May 2022

CHANGES ON BRIGHTON BUSES

The 28 and 29 buses are to have new colours, mainly pink and purple.

Brighton Buswatch reports that Brighton buses have received £27.9 million for bus improvements.  It is not yet clear how this will be spent.  See a separate article for news about bus services in East Sussex.

The printed bus timetable containing all the services in our area will no longer be printed by the bus company.  You will have to go online to look at the web sites for each individual bus company.

ON THE NEWHAVEN TO DIEPPE FERRY

The Newhaven to Dieppe Ferry is now running a summer service, with up to 3 crossings a day.

The terminal at Newhaven is a short walk or cycle ride from Newhaven town station.

Single fares start at £23 for a foot passenger and £25.50 for someone with a cycle.

A reduction of 20% is available on for disabled passengers, students under the age of 27, young people under the age of 25 and seniors over the age of 60 years. Passengers will need to present proof of age, student card or disability card at the Port and the discount applies to the crossing only and does not include cabins or pets. All bookings at this reduced rate must be made by telephone on 033 058 78 787 or at the ferry terminal. The phone call costs 13p per minute.

Be aware that they may sell out of places for cycles or pedestrians even if there are still spaces for vehicles, so book early.

It is also possible to book a cabin for the night services, which leave from both Dieppe and Newhaven between 23.00 and midnight, from £40 for a cabin for up to four people.  Bear in mind that the crossing is only four hours so you will arrive at a ridiculously early hour in the morning.  If you arrive on a bike it may be possible to board quite early if you arrive early.  But Travelman has been told that foot passengers are boarded last.  Travelman would like to know about your experiences of using the night service.

With the ongoing chaos at Dover and with a Eurostar service that is still limited, the Newhaven service is an attractive alternative.  There is a shuttle bus to the station at Dieppe and trains run to Paris via Rouen.

The Avenue Vert cycle route to Paris starts from Dieppe and you can find details of a cycle route from London to Paris via Newhaven here

Timewise the Eurostar route is still quicker.  You can reckon to be in Paris from Lewes station in about five and a half hours travelling via St Pancras.  The boat takes four hours from Newhaven and there is check in time and about 2 hours at the other end on the French train.  But the boat may be much cheaper if you are booking at short notice.  And if you are able to get some sleep on the overnight ferry you can discount this time.  Further, travel with a bike on Eurostar can be very difficult.

CONDOR FERRIES and IRISH FERRIES

If you are considering travelling sustainably to the Channel Islands or Ireland, you should be aware that one of the main carriers to the Islands, Condor Ferries, has been accused of underpaying its staff in the same way as P and O proposes to do. Irish Ferries has been accused of the same practice.  It operates between Wales and Ireland.

THE A27 LEWES- POLEGATE

Environmental campaigning group SCATE reports:

“The likely cost of a new dual carriageway between Lewes and Polegate has soared past the £1bn mark.

Previous ‘value for money’ calculations had assumed a price of around of £590m for 16km of new road. But National Highways most recent contract signed this week – for 5.5km of dual carriageway to complete the ‘missing link’ of the A417 between Gloucester and Swindon – has come in at £460m.

Bill Rogers, chairman of SCATE East Sussex, says “By our calculations, this pushes a new A27 to £1.345bn – the project is at least as complex and sensitive. We said back in 2020, it would cost over £1bn – now we have real world data to back our estimate”.

“It makes a nonsense of the Highways business case.  Do we really want to spend taxpayers’ money so that developers can infill greenfield sites across Wealden with posh new commuter houses we don’t really need ?”

“There’s still time for the Department of Transport to save some of the £6m being spent on road consultants trying to stand up this. It might, at least, be used for much-needed bus and rail improvements in our area”.

Meanwhile work on the cycle route alongside this stretch of the A27 continues, although the route is not yet open.  The width of the land taken for the cycle route has surprised many, particularly as there is already a popular route between Lewes and Polegate, using mainly minor roads, and there is also the option to use the Old Coach Road.  Some are suggesting that this is a covert attempt to widen the carriageway to prepare for a dual carriageway.

