Ok, a cheesy title, but do First group give us a first class bus service or not?
I would strongly agree that the fleet of 41’s is clean, reliable and modern, but for a long time now we have as a community (past and present District Councillors, HIND, Community Groups) asked First to provide better coverage in the community. The bus currently does a loop around Downs ward where, to be fair, there is good accessibility to the service, but it does not serve the other villages in our community well either.
Recent attempts by District Councillors to ask First to consider an hourly loop around Catherington so that 1 in 4 buses provide a service here were met with rejection. “The wrong type of roads – too narrow for the First buses, especially if the bus meets another large vehicle coming the other way” (not that it will be another Bus…). They have forgotten the 140 then 38a that used to manage this before they were scrapped.
Services to Petersfield are only provided by Stagecoach on an hourly basis, and these head to the station, but do not help with coverage to Penns Place, or the leisure facilities there.
I also heard last night from a Downs residents that the First bus service to Oaklands School was cancelled with just 2 weeks notice. Worse, the £800 pre paid annual ticket took 6 months to be refunded. Personally I expect a large company to refund a credit for an unused service cancelled in this manner as promptly as they expect the customer to pay the fee in the first place, but why First chose to shut down this popular and full service in the first place is confusing.
We also have no service to the leisure centres to the South in Havant, Waterlooville, or bus facilities for the elderly.
Part of the problem is that we have, I believe, the wrong service provider. First are excellent at their offering in Portsmouth, or other built up city centre areas where there is a large demand for modern, reliable, efficient vehicles where there is a large customer base, and the level of usage can justify the big overhead and operating costs of a national service provider with shareholder expectations. For us to have a better service, a lower cost organisation such as Emsworth and District may well be able to cover the area better and provide a service based on Petersfield – Clanfield – Horndean – Waterlooville – Havant and returning.
Areas such as the leisure facilities and EHDC could be covered. Variants to the theme put in place for Catherington, Rowlands Castle, the top end of Catherington and school runs could be well covered.
For this to work though, the crumbs must come with the cream, and that would need to include the current 41 route from Horndean to Havant.
What do you think?
If you have a view on the bus service in the community then please let me know on the poll here, or by email. you can tick one or more of the options you agree with.
Useful links below:
Stagecoach 37, 38 service time table:
First 41 service time table:
ZIP bus route map:
Portsmouth First Bus Route Map: