Trust this is the first and last of a series of posts in which we grumble petulantly & peevishly at the efforts of those who, like me, try rather hard to improve our bus services…
Is it me? Am I missing something? Surely the intention of the new Gosport to Fareham busway, whose weekday services launch in exactly one week’s time, is to speed things up, not slow them down.
The current direct weekday service between Gosport and Fareham comprises the snappily numbered 82 & 83 (they used to be Provincial’s 1 & 2, then 1, 2 & 3). Combined, First offers six buses an hour, half of which operate via Forton Road & Elson, the other via Ann’s Hill Road. The Gosport to Fareham journey time is 30 minutes no matter the route.
From next week, the new Eclipse E1 and E2 services, advertised together, give an increased combined frequency eight per hour. So far, so good. In fact, so far, so brilliant.
In terms of routes, the E2 is almost a straight replacement for the 82, substituting the busway for the congested A32 Fareham Road. By including the E1 with the E2, First is marketing the E1 as an 83 replacement via Elson. The E1 is also a direct replacement for the 86 via Whitworth Road, Elson and part of Rowner Road. It, too, then speeds onto the busway.
Increased frequencies will be most welcome. The slight drawback is that the end-to-end journey times have all increased. From Gosport to Fareham, centre to centre, the E1 takes 39 and the E2, 33 minutes. At its worst, the E1 is nine minutes longer than the 83 it is marketed to replace. This is an increase of a third, in spite of the busway. Even the E2 takes three minutes longer. Though this may hardly be noticeable, it’s still an extra 10 per cent on the running time. Mind you, it has to be said that the E1 is also six minutes quicker than the 86 it directly replaces. That’s 15 per cent quicker, end to end, with benefits particularly for middle-to-end passengers.
So, why is this multi-million pound congestion-busting scheme not delivering quicker journey times? The answer lies in the routing of the E1 and E2 via Fareham rail station. E1 and E2 both have to leave the busway and enter Fareham via Redlands Lane, making a sweep of the rail station on its way to the bus station. Currently, the 82/3/5 enter Fareham more directly, via Gosport Road.
The bonus is that Gosport, Elson, Holbrook and Brockhurst each have direct access to Fareham rail station. This was always one of the busway goals, Fareham’s rail station being slightly off-centre. The plan was to offer a total & tenable public transport solution not just between the two towns but out of the peninsula. We’d call it integrated transport. The downside is that those who don’t use the train have to suffer an added time penalty.
Buses operate clockface from Fareham but, from Gosport, oddly at 00, 13, 15, 28, 30, 43, 45 &58 (to align themselves clockface onto the busway)
With E1, First is retaining the direct 83. When the busway services launch, the 83 reduces on weekdays from three to two buses an hour. The new journey time is 31 minutes. It’s ironic that this non-busway service is still the fastest between the two towns, even with an increase of one minute. It continues to enter Fareham via Gosport Road.
But if you think that this post is solely a negative one, think again. The 83 may take 31 minutes *on paper* but it will still be the subject of congestion on the notorious Fareham Road A32, including along its entry to Fareham, north of Hoeford and towards Quay Street roundabout. And that’s where the busway services gain. Running times might be a tad longer but at least there’s more of a possibility that they’ll actually run to time.
That said, the coinciding bus lane along Fareham’s Portland Street & A27 Western Way that bridges the gap between the town, rail station and busway is actually only experimental. I would imagine that this will prove highly unpopular with motorists…
Service summary before and after busway, Mondays to Fridays daytime (above) and evenings (below)