During the first two months of 2020 local users of the various means of transport were individually contacted and interviewed. The public transport sector consisted of the Rural Bus Service No.435 and the Transport for Wales rail service. Community transport services consisted of the Church Stretton Area Ring & Ride and Good Neighbours hospital transport. The Church Stretton School was consulted as the school commute is very visible in the area during school terms. Special interest groups included cyclists and mobility scooter users.
The dominant form of transport within the Stretton area is the motor vehicle. Drivers were not consulted due to the large size and disparate nature of this cohort. However, some of the other transport groups had complaints about motor vehicle drivers, in particular speeding, dangerous/inconsiderate driving and illegal parking blocking access for others.
Church Stretton Rail Users Association:
Church Stretton is fortunately located on a main line, with trains from Transport for Wales’ Marches and Heart of Wales lines stopping here. The station’s appearance is attractively maintained by the town’s Pride of Place gardening group. Unfortunately, it is an unmanned station with only one ticket vending machine which regularly doesn’t function and is badly located. The existing shelters are too small, there are no toilets and the parking arrangements are poorly thought out.
The major concern is the ongoing reduction in the number of trains stopping here although the number of people using the train from CS has increased by 6.5% from 2017-18 to 2018-19. The reduction in the number of stopping trains is mainly determined by both Welsh and Westminster politics.
For the full report of the interview with Dr Ian Dormer, Church Stretton Rail Users Association, see Appendix 1.
Rural Bus Service No. 435
The contract for this service has been awarded to Minsterley Motors by Shropshire Council. It runs from Shrewsbury to Ludlow passing through All Stretton, Church Stretton and Little Stretton as well as Craven Arms and other villages - mostly, but not all, on the A49 road. The earliest bus (going north) that it is possible to catch is 07:35 from Beaumont Road and the latest bus arriving in Beaumont Road is 18:25 (going north) during the working week. There are 11 runs during this period, at approximately hourly intervals. On Saturdays the service consists of 6 runs in a shorter period and on Sundays and bank holidays there is no service at all.
The Bus Users Shropshire group undertook a Passenger Monitoring study of Service 435 in 2019. They recorded the number of passengers boarding, alighting and those remaining on board at every stop on the No. 435 over 17 different runs at different times of the day and throughout the year from March to December. Unsurprisingly, in the Strettons, the stop at Beaumont Road in the centre of Church Stretton was the most heavily used but there was considerable traffic on and off at the stops that serve the other Strettons.
Another study that was consulted was Shropshire Rural Buses (2018) by Professor John Whitelegg who raises the same concerns as the Bus Users Shropshire group i.e. the reduction of bus services leaving ageing rural communities socially isolated and the lack of coordination between bus and rail services.
Speaking with some bus users in the Strettons, the consensus seemed to be that they liked using the No.435 as they had free bus passes and the timetable was convenient, if limited. The drivers are friendly, and the buses are usually on time. Most trips were for shopping or leisure activities, but this may only reflect the interests of the very small group that were able to be consulted before the outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic. Apart from more buses after hours and on Sundays and Bank Holidays, the desired improvements were for bus shelters with seating, particularly at Beaumont Road.
To assist the CLP understand the nature of the school commute, the Headmaster, Mr. John Parr, replied in writing to a series of written questions. The list of questions and his responses can be seen in Appendix 2.
In summary students who live three miles or more from Church Stretton School are entitled to free school transport by bus. 64.9% of the 552 students on the 2020 roll, travel to school by bus. There are five different bus companies, running eight different routes, who have the contracts from Shropshire Council to provide this service. The school itself leases two minibuses for another two routes which lie outside the area that Shropshire Council funds. 21.9% of students (i.e. 121) walk to school, presumably living within 3 miles of the school and 9.8% arrive by car. Most of the staff travel by car. Only 6 students and 3 staff members regularly cycle to school.
Currently the school does not provide lockers nor cloakrooms for students and anecdotally this has been suggested as one of the reasons why parents drive their children to school. The challenges for the future are the financial difficulties in maintaining the school’s subsidised minibuses for students who live outside the school’s catchment area.
