Thursday 4th May 2023
Moves are in hand to refresh and regenerate the area outside Aldershot railway station. But in a move that’s described as “access improvements to Aldershot station and town centre” the adjacent bus station is about to close. I know, I was puzzled too, so took a wander over to the town to find out more on the ground.
The Stagecoach run bus station is not exactly an inspiring place to wait for a bus. The Travel Shop’s opening hours were reduced some years ago and then closed completely.
The bus shelter where passengers wait is minimal and the cover doesn’t extend to the bus boarding area.
But, as a model of modal integration its one plus point is being located as close to the entrance to the railway station as it could possibly be.
Now that’s set to end in a few weeks as the landlord has other plans for the site – a nice block of flats – well, there’s a surprise, and Stagecoach will be dispersing its buses to take stand time at bus stops around the town centre.
By a happy coincidence, Hampshire County Council and Rushmoor Borough Council have been working on plans for some time to regenerate the area around the station as well as make improvements in the town centre particularly to encourage the much loved walking and cycling, not least because of new residential developments in the town centre and wanting to limit traffic.
Hampshire County Council has produced a map showing where new bus stops will be located and work is already in hand to construct these as well as shifting taxi ranks and loading bays around.
There are some plus points to what is being proposed. Most passengers use buses to access the town’s commercial and retail centre so planned improvements to the bus stops currently used with more space for the newly terminating buses will improve conditions.
However, it’s not clear from the map whether improvements will include wider footpaths and shelters with more seats in them.
As you can see from these photographs of what’s set to become the main departure point in the town centre, there’s real scope for improvement to the facilities,
My travel experiences in the town are that it’s only a minority of passengers who take the bus all the way to the bus station/rail station terminal point located in the south of the town’s central area with similar numbers boarding there in a homebound direction.
However, it does seem a retrograde step to make it harder to interchange between bus and train and although the local authorities have plans for a new bus stop in Station Road (on the right hand side of the road in the photograph below), a matter of yards from the entrance to the railway station I doubt this will accommodate all the buses which currently use the bus station, as there clearly won’t be enough room.
Passengers on the routes which will now have to terminate elsewhere in the town centre will have a much longer and inconvenient walk between bus and train, albeit the walk will be on nice new paving and upgraded public realm. I’m sure that’ll please them, especially on a wet day.
A budget of £1.775 million was set for the project but a recent update report warned “soaring inflation costs and financial realities mean we have had to review how we can best spend the previously committed £1.775 million to ensure that the resulting project can stay on budget and provide best value for money for the taxpayer. Whilst there is no change to the amount we are spending, this sum will not stretch as far as it could when the scheme was first devised. It is important we are realistic about what can be achieved when faced with steeply increased prices and costs.”
They reckon “our modified plans will still deliver the majority of the proposed scheme but will prioritise the provision of a high-quality cycle route to and from the Wellesley development, and the delivery of more secure cycle parking at the station. We would also look to freshen the station forecourt approaches through improvements on Station Road, Windsor Way and Arthur Street. Proposals to amend the road layout and one-way systems on Windsor Way and Arthur Street to minimise town centre traffic would also be progressed.”
One of the things I couldn’t help noticing as I wandered around Aldershot’s retail centre was the easy availability of car parking including a huge Council run multi storey car park in High Street as well as on street parking.
And just look at the tarriff….
…. £1 for up to two hours and £1.50 for a maximum of three hours in the multi-storey (and free in the evenings) while on street parking is for a maximum one hour only …
… but for 80p!
Eagle eyed readers may have noticed the poster in the High Street bus shelter above promoting the 24 hour timetable on Stagecoach Gold branded route 1.
That sounds attractive until you realise it’s an out of date poster – the last journey on route 1 (it’s also no longer officially branded ‘Gold’) leaves Aldershot at 23:30 (22.00 Sundays) and doesn’t start up again until 04:55. It’s a pity there’s no timetable in the timetable case for what is Stagecoach’s flagship route in the area.
Cheap parking, a bus station closing and out of date information. It doesn’t bode well.
Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS
Based on my observations of the use of dedicated cycle paths elsewhere, surely there would be more buses and passengers that would benefit from using the £1.775m on bus measures than priortising it on a high quality cycle route.
