Time is running out for route 250, but why?

Tuesday 16th August 2022

It looks as though Oxford’s failed Pick-Me-Up DRT operation is going to make a comeback; this time in deep rural Oxfordshire (cue emoji with raised eyebrows).

It’s reported Oxfordshire County Council later this year is planning to replace hourly tendered route 250 which currently serves the expanding residential development known as Heyford Park, as well as various small villages and hamlets, on its route between Bicester and Oxford. partly with a shuttle bus between Bicester and Heyford Park and the rest of the route, including the villages, by a new rural DRT operation branded Pick-Me-Up.

This development is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, unsurprisingly, it’s going down like a lead balloon with new residents who’ve recently moved into Heyford Park and will no longer be able to get to Oxford and secondly I can’t see villagers in the hamlets about to lose their regular dependable hourly bus service warming to the idea of the vagaries of a rural DRT as a replacement.

For many years the route was numbered 25A and there’s still a nod to nostalgia which I’m sure regular passengers appreciate while waiting at the route’s terminus bus stop in Bicester where, for old times sake, the number 25A is still displayed.

The route’s been run by a succession of operators over the years including Stagecoach, RH Transport, Heyfordian, Thames Travel, Oxford Bus Company, Hallmark and currently Diamond Bus which acquired Hallmark back in 2005.

Hugh of Bus Users Oxford who kindly alerted me to this development reckons “it was either Thames Travel or Oxford Bus Company who changed the number to 250 a few years ago.”

Heyford Park is a huge residential development underway on the disused former US Air Force base housed at RAF Upper Heyford, about six miles west of Bicester, circled top left on the above map.

Around 1,600 new homes are earmarked for the site with developer Dorchester Living starting on the first phase in 2013. That and each subsequent phase has helped subsidise route 25A/250 through Section 106 payments. According to the Heyford Park website, only 700 homes have so far been built with a total of nine phases for the 12 year project which begs the question why is route 250 being cut back now?

I think I’ve worked out why. Let me explain more.

Hugh also explains “an extra bus route from Heyford Park to Banbury was supposed to be added, but it has not happened. This is awkward because some of Heyford Park’s new residents find the only GP with whom they can register is in Deddington, (on the way to Banbury) to which there is no bus from Heyford Park.”

That awkwardness has been magnified with the proposed transformation of the 250 into a Upper Heyford and Bicester Village railway station shuttle route missing out Oxford as a destination. The Oxford Mail reported last month about “a devastated single mother of three having to sell her house” because of the upcoming change. Her children will be cut off from friends in Oxford and her 15 year old is hoping to attend a further education college in the city which lies 15 miles south of Heyford Park.

Oxfordshire County Council has responded “we are working with bus operators on a joint ticketing arrangement which will allow passengers to continue their journey into Oxford by train from Bicester” but that’s hardly much of a replacement for a direct through journey by bus.

Dorchester Living reckons “Heyford Park is …. an exemplar in best practice place making”….

“At Dorchester Living, we see ourselves as custodians of the places we create. Our unique business model allows us to take a long term view of our settlements and this encourages craft, care and creativity in all that we do. As community builders, we innovate for bespoke facilities and amenities that make life that much easier, and this has been fundamental to the reputation we have received in the industry for having an exemplary approach to place making.”

Does anyone ever believe this kind of tosh PR bollox?

The developers reckon Heyford Park will be a “sustainable development” where residents will be able to live car-free. Some hope.

On my visit to Heyford Park on Monday last week I didn’t see much evidence of “craft, care and creativity” as I wandered around the already built houses, a bog standard Sainsbury’s Local….

…. next to a pharmacy, dentist, cycle hire and repair shop on a small parade with flats above …

… opposite a pub, restaurant and hotel ….

…. seems to be the focal point of the development with every few people around and lots of cars parked in drives. I could hear The Specials 1981 hit Ghost Town playing in my head as I walked along side roads with already occupied homes and their multitude of cars parked in drives.

The only activity aside from more house building on the former airfield itself was four lads taking turns to practise wheelies on two bicycles between them. They were good at it too.

I’d travelled on the 12:02 journey from Bicester on route 250. I’d spotted on bustimes.org the bus was running 10 minutes late, timekeeping not helped by two accidents bringing the nearby M40 to a halt and more traffic than normal using local roads as a blockage avoiding diversion.