Ring & Ride Community Bus Service
This service is part of the Strettons Mayfair Trust and provides door to door transport for local people who do not have the use of a car, live in a rural area without public transport or have mobility issues which preclude them from using public transport. The Chief Officer Ms Nicola Daniels was interviewed about the experiences and aspirations of R&R and her responses can be seen in detail in Appendix 3. She also spoke about the challenges for the future of the service vis a vis changing legislation, changing demographics and financing a service which currently receives 75% of its funding from Shropshire Council.
Good Neighbours Hospital Transport Car Service
This volunteer run group provides a personal car service to Stretton residents to attend medical appointments at hospitals, clinics and medical centres in Shropshire and beyond. The chairman Dr Guy Sjogren was interviewed early this year and his responses can be seen in Appendix 4. Like in other organisations, he foresees changes in demographics and legislation as being the challenges for the future of this service.
A group of cyclists who use cycles as a means of transport rather than as a leisure activity, were consulted, by email or in a meeting, about the difficulties of cycling in and around the Strettons. Some very practical suggestions were made about improvements that could be made at a local level which would improve the safety of cyclists and perhaps increase the uptake of cycling - especially amongst the young. See Appendix 5 for more details.
The issues facing the users of mobility scooters in the Strettons were outlined in an interview with the owner of Stretton Mobility Store, Mrs Sue Murphy. The non-requirement of any training or education before using a mobility scooter and the lack of adequate pavements were the main issues. For the complete report see Appendix 6.
The UK government is seriously considering changes that will affect transport. It looks like e-scooters will soon become legal and recently a new document Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge has been released by the Department of Transport that makes interesting reading. Click here to view this document.
Interview with Dr Ian Dormor, secretary of the Church Stretton Rail Users Association, conducted 15:00 – 16:30 Friday 17th January 2020.
There were five questions which had been emailed to Dr Dormor earlier that week to allow time to consider his responses.
What is particularly good about Church Stretton rail service and that we should encourage to continue?
The main advantage is that Church Stretton is located on a main line, the north south Wales Marches line and the Heart of Wales line and the trains stop here. Also, there is a very active Pride of Place gardening group which maintains the station’s attractive appearance.
What is poor with respect to the rail service in Church Stretton?
It is an unmanned station with no staff for advice and assistance in purchasing tickets. There are no toilets. The one ticket vending machine often does not work (poor connection to the server), is badly located with no shelter from the rain and sunlight on the screen. The existing shelter is too small for the number of people on the platform. Not enough of the existing trains stop at Church Stretton leaving long gaps in the timetable. The condition of the trains is poor, often no toilets, with overcrowding due to a lack of coaches.
Are there any aspects of rail service that we currently don’t have that you would consider desirable?
Ideally, we would like more trains with more coaches. A ticket vending machine on the south bound platform and the existing machine inside the shelter. Better parking arrangements with herring bone bays rather than parallel parking on the town side of the station. On the Crossway’s side, free parking as the current situation is deterring people from parking alongside the station and instead parking in the side streets and Watling St.
What do you think the Church Stretton community could do themselves to improve rail travel in and out of Church Stretton?
Use the trains (the number of rail journeys in and out of Church Stretton has increased by 6.5% from 2017-18 to 2018-19). Join the Church Stretton Rail Users Association. This a part of a larger group, the Marches Rail Users Alliance consisting of Church Stretton, Craven Arms, Ludlow, Leominster and Hereford rail users, which collectively lobbies Transport for Wales and the Welsh Senedd for better rail services. The C.S. Rail Users Association also helps rail passengers with their complaints and produces a twice-yearly informative newsletter.
What do you imagine are going to be the challenges for rail users in the next 5-10-15 years?
On a national level, funding of rail services will be diverted to large projects. At a regional level, Church Stretton is/will be facing competition from towns with growing populations such as Wem and Nantwich, for train services. The tendency is to reduce services to smaller communities in order to satisfy the demand elsewhere.
The cost of tickets with the expectation that prices will rise. The Marches Line is the most profitable line for Transport for Wales and the profits here are used to subsidise other lines in Wales. This year our ticket prices rose by 2.7% and the ticket prices on the North Wales line dropped by 10%.
Welsh politics: the English stations on the Marches line are not of great importance to the Welsh Senedd where clearly the Welsh stations (and voters) are.
Transport for Wales has the franchise for the next 14 years. What would happen if they decide that they no longer want to run it?
