Tuesday 18th April 2023
Central Hertfordshire residents woke up to a brand new bus route on Sunday. Operating an hourly frequency, seven-days-a-week, the new route 907 links Stevenage with Ware, Hertford, Hoddesdon, Broxbourne and Cheshunt. And if you’re thinking some of those towns are already linked by the existing bus network, you’d be absolutely right.
So what’s newbie route 907 all about? I’m a bit mystified to be honest. Operated by Centrebus with three buses, the route is being funded as part of Hertfordshire’s £29.7 million Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) settlement from the DfT. I understand it’s designed to provide new links across the county but I couldn’t find a reference to it in a quick scan read of the county’s 108 page detailed Plan document.
As you can see from this extract below, the Plan does identify some gaps in the bus network …
…. with Stevenage and Hertford getting a mention even though it has the half hourly Great Northern rail service (acknowledged in the Plan) and an hourly route 390 via Watton at Stone which takes 34 minutes whereas the new 907 is routed from Stevenage via Ware before backtracking to Hertford so despite using some fast flowing roads on its new routing takes a little longer at 38 minutes.
In addition, Stevenage and Ware are linked by the less frequent (seven journeys a day) Central Connect operated routes 383 and 384 and although the former (just two journeys) runs pretty much direct (via Bragbury End and Watton at Stone) although has a little wander around Ware and takes 36 minutes while the latter (five journeys) is more of a lovely meandering rural ride via Walkern, Benington, Whempstead and Dane End taking 66 minutes. Both the 383 and 384 then continue to Hertford, as the 907 now does.
While researching for this blog, I couldn’t resist a ride on the 384 last Wednesday – on the 13:25 from Stevenage. It wasn’t inundated with passengers – 16 travelled at some point in total between Stevenage and Ware which I thought was quite good, with five continuing on to Hertford – and the most on board at any one time on the rural section was seven, with nine on board as we did the Ware wander.
So I was intrigued what I’d find on a trip on the new 907 which I took yesterday morning, it’s first weekday operation.
Hertfordshire’s Intalink brand had updated its webpages with a 907 timetable (above), but it’s yet to appear on the County’s network maps. It also appeared on the electronic departure signs at the relatively new Stevenage Interchange (aka bus station) …
… but there were no printed timetables in the cases, and interestingly the timetable for route 390 had also disappeared. The lady manning the information point told me she couldn’t understand why it had been taken down. She helpfully told me the 907 departed from stand K (also used by the 383/384 and 390) so that makes sense.
However only Cheshunt bound journeys depart from the bus station. Journeys towards Lister Hospital and the large Sainsbury’s known as Corey’s Mill sited almost opposite the hospital, where the 907 starts and ends its journeys, leave from the bus stop alongside the railway station on the opposite side of the dual carriageway alongside the bus station.
I headed back there to catch the 11:20 departure up to Corey’s Mill.
But oh dear, on arrival I noticed the bus stop alongside the railway station was closed …
… even though the road cones would enable a bus to easily pull in and stop. Aside from the notice covering the flag on the shelter there was a rather faint notice in the bottom right of the timetable cases advising the bus stop was closed…
… although the electronic sign confusingly was still displaying departures.
As you can see it’s normally a very busy bus stop seeing frequent departures. Arriva’s buses were flying straight past showing not even a morsel of hesitation as the road cones gave way to the entrance for cars to set down for the station at the southern end of the lay-by.
I decided not to risk waiting there, but where to go for an alternative? There was nothing to advise passengers – and this is a popular stop for visitors to Lister Hospital (and north Stevenage) for people coming off trains and doing the modal integration so encouraged by transport planners. It’s all very well County Council officers boasting about how wonderful their Statutory Enhanced Partnership is in Hertfordshire but this is all completely wasted when the reality on the ground is that no-one in authority can be bothered to organise a replacement bus stop or crucially, let passengers know where to go for the nearest alternative. And this from what is a generally enlightened county council. I just can’t get my head round the fact someone had gone to that bus stop with a step ladder, covered up the flag and basically thought ‘sod the passengers’. And someone in authority told that person to do just that. Did it not occur to them to think about passengers?
Thank goodness for Google maps which showed me where the next bus stop was – 0.6 miles away (over 1,000 yards) in Stevenage Old Town, a 13 minutes walk away….
… and just to rub salt into the wound, it being by now 11:10, it also told me the 11:20 bus was 10 minutes away. Off I trotted and despite age I arrived in Old Town just as the bus was arriving at the bus stop.
I mentioned to the driver it was a long walk from the station to which he looked quizzically back at me, so I asked him if he’d stopped at the station to which he said “yes” with a nod to the effect saying ‘of course I did, why wouldn’t I?’ Thanks Hertfordshire County Council, NOT. Get your act together please.
