Harlow’s spring clean up

Sunday 6th February 2022

Readers will have seen my recent news update about Essex County Council promoting its “spring clean” of Harlow’s notorious bus station “with help from Arriva and Harlow Council”.

It was good news that “public transport posters and timetables have been updated, alongside a deep clean” so as I was passing through on my recent trip to Cambridge, I couldn’t resist stopping off in Harlow to take a look.

Before.
After.

And it was a very welcome improvement; so well done to those who arranged this and actually carried out the work.

Before.
After.

I won’t use the word ‘transformational’ since that would be to overstate things, but it is much better.

As was.
As is.

It comes to something when taking down long outdated posters promoting services that haven’t run for years, removing flyposting and displaying up to date timetables is something to be proud of and promote in a news update. But sadly, such were the depths to which Harlow bus station had fallen; it really is something to behold.

There’s even an Arriva network map on display in both large poster format as well as at each departure bay.

There’s also a promotional poster for Arriva’s “greenline 724” with a lot to take in and read …..

… and in small format on the closed Visitor Information office window making for, probably, too small print for many; certainly I struggled to read it all.

It would be churlish of me to point out any discrepancies I spotted when I called by on Monday but how could those doing the “deep clean” have missed the three foot-pedal operated sanitiser dispensers by the departure points?

Each one was empty and, ironically, in need of a good clean as were the surrounds where they were sited.

Although the two bus shelters supposedly serving the three bus stops outside of the covered in departure stand area have been cleaned of graffiti and flyposters, they still looked unloved and uncared for.

That empty poster case inside is an open invitation for some flyposting.

Let’s hope the much anticipated redevelopment of the site and planned new bus station I wrote about in November isn’t too far down the track so these bus shelters can be banished for good.

Lessons need to be learned from this experience.

Firstly, a nominated person needs to be responsible for keeping displays in a presentable state. Otherwise they’ll soon slip back again.

Secondly, that person needs to visit the site on a regular and frequent basis to be sure everything is up to date in a changing world, there’s been no flyposting and the place is clean.

Thirdly, there needs to be a realistic budget to cover cleaning and minor maintenance requirements which inevitably arise in a facility used by the public every day.

It’s not hard.

It’s very straight forward.

It needs doing.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu.

Next blog: Tuesday 8th February 2022: Ember’s still glowing.

23 thoughts on “Harlow’s spring clean up

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  1. Agree 100% with your closing recommendations. As you say – it shouldn’t be hard.

    It would be could to treat this as a test case, and get some idea of bus/bus station use before and after the clean-up. Just so as all concerned can see the benefits. Any chance of someone local starting a ‘Friends of Harlow Bus Station’ ginger group, to keep on the case?

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  2. By chance, I was in the area on Saturday 5 February, so visited Harlow Bus Station. It is certainly much better than it was, but there are still some improvements possible:

    1. The departure stand posters are better, certainly . . . but Stable Tye?? It should be Staple Tye!! Having said that, it does look as though Arriva were involved in the clean-up, which is good to see.

    2. One of the electronic departure screens was defective, although that might be because not all stands are used.

    3. If some of the interior stands are not used . . . why not transfer some of the outside stand routes inside? There were, at around 13:00, more people queuing outside than inside, and there was a bitter wind!!

    4. The outside stands are used for all departures outside the 0700-1900 window (all day on Sundays), which I guess is to prevent vandalism, so they have to remain, but simply removing the out-of-date posters and leaving the dead sellotape fixings there is a bit half-hearted.

    Score . . . 6/10 . . . better, but room for improvement.

    The state of the local Arriva fleet wasn’t bad . . . but several instances of branding that should’ve been removed, and a 54-plate Solo on town service looked very tired. Some buses actually had more than 10 passengers on board!!

    In response to Rick’s comments above . . . I’ve been contemplating how best to improve the dissemination of information about buses, and it seems to me that Bus Users UK might be able to assist here by promoting “Community Bus Partmerships”, along the same lines as “Community Rail Partnerships”. Groups could be set up to improve bus stop and bus shelter appearances; to get involved in service proposals and to generally promote local buses in their community.

    It might also be possible, with a little bit of funding, for groups to produce a timetable leaflet for their community, including ALL operators’ services and any fare deals available. As an “Enhanced Partnership” is also charged with improving information . . . perhaps these could also get involved on a very local level.