It is clear, even from casual observation, that the daily school commute has a considerable impact on transport within the town. Around school starting and leaving times, at the A49 traffic lights and along Shrewsbury road the traffic flow is considerably increased. School holidays result in far less traffic through the town at these peak times.
In order to understand the nature of the daily school commute for both students and staff, the headmaster, Mr John Parr, who was contacted by Mr Alan Fox, a school governor, replied as follows to the posed questions.
1. What are the numbers of students using cars, buses, trains, bikes or walking to school?
There are currently (Feb 2020) 552 students on roll.
358 Dedicated school bus 64.9%
121 Walk 21.9%
48 Car/van 8.4%
8 Car share 1.4%
6 Cycle 1.1%
5 Train 0.9%
3 Unknown 0.5%
2 Taxi 0.5%
1 Public transport 0.4%
2. What are the actual school bus routes and the names of the companies that run the coaches?
Leebotwood/Acton Burnell (CS1031) Boultons
Wall (CS1020) Boultons
Craven Arms (CS1305) Boultons
Acton Scott (CS1059) Boultons
Condover (CS1062) Long Mynd Travel
Marshbrook (CS1004) M & J Travel
Picklescott (CS1035) Minsterley Motors
Dorrington, Stapleton (CS1068) Caradoc Coaches
3. The school itself is responsible for Bayston Hill and Bishops Castle route. Can you please explain how and why these operate?
They operate with private coach hire, partly paid by school and partly by parents. They operate to meet the need of students choosing Church Stretton School as their first preference.
4. The PTA finances the lease of the school’s minibus at a cost of £408 per month. What would happen if they were no longer able to do this?
The PTA have reported that currently there are enough funds to keep supporting the minibus. If that situation changed then the school would have to pay for the minibus or the minibus would have to be returned.
5. Of those who come by car, what are the reasons why they do not walk, bus, bike etc in descending order of importance?
We do not have this information.
6. Is road safety perceived to be a problem by teachers/parents?
Not as far as we are aware.
7. It is said that at the school there are no lockers or cloakrooms for coats/jackets etc. Is this the case?
Correct. We are reconsidering lockers, however the space available along with cost may prove prohibitive.
8. How many staff commute by car, bus, train, bike or walk to work?
The majority travel by car. A small number cycle or walk (approx. 3)
9. Do you have enough car parking spaces for all the staff?
10. On your website you request parents to drop their children off in the school carpark and not park on the road. In practice does this happen?
In the majority – yes.
11. According to the Shropshire Council’s Sustainable School Travel Strategy (August 2016) document, they offer support to schools in reviewing their School Travel Plans. Does the School have a Travel Plan?
Yes, although in need of updating.
In addition to the hard data above I would like to obtain your opinions about:
1. What aspects of school transport (for both staff and students) works well and that you would like to see retained?
Local Authority provided transport works well and would like retained.
2. What aspects don’t work well either for staff and/or students?
Cost of rail fare and timing of rail services (for some students)
3. What would you liked to see changed?
4. How could this be achieved?
5. Could the wider community i.e. non-school community, assist in achieving this and if so, how?
6. What do you envisage being the challenges for school transport over the next 15 years?
Maintaining minibus supply
Maintaining school supported transport (subsidised) for students out of catchment but wishing to attend CSS
Affordability for parents/carers where public transport is utilised
Ring & Ride
Interview with Nicola Daniels, Chief Officer, Mayfair Trust - Ring & Ride service, Wednesday19th February 2020 2:15-3:30 pm at the Mayfair Centre.
Ms Daniels spoke about Ring & Ride, its experiences and aspirations for its services in the Strettons and responded to the following questions.
1 What is particularly good about the Ring & Ride service and that we should encourage to continue?
This a fundamental service which supports all of the other services in the Strettons; The Medical Centre, the Mayfair Centre, the Health and Wellbeing Centre, the dentists, and the Post Office.
It allows people to remain independent, living in their own homes for longer.
It is flexible and accommodating for individual mobility needs. It will remind clients with memory issues that they have a trip booked.
It supports the local economy. R&R have undertaken a study of how much people spent in the town as a result of an R&R trip.
It counteracts social isolation by taking people to the shops, social events, keep fit classes, yoga, talks and art exhibitions.
It provides transport for people living in the outlying villages where there is no public transport.
2 Are there are weaknesses or failings with the service which could be improved?
Some clients say that the 48 hours’ notice required to book a trip is too long and would like the notice period to be only 24 hours and would like the office to be manned until 3pm (It is currently manned until 1pm).
Some clients living in the outlying villages would like there to be more days in the week to be available for their area. As rural pick-ups require much more time than urban ones, R&R tries to organise that a minibus does rural trips in one area on a specific day of the week and on another day collects in a different rural area.
3 Are there any aspects of service that we currently don’t have that you would consider desirable?
The current software for timetabling the collection of clients, needs to be replaced and upgraded.
We have to work out how we prioritise the trips that we do in terms of rural clients and vulnerable people.
4 What do you think the local community could do to improve the operation of Ring & Ride?
The local community is very supportive of the R&R service. It will continue to need volunteers to drive the buses, assist passengers, do the administrative work of taking the calls and booking the trips.
Rotary Club is looking at the possibility of funding an electric minibus for R&R but at the moment the price of electric minibuses is very high, and the thinking is to wait until the price becomes more accessible. We might have to look at crowd funding.
5 What do you imagine are going to be the challenges for the Ring & Ride service in the next 5-10-15 years?
There are a lot of challenges.
Finance: R&R receives 75% of its funding (it costs circa 80K/yr. to run the service) from Shropshire Council who has no statutory obligation to fund it although they do recognise the value of the service to the community and have not, so far, reduced the amount that they give to R&R.
R&R is financially unable to put aside money to replace the existing buses and the buses have finite lives.
Legislation Changes: There are potentially new laws that would seriously impact on R&R. Commercial bus companies see that in some parts of the country, Community Bus services are competing with them for lucrative school contracts and consider that community bus services have an unfair advantage as they do not have to comply with the legislation that is applicable to commercial companies. Therefore, the commercial interests are pressurising the government to apply more stringent laws upon the community buses that affect both the type of buses and the qualifications of the drivers. These changes would incur considerable costs and probably exclude many of our current drivers. This area of potential new laws needs to be followed closely and decisions about its implications can only be taken when we know what the situation is.
People: In the Strettons the demographics are changing. Clients are becoming more mobility compromised and more have dementia problems. R&R does between 350-400 client trips per week and although the number of clients on the books (280-300) is not rising, the amount of time and help that each client needs, is. Likewise, the pool of volunteers is changing. People are no longer retiring as early as they used to. More retirees are having to assume caring roles within their families, whether for the younger or older generations.
The Base: R&R is currently based in a cabin in the yard of Burway Garage in the Crossways Industrial Estate. It has electricity, heating, phones and internet but no running water and no bathroom. Currently under consideration is moving the base to the Mayfair/Wellbeing Centre but parking is already an issue at this site and the extra vehicles of R&R would complicate the situation even more. However, there would be other advantages in terms of running costs and logistics. A decision has yet to be made.
Good Neighbours Hospital Transport
Interview with Dr Guy Sjogren, chair of Good Neighbours - Car Service for Medical Appointments, conducted 10:30-12:00 Saturday 18th January 2020.
There were five questions which had been emailed to Dr Sjogren earlier that week to allow time to consider his responses.
What aspects of the Strettons are good for the G.N. car service?
The lack of alternative transport to hospitals for the elderly who cannot drive. Taxis are few and expensive. Buses and trains are not feasible means for those with mobility issues.
There are plenty of clients in the Strettons with its large ageing population who are able to pay the petrol and parking costs associated with the service.
There are also plenty of active retiree drivers. There is a strong spirit of volunteering in the Strettons.
What things cause difficulties for the G.N. car service?
It is not always easy to find a driver. Despite having 64 drivers on the books, on any given day, not all are available but rarely is it impossible.
Road closures particularly on the A49.
Hospital parking is difficult and expensive.
What possible changes in the Strettons would be of benefit/improve the G.N. car service?
More volunteer drivers.
What do you envisage as being the challenges for G.N. car service in the next 5-10-15 years?
Recruitment – replacing existing drivers.
Changing attitudes to volunteering.
Increased congestion on the A49 and in hospital car parks.
New legislation in favour of electric cars and against petrol and diesel motors.
Changing car driving habits.
What would you like for the community to do for your organisation?