We were soon away from the Manorsfield Road collection of bus stops which forms Bicester’s central bus terminus after a quick toilet break for the driver at around 12:15 with just three passengers on board.

The two year old Streetlite is on loan from Stanwell based Hallmark Connections (also owned by Diamond’s parent Rotala) and still wears that company’s plain white livery but now with added Diamond logos on its exterior and an interior still adorned with large airport style luggage racks exposing its previous use at Heathrow Airport. Boy did that racking rattle as we bombed along towards the village of Middleton Stoney and on to Heyford Park. It was almost headache inducing.

The racking also carried somewhat outdated advice on fare changes from the beginning of the year in its former Surrey homeland; I’m learning they like nostalgia in Bicester.

As we approached Heyford Park we turned on to the long unclassified road which runs along the full length south of the former airfield. South of this is where the houses already built can be found with the Sainsbury’s Local and few other amenities, already described, forming that central focus mid way along the road where there are bus stops and shelters either side of the road.

The shelters are nothing special.

Quite ordinary for a “place making” built on a theme of “craft, care and creativity”. There’s a real time departure display in the Oxford bound shelter which is “not available”

…. and confusingly on the bus stop pole two timetables are posted for route 250.

One current, incorporating recently added peak hour journeys between Heyford Park and Bicester Village station (making for a half hourly service), above one which is no longer current – always good to “craft, care, creativity …… and confusion” for would be passengers and that nod to nostalgia no doubt once again.

I had an hour’s wander around and saw the second bus on the route’s two bus cycle pass heading towards Bicester also running ten minutes late. It picked up one passenger at the Heyford Park bus stop….

…. and when it returned from Bicester I took it on to Oxford to complete my travels. There were 11 on board when it turned up, still 10 minutes late, with four getting off as I boarded and three more at the next two stops along that straight road as we left Heyford Park the remaining four alighted when we reached Lower Heyford leaving just me on board as we headed towards the villages of Kirtlington, Bletchingdon and Hampton Poyle served on route to Oxford.

Kirtlington is a delightful picturesque village with one senior boarding at one stop and three younger people at the other. I couldn’t help but overhear the former tell the driver “I’d nearly given up on you turning up” due to the lateness, so when she sat close to me on the bus I thought I’d be helpful and enquire whether she had a smartphone and was going to point out the advantages of using an app or the bustimes.org website to show the real time location of buses.

She had a mobile phone, she explained, but only uses it for calls as she likes to keep everything private and doesn’t trust technology to do that. I didn’t have the heart to tell her about the plan to withdraw the bus from Kirtlington in favour of a DRT scheme. She’s just the passenger profile rural routes like the 250 serve who’ll be left behind as technology trumps practicalities.

So why is the cut back to route 250 coming now when there’s still hundreds of new homes to be built, and presumably more Section 106 monies to come, especially as Dorchester Living isn’t the only house builders on this vast site.

Oxfordshire County council has its Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) largesse of £12.7 million which has got to be used on exciting things including rural DRT rather than boring things like maintaining a traditional lightly used rural bus route.

So from the narrow point of finding something to use that funding on it makes sense to curtail route 250 to run, presumably a one bus hourly all day shuttle between Bicester and Heyford Park with another bus making it half hourly in peak hours funded by the continuing Section 106 payments from the developer and use BSIP funding for a whacky “innovative” rural DRT for the villages further along the route, linking them with Oxford using a second all day bus.

That makes for a need for two all day buses and a peak hour extra.

Which equals the number of buses running the current timetable between Oxford and Bicester.

This change may look like it’s been crafted with “care and creativity” by county transport planners but I doubt it’s in the best interests of passengers – not least my smartphone sceptic from Kirtlington nor the hundreds of families moving into Heyford Park who have a need to travel to Oxford by a convenient direct bus.

One final thought: the last bus from both Bicester and Oxford currently leaves the termini at around 19:50, and on Sundays (only to/from Bicester) at 17:55. Perhaps it would have been better to use BSIP funds to run later buses so residents at Heyford Park really could consider being car free and still be able to get out in the evenings.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu

49 thoughts on “Time is running out for route 250, but why?

