I have written to First Buses with a number of questions and concerns about the revised bus timetables in Chelmsford. These are the responses.
The main issue has been surrounding the withdrawal of the 41 bus. The result of this being that there is no longer a route which passes the GP surgery or The Vineyards. Vicky Ford MP also understands the 51 bus route no longer makes a stop at the Vineyard shops and the GP surgery in Great Baddow. It would be extremely helpful if such a stop could be facilitated after the bus has made its pick up of passengers from the Maltings Estate, and before it proceeds towards Gower’s Avenue. This would mean that passengers could make it safely to the shops and the surgery without having to cross some extremely dangerous roads.
We are planning to make some minor changes to the 51 following customer and staff feedback and intend to re-route it via the Vineyards as suggested. Due to the planning and registration lead time required, this is likely to happen during the summer months, however I will confirm when it has been registered and we have a firm start date.
Another issue relates to the revised 57 bus service. Vicky Ford MP understands this service has been altered to allow for the withdrawal of the 41 bus, it now picks up passengers in Galleywood before arriving in Great Baddow and then moving on to Chelmsford. As a result, constituents inform her the bus is very overcrowded, especially at around 9am when it arrives in Great Baddow. Passengers are struggling to get onto the bus and elderly or frail passengers are often having to stand. This is extremely dangerous and in the view of passengers it shows that there is an unmet demand for the service.
The 57 has replaced the Galleywood to Great Baddow (via Readers Corner) section of the 41 and also the Great Baddow to Chelmsford (via Meadgate Avenue) section of the 40, in both case operating over these particular sections every 20 minutes instead of the previous half hourly services. This has resulted in an improved level of service on these two sections of route. However, many of our buses across the network are very busy at around 0900 as this is the start time of the concessionary pass scheme and we find that the first bus due at a particular point after 0900 is busy. We monitor demand on each journey, however it is not always possible to supplement a journey at 0900 with an additional bus as all the resources are committed elsewhere. The 57 is tailored as best we can to cater for the demand as after the 0835 from Galleywood, the next journey is held back until 0900 so that concessionary pass holders can use this journey. The next journey is at 0917 to close the gap to the 0900 journey and then the departures resume every 20 minutes thereafter. We will however closely monitor this particular journey, however it is advisable for customers to also make use of the 0917 journey.
Vicky Ford MP has also received complaints from constituents that there are no longer any buses that run to Chelmer Village after 8pm. Additionally, Vicky Ford MP understands the withdrawal of the 41 bus and the changes to other bus routes has resulted in no service running from the Chignall Estate to Great Baddow and Gallywood.
The early evening service to Chelmer Village is frequent until 20.00, with four departures from Chelmsford between 19.10 and 19.50 on services 71, 71B and 71X, followed by the last 40 at 20.02, after which the demand reduces significantly, which makes any evening service unsustainable to provide. Essex County Council financially support a limited evening service with two departures on service 71A at 20.45 and 22.30. However, we do recognise that the evening service is very sparse compared to daytime. The package of changes to the network were to match resource to demand with some sections increasing in frequency and others reducing. A number of new links have been created and some of the direct links that were in place are no longer possible. With regard to the Chignall Estate to Great Baddow link, a change of bus is now required. However, the Trent Road and Avon Way area of Chignall now have a more frequent service with three buses per hour on service 54 in place of the two buses per hour provided by the 41.