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First bus service slated in county council report
BUS services have been slated in a report examining the controversial Weymouth Transport Package one year on.
The package (WTP) promised a ‘legacy’ with measures to reduce congestion and provide better public transport.
While it has helped to drive down queues, the WTP evaluation report says the town’s main bus provider First has done little to make things better for passengers.
Findings, seen by the Echo before the report’s general release, are revealed amid concerns about a reduction in bus services.
Dorset County Council spent £15.5million transforming the roads for the Olympics and beyond, thanks to a government grant.
Main WTP works, which caused a year of highways havoc, saw roundabouts replaced with traffic lights. There were also refurbished bus stops with real-time information, but a traffic signal bus priority system isn’t operating yet.
The report written by Dorset County Council highways officials for councillors and the Department for Transport said it was built on time and within budget, has helped to improve average journey times and reliability by a quarter, and upped air quality in congested corridors.
Pedestrian safety has also improved.
There is slightly less traffic than predicted using the roads overall which may be due to the economic downturn.
However, targets to deliver newer buses and get more of them to run on time have not been met – and the transport interchange promised for Weymouth railway station hasn’t materialised.
Research shows bus punctuality was ‘slightly worse’ in 2012 compared to 2008 with between 29 per cent and 54 per cent of them more than five minutes late. Passenger surveys show little change in people’s perceptions.
The report says funding to improve the station forecourt is not yet available and the target for eight buses an hour re-routed to serve the station hasn’t been met.
Objectives are dependent on ‘promised investment and co-operation from the bus company or private sector development of the interchange.’ Co-operation from First has been ‘disappointing’ and the hoped-for investment hasn’t been forthcoming, the report says.
DCC Cabinet member for highways Peter Finney said it was a ‘very promising report’ on the WTP – but reiterated the need for the bus company to do its bit.
He said: “We can’t move forward with the passenger transport element until bus companies provide the promised investment.”
First was not available for comment.
In an earlier statement it said it ran some services via the station during the Olympics but as most of its services are designed to meet the needs of locals, buses take passengers to where they want to go, principally the shopping area and seafront.
Retired John Brooks of Preston, where the First evening service was cut recently, said: “There was all this hype about spending millions on the roads but in my view it did nothing for locals.
“There was no additional bus services for the Olympics as far as I could see and the service now is pathetic.”
It’s easier as fewer people are using the town’s roads’
Taxi driver Eddie Hawkins isn’t convinced by the changes and said the county council had ‘dreamed up its own conclusion about the transport package to justify its own mistakes’.
He believes it’s easier to get around because fewer people are on the roads, either because they are taking diversions to avoid the ‘confusing’ harbour crossroads near Asda, or steering clear of Weymouth altogether.
Borough council transport spokesman Christine James added: “Council officers have been pulling their hair out trying to deal with First.
“The buses aren’t reliable as they should be. The company has a lot to answer for.”
Coun James said she was happy with junction changes – but said some drivers had not been using lanes properly.
President of the Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce Anna-Maria Geare said the WTP works in 2011 had caused ‘unprecedented’ disruption.
She said people were now benefitting from a new system but added that some members were concerned about the ‘awkward’ harbour crossroads which they felt was putting people off coming into town. And there’s concern about the lack of park and ride advertising.
Meanwhile, county councillor for Portland Tim Munro said First buses had ‘failed to deliver’.
He said modern buses transported park and ride passengers for the Olympics but First had not done anything since the Games, as promised.
Main aims included modernising network
THE Weymouth Transport Package for the 2012 Games was a series of long-term public transport improvements providing a ‘transport legacy’ after the Games.
The scheme was given funding approval by the Department for Transport in March 2010 and work started on the junctions in June. The aims were:
- Ease the impact of congestion, particularly for buses, in the town centre and towards Portland with a focus on King Street and Boot Hill
- Improve the quality of the public transport by using newer buses and also improving the bus stops n Modernise the bus network by introducing real time passenger information (RTPI) on buses and at stops
- Make it easier for people to use the bus and train by developing an interchange at the railway station
- Improve air quality and pedestrian safety