Add yours

  1. Good morning Roger I have recently become a subscriber to your blog after coming across a link to your article about the demise of Yellow Buses on Google. I live in Bournemouth and rely on public transport, as I do not own a car. I just wanted to let you know that I am really enjoy your regular blogs and am very impressed by your expertise and interesting, thoroughly researched analysis. Your articles have opened my eyes to opportunities in places that I do not know particularly well, for example, the Snowdon Sherpa services. A trip to Southend, which I have not visited since the 1960’s, to travel on the pier railway has also gone on my “to do” list. Many thanks and keep up the good work! Ian  

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Groan!! Just when you thought Oxfordshire County Council were back on board regarding buses, this proposed nonsense wrecks it all. If DRT didn’t work in the City………….! It will of course be the same old story. The DRT will be an expensive failure after soaking up Government largess, only meeting the needs of the niche few bristling with technology and “fun” apps. Eventually a cobbled-up fixed service (may) return, by which time most of the current passenger base will have moved on to alternatives.

    Local government, if there isn’t anyone around who is actually not on holiday at the moment, need to be telling the Department for Transport that the £funds about to wasted in most cases are URGENTLY required just to keep present and essential services going. Rumours, and they are only just that at the moment, tell me that another Operator is about to collapse, and one much closer to the heart of national government, so perhaps someone might wake up.

    But I won’t be holding my breath.

    Like

    1. This “proposed nonsense” is in fact the only way of retaining any form of bus provision for Kirtlington, Bletchingdon and Hampton Poyle, given that this authority has not had a tendered services budget since 2016.

      The only nonsense here is that the Government won’t let local authorities spend BSIP funds on protecting existing services. In the meantime, we’ll try and do our best to keep these villages (and others) on the network at all.

      Dave Harrison
      Principal Public Transport Planner
      Oxfordshire County Council

      Like

      1. Am I alone in finding it quite bizarre that Oxfordshire is prepared to spend government money (through BSIP funding) on public transport but refuses to fund a bus budget itself? So it all seems a bit rich criticising the BSIP rules for not allowing funds to be used to protect existing services when the transport authority doesn’t want to spend money doing this either!

        Clearly the DfT has no problem with this stance (see also Luton BC) but relying on developer contributions and BSIP funding is bound to end in tears when there’s no commitment from the LA to do the basics in network development.

        Like

      2. Imagine you’re the council’s Section 151 officer (director of finance). You are required by law to set a balanced budget.

        You have reducing income and increasing demand for services – statutory services that again are required by law. And the cost of these services per unit is also going up.

        “Socially necessary” bus services are not required by law. What would you do?

        We all love buses on this blog, and we all want to see them survive and thrive. But a crisis of this scale is absolutely beyond our collective capabilities to deal with. The simple fact is there is not enough money available to do the things we want to do.

        Having said that, we are on course to spend £5m on bus services this financial year. Not bad for an authority without a budget. For us, network development means just that – development.

        Dave Harrison
        Principal Public Transport Planner
        Oxfordshire County Council

        Like

    2. In Wiltshire over half of all bus services are supported, the council uses car park revenue to contribute to bus service funding, and this is a Conservative council!!!

      Where there’s a will there’s a way.

      Like

      1. Yep, but the problem in the traditional Shires is that bus subsidies are a county function, and car parking the responsibility of districts, and n’er the twain shall meet. Local Government has got into an increasing mess since 1972/4, mainly for short term political convenience, whether or not out of necessity.

        Like

  3. Why on earth do the ‘experts’ believe that DRT is the best thing since sliced bread? Many don’t even last until the ‘pilot’ period finishes. Is it just tech companies powerfully selling a flawed product?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. And Councils and Governments buy it, seemingly without doing any research.

        Transport for Wales have just announced the closure of their DRT scheme in the Newport, presumably as they thought it was not the right solution. But they’re introducing a new one in Flintshire at the other end of the country.

        Like

      2. Not in this case.

        In the absence of (a) a budget for tendered services and (b) the ability to spend BSIP funds on keeping existing stuff going, there are not really a lot of other options.

        Dave Harrison
        Principal Public Transport Planner
        Oxfordshire County Council

        Like

      1. The history of buses has been as a bottomless subsidy pit, and the constant cry to give us what we say we want, a bus which comes and goes where we want. Ergo DRT, the answer to the politicians prayer. Isn’t it?

        Except real life isn’t as simple as a comic strip. We may use the bus for many reasons, (and my experience is that we can be very loyal and patient, if only it were reciprocated, sometimes). IT just isn’t one of them.

