SWARLAND AND NEWTON ACTION ON CLIMATE
Tuesday 20th September 2022 at 6pm
Swarland Village Club, Coast View
Liz Clark welcomed over 30 people to the meeting which has been driven by the response to the recent survey into public transport carried out in the Parish. Public Transport is key to reducing the parishes carbon footprint. The survey gave detailed information that SNAC were able to take to NCC to begin a meaningful dialogue about what was possible/not possible within the Parish. Liz introduced Neil Easton, NCC’s Transport Manager.
SUMMARY OF THE SURVEY
Carolyn Letts summarised the result of the survey which had around 100 replies – a good response. A large number of respondents said they would use a bus if one were available. Residents want to be ‘green’ and are also concerned about what will happen if they are no longer able to drive – will they have to move? People would like to be able to get into Alnwick/Morpeth for shopping, and meeting friends rather than for work so this will probably be the priority for any discussion on future bus services.
NEIL EASTON – NCC Transport Manager
Neil briefly described his role within NCC which includes liaison with bus companies, lobbying for changes etc. He also holds a small support services budget which covers things like NEED transport.
He said it was only when he had visited the Parish today that he realised how much Swarland had grown and could understand that a bus service 1 day a week was insufficient.
The decision taken a number of years ago to cut the service was made because of safety issues and falling passenger numbers. He has recently spoken to ARRIVA to see if they would re-introduce the X15 service to Swarland/NotM, but they will not do so because of the safety issue with buses unavoidably sticking out into the A1 as they wait on the central reservation having turned out of the junctions, particularly the one near Davidson’s Obelisk. ARRIVA have said that major highways improvements would be needed. There is also an issue because of the narrow time slot for arrival and departure of the X15 at Haymarket Bus Station. Neil would be willing to lobby Highways England about improving the junction, but if there was a viable alternative route he would take it up with ARRIVA but can only lobby, he can’t force them to reintroduce a service or change it.
Neil emphasised that NCC cannot run a ‘ghost’ bus. Services need to be used. He proposed starting a service with a small bus and if this was used then discussions could take place about increasing frequency. He suggested that a return service to Morpeth, and another to Alnwick would be affordable and possible.
Question – One of the attendees commented that school buses sit doing nothing all day. Could they be used to do runs to Alnwick/Morpeth. Neil said he thought this was a good idea and would have a marginal cost as NCC is already paying for vehicle/driver. However, NCC can only use accessible DDA compliant vehicles for public services.
Question – Children get to Alnwick and Morpeth by buses and these negotiate the problem junction/central reservation so why can’t this be done for services for adults? Neil said he thought the school buses were shorter than the buses used for standard services.
Question – It was commented that a small vehicle eg 16 seater would be able to use the road bridge across the A1 and avoid the junction. Neil agreed.
Question – Liz said that if it was possible to have a bespoke service, what might it look like ?
Neil said some additional survey work was needed. Above all, buy in from the local community was needed to make the service work. NCC need to know;
- What days would the service be wanted?
- What destinations were preferred?
- What drop off/pick up points are preferred?
- How long was needed at destinations?
- Was connection needed with other services, and if so, which ones?
Neil said that new Government funding comes in January 2023 so SNAC has time to get the extra information from the Parish.
Question – It was commented that the Travelsure 418 which travels up the coast is mainly aimed at and used by tourists. Neil said that the service caters primarily for residents. Tourists make the services viable.
Neil said it costs about £60,000 to run a bus/year. NCC would pay up to £7.00 per person subsidy for a service. If a service didn’t work, we would need to look at all other options. If the buses were filled with people with bus passes, NCC would pay 50% for every concession used. To decide on the viability of a service, the number of passengers is measured, not the revenue generated.
Question – Shilbottle recently lost a service, and Longframlington has just had a lot of new homes built. It would make sense for Shilbottle, Longframlington and our Parish to share a service. Neil said that any new service introduced should not make existing services less viable and Longframlington has the X14. Shilbottle has lost the service to Amble but bus users can still get to Alnwick.
Neil confirmed that NCC would be willing to run a twice weekly off peak service potentially linking in with the use of school buses, but he would need to investigate this. Neil will be able to advise SNAC of the numbers of bus users that would be needed so the scheme was judged a success.
The cost of the service to users would be no more that £5 return as fares are capped in the North East. For children the return fare is capped at £1.00.
Question – Are any of the buses electric? Neil said that none are currently electric but that this is coming.
CONCLUSION – Neil was warmly thanked for attending the meeting. The next steps for SNAC/PC are to look at how the discussion can be continued with maximum input from Parish residents. Liz thanks everyone for attending the meeting.