A few months ago, Transport for West Midlands and National Express started a trial of bus stop closures, you may remember the furore over it all. 4 routes were chosen, with in total 59 stops identified as being little used and in close proximity to the next, and so could be done without – with the overall aim to improve reliability. The media of course made a big deal of it saying they were closing bus stops, and people of course thought that they’d be massively inconvenienced by it all, but in reality all defined access standards were to be maintained
Now, I like travelling around on the buses and transport networks in general, so this trial really intrigued me. It’s two months into the trial so I decided to spend some time going out and riding up and down the routes concerned, to see what the areas were like and how close the bus stops were to others. I won’t post all of that on here but will highlight certain bits. If you do want to read my personal ramblings on it all then feel free here
What I did find in general was that the stops involved in the trial could be grouped into 3 categories:
- A lot of the stops were indeed close to others, but perhaps more importantly (being on busy trunk routes) in multiple cases safely crossing the road to or from a bus would involve walking closer to another bus stop anyway.
- There are also a surprising number of stops within the city centre (defined as within the Middleway Ring Road) that are indeed completely redundant, there is just nothing there to serve. Take Bradford Street on the 50, there’s a fair number of empty warehouses here. Also one stop on the Inner Circle at Pershore Road where there is literally just wasteland.
- Mostly on the 8A/C Inner Circle, there were stops in quick succession on either side of junctions, which generally see people getting off at one and on at the next, when just one stop would suffice.
Some of the stops involved, though, were a little surprising. One worthy of mention is the southbound stop outside Northfield Shopping Centre: people have felt so strongly against this that they’ve set up a petition against the ENTIRE scheme, claiming loss of trade. Perhaps it is an overreaction, and given that the main bus stops are but 100 yards away (I must add, closer to the main entrance of the centre) I feel it may even be an over exaggeration, but that said I do feel it is a fairly important town centre stop and should have been left in use.
In my own opinion I think, generally, it has actually been done sensibly, and as long as people are consulted on how it’s affected them (feedback channels are open for comments here) then I think it will have been a worthwhile trial. You might agree or not, but at the end of the day it is just that – a trial. Come the end of it they will have data that tells them it was: either a success and that they could roll it out elsewhere; or that it makes no difference and there’s no point. Either way, let’s be honest anything that speeds up journey times has to be a good thing right?