Wiltshire Publications

Local representative describes village bus transport experience

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A DILTON Marsh resident has been appointed elderly disabled/reduced mobility representative on a county-wide group providing a bridge between Wiltshire Council and bus users.  

Lorraine Sencicle, a disabled pensioner from Stormore who does not have a car and frequently uses public transport including local bus services, was asked by Wiltshire’s Option 24/7 (http://option247.uk) to set out her thoughts, in detail, of each of the bus services she uses and how she would like to see them improved or developed in the future. 

Option 24/7 aims to ensure the views and aspirations of the county’s current or potential bus users are fully and fairly reflected in improvement proposals resulting from the Department for Transport’s Bus Back Better strategy, and in any future proposals. 

Bus Back Better: National Strategy for England was published in March for local authorities and bus companies to deliver better bus services for passengers across England. The central aim of the initiative is to get more people travelling by public transport and they recognised that to get more people to do this, bus operators must offer services that are reasonably priced and convenient for passengers.  

Better publicity needed

Responding to the Option 24/7 questions, Lorraine said bus timetables are not displayed in local publications and it is a major missed opportunity by Wiltshire Council and bus companies.  

“The hourly bus service between Westbury and Dilton Marsh operates six days a week and together with the friendly obliging attitude of the bus drivers it is to be commended,” she said. “Sadly, it is not used as much as the possible potential.  

“Typically, as we are all well aware, people prefer to use the convenience of their cars, often for the shortest of journeys. However, if they knew the times of the buses and from where they could catch them, they might think twice about using their cars, particularly if they are eligible for bus passes or purchase multiple journey passes and are aware of the negative effect on global warming by using their cars.” 

Lack of bus stops

Lorraine said there are few designated bus stops in Dilton Marsh – five along the mile-long village High Street, but none on Stormore and Clearwood – but drivers are obliging with regards to picking up and dropping off passengers. 

She added, “Of note, with regards to Stormore, the official bus timetable designates the Baptist Church as the bus stop, while Clearwood is totally deprived. 

“The Stormore designated bus stop is at the narrowest part of the road (and pavement), where invariably cars are parked opposite/close by. Not far down the hill, Stormore opens out and would be far more practical (and where I flag the bus down), for a designated bus stop. Along the High Street, there is also a need for a bus stop close to the popular, for both residents and visitors, Farm College.” 

Lorraine said because nothing is painted on the road indicating the areas are designated bus stops, vehicles frequently park there.  

“On more than one occasion, when I have been on a bus, the driver has been subjected to abuse from other vehicle drivers for stopping to pick up or to let passengers alight,” she said. “As for the passenger abuse, I still remember one irate car driver yelling expletives at an elderly lady loaded with shopping, for having the audacity to get off the bus in the road. Parked cars blocked the bus driver from stopping close to the pavement opposite the designated bus stop.” 

Bus times could be made more attractive for potential passengers, with the last bus from Westbury to Dilton being at 17.40 hours, Lorraine suggested. 

Zero Emission Buses

“One of the major improvements to bus services that will affect Dilton Marsh, which Option 24/7 are promoting, is a Zero Emission Bus Corridor pilot scheme,” she said. “This is between Westbury and Frome and includes hourly electric buses on both the Westbury Town Bus and Westbury-Frome routes.  

“The Zero Emission Bus Corridor will also link together Westbury, Dilton Marsh and Frome railway stations with the communities on those routes and it also includes a Sunday service!  

“When I put this aspect of the scheme to a few locals, it elicited a positive response, especially in relation to church attendance. Also, many of us will remember the pre-Covid days and the Frome Sunday market, held the first Sunday of every month 10am – 3pm. It is being reintroduced and I expect it will be enormously popular, but I also expect that it will equally difficult to find parking places. A Sunday bus service would alleviate that problem and I am of the understanding that is why Frome are giving the scheme their full backing. 

Only five buses a day

“However, the Zero Emission Bus Corridor pilot scheme has yet to be introduced. At present there are only five buses a day, six days a week, from Dilton Marsh to Frome and back. The first one leaves Westbury at 09.30hrs and the last bus to Frome is at 17.40hrs, while returning from Frome, the last bus is at 17.08hrs. That is unless you stay the night in Frome, when you can catch a bus from there at 07.20hrs the next morning!” 

Lorraine also cited poor connectivity between public transport services, bus timetable time changes and cancellation of trains serving Dilton Marsh as factors influencing people not to use public transport. 

She concluded, “Dilton Marsh may have a basic commendable bus service six days a week but if locals are to take the threat of global warming seriously, we need public transport that encourages a positive switch from cars to buses and trains. At the moment, as cited above, there are numerous examples where the opposite is the case. Never has it been more important to reduce the use of cars as the Department for Transport’s Bus Back Better strategy envisages.” 

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