    It shouldn’t be that difficult, and every small step helps. Just a thought . . .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hmm. I can think of at least one group of bus routes, not far from Harlow, where a longstanding relationship between passengers, local management, and even the local authority, enabled it to not just survive, but thrive. Without the support of civil service advice, or image consultants. Sadly, the impossibility was to keep the local management or the local authority, interested. As no doubt those formerly in the industry can tell me, they’ve far better things to do with their time than looking after the passengers!

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  3. Bus shelter upkeep is a current bugbear of mine as my local shelters have been neglected by the LTA Wiltshire Council for years and have now been offloaded onto Chippenham Town Council, who have clearly not inspected them since the transfer. Graffiti, missing glazing, moss growth, flyposting, sellotape residue, unused timetable cases and the bus operator having to sellotape laminated timetables to the glazing. I did try and report this to the town council by email but they wanted it via an online form that my phone didn’t like, plus photos!

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    1. Peter, I have passed this on to the mayor of Chippenham, who has promised to make sure those in the relevant position are aware if the poor situation.

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      1. I emailed the town councillors for my area, two LibDem, one Green. The LibDems didn’t reply but the Green did. He promised to look into the issue. I now know that the Town Council took on cleaning responsibility from Wiltshire Council but not ownership. They clean the shelters only twice a year! As the shelters are old (1990s) the perspex windows have become porous and graffiti ingrains into the windows. The cleaning chemicals just create a smudge obscuring visibility. Repairs remain the responsibility of Wiltshire Council as the asset owner. My councillor said he will follow up with them.

        So to conclude, a vital part of bus infrastructure is split between two councils, who each do or don’t do their own thing. I will be voting Green next time.

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  4. I have never been to Harlow but it appears that they are a number of bus companies running services including LCB,who I’d never heard of,so they’d all going to do their own timetables and there is no central body to control this.If I recall correctly in NBC times the NBC also produced timetables for the various private companies that ran.I remember ones for TMS which looked exactly like United timetables except it said Trimdon under the bus numbers so I’m guessing United published them?The Weardale one was the same.Of course Mrs Thatcher fobbed this off on the local authorities but they’ll only argue that they already have enough to do.And local authorities are changing all the time with all of these silly unitary authorities poping up and then in North Yorkshire you have all the local authorities being unified bucking the unitary authority trend! Although it won’t make much difference since none of them will like public transport unless it’s park and ride or parkways .

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  5. LCB as far as I know is defunct. The current operators in Harlow I believe are ::

    a) Arriva

    b) TrustyBus(trading as Central Connect)

    c) Vectare

    d)Epping Forest Community Transport

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    1. Harlow used to be a hot-bed of competition (back in the 1990s and 2000s) but eventually the smaller operators either withered away or were closed by the Traffic Commissioner through bad maintenance and so on.
      LCB was a taxi operation that ran for only a couple of years (early DRT) around 10-12 years ago.
      Vectare and EFCT operate into Harlow only a few times each week.
      Central Connect basically cover the Epping services and a limited service to Waltham Cross, plus a competitive route within Harlow.
      Arriva run the bulk of the town services, plus out to Chelmsford; Stansted Airport and across Hertfordshire to Heathrow Airport.

      The car parks on Saturday were full . . . the buses were not. I’d say that Harlow would be a great place for a high-frequency minibus network . . . double or even treble the frequencies overall; double the car park fees to start the financing off . . . classic stick and carrot approach. Still . . . we can but dream . . .

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      1. Agree with you, as so often. But that’s what was in effect tried by the cowboys, without the resources. And that’s the trouble in this country, as so often. No shortage of good ideas. But who’s got the money to put where there mouth is?

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      2. Basically, a brilliant idea. The Council cut its own throat by slashing its commercial car park income, slash the maintenance budget to compensate so even less people want to go to Harlow than already, and they won’t need a local bus network either. No doubt calling it levelling up; to what, exactly ?

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  6. I wonder how long the 724 will last in it current form. It was getting some support from Heathrow whether it still is I do not know,

    The section from Harlow to Watford though can be reasonably busy

    Metro line are axing the St Albans to New Barnet service from April. HCC are talking with other operator’s about a possible commercial replacement. Cutting it back to its original terminus at Potters Bar Station would be sensible. It saves a PVR of 2 as well. Could cut the service to Potters Bar back to hourly with an additional hourly service St Albans to London Colney. The Sunday service being axed or operated as an HCC Contract

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    1. It raises the question that comes up everywhere, every time.

      Do the passengers matter? Or is public transport just a supermarket on wheels, where the only thing that matters is the bottom line?In which case it is more than time the operators, like the supermarkets did decades ago, start sharpening their act.

      The 84, on which route I used to live, serves schools and local health services along its route, and facilitates much family and work travel. If we can’t make a bus service work, where can we? Apart from the petition, has anyone ever asked the passengers? Buses can’t survive forever on nostalgia.

      Are buses just for local urban travel? Do interurban services have a future. What for? We don’t ever ask, let alone know the answer. Like a lost soul, we just struggle on, aimlessly. And we wonder why poor quality services carry just fresh air.

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  7. Pensioner Funds Bus Service

    Alan Williams, 78, expects to pay a ‘couple thousand pounds’ for the X53 service to run twice a day between the Dorset towns of Bridport, Weymouth and Lyme Regis on Sundays until March.

    Operator First Group had been running four services on Sundays but stopped these on January 16 and said they would not return until March when the summer timetable launches and there are holidaymakers to make the service sustainable.

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    1. Well, I suppose it’s an alternative to a holiday (and maybe no worse than some).

      Whilst on the subject of chucking money down the drain, HCC seem to be the experts at wasting it. They have a struggling commercial bus route, so their response is to sponsor three competitors, and then talk about rescuing the commercial route. If I were a drowning man I wouldn’t want to be rescued by HCC. They’d make sure to have drowned me first.

      I used to live in their area, and sponsored routes came and went like confetti. If there was a surviving commercial route, their response was to sponsor a competitor to undermine it.

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  8. Metroline have no officially confirmed the axing of the 84. The last day that Metroline will be operating it will be the 1st April

    I can only assume the losses this route makes are very high as it di not consider a revised eservice

    HCC is looking for another operator to take it om probably in a revised for as a commercial service

    Currently it has a PVR of 8. Cutting it back to Potter Bar would reduce that to 6

    Metroline still have not formally deregistered it with the traffic commissioners

    Sullivan’s would be well placed to operate the service as they are based in South Myms. What do not know is what were the losses Metroline were incurring

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    1. The deregistered was submitted on 31st January, so the Herts comments about not yet being deregistered were misleading.

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  9. Would it make sense to divert the 84 from New Barnet to either High Barnet or Cockfosters where it gives direct connection with the tube ?

    New Barnet seem a strange place to terminate it, New Barnett when it was in Herts used to be the terminus for several London Country Routes

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    1. Route 84 passes Barnet Underground en route to New Barnet, so it links both rail lines.

      New Barnet was a convenient place to terminate routes from the north . . . 303; 303A; 350; 350A. There is no other place in Barnet town centre to terminate buses from the north.

      The section of route from Potters Bar to London Colney runs through green fields . . . the only section that carries significant passenger numbers is from London Colney to St Albans. There are prospects for a large area of new housing south of London Colney . . . but it has yet to receive even outline planning permission, so is at least 5 years away.

      Route 84 has a current PVR of 6, plus 2 on schooldays. Metroline have said that the losses are “substantial”, and that, at 70% of previous passenger numbers, they see no prospect of the route returning to commercial viability.
      The current timetable was introduced in March 2020 . . . at that time Route 84 was already in financial trouble, and the new timetable was the best that could be afforded with the resources allocated . . . after 2 years of uncertainty, I’m not entirely surprised that the end has come.

      Route 84 may well be the first . . . but it surely won’t be the last . . .

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  10. It looks to make sense to cut the 84 back to Potters Bar station and run bus an hour to potters bar and one and hour to London Colney that would take a lot of cost out. The Sunday sercice being axed unless HCC want to support it

    The only problm is St Albans to London Colney on the current timetable is about 27 minutes whether that can be tightned up a bit I do not know. If not they could offest it by 5 minutes

    Who knows what will happen to bys service when gthe emgency Covid funding is cut at the end of March. Most routes have passenger numbers down about 25% which would make most routes not commercially viable

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