Buses in Herefordshire - Article by Jago
Buses in Herefordshire
Being a rural county, Herefordshire has widely dispersed communities, making the planning of public transportation difficult. However, it has become increasingly clear that the existing network is somewhat lacking, at least relative to other regions of the country. For example, the less densely populated Northumberland recorded that the average person takes 26 bus journeys a year, a stark contrast to Herefordshire’s 10
Herefordshire is served by three major bus operators. These collectively provide a mix of urban services around the city of Hereford (half hourly but with no Sunday operation), arterial routes between the larger towns (typically a bus every two hours), and - to a much lesser extent - rural routes between small villages (as few as one bus a week in some cases!). Some lines also link into Herefordshire from other counties. Investment from the local authority has decreased over recent years – from almost £2 million in 2010 to roughly £1 million in 2016 - leading to a reduction in service quality. For example, Hereford city lost 10 urban bus routes in 2021, while gaining only 2, obviously leading to a downturn in passenger numbers. One of the most shocking shortcomings, however, is the 459, the only direct bus between the market towns of Ledbury and Ross-on-Wye, yet it only operates one service each way, a week. There is no other reasonable way of getting between the two, short of driving, and there is no way of travelling return from Ross-on-Wye to Ledbury.
If you are unable to use the bus, or one is not available, there are several “Dial a Ride” services provided throughout the county, however these require requesting on the day prior to travel and are set up only for very small levels of travel, for those with no other options. This is certainly better than leaving people in isolated areas stranded, however the fact that these services have to exist in the towns is telling.
Whilst Herefordshire Council has attempted to address the issue, all their measures have failed to change the fact that Herefordshire shows the third lowest passenger numbers on buses for any region in England, with the two lower having significantly smaller population. However, there are other prospects for improving the situation of transport in Herefordshire. One of these is the suggestion of converting sections of disused railway in Hereford, now used as footpaths, into a tram way, with segregated walking facilities being maintained. The trams would, according to backers of the project, not require any expensive external infrastructure such as overhead wires or fuel, running instead on batteries. Unfortunately, though, nothing has come of the proposal for several years. Further benefits could arise from improving Sunday timetables, enabling people to rely on the bus service regardless of the day of the week. Similar suggestions have been outlined by groups such as “Every Village Every Hour” which, as the name suggests, aims to connect every village in the country with an hourly bus service. Personally, I would also propose a Very Light Rail “loop” linking the 4 major towns of East Herefordshire, using new and relatively low cost vehicles that do not require much investment in terms of stations, signals etc. However, this would still be far more expensive than an improved bus service.
Overall, improvements to public transport in Herefordshire (and the country as a whole) are vital to improve the quality of life for residents, boost rural economies, and ensure environmental sustainability.