        Just for interest on the efficiency of apps, I have software on my phone that removes unwanted ads and cookies. Total removed over 18 months, 3 1/2 million ads, half a million cookies, with no adverse effects on use, and 85GB data (and I’m not a gamer or a social media or shopping addict). Efficiency?

        Like

  4. Again I offer you the opportunity to contact me to discuss something further, however I doubt you will take this up.

    You should not rely on Bus Users Oxford to tell you the full story, perhaps instead you should seek the views of people who actually know what is happening and why. Your industry contacts know how to find me.

    Dave Harrison
    Principal Public Transport Planner
    Oxfordshire County Council

    Like

    1. Dave

      Did you look at using a flexible bus route?

      To me a flexible bus route is much better because it combines the advantages of a DRT with the advantages of a fixed bus route.

      Intending passengers on the fixed part of the route who cannot or will not book know in advance the approximate departure times and those on the flexible parts of the route get a bus service which they would not have got.

      Also why the obsession with a smartphone app, what is wrong with using a telephone? AFAIK for Route 99 in West Sussex if you need to book a journey then it has to be made by telephone. These days 99% of potential users have access to a telephone but a much lower percentage of potential users have access to a working smartphone app.

      It should be noted that smartphone app developers have a habit of assuming that all app users have the latest mobile phones meaning that they do not work on phones that are only a few years old.

      My mobile phone is over 5 years old and is working fine and does everything I want and more but I know that I will have to replace it soon because apps will soon begin not working on it because they have been updated. So I will have to replace a perfectly working phone just because some app developer wants to create a new feature that I probably will not use.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi 🙂

        Yes we are intending some fixed elements, such as arrival and departure times at Oxford Parkway so people book for a specific trip, rather than it being a completely flexible arrangement. The peak trip may be mostly fixed. And yes there will be a phone option.

        The Government made it clear DRT is in fashion and to get the money you have to play the game – it is how these things work unfortunately. I’ve read enough of these blogs to get a reasonable understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and we’ve learnt from that.

        Where the thought it was going to be called Pick Me Up came from I have no idea.

        Kind regards
        Dave

        Like

      2. Dave
        Excellent.
        The only point I would like to see is that I should not have to book for the fixed part of the route. Assuming there is space on the bus then I should be able to turnup and board at the fixed location to travel to another fixed part of the route without booking like I can with a normal bus.

        Like

  5. According to the BBC this week, 85% of the population own a smartphone. I would suggest that only 50% of that number actually know how to fully use their smartphone. Too many are pressurised into ownership by their peers and relations. Many like the lady mentioned in your article only really want to make and receive calls or texts.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Yes I also travelled on route 250 on 8 July, an interesting journey, making a contrast with the frequent X5 of Stagecoach, on which I returned. But It was not clear where I was supposed to board it in Oxford as I caught it where it comes in, but it then stopped again near the Stagecoach stops across the road, a more obvious departure point.. The bus had reference to Hallmark on it and I got two near consecutive tickets, one headed Diamond and the next headed Hallmark!, unique in my experience. The bus must have kept the same ticketing equipment after its transfer from Hallmark and the computer must revert sometimes.. Certainly a regular route is far better than DRT or Dial a Ride

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I sympathise with the Oxon CC transport planners’ dilemma . . . and perhaps we should remember that it is the CC “members” that have determined that they do not wish to spend “their” council tax on supporting bus services, but are happy to spend someone else’s money on new-fangled schemes that purport to show that they do, in fact, care. Some interesting background on the difficulties involved in providing rural bus services . . .

    And I believe that, over the border in Buckinghamshire, Carousel are about to open up a new DRT service, using the minibuses previously used on the Oxford service . . . something else for our indefatiguable blogger to visit and report on . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes we have been completely open about this given the current contract (and the S106 associated with it) ends in December.

      The challenge has been that the network review means changes to many other services are happening right now (watch this space) and it’s been difficult to prioritise taking this forward much in that context.

      Dave Harrison
      Principal Public Transport Planner
      Oxfordshire County Council

      Like

      1. Hi Dave, has a short continuation of the Heyford Park service to Heyford station every 2 days been considered, given this would provide a robust connection onto the Cherwell Valley line into Oxford at most times of day, in addition to serving Upper/Lower Heyford which would be another potential source of revenue?

        Like

      2. Hi Alastair

        Unfortunately there’s not really enough time in the schedule to accommodate a run to Heyford station, and nowhere to turn a bus around when you get there.

        Upper and Lower Heyford will still be served, for now at least.

