Saturday 26th March 2022
Continuing my fortnightly alphabetical wander around Britain brings me to the south coast.
Folkestone’s population is 47,000. A further 15,000 people live in neighbouring Hythe, while the total population of the Folkestone & Hythe District Council area (renamed from Shepway Borough Council in 2018) is 113,000.
Being a coastal town, and the most southerly one in Kent at that, its commercial centre is on the coast making for a semi-circle shaped town.
Folkestone is on Southeastern’s railway line between Ashford and Dover with trains to and from Charing Cross as well as St Pancras on the High Speed line. After Dover trains continue around the coast to Deal and Ramsgate providing some good journey possibilities.
The one city not connected directly to Folkestone by rail is Canterbury – a change in Ashford is needed. But as we’ll see there’s a frequent bus linking the two.
Folkestone has two stations – Folkestone West, which not surprisingly is a short distance west of the town centre and Folkestone Central two minutes further on. This latter station is about a ten minute walk from the town centre shops and there are frequent bus links to the bus station.
The station has a long gentle slope leaving up to the entrance to the ticket office, and then inside another slightly steeper slope up to the platforms – complete with interesting hand rail arrangements.
Possibly to deter cyclists riding their bikes? Those unable to use stairs are well catered for.
There used to be a Folkestone Harbour station located by the harbour which famously provided for through trains to the Continent. This has been wonderfully restored and is now a popular venue for visitors to the seafront with cafés sited on one of the platforms and in the old signal box.
It’s well worth a visit.
My Folkestone adventure was at the end of January courtesy of a quick High Speed train journey from St Pancras – platform to platform in 52 minutes compared to 99 minutes to Charing Cross.
It was a busy train with passengers even joining at Britain’s dreariest station – Stratford “International”.
Folkestone’s bus network is in the safe hands of Stagecoach South East. For the size of town it enjoys good frequencies and a tidy route pattern.
The bus station is an open air six bay affair with a shelter on each of two central bays. These and the bay alongside the staff facilities point north while the two stops on the eastern side point south but all buses leave via the north western corner.
The bus station is looking its age; it’s very old.
There used to be a travel office and upstairs were administrative offices. In the late 1970s when I worked at Ashford this included an Area Manager (Peter Agg) and an Area Traffic Superintendent (Arthur Parrot) who oversaw District Traffic Superintendents at Ashford (me), Dover (Norman Waghorn) and Deal (Clive King). All now very sadly gone (except me) as sadly so is the Travel Office.
However I was very impressed and pleased to see a display of timetable leaflets outside the staff offices.
In January’s Covid disrupted times it was commendable that timetables dated 2018 and 2019 were still valid, three and four years later.
Even better the leaflets contain a coloured easy-to-follow network map for the town.
It really does make a difference.
The bus station is conveniently located close to the main shopping area and adjacent to Bouverie Place.
It was good to see public toilets available alongside that building too.
Folkestone’s bus network comprises local route 70 to Golden Valley in the west (dark blue); routes 71/71A to Cheriton in the west (orange and light blue); route 73 to Broadmead and Hawkinge in the north (green); route 76 to East Cliff in the north (brown); and route 91 which connects Broadmead with the town centre then meandering around East Head before continuing on to Dover the long way round via Alkham.
Inter-urban routes are the 16 from Hythe via Folkestone to Canterbury and the 100/101/102 wave branded coastal route from Hastings to Dover via Rye, Lydd, Hythe and Folkestone. Route 10 runs to Ashford and route 17 runs to Canterbury via Elham Valley with its sister route 18 linking Hythe with Canterbury via Stelling Minnis.
Most frequent are the local Cheriton routes 71/71A which provide a ten minute frequency along Cheriton Road before taking circular routes (clockwise and anti-clockwise) around the residential area. Also benefitting from a 10 minute frequency is the coast road between Hythe and Folkestone via Seabrook and Sandgate where there’s a neat bit of coordination in both directions between the 20 minute frequency routes 16 (from Canterbury) and 102 (from Dover).
Route 76 runs every twenty minutes to East Cliff while route 73 runs half hourly to Hawkinge which also enjoys a 20 minute direct service into the town centre from route 16. Route 70’s hourly frequency is coordinated with route 10’s hourly timetable to Ashford to provide a half hourly service to Golden Valley.
Wave branded route 102 runs every 20 minutes from Dover to Littlestone-on-Sea with one journey an hour continuing to Rye where it seamlessly becomes a route 100 through to Hastings. Routes 17 and 91 run hourly with route 18 two-hourly or less.
All in all it’s a sensible allocation of resources in proportion to the use made of the routes as I found during my wander around the town.
I travelled on a Saturday morning and early afternoon sampling journeys on routes 71/71A, 73 and 76 as well as routes 10 and 102. Busiest buses I saw during my visit were routes 16 (Canterbury to Hythe) and the coastal route 102.
I did a circle on route 71/A with four passengers travelling out to Cheriton and 12 coming into the town centre.
Route 73 took seven to Sainsbury’s on the way to Hawkinge with seven boarding on the various circuits the bus does of that residential area lying north of the A20 elevated by-pass around the edge of the town.
Best journey was after we took six home to East Cliff on route 76 but brought 19 back into town.
Route 102 did well heading from Folkestone with a large number alighting in the bus station having arrived from Dover and about a dozen boarding to travel to Hythe.
It’s a lovely ride along this stretch of the coastline, especially on a bright sunny day.
I returned on a route 10 (from Ashford) which wanders off the coast road in Seabrook to serve the Golden Valley area.
Only four were on board with me and two of these got off by the barracks which are being joined by new housebuilding as befits Army land in many places.
We picked up seven before reaching Folkestone.
Bus stops throughout the area are Stagecoach branded and all were smartly presented with the stop name and route branding were appropriate.
Timetable information was a listing of departures.
as we know, route branding in Stagecoach is on the wain which is sad to see.
Gold liveried buses on route 16 will presumably soon be phased out.
As will the wave branding for the coast road (which as you can see was suffering from January road dirt and grime).
How senior directors at Stagecoach Group’s central command for their bus companies think doing away with route branding will make things better is a mystery to me.
For a population of 47,000 Folkestone enjoys a good train service and an excellent bus network.
Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu
Next blog, Sunday 27th March 2022: Memories are made if this. A visit to the Bus Archive.