Yet again Bedfordshire faces further cutbacks to its already threadbare public transport provision after Stagecoach is set to hand over the keys to its 72/73 route between Bedford, Sandy, Potton and Biggleswade. Central Bedfordshire Council ‘Bus Service Improvement Plan’, launched in October 2021 is in tatters as rural Bedfordshire risks becoming a public transport desert. This time it is Potton that bears the brunt of the cuts. The extent of the changes are detailed below. Buses are a vital form of transport for those on a lower income and older people who do not have access to a car. Frequent bus services, which go where people need to go, are crucial for people in rural areas to access work, help reduce loneliness in cut-off rural areas and enable a shift away from the car. Public transport is vital in reducing traffic congestion and both pollution and CO2 levels as part of the drive to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Current bus times are in italics and the new bus times from 31st October are in bold
First morning services
- 1st bus from Potton to Sandy/Bedford is currently 06.06 From 31st October the 1st bus from Potton to Sandy/Bedford leaves at 07.36*
- 1st bus from Potton to Biggleswade is currently 07.12 (72 service, journey time 11 minutes) From 31st October the 1st bus from Potton to Biggleswade leaves at 07.54 (189 service, journey time 37 minutes).
- 1st bus service from Sandy to Potton is currently 06.53 From 31st October 07.16
*In 2019 the first bus from Potton to Sandy left at 05.40
Last evening services
- The last bus Sandy to Potton is currently 20.41 (72 service, journey time 19 minutes) From 31st October the last bus from Sandy to Potton leaves at 17.47 (189 service, 29 minutes)
- The last bus from Biggleswade to Potton currently 18.20 (72 service, journey time 16 minutes) From 31st October the last bus from Biggleswade to Potton will leave at 18.05 (189 service, journey time 35 minutes).
- The last bus from Potton to Sandy is currently 18.36 From 31st October the last bus from Potton to Sandy leaves at 17.36
- The last bus from Bedford to Potton is currently 20.05 From 31st October the last service from Bedford to Potton leaves at 16.38
*Please note the above information has been collated by studying a number of timetables from different websites. Any errors are mine, but a centralised database of all Bedfordshire bus services would make the task easier for everyone.
Further to this from 31st October services on the 72 route between Potton and Bedford will run every 2 hours rather than the current hourly service. The service on the 73 route between Sandy and Bedford will run every hour rather than the current 30-minute service. Crucially, the later start to the services in the morning and earlier finishes in the evening will result in bus services not being a viable option for commuters who will be forced into using their cars.
Central Bedfordshire Council stated in the foreword to their Bus Service Improvement Plan will “enable us to deliver a better public transport network which will support the future growth of housing, employment, and education opportunities across Central Bedfordshire.”
Central Bedfordshire Council’s local plan set out the following objectives re public transport:
SO9 Reduce the reliance on the use of the car by improving facilities at bus and train stations,
delivering transport interchanges and by promoting safe and sustainable forms of transport, such as improved walking and cycling routes.
SO10 Ensure a reliable network of east/west and north/south public transport routes to improve access to local services and facilities, especially for those without a car, through well planned routes and integrated public transport.
While there has been welcome progress in terms of transport interchanges, such as the soon to be opened transport interchange in Biggleswade, the benefit of these will be severely limited if the bus services to them are so poor they do not encourage people out of their cars.
We can and must do better than this and I believe we should view the funding of public transport as a public good rather than an opportunity for private profit. Details of the new 72/73 service starting from 31st October below.
Further information here:
Central Bedfordshire ‘Bus Service Improvement Plan’ announcement re Enhanced Partnerships with bus operators February 2022: https://www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/news/article/645/improving_buses_%E2%80%93_enhanced_partnership_approved
Department for Transport – Bus Back Better Strategy 2021: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/980227/DfT-Bus-Back-Better-national-bus-strategy-for-England.pdf
Grant Palmer bus timetables: https://www.grantpalmer.com/bus-services/
Campaign for Better Transport – Future of Buses: https://bettertransport.org.uk/future-buses