THIS MONTH’S WALKS

The secluded Balsdean Valley
9.4miles 15.1km There can be few places where you can be so cut off so near to big towns and cities as Balsdean and Standean Bottoms and there can be few places where you can get such panoramic views in all directions, sea, downs and towns.
From Lewes to Spain
A grand excursion from the ancient town of Lewes all the way to a microcosm of Spain by the costa, by way of lowland villages and spacious downland vistas. 7. 5 miles, 12.5 km
Malling Down
A short walk on Malling Down, above Lewes, with grand views over the surrounding area and Malling Nature Reserve, also visiting the Martyrs Memorial. 5.57 Km / 3.46 Miles
The Stanmer Skyline Walk
A grand circuit of the skyline above Stanmer village, with woodlands and varied far reaching views, on a route originally designed for wheelchair users and so mostly firm underfoot in all seasons and with no stiles.  A few gates.  5.5 miles
Ditchling Beacon and the Albion
6.9miles 11.1km  Starting at Falmer.   Shorter option 4.8 miles A new take on a popular walk to Ditchling Beacon, using open access land, or the opportunity to reverse the walk to walk from Ditchling to a football match at the Falmer stadium.

NEW FUNDING FOR EAST SUSSEX BUS PLANS

The government has given East Sussex Council £41 million to improve bus services.  This is likely to be spent on the plan that East Sussex has already drawn up.  I reprint the details below.

PLANS FOR LOCAL BUSES
The details of what has been approved in principle by the Council  can be found in this document- appendix 2  References in this article are to paragraphs in this appendix.

  • More services on popular routes
  • Many rural routes to be converted to dial-a-ride type services
  • Pensioners and disabled people with passes will have to pay for most of the dial a ride services.

The document represents an about-face from many of the County Council’s previous polices which have been to cut services and increase fares.  This review is perhaps not surprising because the government has said that councils who do not review their services and enter partnerships will lose the new funding which is to be made available and might also lose existing subsidies.

A NEW STRATEGY?

Some people want to re-nationalise bus services and others want to set up a system whereby the county councils are responsible for deciding the services to run and what the fares will be, while bus companies tender to provide those services under the council’s banner.

The government’s new strategy goes some way down that road.  In the past bus companies have run the services they thought profitable keeping the profits, whilst the council funded other necessary services, picking up the losses on these with no cross subsidy..

But now the government wants Enhanced Partnerships or franchising.arrangements with bus operators so things will have to move quickly (3.10.2)

The new strategy adopted by the Councy involves a “partnership” between the bus companies and the County.  The dynamics of this in practice are not clear, but it does seem clear that the County can encourage companies to run the services the County wants, with the persuasive feature of the increased subsidies available and the stick of withdrawing existing subsidies.

PAST MISTAKES

Despite the County Council’s strategy of managed decline, bus journeys in Sussex increased in the period up to 2014 from 19 million journeys in 2009/10 to well over 22 million journeys in 2013/4. (3/1)

But in 2014 the Council decided to cut subsidies to non-profitable routes and to encourage companies to run less frequent services and to put up fares. Typically, frequency was halved outside peak periods and fares went up by a third.  There was a drastic reduction in journeys.  By 2018/9, the last full year before the pandemic, journeys had fallen to just over 16 million.  The decline was almost all on these formerly subsidised routes, which tend to be to suburban areas of towns and to rural villages. (3/1)

Not surprisingly a survey of passengers and potential passengers revealed that the key issue is seen as bus frequency, followed by (for those without passes) fares.(3.7.3)

As a result, much of the bus network is only used by those who have no alternative (3.13)

Then pandemic has made things worse.  Journeys on Brighton buses fell by over half in 2020 compared with 2019 and there are similar figures for Compass Bus and Lewes Community Transport.  Cuckmere buses suffered an even greater fall.(3/1).

There are particular issues in Lewes town.  Congestion is mentioned, as is the issue of operators having to stretch their bus use to achieve savings, resulting in delays having a knock on effect.  The proposed development of the bus station is noted and the report says it will be challenging to find a new site.(3.2.9)

WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

In Lewes the Council says it intends to

  • “Double the Monday to Saturday daytime frequency of buses (on the 28 and 29)north of Lewes, toup to 4 buses an hour to Uckfield and up to 2 buses an hour to Crowborough.
  • Extend service 28 to Uckfield in the evenings Mondays to Saturdays to create 2 buses per hour between Uckfield and Brighton (5.2.2)
  • Expand the bus service between Hailsham and Lewes to cope with the huge development of Hailsham. Buses every 30 minutes during the day with a possible extension of the route to Brighton.
  • Expand the 121 service with an improvement to hourly in the day
  • Expand the 123 service with an improvement to hourly in the day.
  • Maintain the 127 service around the Landport Estate on current timings but with more buses at peak times.
  • Work with the Planning Authorities to ensure appropriate bus passenger facilities are retained in Lewes and take forward our plans to improve Uckfield bus station. (5.2.2)

There will also be a mobility hub, which is designed to be a meeting point of all bus services, together with real time information and will contain facilities for walkers and cyclists.  This is to be at the “bus station” but it is not clear where the bus station will be. There are also to be improved bus facilities at the railway station. (5.5). Attempts will be made to link bus and rail timetables.