        The timetable for what will be the 25 is geared around connections at Bicester Village station, and a glance at the Chiltern timetable will tell you the headways are “irregular”, which makes this a particular scheduling challenge!

        Kind regards
        Dave

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hi Dave, thanks for your prompt reply.
        I suspect your scheduling issues will be solved when the next phase of East West Rail opens, the weird headways are perhaps due to the delayed introduction of services east towards MK.

        Like

      4. It does not seem quite true there is nowhere to turn a bus. There is a road which may be a private road that appears to lead to the station car park where there seems to be room to turn a bus

        Like

      5. The road on the west side of Heyford Station isn’t private although there is a private house on it,it is probably owned by Network Rail and leads ultimately to a hut connected to signaling.There is,or was,a small bus that already uses it and it was a bus that went to Steeple Aston and beyond which ran in the morning and evening but I can’t remember who ran it or it’s ultimate destination (the Bartons rings a bell?And when I got it, about 3 times, the driver was Scottish).It was green and a big minibus.Now as for rail replacement buses I think that they stopped on the main road in fact with all of the little stations between Oxford and Banbury they stopped quite far from the stations especially Tackley and Kings Sutton because of the narrow lanes to the stations.

        Like

  8. You missed at least 2 former operators of the 25 when I moved to Oxford in 1989 it was run by Thames Transit and later Midland Red(South).I assume that Oxford: South Midland must have run it in NBC times and probably South Midland after the split of that company.As I recall the Oxford Bicester buses where the 25’s,27,28,29 and the last 3 were faster but other than than the 27 they went to villages around Bicester like Launton but after calling at Bicester first.The 25 had a 25 and an A variation which took different routes.The 27 became the S7 and the 28/9 no longer run.Most people who travel by bus from Oxford to Bicester prefer the X5 as it’s nonstop.That Heyford Park is a former USAF base and I think that B-52 Stratofortress ‘s where based there.I suppose that it’s better building car centric Barratt boxes there than green field sites and but good luck with getting them to use the bus or Heyford Station at Lower Heyford the best you could hope for is them driving to Oxford Parkway or them demanding that Heyford is turned into a huge parkway wreaking more countryside.

    Like

  9. I think we all understand it’s the DTp diktats that is the problem.

    I just wonder, did some civil service strategy kaboosh get spooked at the prospect of Uber in the early days, so it became an article of faith that “we have to beat them at their own game”. The answer to the maiden’s prayer. Of course they were, and are, never interested in a social service. But of course that’s irrelevant to our policy mind games. We’ve all played enough of them to know that!

    Like

  10. Over in Surrey we have a new housing development also on former military land at Longcross. It already had a station but one that was only served by a handful of trains a day. In 2004 South West Trains recast their timetable to include extra time for all trains to stop in preparation for the development. Despite the first houses being occupied a few years ago the actual stops were only added to the timetable within the last year. The trains, the station, the timetable were all there yet the various parties still couldn’t get their act together. What hope of breaking car dependency if we can’t get transport in place from the start at a new development like this?

    In a development I’ve not seen before the station also isn’t served by replacement buses during engineering works. The advice is simply to ‘use other nearby stations’, the closest of which is 2.5 miles away!

    I note that there’s also a hybrid DRT in place. Timetabled but pre-booked only service to nearby Virginia Water station morning and evening (which is pointless now Longcross has a service) and demand responsive but again pre-booked only during that day. I presume that won’t last beyond initial developer funding.

    Like

  11. A really interesting blog that has been enhanced by the contributions of Dave Harrison from the council. Good to get the view from the other side, and it does help to have that perspective. We all know that they are “playing the game” but HM Govt has set out some pretty daft rules (and not helped by some of the decisions our stretched local authorities are taking). Hopefully, we are seeing with the TfW decisions, that the DRT bubble may be about to burst – we can only hope. Until such time, Roger will have to keep on suffering for our education!

    Like

  12. There’s a real problem with the way some public services are designed.

    The move to DRT normally require the journey to be booked the evening before. Meanwhile GP appointments need to be booked, in most cases, early in the morning for that day.

    As more services contract their hours, it becomes more important that users can be confident of getting there.

