15 January 2010

Top-ranking Derby

Issue 006 of Nyoo Transit had a 'green' theme. Analysed on page 21 was a fascinating tale of two bus networks, those of Slough and Derby. More on the data in a moment, but first a poser by the magazine's editor Robert Jack: "If you were to ask senior managers in the bus industry... where the most successful bus networks are located, the answers are likely to include Brighton, Oxford and Cambridge. A follow-up question - 'How do you know?' - is more difficult to answer."

The article goes on to detail how Isle of Wight transport consultancy Reseaulutions has attempted to answer the follow-up question. I've always long-held the view that towns and cities with successful bus networks are located in places where excellent support and foresight from the local authority is offered. Being slightly more scientific, Reseaulutions chose to compile an English non-metropolitan area database, which would rate the number of bus operators, number of daytime buses, buses per 10,000 inhabitants, scheduled bus speeds at peak and off-peak periods and finally a rating of the percentage of inhabitants served by bus routes that operates to a frequency of at least every 10 minutes.

The latter criterion comprises a five-tier hierarchy from 1* through to 4 that ranks bus route frequency. As mentioned above, 1* means buses at least every 10 minutes and 4 means buses less than hourly.

The application of the above criteria to the English non-metropolitan areas provides some very interesting outcomes indeed. Along with Oxford, Cambridge and Brighton are Hartlepool, Derby, Harlow, Leicester and Colchester. At the opposing end of the scale are Bracknell, Guildford and Slough. In the specific category of buses per 10,000 inhabitants, high-fliers were Bath, Exeter, Nottingham and Oxford; Hastings had a particularly slow average off-peak bus speed of 14kmh with Weston-super-Mare recording a positively giddy 19kmh.

Back to the main comparison: Derby and Slough, two conurbations chosen due to their similar population, and what a difference! Derby, with its 245,000 residents, sees 109 daytime buses, compared with Slough's 47; has 4.45 buses per 10,000 inhabitants, compared with Slough's 1.72; sees 81.1% of its population served by bus routes rated as either 1* or 1, compared with Slough's 22.1%; and in the speed tables, has an average 17kph ranking at both peak and off-peak periods, compared with Slough's 15kph off-peak and 13% peak. This despite both areas being served by 2 main bus companies.

Fitting with my theory is the excellent Derbyshire County Council and Derby City Council, who between them offer an especially pro-active attitude towards public transport provision (not that all residents are likely to agree with this!). Clearly, good road schemes - often found in newer towns and cities - and effective bus priority schemes will aid average bus speeds at peak times, but this is certainly not the full story.

Reseaulutions believes the main focus henceforth should be the try and improve those areas currently under-performing in contrast to conurbations of equal size.

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