But the biggest change is the proposal to replace the following services with dial-a-ride style services (5.19 and appendix B):

  • 122 Lewes-Barcombe
  • 125 Lewes-Alfriston- Eastbourne
  • 127 Town Centre to Malling (only a possibility)
  • 128/9 Neville estate and Winterbourne estate services
  • 131  Wallands Service
  • 132 Lewes Sunday town service (only a possibility)
  • 166 Lewes Plumpton Haywards Heath
  • 167 Lewes Ditchling Burgess Hill
  • Branch services of the Hailsham bus, round the back of Ringmer and Deanland Wood.

Dial a ride services would be available on other routes in periods when the normal buses were not running, such as evenings.

DIAL A RIDE STYLE SERVICES
So what are these services, which the County calls “Digital Demand Responsive Transport”

The document quotes from government sources:

A flexible service that provides shared transport in response to requests from users
specifying desired locations and times of pickup and delivery. Dial-a-ride services
scheduled through next day or advance bookings are a traditional example

More recent applications of demand responsive transport seek to work dynamically,
adjusting routes in real time to accommodate new pickup requests often made minutes in advance. (5.18.1)

The main dial-a-ride service in our area is run by Community Transport Lewes Area  CTLA asks you to sign up for the service.  They ask you to book at least a day in advance, although they say if you try to book on the day.  Service is provided by wheelchair accessible minibuses.  Fares within Lewes (including Kingston) are currently £4.50 return.  Fares to places like Barcombe and Newick are £6 return.  The service can be used by anyone for any purpose, provided that there is no bus service you could use, either because of the non-existence of a service or because of disability.

This type of service is not required to accept bus passes because it does not run to a fixed timetable.

Around us there will be a number of areas- Lewes (extending up to Chailey and Wivelsfield), Plumpton and Ditchling and Newhaven.  It is not clear how you are supposed to get from one area to another (for example from Lewes to Ditchling)

The big issue of course is how you match travellers up with the minibuses.  The government information envisaging this being an ongoing process. We can imagine a minibus bound for Barcombe  running up the Offham Road screeching to a halt and diverting because someone has called in from the Landport.

FARES

On the remaining scheduled bus services fares will be cheaper and clearer. The document suggests:

Funding (Subsidisation of fares) to lower fares across the county
 Tap-on and tap-off for contactless payment with fare capping on all services;
 Simplified yet sophisticated ticketing provided through the use of modern technology (including multi-day and weekly fare capping applied automatically to users and notified of the savings that they have captured through their increased usage of bus services)
 Operators to commit to clearer explanation of fares and ticketing schemes, including on their websites;
 Attractively priced new area ticketing schemes that benefit smaller towns and rural communities;
 Improved availability of ticket schemes aimed at families and groups;
 The extension of schemes to encourage take-up of evening and weekend services;
 Introduction of ‘short hop’ fares;
 Simplification of fare structures where possible. (5.10.1)

There is also a suggestion of reductions for the under 30s (5.10.2)

But fares on the dial-a-ride services will be higher- possibly higher than now AND BUS PASS HOLDERS WILL HAVE TO PAY (subject to a possible 2 return journeys a week allowance).

Through ticketing on railways and buses is proposed, although how this is to be achieved when the County is not responsible for railways is not set out.  It is suggested that you could use a ticket to Brighton from Lewes, for example, on the train or the bus. (5.11)

WHAT SHOULD WE MAKE OF THIS?

It looks like we can expect some changes fairly quickly

There are lots of fine words and excellent ideas here, but we have to ask how far they will survive the realisation that government money is finite and may be reduced in future.

We know that East Sussex Council has committed to cutting expenditure on all but its statutory duties and also that they would like to do away with bus passes altogether (Council report from the last round of cuts).  So it is unlikely that the quota of dial-a-ride journeys for bus pass holders will last very long.

And the detail looks complicated.  How will bus pass holders on the Nevill feel about being limited to coming into town twice a week?  Will the dial-a-ride services be flooded on Saturday nights with residents of the Lewes estates wanting to get back from the pub in town.

Who knows?