It's just seven miles from Melksham (pop 25,000) to Calne(pop 15,000) - and the two towns are both part of the Wiltshire Unitary area, with a lot in common. The road between them - the A3102 - always seems busy.
You would think that there would be a bus service that let you get between them, wouldn't you? Well - as Chris (who lives in Calne, and works in Melksham) has found out over the last couple of weeks with his car off the road - there sort of
is a service ... but it requires a certain amount of principled robustness (or forced necessity!) to make use of it.
* There's a bus at 09:40(?), five mornings a week, run by A D Raines, from Calne to Melksham, and a return journey from Melksham at 14:15. NOTE: The timetable says 14:15, but I understand that the bus doesn't actually wait until 14:15 if it's running early - get there at least 10 minutes early if you're going to use it!
* You can get a bus - either First or Faresaver from Melksham to Chippenham, then (usually after a long wait, as it doesn't connect!) a bus - StageCoach or APL Travel on to Calne.
* You can get a bus - First - from Melksham to Devizes then an APL travel bus from Devizes to Calne. If doesn't connect at Devizes - another long wait.
Tickets are not interchangeable between the bus companies, so you're left buying expensive singles or with irritating longer waits because there's only a First bus in the morning and they have a two hour gap in the afternoon. And "2 services an hour" is technically true on the Chippenham - Melksham leg most of the day, but it may as well be one an hour as much of the time there are two buses within 5 minutes, then nothing for 55.
Evening services are sporadic (and missing from Devizes to Calne)
Sunday services ... forget it. No buses, Melksham to Chippenham, no buses Devizes to Calne.
Chris has been taking up to 2 and a half hours to travel the 7 miles from work in Melksham to home in Calne. That's an average speed of 2.8 m.p.h. - so it would have been quicker for him to walk!
Could do better?
Yes - a bit of joined up thinking would help
* Co-ordinate the buses on each leg so that the gaps in service are more even. (change "2 buses an hour" into "half hourly")
* Tune timetables to make connections
* Provide through fares and allow the return half of tickets to be used on either company's buses.
* Have the buses wait for "right time" rather than leaving early!
Curiously, the solution doesn't call for any more money to be spent - no more buses to buy, just tuning existing resources. The net effect? A lot more people would use the lot more practical service, more "farebox" money take, less need for subsidy.
I guess this is too sensible a solution for it to actually happen!
(written 2010-05-20, updated 2010-05-22)
Associated topics are indexed underZ511 - Public Transport - Road 
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Two years of campaigning for a train service - (2007-08-22) 
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