Details of the survey together with a paper version were circulated to around 450 households in the parish in the April Column. There were 96 responses in total with about 2/3 submitted online and the remainder handed in at The Club, Nelson’s or the parish clerk’s house in Newton on the Moor. 94 respondents indicated that they would use a bus service stopping in Swarland and Newton.
Interestingly 39 people indicated that, despite being a considerable distance from a bus stop (approximately 1.5 miles), they currently use a local bus service, generally the X15 (Berwick-Alnwick-Morpeth), with two using the x18 (coast route). While a majority catch a local bus on a monthly or occasional basis, 16 said that they travel weekly (9) or even daily (7). Just over half arrange to be dropped off at the stop or park their car nearby, 13 individuals indicated that they walk to the nearest stop and others walk to the stop sometimes.
Of those who would use a service if available within the parish, it was clear that a majority would use the bus to go shopping or for leisure activities (78 and 76 people respectively). Attendance at a medical appointment or to connect with a further bus or train were also popular choices (52 and 56). Fewer people would use a bus to get to school or work (19 in all). Alnwick, Morpeth and Newcastle are the most popular destinations, with Rothbury, Berwick and Amble also mentioned. Nine people indicated that they would like to use a bus to get to Alnmouth station. In terms of frequency, a majority (39%) said they would use the bus several times a week, with most of the remainder indicating once a month or occasionally.
The survey also asked what would attract people to using a bus and what would put them off. A large number indicated that they wish to be more green, with issues with parking and lack of access to a car being other key factors. As regards what would put people off, frequency and timing was a clear major factor, with proximity to a bus stop and reliability also being important.
Just over half of respondents are eligible for concessionary travel (e.g. senior or young person’s pass).
Many people made additional comments; the main themes to emerge were as follows:
- A bus service would be a great enhancement for the villages and improve access to local facilities.
- Isolation, especially as experienced by both older and young people, would be lessened.
- Dismay that there is no bus service given the lack of other facilities in the village (e.g. doctors surgery, chemist). Comparisons with other villages where a bus service is provided.
- Expansion of housing within the parish resulting in increased pressure on the travel infrastructure.
- Concern among older residents that they will be unable to drive, or walk to a bus stop, as they age and that they will have to move away from the parish. Note that at the time many of these people moved into the area there was a bus service, so this problem could not have been anticipated.
- Real difficulty accessing a car or not being able to drive.
- Dangerous walk to bus stops along country roads with no footpath or lighting, plus having to get to the other side of the A1.
- Children/teenagers not having to rely on Mum and Dad’s taxi to get out and about.
- Timing and frequency of any bus service would have to be right, and the service would have to be reliable.
To conclude, there is a high degree of support for the restoration of the bus service. This would not only contribute to cutting emissions but be a major social asset to the parish, plus meeting some very real local needs.