|Service type||Free shuttle|
|Stops||Train station, Castle, North Street, Bus station.|
|Annual ridership||60, 000|
|Manager||Guildford Borough Council|
The Guildford Shuttle was a bus service linking together Guildford town centre. Starting in 2000, and running free, it was withdrawn in August 2008 following the withdrawal of its funding. It was re-introduced commercially by its previous operator in January 2009, branded as the Town Centre Shuttle, however was withdrawn for a final time in May 2010.
The service was originally introduced following a feasibility report by Guildford Borough Council to the policy and resources committee in October 1999. The initial aim of the service was to provide an extension of the recently introduced Artington park and ride service, by linking up the railway station, the bus station and Guildford town centre and High Street. As ideas developed the service was also thought to help businesses around Milkhouse Gate and Bakers Yard, who were at the time claiming loss of trade due to the Castle car park scheme. The service began operation in September 2000.
Originally running as a six-month trial scheme, the contract was tendered annually until 2004, when a three-year agreement was reached, starting in 2005. Throughout the service's life, the route has been run by local bus company Safeguard Coaches. The route ran all day at a 20-minute frequency.
At first, a Dennis Dart SLF/Plaxton Pointer Mini Pointer Dart was acquired for Safeguard to use, but the council wanted to use an Optare Alero, one of which arrived slightly delayed later. However, this proved too small and so another Mini Pointer Dart was acquired. The length of vehicles able to run on the route has always been restricted due to a sharp left hand turn from Quary Street into Castle Street.
In July 2008, the council announced that it intended to withdraw the zero-fare service, claiming that it was costing too much to operate and not enough people were using the service. This was met with fierce opposition by users, the local Liberal Democrats challenging the decision. Campaigners tried to keep the service running, one 91-year old man, Bill Bellerby, staying on the bus for a whole day non-stop while it travelled the route and surveying users of the service.
A decision to replace the service with an advance booking "dial-a-ride" service was met with resistance, users claiming it was "inflexible" and that "people don’t know days in advance when they will want to go somewhere and when they want to be picked up." Campaigners also reject the idea that there are commercial bus services that provide a replacement. General acceptance is that the commercial bus network in the town is good, but around half of the route is on roads unserved by other buses. One councillor said that operating the service may be illegal if commercial services are available.
Some success for the campaigners was for the council’s environment and housing scrutiny committee to ask the executive to rethink the decision to end the service. However, in a further step Safeguard said that they were now "unwilling" to operate the service.
The service ended on 30 August 2008 as planned. Following this, there were further campaigns to reintroduce the service. One report appeared in the local paper comparing the shuttle and the route of commercial bus services, further criticising the council's view that existing replacements operate. Examples given were the fact that users have to go to the back of the railway station, a long way out and not wheelchair accessible. Also, the most similar commercial bus route, Arriva Guildford & West Surrey's number 36, serves the bus station on its way up the hill in Guildford, as a result continuing around a one-way street and emerging halfway up North Street. This contrasts with the shuttle, which ran to the Lower High street. When the shuttle was withdrawn, no bus services stopped there.
The town's local newspaper, the Surrey Advertiser, led a campaign entitled "Bring back our bus" through the protests. In one edition a whole page was dedicated to letter on the subject.
At the end of September 2008 Guildford's most senior politician, MP Anne Milton, backed the newspaper's campaign, saying that she had asked the council to "consider its decision" and that the bus "is more important with the post office having moved further up the street". Joining her calls, Liberal Democrat MP Sue Doughty said the replacements proposed are "quite inappropriate", "poorly thought through", and that the bus was "essential".
The beginning of October 2008 brought a new development. A group of residents applied to get a petition launched on Gordon Brown’s personal website, bringing the debate to Downing Street.
In mid-October Guildford Borough Council announced the replacement for the shuttle, the "Town Centre Rider". Journeys would have to be pre-booked and the service would pick up and drop off at pre-designated spots, rather than traveling frequently over a predetermined route. This triggered criticism, people saying it was much less flexible and was inconvenient to people who were visiting several places. Only people with mobility problems and those aged over 60, as well as their carers, could use the service. It started on 20 October.
At the beginning of November, it emerged that the Town Centre Rider replacement had experienced a very poor initial take-up, only being used five times during its first two weeks.
By mid-November, a large petition had been created. The 2,380-name petition was handed to Councillor Jennifer Jordan at the borough council's offices by the 91-year old campaigner Bill Bellerby. The signatures were gained during two four-hour sessions in Guildford's High Street. The petition also brought about further criticism of the council's spending plans. The council withdrew the service on the grounds that it would cost £100,000 to run in the next year, which was too much, yet it was noted that a month earlier they had agreed to spend £54,000 developing a pop-up toilet.