Now that I cycle a lot I have started it understand too why cycle paths often are unused. They are typically over engineered and not very suitable for any cyclist who actually wants to get somewhere quickly. They also have a habit of suddenly ending at junctions and then creating even greater danger than if you had not used the track to start with. Many times they are also narrow and passing a cyclist in the opposite direction is tricky. They are done much more effectively in the Netherlands.
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Sounds like what happened in Whitehaven some years ago. The covered bus station fairly close to the railway station was closed and the buses dispersed to stand around the town centre. The result was total chaos both for drivers having to negotiate around the buses and pedestrians struggling through the people waiting for a bus.
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WE dread this – It is used for changing buses from Fleet to Guildford., Frimley park Hospital and Farnham. local shoppers did not really need it – we did
Imagine letting go one of the few bus stations next to a railway sta.
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Closing a bus station is never good even a scruffy looking one like that is better than no bus station.Passengers interchanging between bus and train might have nice pavements to walk down but they’ll soon be broken by cars parking on them despite all the car parks they have.And then we have the bikes and escooters that Sir Boris Johnson legalised flying down them too.
Notice that the Councils update does not mention the word ‘bus’
The cycling minority mafia seem to be most important.
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Although usually the cycle lanes that built do not serve our needs. As per my comment above. A lot of money gets spent on cycle lanes that are not very helpful anyway!
Personally in an unfamiliar town I find a bus station much easier because I can find it on a map rather than try to find which of the seemingly randomly positioned bus stops around the town centre the particular bus I want to catch stops at. Not helped by the fact most areas don’t put the bus stop numbers on the bus flags and you often find people sitting at the bus stop so you can’t easily see the timetables that are behind them to see which bus stops where. Likewise if I have to change buses, it’s much easier to do it at a bus station than go on a wander round the town centre trying to find the other stop. Not helped when bus companies or Councils use daft names for stops. I can remember, for instance, that the bus stop in the centre of Helston was listed as “Opposite Woolworths” in timetables for years after said shop closed down! Then you have the issue of what happens if a bus that isn’t the one you want comes first. Now you run the risk the one you DO want goes past because the people waiting couldn’t see it because of the bus already at the stop – which is generally avoided at bus stations when the schedule means two routes don’t try and use the same stop at the same time.
In much of Europe it seems to be common that all or most buses that serve a town stop by the railway station (if it has one) but sadly in Britain we seem to be moving away from that, which only makes it worse.
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I went to Loughborough recently. Having wandered up and down the “bus streets” unsuccessfully to locate my bus stop for Leicester . . . I resorted to “bustimes” and eventually (with a false start) located the correct stop. I very nearly missed the bus, in spite of allowing 10 minutes to get there. A “where to find your bus” notice in each shelter (plenty of space available) would have been very helpful.
Ho Hum . . . .
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Cannot understand why bus operators do not put town centre stop maps on their web sites (a few good ones do). Google maps can be very useful in locating your stop, but can be fiddly to use if there are a number of stops, and they are not always correct / up to date.
Stagecoach certainly seem to be viewing the closure of the bus station very positively, as their website states :
“We’re really excited that the new stops will be a big improvement for bus customers, with all buses picking up and dropping off closer to the shops.”
This is undeniably true for routes approaching Aldershot from the east. i.e. 3 – Yateley/Camberley/Frimley Park Hospital, 15 (ex 14) – North Town, 16 Rowledge/Farnham and 20 (ex Kite) – Guildford, totalling at least 8bph, with any passengers for the town centre (most of them) no longer facing the “long and inconvenient walk” between bus terminus and shops. The downside of this, of course, is that the minority changing between bus and train ARE now faced with said “long and inconvenient walk”, particularly so if struggling with wheely-cases, etc.
Where the claim of “all buses picking up and dropping off nearer to the shops” is a moot point is Aldershot’s most frequent route, the ‘flagship’ Gold 1 from Camberley Old Dean (5 bph), which will now terminate on the edge of the Town Centre in Court Road, opposite the new, and under construction, Union Yard development and no longer serving the Victoria Road stops inbound on its way to the station or the two stops on the High Street (Library and Princes Gardens) on its way out. With a minimum 7 minute walk to the Station from Court Road, this route also comes off worst for anyone wanting to change onto the train, although any London-bound passengers would probably go north to Farnborough (Main) anyway, where buses still stop right outside.