    Like

  13. Prompted by this blog post, I went for a ride on Route 250 on Wednesday 17 August . . . here are my observations and thoughts:

    Bus Stops . . . in Oxford, the route is shown as 250; elsewhere it’s 25A. TBF, all stops had a timetable shown, although it seems to be a laminated, updated copy stuck on the outside of the glass . . . not sure why. Several rural flags were of the cast iron variety . . . a bit of a paint job would finish the “retro” look off nicely!

    Buses: both 19-plate Streetlites . . . one was Roger’s rattling bus (I think it “may” have been an ill-fitting emergency door?). Otherwise both clean and tidy. All drivers seemed well-motivated.

    Timekeeping: The 1102 ex Bicester departed 11 minutes late (protracted driver changeover) and only made up about 5 minutes, probably helped by the driver cancelling the destination display inbound after Oxford Parkway – a sensible decision IMHO). Departure ex Oxford would have been pretty close to time at 1205. The 1305 ex Oxford departed on time . . . a good run saw the arrival into Bicester about 3 minutes early, although on time ex Heyford Park.

    Passengers . . . this was surprising! 1102 ex Bicester departed with 7 on board ; 3 alighted in Heyford Park; 2 at Lower Heyford and 1 in Kirtlington (who was a regular, as he said “see you tomorrow” to the driver. A family of 6 boarded in HP; 1 in Kirtlington; another family of 6 and 2 single pax in Bletchingdon, so there were 15 pax on board into Oxford (1 alighted at Ox. Parkway)!!
    The 1305 ex Oxford departed with just me on board; picked up 2 more on the way out who both alighted in Bletchingdon . . . and then we picked up another 8 in Heyford Park to go to Bicester.
    I reckon this was quite a healthy load for a rural route, and hopefully Oxon CC will try to retain the fixed timetable between HP and Bicester . . . with more building to come, this might just be commercial in another 5 years!

    As far as the Oxford end is concerned . . . Sorry, Dave, but I just can’t see the residents of Kirtlington and Bletchingdon being persuaded by DRT out of their cars, in spite of a large red banner SAVE OUR 250 BUS in Kirtlington. I do sympathise with your dilemma, but if there’s no money for a direct subsidy, then perhaps a “hybrid DRT” is the best for now, although it’ll just be staving off the evil day . . .

    And finally . . . timetable provision in Bicester was just acceptable (although “25A” annoyed me!), although with a profusion of local operators, a simple timetable booklet with a town map would improve publicity hugely. I could knock something up in excel in a couple of days, I’m sure Mike Harris could do a town map at a reasonable price; and there is a Bicester Town Council “pop-in” shop for distribution. Observed daytime passenger loadings were fair, and the huge amount of house building in the town points towards a “market” for travel.
    What about it, Dave H? £3k absolute tops as a cost (probably less) . . . any S106 monies available?? Is there a “Bus Users” group locally?? Worth a try, surely . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for this comprehensive view.

      In Oxfordshire, updating roadside publicity and route number grids is the responsibility of the operator. I have supplied Diamond with a set of timetable case keys in the past so not sure why they have chosen to just stick them to the perspex. I don’t think we will probably seek to change the flags now given the Bicester – HP section will be renumbered 25 in a few months’ time and the southern bit won’t exist in a fixed form.

      A while back BUO did actually alert me to a whole bunch of out of date timetables at Manorsfield Road, Bicester, which I went and cleared. I do carry a set of keys in case I see any when I am out and about, much to the annoyance of my family!

      The timetable has always been tight. The reason why the 25A became the 250 is because it became a limited stop service within Oxford, to try and reduce journey time. So not all stops in the city are served. A key issue with retention of the whole service is the link to Bicester Village station – this is really important for HP but can’t be achieved with two vehicles on an hourly frequency throughout (but can be on the half hourly 25).

      Over time as HP builds out the service will be increased from every 30 mins to every 20 mins and then hopefully eventually to every 15. Hence the reason why Roger’s statement “it uses the same number of buses to run to Oxford” is not relevant to the decision. Analysis suggests more people at HP will use a higher frequency service to/from Bicester than two separate lower frequency services funded by the same money.

      Pre-pandemic the 250 contract cost £105,000. For exactly the same service now, the contract costs £255,000. That is part of the reason why things have to change.

      Also very important is that rail fares between Bicester and Oxford are very cheap as a result of a deal done between OCC and GWR back when it was a rubbish five trains a day service. Journey times between HP and Oxford, and costs, won’t be much different with the rail/bus interchange.