Just after the petition was handed in (in mid-November) the original operators of the route, Safeguard Coaches, announced that they were to operate the route as a commercial service. It would operate at reduced hours, from 10am to 2pm, but would be expanded to cover the Mount Alvernia Hospital. Operating hours would be expanded if the service was popular. It was planned that a £1.20 flat fare would be charged, although over 60s and people with disabilities could still travel free under the Government's free bus travel scheme, which Safeguard would be reimbursed for from Surrey County Council. The borough council offered its million pound-plus marketing budget to help with publicity for the new service.
At the end of November the bus used on the service was repainted into Safeguard's own bus livery.
By the beginning of January 2009 the service was ready to be launched. An article appeared in the Surrey Advertiser, Safeguard's managing director Andrew Halliday saying he expects the service to be a success. By this time the planned operation hours had varied slightly to be a more specific 10.15am to 2.15pm; the fares also had changed, a single flat fare for people that have to pay would now be £1 with a £1.50 all day ticket available. Safeguard was reported to be in talks with businesses in the town about sponsorship deals.
The service started on Monday 12 January 2009 after a launch on the previous Friday 9 January, where the bus was named after campaigner Bill Bellerby. The full name is Honorary Freeman Bill Bellerby MBE. Some were angered at the presence of Councillor Andrew Hodges, leader of the council who withdrew the original service.
It was reported that the council's Town Rider replacement may be withdrawn if the new shuttle was a success.
The new commercial service ran for just over a year. However, as part of an agreement between Safeguard and Arriva Guildford & West Surrey, the two companies agreed to stop sharing routes 3, 4 and 5 from 23 May 2010. Safeguard took over full operation of routes 4 and 5 and Arriva the 3. At the same time of, and a partial result of, the agreement the Guildford Shuttle was withdrawn. The last day of operation was 22 May 2010.
According to Safeguard, the number of passengers on the service stood at 1,800 a month, which "was not enough to sustain the service in the long-term." The dedicated bus was reallocated to Safeguard's increased operations of routes 4 and 5.
The shuttle ran a mainly anti-clockwise circular service around Guildford town centre, although ran in a figure of eight to get to the railway station due to the town's one-way system. The service started at 1015 and ran every 20 minutes throughout the day until 1415.
- Railway station front entrance
- Lower High Street White Lion Walk
- Sydenham Road Milkhouse Gate
- Sydenham Road Bakers Yard
- Mount Alvernia Hospital Harvey Road
- Epsom Road High Street
- Upper High Street near Grammar School
- North Street Library
- Lower North Street Marks & Spencer
- Friary bus station Stand A
- Railway station front entrance
- "Review of the Guildford Shuttle bus service". Guildford Bourough Council. 2008-07-17. Retrieved 2008-09-20.[dead link]
- "Lib Dems challenge shuttle bus decision". Surrey Advertiser. 2008-07-23. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
- "91-year-old on mission to save shuttle bus". Surrey Advertiser. 2008-08-13. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
- "Decision to scrap shuttle bus confirmed". Surrey Advertiser. 2008-09-05. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
- "Battle to save shuttle bus". Surrey Advertiser. 2008-09-03. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
- "Wheels fall off alternative to shuttle bus". Surrey Advertiser. 2008-09-19. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
- "MP backs shuttle bus campaign". Surrey Advertiser. 2008-09-26. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
- "Guildford Shuttle bus battle reaches Downing Street". Surrey Advertiser. 2008-10-03. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
- "Council wheels out 'substitute’ town bus service". Surrey Advertiser. 2008-10-13. Retrieved 2009-01-02.
- "Poor take-up of shuttle bus replacement". Surrey Advertiser. 2008-11-05. Retrieved 2009-01-02.
- "Shuttle bus petition handed to council". Surrey Advertiser. 2008-11-11. Retrieved 2009-01-02.
- "Shuttle bus going back on the road". Surrey Advertiser. 2008-11-14. Retrieved 2009-01-02.
- "New shuttle bus ready for service". Surrey Advertiser. 2009-01-02. Retrieved 2009-01-02.
- "New Guildford shuttle bus named after campaigner". Surrey Advertiser. 2009-01-09. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- "Town Rider may be scrapped if shuttle succeeds". Surrey Advertiser. 2009-01-20. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- "Guildford bus changes agreed despite opposition". Surrey Advertiser. 2010-04-08. Retrieved 2010-05-21.
Media related to Guildford Shuttle at Wikimedia Commons