Despite the 1’s shortened route, arrival/departure times in Aldershot are more or less unchanged, which hopefully will lead to improved reliability on the route, where it’s quite common to see (sometimes very) late running and bunching. Effectively building in at least 5 minutes extra recovery time on each round trip is bound to help. Incidentally, the publicity for the changes and the new timetable for the route both refer to ‘Gold 1’, which is surprising as I thought it was no longer a ‘brand’ under the current regime.
As far as changing between buses is concerned, this is fairly straightforward in a ‘west-to-east’ direction where inbound buses from Fleet (7) and Farnham (4/5 and 17/18/19) will perform an anti-clockwise loop via Victoria Road, Windsor Way and High Street, enabling connection to east-bound buses (3, 15, 16, 20) in Victoria Road at the same or an adjacent stop. Less convenient is in the ”east-to-west’ direction where passengers off the 3, 16 and 20 will need to alight at The Library and are then faced with at least a 4-minute walk to Princes Gardens. This could be resolved by allowing these routes to set down at Princes Gardens which they go past. The new cross-town service 15 stops at Princes Gardens, so does not have this problem.
Having said all that, its heartening to see Stagecoach making some actual timetable improvements at the same time as these changes, particularly to early morning, evening and Sunday services, in contrast to what seem to be relentless cutbacks in many other places. Lets hope their apparent confidence in the area’s network is not mis-placed !
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There is a lot of evidence that closing bus stations reduces passenger numbers. There can also be the loss of toilet facilities for passengers and drivers plus trying to find where a bus stop becomes a nightmare
Given many buses have to layover thats another problem
Much appreciated that you visited Aldershot Roger. It hasn’t been well received by residents, some of whom have to make cross-town journeys in Aldershot. But I do believe both are to blame in this decision. A report was written by Rushmoor Borough Council (not ‘Rushmore’ as in the American mountain) that highlighted Stagecoach’s claims that the bus station was “surplus to requirements,” even though a Stagecoach manager who attended our bus information event in Fleet said that they would love to stay at the bus station.
I also don’t get the anti-cycling rhetoric in the comments here. Both buses and bicycles are a force for modal shift away from the cars, so it’d be wise to work with cycling groups, not against them for one’s own interests.
The perils of having a bus station owned by a landlord.
Incidentally I see that in the Rushmoor council elections, all five Aldershot seats have been won by Labour. I wonder why…!
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An amusing reminder of some years ago when I remarked to a Stagecoach Employee on the advisability of parking buses overnight in Aldershot Station Yard (this was before Guildford Peasmarsh opened and thus Aldershot garage didn’t have sufficient space)
“Oh no problem” he said, “they employ a Gurkha to guard”
I was under the impression that under the Aldershot regeneration plans the large council owned multi storey car park is due for demolition and to be replaced by flats, which makes even less sense to remove the bus station as there will probably be more train commuters/bus commuters
Unfortunately the new bus stops which have been constructed was on the sites of the 2 main taxi ranks. One rank is to be shared with buses and the other moved along side the George pub. Both ranks have a narrow path making it impossible for wheel chair users to be safely loaded. Often taxi drivers are not able to rank on the Victoria road due to cars and vans parking. It would seem no real thought has been given to the taxi trade in Aldershot which many able and unable customers rely on
Excellent article in a regional paper about 15 minute cities in the context of Cardiff. IMO there are big opportunities for bus operators where towns and cities move towards walkable neighbourhoods with local facilities within reach by foot, cycle, and bus. I hope operators are switched on and following this and engaging with government to ensure improved bus services are offered as the carrot to counter the car use reduction policies stick.
The new bus stops in Aldershot are a complete inconvenience for older people, the disabled and those with heavy goods, let alone the able-bodied. It is totally unjust to expect them to walk into town to catch their bus, from the station. I thought public transport was to make the journey connections more commodious. It is a walk of 500m (546yds) from the station to the Wellington Centre. It is 760m (830yds) to the High Street from Aldershot Station. The buses now drop you outside the Wellington Centre. You now have to walk over 300m to get the return buses, which now go from all different points. The numbers 17, 18 & 19 return from the High Street. The Nos., 3, and the Kite/20 goes from the Wellington Centre. The number 1 goes from a stop beyond this in Union Yard, again over 300m (328yds) from the Centre. You now have to walk to different points in the town to pick up the return bus… How stupid! This is a retrograde step purely for council gratification in the form of Council Tax.
Your comment on the 3 hours maximum stay in the HSMSCP is inaccurate, it only applies to the lower levels.
There is all day parking available on the upper levels.