      I don’t think we are really expecting people from Kirtlington and Bletchingdon to be tempted out of their cars by DRT, what we are trying to secure is that people who currently use the bus retain some form of public transport access.

      We don’t have any budget for information either unfortunately, although this is something I have been pushing for. Apparently we can use BSOG to provide information, but only for tendered services (!) and we put it in our BSIP only to be told that “marketing” wasn’t eligible. Completely agree we should do something and this is a particular point I will be raising in the 2023/24 budget setting process.

      Thanks again for your thoughts on this, appreciated.

      Dave Harrison
      Principal Public Transport Planner
      Oxfordshire County Council

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Why would the contract for the same service more than double that makes no sense. It would increase but not by that much

        Even stranger is the council answer to that is to spend even more to provide a worse service. It is no surprise give this that bus services are in terminal decline

        Like

  14. I’ll second Roger’s comment above . . . it’s always interesting to get the LTA viewpoint, especially one so candid! We can all learn about the pressures on transport planners at the moment . . . it must be incredibly frustrating.
    I’d agree that one higher frequency service is better than two low frequency services . . . frequency always begats increased patronage, as I found when my 1 BPH route became 2 BPH . . . pax numbers more than doubled (and that was funded thanks to LSTF monies).
    I look forward to the December 2022 changes . . . I’ll be back to see them !!

    Like

    1. Frequency always begats increased patronage. I’m sure we’d all like to think so, but it’s a moot point.

      After a decade of doubling frequencies across the network (1 BPH to 2) we’ve reverted back to 1BPH. Anecdotally (since it’s a recent development) patronage seems as though it may be improving. Looking around I’m not sure that (outside the Mets) we’re the exception rather than the rule. This isn’t a rural area, but interurbans, with towns not more than five miles apart.

      Like

  15. Frequency always begats increased patronage. I’m sure we’d all like to think so, but it’s a moot point.

    After a decade of doubling frequencies across the network (1 BPH to 2) we’ve reverted back to 1BPH. Anecdotally (since it’s a recent development) patronage seems as though it may be improving. Looking around I’m not sure that (outside the Mets) we’re the exception rather than the rule. This isn’t a rural area, but interurbans, with towns usually not more than five miles apart.

    Like

    1. Once service go down to hourly passenger numbers start to drop off. IT may seem that they are busier because there is now only 50% of the service and those passengers will start to drift away over time
      add in poor timekeeping and random cancellations as well

      Like

  16. I’d like to echo the other comments of appreciation for Dave Harrison’s contribution. As a local it’s great to understand some of the background to the changes and the reasoning behind them.

    I’m amazed that anyone would contemplate living car-free in Heyford Park. I did it for some years in Bicester and that was hard enough – large parts of North Oxfordshire have little or no public transport provision and even where there is the Oxford-centric nature of much public transport makes some journeys quite protracted.

    I wonder, if DRT isn’t the answer, if anyone has any ideas of a better alternative? Much of the area is unlikely to ever support a conventional commercial service.

    Like

    1. We do have some pretty entrepreneurial community transport operators in Oxfordshire who run scheduled buses. (O licence vs section 22 can of worms duly opened).

      But everyone in this sector is struggling for drivers so can’t commit to running additional services at the moment.

      For those who are interested, Stagecoach and OBC/Thames Travel have released the service changes as a result of our network review – details on their websites. OCC have committed up to £2.5m for the protection of previously commercial services for two years, and have also spent £4m of Section 106 on improved or retained routes elsewhere.

      Dave Harrison
      Principal Public Transport Planner
      Oxfordshire County Council

      Like

    2. That’s the problem, A non bus user survey came up with 80% said there were no suitable bus services. The said they did not run when they need to travel and did not go where they need to go and are to infrequent so they have no chance of getting people to use buses. The bus companies cannot even hold on to their existing customers. They are in many case so bad that even concessionary pass holders are giving up on them

      Realistically if you are working and don’t live in large city then a care is essential. Public transport is not a viable option

      Like

  17. @smurfblue nice to see mention of Longcross but your assessment of the train service is a bit off the mark. The enhanced service started pre-COVID however as we know the rail industry withdrew a number of journeys. It has only recently returned to normal service. And the developer still had to pay the whole time under the terms of the funding agreement. The station has recently been improved which is great. The DRT type service will be reviewed but will continue. Hope that helps.

    @Dave keep up the excellent work. You have a really difficult job and many many people appreciate what you do.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: