A27 – New bus service and ‘joined up thinking’? Scate Update. Transport for New Homes. Eastbourne/Hastings Planning: aspirations and decisions. Hastings/Bexhill Bus Lanes and Bus Users’ Group. Parking on Bus Stops Stops? Rural Buses – elsewhere! Rail Matters. DEFRA Review on National Parks’ and AONBs’ accessibility.

A pilot study into the potential for a new bus service along the A27 was launched on 18th January in Lewes Town Hall by Campaign for Better Transport. The well attended event was in the form of a workshop with consultants, council officers, Highways England staff, bus operators and SCATE (South Coast Alliance for Transport and Environment) members and bus user groups contributing to discussions. These were around route and scheduling opportunities, locations and quality of bus stops, crossings, integration with other bus and rail services, future transport hubs, planned and existing developments and information provision. The study is taking place in tandem with a study in Bristol. We await the results and recommendations with interest, but already, Brighton and Hove Buses are planning a 2019 summer Sunday service between Brighton and Eastbourne via the A27 and including (among others) a stop at Drusillas. There are considerable numbers of South Downs/Low Weald walking routes that will be made more accessible through the introduction of this service.

We submitted initial thoughts on the idea prior to the meeting. Included among these were concerns that the services should integrate with the proposals in the Hailsham – Polegate – Willingdon – DGH/Colleges – Eastbourne ‘sustainable transport corridor’ whose proposed bus lanes/cycle and pedestrian infrastructure features – if planned holistically – would benefit all bus services east-west and north south as well as integrating with all ‘sustainable modes’ including rail services. Healthier too and delivering much better value for (public) money!

…but first, give us the buses!

The wider questions around failure to integrate spatial planning (housing), with sustainable transport networks, are addressed below.

Our initial thoughts are here:
bus service a27 lewes mtg

Aside from taking part in the valuable ‘A27 Bus’ ongoing workshop, we have given a presentation on the SCATE Strategy to Eastbourne Friends of the Earth and await a response and date from Eastbourne Borough Council who have agreed to a meeting.

Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd has been approached with a request to provide us with a copy of the draft ‘Business Case’ for the off-line dual carriageway proposal; it has been withheld but that may be about to change. Transport and Planning magazine ‘Local Transport Today’ (Issue 764) has been able to see ‘Agenda papers’ for most of the shadow transport authorities. The DfT supports this openness, as does England’s Economic Heartland director Martin Tugwell: “We publish on the basis that we think it’s good practice to be open and transparent about the work of a transport forum, the issues being discussed and the debates being held,” he said. Now the two reticent Boards (our own South East, and Midlands Connect) have apparently decided to ‘open up’. We look forward to that.

TRANSPORT FOR NEW HOMES – TFNH. (see also previous post)
Too often overlooked, opportunities for communities in new developments to be well served by public transport and walking and cycle networks are ignored instead of being ‘built in’ to the planning process to ensure the highest possible take-up of sustainable, healthy modes of travel. We are instead saddled with a transport hierarchy with the car at the top, thus undermining all other modes of transport and creating ‘car dependent’ developments. Result: congestion from day one and poor quality living spaces dominated by parked vehicles at each end of the trip. This is certainly true of Wealden District Council who have forged ahead with undue haste in developments north of Eastbourne in recent times, without securing walking and cycling links and a bus network to serve needs of all residents, also exemplified by the loss of the opportunity to provide the growing community of Stone Cross/North Langney with a railway station in the 1980s. (*See Rail Matters below) There is a growing movement among transport and spatial planners to recognise major failures, over time and such as this in UK planning practice.

A further very well attended TFNH event was held this Tuesday – 22nd Jan – in London – at which progress so far and ongoing work were explained. Chaired by Stephen Joseph, OBE, former CEO of Campaign for Better Transport and now Trustee of the Foundation for Integrated Transport (FIT), the keynote speech was delivered by Lynda Addison, Chair of the Sustainable Transport Panel of the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation (CIHT), who expressed alarm at the practice of allowing the developers to determine sites for new housing rather than the planning authorities, while consultant Tim Pharoah described his current work on devising a checklist through which the sustainability of any development proposals can be measured – and hopefully – secured. Other speakers included TFNH Trustees Jenny Raggett and Joey Talbot who were summoned to No 10 to brief the Prime Minister’s Housing Advice Team on the principles being promoted by the organisation – encouraging indeed for those of us who’d like to see these matters moving up the agenda.

See here the ‘Transport for New Homes’ website: full of examples of good practice, identified problems and unassailable logic!

Transport for New Homes – Bringing transport and planning …

Lynda Addison addresses the TFNH delegates

An appreciative audience were given much to think about…

And, on the above theme, the former Bathing Pool site at West St Leonards is the subject of plans for 152 houses and ‘leisure facilities’, while the Moy Avenue, Eastbourne site (a former BT site) is subject of a planning application for 72 new homes*. Whatever schemes are eventually given the go-ahead, it must be hoped that they demonstrate and act upon an awareness of and commitment to sustainable transport potential. The West Marina site sits right alongside a cycleway and promenade, a bus route which is being further enhanced and developed, and a potential site for a reopened railway station. The Eastbourne site sits very close to a new and emerging cycle/pedestrian route between Langney, Bridgmere, Hampden Park and the Town Centre with connections to three schools, a bus route and employment site. They’ll all have a potential to generate traffic: let’s hope it’s foot,cycle, bus and rail traffic and not of the motorised congesting sort.
*The Eastbourne Herald of 25th January reports that proposals were given consent for flats and maisonnettes with 88 parking places – 50% above the standard recommended by East Sussex County Council (ESCC). While secure parking for 95 cycles is also recommended, the traffic generated may prevent a take-up of cycling options and in any case, Courtlands Road already often experiences intimidating and poor driver behaviour likely to encourage car based school run and other short car trips. We have submitted a letter to ESCC and Eastbourne Borouh Council (EBC) to question the decision and additionally to point out that £40,000 currently sits unspent in the EBC coffers for cycling measures. It’s in the revenue budget so vulnerable to being raided.