Two passengers alighted in Old Town from the otherwise empty bus and we arrived on time at Corey’s Mill at 11:31 for 11 minutes of stand time before heading over to Cheshunt.
It was a journey of discovery as I hadn’t seen a map showing the precise route – the timing points on the timetable don’t make it entirely clear which way the bus goes.
We carried nine passengers in total during the journey. Three from Lister Hospital into Stevenage town centre all of whom have other buses available; two from Stevenage Interchange with one travelling to Ware (enjoying a more direct journey and saving having to wait for a 383/4) and one went all the way to Hoddesdon – enjoying a much improved direct journey; three from Ware with one also to Hoddesdon (who could’ve caught a 310 taking 17 minutes – every 15 minutes too – instead of 26 minutes via Hertford on the 907) and two into Hertford who have plenty of other buses; and one from Hoddesdon down the road to Wormley (also served by the 310).
So in essence one passenger enjoyed a better journey from Stevenage to Ware and another a greatly improved journey from Stevenage to Hoddesdon.
But of course it’s only day two and publicity and awareness obviously need to become established.
In Cheshunt the route terminates at the Brookfield Centre, the rather inaccessible by bus huge Retail Park lying to the west of the A10 (not used by buses). It has all the major names with the usual huge warehouse style outlets including a massive Tesco Extra, Marks & Spencer and Boots with lots of places to eat and no end of car parking.
It’s also served by Metroline’s route 242 between Waltham Cross and Cuffley.
The 907 certainly provides a new link from the Hertford, Hoddesdon and Broxbourne corridor to this destination for those who like such retail therapy it offers.
We arrived on time at 13:08 which wasn’t bad going considering we’d had to divert in Ware due to police closing the usual road used and traffic delays impacted us in Hoddesdon. It was just as well the running time seemed fairly slack to absorb these delays as the next journey departs Cheshunt for Stevenage at 13:10 – after just two minutes stand time, which applies to all journeys.
In summary the 907 provides a few new links, uses some roads previously unserved but more as a way of getting quicker from “A to B” as there’s nothing to serve on them, but whether these initiatives are enough to make for a profitable bus route that can wash its face financially once the BSIP funding ends is highly doubtful.
Why the number 907? It must have been an interesting meeting of the “Bus Route Number Assignment Committee” when that number was chosen. Maybe there’s also a 901, 902, 903, 904, 905 and 906 on the way too?
The 907 is just one of many new routes we can expect to see as those BSIP endowed local authorities start spending the money they’ve inherited, while others not so endowed continue to cut services due to a lack of funding.
Finally a message for Hertfordshire County Council – get the basics right like putting your energy into sorting out suitable alternatives for closed busy town centre bus stops before laying on speculative new bus routes.
Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS
The deviation into and out of Hertford appears unnecessary, particularly as there are viable alternatives (both bus and train) on the Stevenage-Hertford and Ware-Hertford corridors. It would seem more effective to remove Hertford from the route entirely and speed up the journey times from Stevenage/Ware to Hoddesdon/Cheshunt.
The BSIP has Stevenage to Hertford as one of the links in the County to be improved, so Hertford needed to be included to benefit from the funding.
It could even turn left halfway between Hertford and Ware and still serve the new estate rather than passing by it, serving a terrible looking “bus station”, then having to do a U turn at a roundabout to serve the new estate.
Thank you Roger for another interesting article. There seems to be quite a disease of randomly closing bus stops in Hertfordshire when no street repairs are happening. I often have to chase HCC to remove the covers. Many drivers do serve the closed stops when it is safe but there can be the risk that the bus you want is being driven by a “jobs worth” who has no customer focus.
All this mention of Cheshunt is a bit deceptive. It sneaks out of Turnford to serve a shopping centre to the north of Cheshunt. If this route was going to fully serve Cheshunt in a meaningful way it should at least reach the Old Pond or even better run to Waltham Cross for interchange with numerous other services. Brookfield Farm has been served by many bus services over the years…most have come and gone in that time. One wonders if the 907 will last longer than the BSIP funding.
I regret that HCC have form in re bus stops. Despite informing them THREE times by email, bus stops in Watford Town Centre STILL have those route numbers displayed on flags that refer to the routes operated prior to April 2022!!!
Indeed …. bus stop G in Market Street has been replaced after being knocked down at least 5 years ago, but still with incorrect route numbers!!
I applaud Intalink for what they do generally, but as RF has found, sometimes the basics get missed.
As far as Route 907 is concerned …. BSIP monies cannot be used to replace or enhance existing services, so this is what will happen elsewhere as well.
And for those who support franchising ….. be afraid, be very afraid!!!
Very interesting. I now understand why I saw a Centrebus bus (!) while parking at the Corey’s Mill Sainsbury’s on Sunday afternon – though I didn’t see it turn in at the traffic lights.
Sadly, your article reinforces my view that many bus operations are chaotic and erratic whilst providing very little information to the traveling public. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that bus usage is declining and routes being withdrawn. One can only wonder if the management of bus companies and the planners in local authorities ever travel by bus? If they did, then the situation might improve.
I took it on the first day and almost got caught out by the closed stop but still waited there as, quite rightly, where else would they stop? The driver stopped without any question. I don’t think I would have tried that with Arriva.
I was disappointed we didn’t go all the way along the A602, our bus served Watton at Stone despite the timetable not showing any calls.
As for passenger numbers, I took it the whole way and 2 people took it from Ware station to the A10 viaduct, hopefully that improves!
The route is bizarre in my view. It at least according to the timetable mises out Watton at Stone. I doubt Stevenage to Ware will generate enough traffic for two buses an hour.
The route gets even more strange after Ware as it heads up to Hertford and then doubles back on itself and makes a detour into Pinehurst and then comes back and makes it way back to Ware
I think the Hertford detour should be axed. There are multiple routes between Hertford and Ware and it is not a very busy area The route could then be extended to Waltham Cross via Flamstead End
It would mean Hertford and Ware would have no direct service to the Brookfield Centre but I doubt many would make that journey and it is only just over 5 minute from the Turnford Stop on the 310 route to the Brookfield Centre
A more sensible approach would have been to extend the existing 390 route
Chances of success of this route is slim in my view.
The route competes with the 390 and a few other minor routes between Stevenage and Ware
Between Hertford and Ware it competes with the 310, 331, 395 724 and some other minor routes plus the two rail routes
Between Brookfield Centre and Hoddesdon it competes with the 310 and 410. There is the rail route but that runs away from the main shopping areas
Another interesting post, Roger!
The BSIP document you refer to was effectively a bidding document to the DfT. In the event, HCC didn’t receive all the funds it requested so the ambitions had to be tempered somewhat. The outcome will be improvements between a number of major towns in Hertfordshire, of which the 907 is the first.
The primary aim of the 907 is to interwork with the 390 to give two buses an hour to a clock face timetable ( e.g. xx25 and xx55 from Stevenage bus station) between Hertford and Stevenage.
The decision to take the route via Ware vastly improves the Ware – Stevenage offer. Note that there are now links to Lister Hospital which didn’t exist previously. The 383 times you quote, Roger, are those that don’t go via Aston and are quicker.
Roger, I note you mention someone boarding in Ware to go to Hoddesdon. You make comment at the longer journey time on the 907, but fail to mention where in Ware (!) this person boarded. If it was anywhere but Ware Crossing, then it is quite likely that the 907 is the quicker option as the crossing is at least a 10 – 15 minute walk from where most people reside in the town. The 907 allows direct links from the town centre proper as well as the Watton Road area.
The 907 also provides new links from the Pinehurst area of Hertford to Ware and Hoddesdon. Indeed, I observed someone making a journey on the Sunday from Pinehurst to Hoddesdon. Even I was surprised at this! Incidentally, I also saw someone boarding at Ware High Street to go to Lister Hospital on the same day.
It should also be noted that the 907 does a very direct route from Hertford to Hoddesdon. This is designed to make the bus link between the two towns more attractive. After all, a car commuter wishing to travel between Hertford and Hoddesdon is unlikely to travel via Ware and Hoddesdon’s Hundred Acre Estate as the 310 does or via Hertford Heath as per the 341/641.
Peak journeys on the 907 go via Watton-at-Stone. This is to alleviate serious overloading problems with Students travelling from Stevenage and this particular village to schools in Ware. It was very encouraging on the first school day of operation that at least eight students boarded the afternoon 907 bus at Ware College to get the quicker bus to Stevenage, thus guaranteeing peak-hour movements on the route.
Finally, the decision to serve the Brookfield Centre was based on giving bus users the opportunity to visit facilities that have sadly left the average market town, such as being able to purchase clothes and footwear…..
It’s a shame printed publicity was not available at the bus station. Posting elsewhere seemed quite comprehensive, so I wonder if the job is still being undertaken?
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Many thanks for all the explanations Dan.
As regards the route numbering, it’s too much of a coincidence that Stagecoach East have the 904 and 905 which were both hived off from longer routes (B and X5 respectively) well before the BSIP era.
