David and I had a meeting with Martin Sutton from Stagecoach yesterday evening where we aired the issues you wanted to raise relating to bus services in Headington. Here’s our report back to you.
- Buses from Headington to Summertown
Many of you have raised the issue of there not being a direct bus to and from Summertown. We have raised this, in particular suggesting a direct route, without going through the city centre, which would also have the advantaged of helping the residents on the top half of Headley Way to have a bus service again. Martin Sutton told us they have looked into this before and gave a guarantee that Stagecoach would look at this again.
In discussing this and other issues, he clarified some of the economics as Stagecoach see them. They calculate that each bus on the road costs c£180K a year to run, this equates to c£38 per hour, though clearly different types of buses incur different costs. They take as the key indicator for performance is the “average operating speed” of the bus – the higher this is, the higher the cost of the service. The average operating speed of the bus should ideally be between 12 and 18 mph. The average operating speed of the no. 10 has been recorded as low as 8 mph but its usage has improved since the service became more frequent.
On this, it’s fair to say, there was not a meeting of minds. We explained our long-held concerns about buses going down Osler Rd, causing problems for residents and cyclists, while Headley Way, where residents need a bus, goes unserved. Martin said that previous figures had suggested very few people got on a bus on Headley Way, while taking the bus into the JR by Osler Rd was seen as essential to that service (even though, in our experience, very few people actually use that particular stretch). We’ve heard all that before but what we did get was an agreement that we will be provided with the passenger statistics for this (and other) routes. We have asked for ‘before and after’ figures with reference to the introduction of the National Bus Pass scheme. Residents have also told us that weekend U10 buses on the section from Headley Way to the JR are underused.
- London buses through Headington
This is a contentious issue locally: some residents have expressed the view that London buses should be re-routed so that they do not run through Headington; others are equally adamant that this bus service is one of the reasons to live in the area. We asked for information about the importance to Stagecoach of having a Headington stop. The latest figures suggest that nearly a quarter of passengers get on the London-bound Oxford Tube between St Clements and London Road (60% of passengers have boarded by the time buses reach the Plain, and 83% of passengers have boarded by the time buses reach the London Road roundabout). Clearly, the bus companies would be very reluctant to re-route their buses away from Headington. What we need to focus on is making sure that they don’t block up the roads, as they sometimes do with the present road layout and some selfish parking by van-drivers.
Our residents in Windmill Road had asked if the designated bus and taxi parking lanes could be swapped over to make it easier for buses to pull in next to Iceland without having to overtake vehicles. Martin is going to consult his staff about this. This was a helpful meeting for all of us, and we hope to meet again for further discussion.
The bus company currently appealing the sum reimbursed to it by the City Council for passengers who are travelling with concessionary passes as part of the National Bus Pass scheme. If the rate of reimbursement is low, there is little incentive for bus companies to extend services in areas where there is a higher percentage of older passengers who use this scheme.
It is possible for bus companies to change routes and times of services providing they give 56 days’ notice to the County Council. It is possible for the County Council to write a condition into a contract for a subsidised route that can enforce two bus companies to tender fares in such a way that a joint ticket scheme can be administered, but problems can arise if the contracts for each of the two companies have separate expiry dates or if the ticket machines on the buses are not of a similar type.
In conclusion, the meeting provided a useful discussion and some helpful information. More importantly, it is part of an on-going dialogue where Stagecoach is left in no doubt of local feeling. We will work to make sure this achieves improvements for local residents over the longer term.