currently doing.” He went on to call the reimbursement arrangements a “shambles”.
Meanwhile, on 13 November, The Citizen published the deficits resulting from free concessionary travel. Stroud’s projected shortfall was £826,000. This follows expenditure on the scheme of £1.06m and a government grant of £237,ooo. Outspoken Manning dubbed the Gloucestershire schemes as “one of the worst payers in the country”, further stating that Stagecoach was being “chronically underpaid” for its obligation to carry pensioners for free.
The other shortfalls are:
Gloucester City: spends £1.8m, grant £5076,00. Shortfall £1.3m.
Cheltenham Borough: £1.12m, grant £525,000. Shortfall £600,000.
Tewskesbury Borough: spends £878,000, grant £538,000. Shortfall £340,000.
Cotswold District: spends £460,000, grant £384,00. Shortfall £176,000.
Forest of Dean wouldn’t “necessarily” spend over the grant of £169,000 (having spent £135,000 in the first half of the financial year!).
Earlier in the year, in March, councillors accused Stagecoach of the “tactics of Dick Turpin” as they pledged not to be “railroaded” by Stagecoach in the increasingly bitter dispute. Stagecoach meanwhile claimed it was owed £400,000. This was in spite of an adjudication that identified an underpayment to Stagecoach of over £447,000 in Gloucestershire.
A Stroud council spokesman said, “We’re sure that everyone would agree that giving nearly half a million pounds to Stagecoach — when they say they want it — rather than ensuring that they are paid the correct amount at the correct time would not be a responsible approach. We as a district council already subsidise bus travel to the tune of £800,000.”
Except that free travel reimbursements aren’t subsidies.
I was saddened to hear of the death of 88-year old Alex Alder, in November who, when my late father was ill in hospital or at home in the early 1980s, would visit quite regularly. His generosity of time was very much appreciated. Although he was a regular in our lives, I had no idea he was a church minister. He lived at Westrip. The Stroud News & Journal has been publishing some of this memoirs. Here’s something on “old fashioned buses” in the days before the health & safety Volkspolizei.
“The second day of the year that we all looked forward to was the Sunday School Outing. We saved up all the year round for this day out. About six charabancs would line up, down at More Hall – they couldn’t come up towards Randwick any further, because the road wasn’t wide enough. Only a small bus would come up as far as The Stocks at Randwick.
“It would be there all day, every hour going down to More Hall and picking up the people from the service bus from Stroud. That was a joke – the people, especially towards the 1930s, coming from work would transfer to this bus, and it could never make it up Blenheim Pitch, because it was too steep, and the bus would be too overcrowded.
“Almost invariably, as the bus chugged up the hill and got as far as Westrip Turning, it stopped. But don’t worry, Plan B then came into operation. Just inside the bus was a block of wood with a handle, and as soon as the bus was on its last breath, one of the passengers would grab this and quickly push it under the back wheel. Simultaneously, the first half a dozen passengers by the door would all jump out and push and push and stop and push until it got to the flat at the end of The Change.
“Now then, there was another hill up by the pond and the church, so the driver, usually Poopie Smith, would accelerate along The Change as fast as he could. Sometimes he made it to The Stocks, sometimes he didn’t and then the process of blocking and pushing would start all over again.
“Now back to the charabancs. We would start off at 6am. Sometimes it was Weymouth, other times Bath, Cheddar or Weston. Another time Barry and Penarth, but wherever it was, it was a great day out. Except for these outings, the farthest we went was Stroud.
“Anyway, we would get home between seven and eight, tired but happy, and would you believe it, I doubt whether anybody had even locked their doors. What a difference to today.
“The third day was, of course, our Christmas party. Plenty of batch cake etc., and then our prize giving. Great fun – happy days.”
It was sad to learn of the recent closure by Stagecoach of its Bulwark garage in Chepstow though latterly, in truth, it was barely more than an outstation. This was once the administrative & engineering hub of the great Red & White, whose inter-war Forest of Dean and South Wales tentacles spread as far as Cheltenham District Traction and Stroud. Stroud lost Red & White in 1950, upon a post-nationalisation rationalisation, but in its home territory the name was also lost (albeit temporarily) upon the merger of Western Welsh and Red & White in the 1970s. The name later reappeared as a marketing sub-brand when Western Travel took over and remained as Stagecoach Red & White after Western Travel passed to Stagecoach in 1993 but became largely redundant in April 2003 at the loss of virtually all Stagecoach Red & White’s rural hinterland services as they passed after tender to independents. The remnants soon found themselves under under the less romantic though definitely descriptive Stagecoach in South Wales.