Sunday 13th March 2022
Evesham is the smallest town I’ve visited so far in my fortnightly A to Z exploration of the state of public transport in small to mid size towns. It’s got a population around 26,000 so is about half the size of Andover and Durham and a third the size of Bracknell and Carlisle.
It’s a very typical English market town in the Wychavon district of Worcestershire located south east of Worcester, south west of Stratford upon Avon, north-west of Moreton-in-Marsh, and north-east of Tewkesbury – all roughly around 12 or so miles away – with Redditch a bit further away to its north and Cheltenham to its south.
The town sits on the River Avon and just like Durham, does a full blown meander creating a peninsular effect for the original town. Bengeworth and Hampton on the southern side of the river to the east and west respectively were once separate villages but are now very much part of the town.
The south-east to north-west, Oxford to Worcester A44, crosses the south-west to north-east Tewkesbury to Coventry A46 in Evesham although the A46 was diverted to form a by-pass creating a new eastern boundary for the town in 1987.
Evesham sits on GWR’s delightful Cotswold railway line between Honeybourne and Pershore with trains continuing west to Worcester and Great Malvern with some extending on to Hereford with Oxford, Reading and Paddington served to the east.
An hourly service is provided but as I found on the day of my visit last month the line can experience unreliability due to single track sections at either end (east of Charlbury and west of Pershore) although there used to be significantly more single track sections in years gone by.
Evesham’s station is a rather quaint traditional affair with a dedicated team who obviously take pride in the station’s appearance and the displays of information.
I detected a rail enthusiast is probably on the team.
The Cotswold Line has a Promotion Group. Formed in 1978, its aim is safeguarding and promoting improvements to rail and bus feeder services along the Oxford-Worcester-Hereford railway line.
The line had been at risk for some time and the group has successfully worked to increase the number of passengers. Membership is around an impressive 2,000.
The station is located at the northern end of High Street – opposite a very traditional looking Railway Hotel ….
…. and about a five minute walk to the town centre. Stagecoach’s hourly route X18, Diamond’s hourly route 247 and some other routes pass by the end of the short approach road to the station building.
There’s a bus stop on either side of High Street here but it’s a shame the southbound stop towards the town centre doesn’t have a shelter although both stops have a list of bus departures.
Evesham’s ‘bus station’ as its referred to in bus timetables is a misnomer. It’s a collection of three bus stops with shelters marked from north to south: C, B and A in the southbound direction and two on the opposite side of the road marked D and E heading north.
I’ve seen better bus stop displays on my travels, but I’ve also seen worse.
They do show a lack of attention to detail …
… and are in need of some tender loving care.
Timetable information for services from stop C isn’t displayed in the large case inside the shelter (as it is for stops A and B) but is shown in a timetable case on the bus stop pole while at stop A there’s a separate pole showing a timetable and a flag promoting First Bus route X50 to Worcester.
Except it doesn’t mention the ‘X’ but “The 50s” instead …
… perhaps referring to a branding that’s since been discontinued?
Other flags are rather grubby and could do with a clean up or even replacing.
There’s a real time departure display board behind bus stop C which lists departures for all the five bus stops, which is handy if you know that it’s there.
Annoyingly every so often the display switches to a public health message which is frustrating if you’ve just arrived at that moment to check your next bus departure time.
Evesham is the first town I’ve visited in this A to Z series where I’ve not been able to find a bus map online, and certainly not in print. Worcestershire County Council is one of those counties which only provides a link to Traveline and listings of routes and bus operators with links to their websites where available, but little else.
I was intrigued to see the County’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) running to 211 pages mentions one priority is to develop a consistent branding for bus services across the county but frankly I think it would be better to devote time, effort and finance into providing helpful information like maps and bus timetables both online and in printed form than playing around with a brand name to stick on the side of buses and at bus stops.
As it is bus shelters are fly posted with notices calling public meetings months ago about social issues as well as graffiti. Let’s get those things dealt with before worrying about a fancy new brand name.
In the absence of a bus map showing all the routes in Evesham I had to spend a few hours doing my own research to find out what goes where. Brendan Fox’s brilliant Bus Atlas UK website was a great help showing the main inter-urban bus routes serving Evesham.
As you can see these comprise the First Bus hourly route X50 to Pershore and Worcester…
… which just to flummox Evesham locals included a bus wearing a Leicester Corporation heritage livery marking the 90th anniversary of motor buses in Leicester in 2014; well, why not?
Then there’s the Diamond operated hourly route 247 to Redditch ….
… which just to flummox Evesham locals came complete with outdated and contradictory notices which would entail you missing the bus if you stopped to read them all.
Thirdly there’s Stagecoach hourly route X18 to Stratford-upon-Avon (after which it continues to Coventry) …
… which just to flummox Evesham’s locals included a poster on the bus stop from where it departs advising of minor changes to routes in far away Warwick and Leamington Spa introduced five months ago.
Two other routes shown on Brendan’s map include – LMS Travel operated route 564 to either Inkberrow or Flyford Flavell and shown as a Village Hopper …
… which just to flummox Evesham locals has seven route variations denoted by 564, 564A, 564B, 564C, 564D, 565 and 565C on its infrequent rural wanderings as depicted on this very straight forward timetable (!).
And finally from the map there’s Astons hourly route 540 to Tewkesbury.
Aside from LMS Travel and Astons, Evesham sees other small bus and coach companies running into the town with rural routes.
These N N Cresswell Coach Hire Ltd’s route R4, which just to flummox Evesham locals could be operated by Worthing based Compass Bus….
… running five journey a day (plus school journeys) to Willersey with a timetable that rather helpfully advises it is “to be read DOWN” showing the 30 minute journey time to BROADWAY.
And there’s route 552 operated by Henshaw’s Coaches with a 30 minute journey time to Long Lartin.
You may have noticed so far I’ve not mentioned any local route serving Evesham itself. Some of the aforementioned inter-urban and rural routes enter and leave the town via the residential area of Bengeworth as well as serving an adjacent retail area to the south of the town including a large Morrisons and an Aldi and the usual warehouse style outlets for B&Q/Carpetright/Currys/Pets at Home/Halfords/McDonalds/KFC etc etc.
I took a ride on Stagecoach route X18 which arrives from Coventry and Stratford-upon-Avon at Evesham ‘bus station’ and then continues on a southern circuit to serve this area known as Four Pools before returning via the Bengeworth residential area back to the ‘bus station’ to head north again to Stratford-upon-Avon and Coventry. The circuit takes 30 minutes.
Diamond’s route 247 approaches Evesham from the east having served the community of Badsey, and also serves Bengeworth and Four Pools.
But, there is one route which could be regarded as a town service, and that’s route 582 which serves both Bengeworth and Hampton on a 50 minute kind of circular route between 09:00 and 15:45 as well as one short trip at 07:50, presumably all fitted around school journeys. The day I visited N N Creswell, which runs the service, was using its rather colourful liveried Optare Versa on the route.
Sadly there weren’t many passengers on the buses I saw during my visit although you can probably see from the photographs it was a very wet day. The busiest routes were First Bus route X50 and Diamond route 247 but buses only brought in and left with single figures on board.
Passengers seen were mainly concessionary pass holders.
I didn’t really see a compelling reason to travel by bus. There was no quality feel about the service on offer. It all appeared rather down-at-heel, as though it was on its last legs.
Sadly the Riverside shopping centre which seems to be mired in controversy between the Council and its owners looked even more sorry for itself than the buses.
There are so many empty units the whole place seems like a ghost shopping mall.
Which is a great shame as in the town itself some of the historic buildings are amazing. I’ve never seen a NatWest bank in such an unusual setting, although ominously it’s surrounded by barriers.
I’m sure Evesham looks much better on a lovely sunny day. It needs to.
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Next blog, Tuesday 15th March 2022: The cost of a rail ticket refund