Very interesting article. Great to hear that so much public money is available and that the country is so rich that its bureaucrats can choose to put resources into activities like this. Clearly, giving the nurses a sensible pay rise must be possible too!
The total incompetence of the execution of Hertfordshire CC with respect to bus stops and information provision is also par for the course in British public administration these days too.
Total Incompetence? Bit unfair isn’t it?
There are over 4200 bus stops in the county. Sometimes things will go wrong. I may be biased but I don’t think Roger’s unfortunate experiences are the norm. Indeed, observations reveal timetables for the 907 were posted at most stops prior to the Sunday start date.
Of course you are entitled to your opinion about the competence of Government (national or otherwise), but maybe you’re ire should be better directed at the private sector bus industry, some representatives of which can’t even maintain a fathomable web presence….
Sorry Dan, travelling on the route last Sunday, Bus Users can confirm there were no timetables up for the Stevenage end of the route and the one a Brookfield Centre was a total mess, with the 907 appearing with the times of the 242 service. Never had any problems with the bus operators publication of timetables, but every time the tables are updated by Intalink there are more errors introduced. With the now updated timetables at Stevenage Interchange, to include the 907, there is a notice of HCCs public transport survey ‘to best understand bus travel in Hertfordshire’ with a QR code.
The first question is required and the options to select are:
Hemel Hempstead Railway Station
Sr. Albans Abbey Railway Station
Watford Junction Railway Station
Hatfield Railway Station
That and fact that operators have services scheduled for the same stand concurrently at Stevenage Interchange, is incompetence – though not total.
I just wanted to say that I’m a different Stephen from this one, and I do comment from time to time on Roger’s blogposts. In future I’ll call myself Stephen H!
Katch DRM service has restarted this time for another 12 month trial which appears to be funded by East Suffolk Council
Experience always is that you can do as many surveys as you want but the only way to find out if a bus service is going to work us to run it. And that is I suppose what BSIP monies are there to achieve, So all of the armchair bus experts might as well wait and see what happens. I am sure that Hertfordshire will alter things to suit passenger patterns as they develop. And as you can see from Dans post someone from the county was out on Sunday to look at how it was working.
And an update on other Rogers other Centrebus group postings. In Leicester best day so far on Hop is 530 passengers. In Telford the 100 is over 200 passengers per day, and above expectations. Route changes based on first 3 months experience will be introduced soon, and better publicity. The two rural routes are carrying well over double the number of passengers the previous dial a ride services carried with similar resource. That will please Roger!
Greenline727 is optimistic in expecting HCC to update route numbers on bus stop flags in less than a year. Here in Essex it can take ten to fifteen years before they are changed.
The 907 does not provide a new link from Hoddesdon and Broxbourne to the Brookfield Centre as that is already provided by route 401
There are some strange timings with the 907 as well. Between Hertford and Ware via Pinehurst it is 7 minutes yet the 310 which goes direct allows 10 minutes
Between Hoddesdon and Broxbourne the 310 takes 6 minutes. The 907 allows 4 minutes. The routes are exactly the same
The 310 timetable was changed recently as they had trouble keeping to time so there are question marks over how realistic the 907 timetable is
Bob, it’s the 410 that also goes between Hoddesdon and Broxbourne but the routes are different – the 907 uniquely serves North Hoddesdon whilst the 410 serves Rye Park. The 907 does provide a new link for Ware and Hertford.
The 907 serves Pinehurst before Hertford and Ware (in other words is doesn’t ‘dog leg’ as you suggest) and vice-versa. The 907 also makes extensive use of dual-carriageway roads.
There has been some late running of late due to roadworks in Hoddesdon, but nothing to suggest the timetable is flawed.
I assumed it run to Pinehurst and then come back to the Ware road. If it is not doing that it must run down from the Ware road to Pinehurst and then go onto the A10 and then back onto the Ware road. So it does a loop rather than a dog leg.
Well as a Bragbury End resident living off the Hertford Road I was very pleased to accidently come across the bus on Sunday. As of Tuesday the timetable cases in my area were all done. For me personally this service now makes work days in Hertford very attractive with a service nearly door to door and at a good frequency. Not everyone that lives in Stevenage is near the station (it’s a big place you know!) So the train connection arguement is not relevant. What would help is if the buses could actually serve the route on Hertford Road protected by the bus bollard! I am told this will be rectified this week. Slightly annoying that it runs about 5 mins infront of sb8 when going to town all week, but I guess you’d lose your clock face interface with the 390. My concern is whether Arriva will remove another service from sb8 due to the timings. We have already lost one service an hour, and it isn’t very reliable. Anyway I am hoping it is a success. Got till 2025 to make it work. Some proactive comms would be good.