I’ve often spoken fondly of the 81 bus, even writing a little ditty once (see other posts) so my blood pressure was rather raised when I initially heard that the Queens Park services were set to change. It is quite apparent that I wasn’t the only one, either.
For a long while now the 81 service has linked Queens Park with the town centre in a quick and efficient way, as well as, latterly, the number 23 running from up at the AMEX, along Lewes Road and through Queens Park to the Marina. Coming from London Road, the 81 daytime services presently link Queens Park (via the Pepperpot) with Edward Street and the Old Steine, through to Western Road and on to Hove with pretty much a twelve minute frequency. Going the other way they are equally regular. Most folk seemed happy with that- and then came news of the changes.
The thing that caused the most anguish was that the proposed new services had left no option for the people who boarded at the Pepperpot to go directly to The Steine and into North Street. There was no service. Although it may have forced able bodied people like me to use their legs, it was hardly fair on a number of older folk and a lot of others for different reasons. The new service in the other direction (number 18) had been extended to run on from London Road and up to Churchill Square via the station area. Few moans there. But what of the cut to the services via Edward Street ?
To their credit, Brighton & Hove Buses did listen, and a service (number 20) was quickly scheduled, I felt a bit grudgingly, to connect to the town via Edward Street, and various local concerns were to be given air time when a public meeting at St Luke’s Church took place in February. To me though, more than a debate, the meeting seemed like a question and answer session, and I left feeling that there was little intention to be open to change on behalf of the bus company, just a desire to clarify what was already set to take place.
All this said, whilst having a few gripes here, I do embrace progress. The new services may turn out well, and, for the most part, I think Brighton & Hove Buses have an excellent understanding of local needs. We’ll just have to wait and see.
We can debate the changes to the routes till the cows come home, but more than the bus changes, the thing that really encouraged me was the 200 or so turning out at the meeting. It really showed how communities can be united and called away from their fortresses if someone is prepared to get out and do the work. Whilst I felt that the meeting was merely a case of a slightly intransigent bus company taking the opportunity to explain things in a way to placate, rather than listen, there was something uplifting about the full pews on the evening. A credit to those who didn’t just moan but actually took action (I was one of the former group, alas).
On the evening I took an opportunity to say hello to people I hadn’t seen for ages, who were also doing the same. Even two family members who I hadn’t spoken to for a long time. When I came home I was uplifted by the social occasion that it had been for me, and a feeling of warm unity with people I know from a distance.
The new services will come in to force in mid-April, and the timetables are being delivered. As I said, time will tell the effect they have. But there is perhaps, for me, a small desire that some other (benign) outrage could blight Queens Park again in the meantime so I can have the opportunity to feel that social unity again. If only we could achieve this without consternation being its reason. We could, but we have to prepared to leave our safe castles first, me being one of the worst offenders.
So thank you Brighton & Hove Buses for galvanising us from our slumber, and helping folk challenge the traditional disposition that sets us to moan but not take action.
And next time, just talk to us first….