F is for Folkestone

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.

Looking down to the ticket office

Possibly to deter cyclists riding their bikes? Those unable to use stairs are well catered for.

Looking up to the platforms

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.

There was just the wave branded 102 to Dover missing from the set.

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.

Roger French

Previous AtoZ blogs: Andover; Bracknell; Carlisle; Durham, Evesham.

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu

Next blog, Sunday 27th March 2022: Memories are made if this. A visit to the Bus Archive.

22 thoughts on “F is for Folkestone

Add yours

  1. Unfortunately the smooth and seamless transition at Rye was ruined some time ago now…

    it’s a change of vehicle and the inherent worry about missed connections and buses not turning up now if you wish to travel across Rye I’m afraid…

    ..And at only an hourly frequency that can be a long wait if things go wrong!

    Previously one of my favourites I now haven’t done the trip since they’ve changed it, but no doubt making sure the twirlies touch their ENCTS cards a 2nd time on every journey has helped the bottom line even if every long distance paying passenger will now think twice about taking the trip… (a bit like the similar 700 touch 3 times to complete your journey nonsense further to the west)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve always found Folkestone’s bus network to be surprisingly well used . . . and the fact that 2018-2019 Stagecoach timetable leaflets are still vaild bears this out . . . if it ain’t broke and all that!!

    In passing . . . is the longevity of the network because timetable leaflets have been available all that time? I was actually keen for the NatEx “merger” to go ahead . . . it might have reversed the weird decisions eminating from Perth . . . but with the new DWS financial involvement, I expect it’ll be more of the same.

    Thanks for the Folkestone Harbour hint . . . I’d just assumed it had been flattened . . . a day trip beckons!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent.

    We don’t yet qualify for bus passes. Away in the motorhome and thought that we would catch a bus today. Can’t find prices anywhere so the commendable two hourly Saturday service will not have paying customers today as we have no idea of cost.

    How many other industries try and attract casual customers without a price list. Local taxi company is online and gives indicative prices.

    Never mind. Sunny day and anice walk instead.

    Like

    1. Can’t find prices _anywhere_? The journey planner on the Stagecoach website offers links to fares as part of its journey plans, or you can look them up directly on the ticketing page on the same website, so I’m not sure you tried very hard.
      I bet you couldn’t find out how much parking prices would be for your motorhome without some serious Googling, either!

      As for your comment about “How many other industries”, unfortunately the answer is “a lot of retail”. Try finding out online what Lidl actually sells and how much it costs, rather than its special offers, for example.

      p.s. No, I don’t work for Stagecoach. Detest them, as it happens.

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      1. The bus service here is not Stagecoach. The operator does not have fares on their website. There are no bus stop flags in the village. The time table references a butchers shop that is not there.
        Parking prices are available on all local council websites and all supermarkets that offer on line shopping have prices online.
        The cost does not matter hugely. It is the convenience of having the right money. They have a smart card which gives a 10% discount – but on what?

        Like

  4. ….I made an enquiry on the Herts intalink web site, one of the enthusiastic councils about bus travel, asking if an intalink explorer is valid on central connect’s 420/420A..it does run within the coloured area shown on the map, but this route is not in the route list, hence the enquiry.. anyway, that was TWO WEEKS AGO and I’m
    Still waiting for a response… So ditto, I didn’t buy an explorer, and had a day out doing something else instead… it seems increasingly the case these days that only those “in the know” are invited to use the bus as information is so poor for new/prospective users, branding and maps etc are no longer bothered with and enquiries are not welcomed and/or go unanswered. Clearly they have enough passengers and don’t want any extra ones.. why are we worried about the future of the industry, the operators are clearly not!

    Like

    1. With a lot of detective work I have manage to work it out

      You need to go on the HCC Web site and click on tickets and then click on Interlink Explorer and then click on Interlink Partner operators

      You also need to go down to the bottom of the Interlink Explorer page to find a vague list of EXCEPTIONS

      This mess though is pretty typical of bus information and you still have the problem half the drivers are not aware of the ticket and validity

      What they should do is give a complete list of routes it is valid on and list any sections the ticket is not valid on against the route number. With the 724 it is not valid between Maple Cross and Heathrow

      They should not expect customers to become a detective to try to work out the validity

      Like

      1. Yep, that’s pretty universal. The bus industry, like much of the infrastructure, is still in the 1970s (or earlier). We know what we mean, so why can’t the passengers? It’s like locally, where disruption information for the public is written in bus driver shorthand. Perhaps they expect us to to get our own bus? Oh, but we do; it’s called the car.

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      2. The vague Explorer list

        Intalink Explorer is valid for travel on:

        bus services provided by Intalink partner operators Mot Clear

        bus services provided under contract to Hertfordshire County Council Notclear

        certain bus services provided under contract to Buckinghamshire County Council and Essex County Council Not clear

        Note Intalink Explorer is not valid for travel on:

        services provided by non-Intalink partner operators and which are not run under contract as above, so if necessary please check with the operator before travel Not sensible

        night bus services Not Clear. How is a night bus defined ?

        London local services operated under contract to Transport for London
        services operating to or via Central London Not clear and what is defined as Central London. There are various defintions of it

        services provided primarily for school children and students Not Clear does it mean dedicated school bus services ?

        services on which the majority of seats can be reserved in advance of travel Probably clear

        services that are intended to run for a period of less than six consecutive weeks Reasonably clear

        services operated entirely for the purposes of tourism or because of the historical interest of the vehicle Reasonably clear

        bus substitute (rail replacement) services Clear

        services where the fare charged has a special amenity element. No idea what that means

        Arriva Services 508.509.510 between Bishop’s Stortford and Stansted Airport Clear

        Green Line Service 724 between Maple Cross and Heathrow Airport Clear

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      3. If I recall correctly Bob, the Interlink site HCC timetables do state Explorer restrictions eg Sunday 42A not valid at all (ECC contracted service) and 915 (commercial) only as far as Melbourn (into Cambs), and where valid on a service, by the use of the logo.

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      4. The bigger problem in my view, with the modern pressure for housing everywhere is that the old Council administrative boundaries are irrelevant to modern travel needs. But the accountants are resistant to any change, as usual!

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  5. Roger, thanks for another solid report (though I was anticipating Fareham!).

    I’m amused by “route branding in Stagecoach is on the wain”: Surely not the service wagon – or maybe Folkestone has a Solo transferred from Kilmarnock……

    Like

  6. Good to know that timetable leaflets were available, but were they available simply because nothing had changed since 2019?

    Like

  7. We moved to Hythe last spring (from inner North London), and haven’t regretted it at all. Sure, we’ve had to get a car, but we do regularly use the frequent buses to/from Folkestone in particular (the 16 and 102 coordination broadly works, but the schedule can be absolutely shredded on a summer Saturday).

    There are plans afoot for a lot of redevelopment in the town centre (which is admittedly looking a bit tired), which will see significant changes to the bus station if it goes ahead, which might have something to do with the lack of investment in the bus station at the moment.

    Back to the buses, and I don’t think the new Stagecoach scheme is too bad – they look much smarter than many in the old scheme, which is beginning to look a bit tatty – but I agree that removing route branding seems a strange move.

    Like

  8. The bus service here is not Stagecoach. The operator does not have fares on their website. There are no bus stop flags in the village. The time table references a butchers shop that is not there.
    Parking prices are available on all local council websites and all supermarkets that offer on line shopping have prices online.
    The cost does not matter hugely. It is the convenience of having the right money. They have a smart card which gives a 10% discount – but on what?

    Like

  9. I’m still waiting to see if the Lake District buses succumb to the new stagecoach branding, because the 555 Lakes Connection and 599 open top brandings are amongst the best in the country and since those routes are so tourist orientated, they definitely attract a lot of passengers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was made clear at the time of the rebrand that the Lakes Connection scheme was being retained (and indeed additional vehicles have been repainted since).

      Like

  10. Can I echo pauljenkins513’s remarks?
    I did my depot training at Folkestone in 1971/72 – a fascinating experience. I can remember most of the names of staff at the bus station travel office, the upstairs offices and at Cheriton depot.

    Liked by 1 person

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