We’re On An Uncomfortable Bus To Nowhere

On First’s Proposed Service Changes in North Staffs

I read in The Sentinel recently that First are proposing numerous changes to their Potteries network. As I read through the list, my interest turned to disappointment. They have tried to put a positive spin on the proposals, but many are retrograde in my opinion.

For example:

Re-reouting the 25/X25 via the hospitals sounds good in theory, but will add 10-15 minutes to journey times. It sounds more like a response to Arriva/Wardle’s increased services via the hospitals.

This re-routing will mean the withdrawal of the 24/24A so the southern end of Leek Road will have no service at all, and First will have abandoned Penkhull.

Linking the 25/X25 into the 20 (Hanley-Alsager-Crewe) also sounds good in theory. While it’s good to have another cross Hanley service, there is a potentially negative impact: it will mean the end of double-deck operation out of Keele university, thanks to low bridges near Kidsgrove. Double deckers were introduced onto the 25 to combat persistent overcrowding. The only solution would be to re-route the 20 via Butt Lane, avoiding the bridges, but removing buses from Liverpool Road, past Tescos. This will also lead to longer journey times.

Keele-Crewe via Hanley and Kidsgrove is not a natural route, given that it will probably take over 1 1/2 hours to complete, almost double the time of D&G’s 85 which runs direct. Lengthy routes like this are also more at risk of delays en route.

The diversion of 23/23A away from Stoke town centre removes 6 buses an hour from there to Hanley.

First’s abandonment of Longton bus station will turn it into a little used white elephant.

The plan to divert several services away from Hanley bus station makes a mockery of the recent multi-million pound investment in building it. To say the bus station is remote from the shopping area is disingenuous as it’s no further than the old bus station.

The new service 21B to Trentham Gardens is welcome. However, the core frequency between Hanley and Hanford remains every 10 minutes so this means Pacific Road and Longton Road will see a reduction from three to two buses every hour (every 20 minutes to every 30).

Improvements to services are always welcome, but these proposals need a rethink. I would rather the current service was more reliable, and more importantly, I’d like to see newer and better buses with better seating. Most of First’s buses in the Potteries are well over ten years old and far too many of them are fitted with hard, uncomfortable seats with poor legroom, even the newer ones. The last time First Potteries got new buses was in 2006. Contrast this with the Council owned vehicles used on tendered services, especially the Plumline. This is something that should be addressed as a matter of urgency. I’m tired of paying high fares for uncomfortable journeys. This is not the way to attract people from their cars.

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