Our letter is here:

eastbourne planning issues jan 19

On Tuesday 13th December last an invited group councillors, bus users, Department for Transport (DfT) officials caught a Stagecoach 99 ‘Wave’ ‘low emission’ bus from Hastings to Bexhill for a view of the first phase of the long awaited bus lanes on Bexhill Road (A259 see photo below). We attended and took part in a ‘networking’ coffee break in the DeLaWarr Pavilion before travelling back to Hastings station. DfT members included the Director of Buses and Taxis at the Department. Design work on the second phase of the bus priority measures, including additional stretches of bus lanes is reportedly being completed by East Sussex County Council (Hastings Observer, January 18th). Currently – and with encouragement from Stagecoach Buses and the Hastings Sustainable Transport Group – we are trying to set up a ‘bus users’ group for Hastings and Bexhill areas. There is already a ‘support group’ that meets in Hawkhurst (Kent) at the north end of the Hastings – Hawkhurst/Cranbrook 349 route which includes East Sussex members and they will be invited to share experience and give positive support, while in Battle on Friday 1st February at a Rother Voluntary Action meeting, we will be canvassing support for the Hastings/Bexhill area users’ group at its start-up. Please contact Derrick* if you would like to join or even simply be kept ‘in the loop’. Photos below: Sunday 349 at Bodiam en route to Cranbrook; View near Hawkhurst. This successfully restored Sunday service is holding its own. *derrick.coffee@talk21.com

Hastings – Cranbrook Sunday bus at Bodiam in December

High Weald view from walk by bus 349 December 2018

The bus lanes will certainly perform a valuable role when the large scale housing developments in north Bexhill come on stream provided that those developments are well served by public transport with high quality pedestrian and cycle links – and a full range of measures to incentivise their useage. The bus is part of the future.

Some good news for bus users in Bexhill and Rother in general: the era of bus users – including elderly and disabled citizens – struggling to get on and off the bus due to cars freely and frequently parked on the bus stops, may be coming to an end, with ESCC taking over parking enforcement. This quite disgusting and uncivil practice has been tolerated for far too long and the change will be welcome.

The Party on Board the 99

In rural Ireland, steps have been taken to introduce 50 bus routes serving rural communities: services include evening buses. Any lessons here for East Sussex I wondered? Here’s a link to the news item on RTE:

An extension of the rural transport programme will see 50 new bus services across 19 counties rolled out as part of a six-month pilot programme, Minister for Transport Shane Ross has announced.

The extension to the rural transport programme comes as Mr Ross accused rural TD of attempting to use “filibuster” tactics block the passage of his latest Road Traffic Bill. Envisaged is a total of 188 extra trips a week on the rural transport network with 50 new services – including 20 extensions to existing services – operating in some cases up to 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Passengers will pay a nominal fee while travel pass holders and pensioners will travel for free. Mr Ross said the Bill is aimed at tackling social isolation.

The cost of the move for six months from the end of June to the end of December is estimated at €450,000. At the end of the pilot scheme the take up will be analysed before any decision to continue the scheme is made.

Intending passengers will be offered the facility of booking seats on a range of services whose routes will be subject to demand.

In total, 19 counties have been included in the pilot programme with eight services to be deployed in Co Kerry alone. Mr Ross has said all rural transport services which applied for additional services were facilitated by the pilot programme, as would any late applications received in the coming weeks.

The routes in the 19 counties set to benefit include; Co Wexford (12 routes), Co Kerry (eight routes), Carlow/Kilkenny/Wicklow (six routes), Cavan/Monaghan (five routes), Donegal (four routes), Laois/Offaly (three routes), Cork (three routes), Waterford (three routes), Louth/Meath/Fingal (two routes), Tipperary (two routes) and Kildare (one route).

After a trial, the NTA said that the majority of the services were performing well. Sounds like Ireland has a funded national rural bus strategy. We could do with one!

‘Rail improvement’ works seem to proliferate and provide unwelcome surprises throughout the year, often appearing in the ‘small print’ on station noticeboards to catch you out in late evening weekday services. Some of us in East Sussex dream of major investment in track and new stations some of which are the subject of the BML2 scheme for the county and West Kent which offers rail rather than road based development opportunities and gives essential relief for the Brighton Main Line, so often afflicted with planned and random closures and delays. It’s not unusual for East Sussex to be without any direct rail links to London. This was the case on Sunday 27th January. It is enlightening to see the BML2 scheme’s three phases for new (and restored) links between the Sussex Coast, West Kent, London and beyond. We dare to hope. Here’s the link:


Locally, we still haven’t given up on plans for new stations at Stone Cross (see above) and Glyne Gap (Ravenside, Bexhill/Hastings). The Willingdon Chord – a new, short stretch of line between Stone Cross and Polegate providing opportunities for new services avoiding the journey into and out of Eastbourne – would also be very useful. Eastbourne would not lose any services however. The ‘chord’ would use a span of Jubilee Way (A22) road over rail bridge already built for the purpose but currently idle – so money wasted there. There could also be freight on rail opportunities on this direct east-west chord, and Stone Cross station would become even more viable than it is anyway. A picture of the vacant bridge span is here (it’s the one with the mural of a face!):

Let’s face it, we need the Willingdon Chord!


For those who are interested, here’s our response to the DEFRA consultation:

defra my_response-9

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