Stagecoach unfairly blamed for Eastbourne’s bus service woes

From: Alan HookCarpenters Way, 

Friday, 20th December 2019, 11:03 am
Bus shelters in Cornfield Road, Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-191209-101945008

Whilst agreeing and sympathising with most of the points raised by recent correspondents regarding bus services in Eastbourne, I feel that Stagecoach is being unfairly blamed for some matters outside of their control.

Without being party to inside information, I believe there are operational reasons why terminating buses have to run empty between Cornfield and Gildredge Roads.

I suspect the town planners dictate the routes they take through the town centre, together with the location of the current bus stop arrangements of which some are not user-friendly.

A similar situation regarding transfer from arrival and departure points in different directions has always existed on a much smaller scale in Hailsham in my time, due to the one-way system whereby northbound passengers from the High Street have to make their way across to North Street to catch their bus outside Tesco, where for some strange reason no electronic real time display has been installed.

When I moved to Hailsham from the Croydon area in 2007 a selection of unreliable and sometimes ramshackle vehicles operated by Eastbourne Buses and Cavendish were the order of the day.

Since Stagecoach took over both operators at the end of 2008 the services between Hailsham and Eastbourne which I use regularly have improved greatly over the years even though timekeeping can be somewhat erratic, usually due to external factors, and the fleet has become fairly standardised with modern vehicles helped of course by the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Comparing the timetables over the 12-year period Stagecoach services between Hailsham and Eastbourne now run approximately every 15 minutes via Polegate (apart from a few gaps in the afternoon timetable) and every 30 minutes via Stone Cross, and this appears to be adequate for most of the day.

In the northern direction route 51 buses to Heathfield and Tunbridge Wells have been almost doubled and both towns have gained a Sunday service.

The late evening southbound service from Hailsham is now hourly and it is possible to get to and from Eastbourne after 11pm on weekdays and Saturdays.

Although the infrequent route 54 direct link from Eastbourne and Hailsham to Uckfield and East Grinstead was severed north of Uckfield many years ago the remainder was increased from two hourly to hourly.

The unsatisfactory situation on route 98 whereby the last bus back from Hastings to Eastbourne via Herstmonceux left at around 3.30pm was partly rectified a few years back by an additional service from Hastings to Hailsham two hours later.

I was told by Stagecoach at one of their infrequent roadshows that the section of this route between Bexhill, Herstmonceux and Hailsham was not well patronised and they would not be too unhappy if they lost it.

I understand that as Hailsham expands in future years additional bus services will be provided to meet demand.