Help to generate interest in driving for Good Neighbours.
This is a summary of the thoughts and opinions from the meeting with cyclists held at the Health and Wellbeing Centre, Wednesday 12th February 2020 and various emails sent in by those cyclists who were unable to attend the meeting.
Question 1. What is good in the Strettons for cyclists?
The area is compact enough to allow you to get around to all the facilities easily by bike.
The country lanes are good for cycling as they are relatively free of traffic and you can hear approaching vehicles.
Question 2. What causes difficulties for cyclists in the Stretton area?
Drivers of motor vehicles. All cyclists cited examples of drivers being oblivious to or ignoring the presence of cyclists and causing near misses of serious accidents to cyclists.
The lack of designated cycle lanes. This means that cyclists have to share the road with large lorries, buses, vans and cars who are often speeding and overtake cyclists in dangerous manoeuvres.
Pedestrians stepping out onto the road also oblivious to the presence of bikes.
Potholes; cycles are even more vulnerable than cars to damage from potholes.
Lack of cycling racks outside of places that are regularly used e.g. the Family Shopper, Sylvester Horne Institute, Medical Centre, Beaumont Road, Sandford Avenue, Market Square.
Existing cycle racks outside Coop often blocked by shopping trolleys; the rack behind the public toilets is set above a kerb in grass rarely trimmed where dogs relieve themselves; the one rack in Churchway is regularly blocked by vehicles and boxes especially on market day.
Poor street lighting making cycling at night difficult.
The smart traffic lights at the junction of Sandford Avenue and the A49 do not recognise a lone cyclist and will ignore them and not give them a go at crossing the junction.
The so-called cycle lanes on the A49 (they are the narrow spaces at the edge of the road between the white line and the glass, rubbish and nails etc filled gutter), are extremely dangerous places that most cyclists would not even consider using.
Question 3. What improvements can you suggest for cycling in the Strettons.
Designation of the pedestrian footpath along the eastern side of the A49 from the Catholic Church to Crown Lane which then switches to the western side of the A49 as far as the end of the Ludlow Road where it joins the A49, as a dual cycling and pedestrian path with pedestrians having priority. This path is currently underused by pedestrians and becoming encroached by grass and weeds. The surface could be cleared of this growth resulting in a wider path suitable for both pedestrians and bikes. It would also need some new signage.
Likewise, the footpath from Church Stretton to All Stretton could be designated as dual use for both pedestrians and cyclists with pedestrians having priority.
Bikes need to be locked to fixtures to prevent theft, therefore there is a need for more racks in sensible/accessible places e.g. front of the Family Shopper, Sylvester Horne Institute, Medical Centre, Beaumont Road, Sandford Avenue, Market Square.
Paint bike boxes on the road in the front of traffic lights to improve bike safety at this point.
A rumble strip down the centre of Shrewsbury/Ludlow Road to advise drivers that they have crossed into the opposite lane especially on blind bends.
More education of school children about cycling through the Bikeability scheme promoted by the Department of Transport.
Contributing Cyclists: Alan Burns, Freda Burns, Sue Wedlock, Liz Cinnamon, Hilary Goodwin, Rosemary Oldham, Trish Howard, Darren Hall.
Interview with Mrs Sue Murphy, Stretton Mobility Store, conducted 13:30 – 14:30 Monday 27th January 2020.
The Stretton Mobility Store, Beaumont Road, Church Stretton, is a business run by a husband and wife team, James and Sue Murphy. Operating from this premise since August 2018, they sell, service, repair and rent second-hand mobility scooters and in the process have been and are in contact with many users of mobility scooters in the Strettons and further afield.
Mrs Murphy estimates that there are at least 50 mobility scooter users in the Strettons and of these some two thirds are men. Her guess is that in the older generation, men are more confident about driving than women and this is reflected in their uptake of mobility scooters. It is generally older people who use the scooters but there are a few younger people with disabilities who also use them.
There is no requirement for any form of training or education prior to using a mobility scooter.
Class 2 scooters are limited to 4mph and should be used on pavements. These do not need to be registered.
Class 3 scooters are limited to 4mph on pavements and to 8mph on roads. They must have rear vision mirror, lights, horn, direction indicators, brakes, a device to limit speed to 4mph (used when on pavements). They must be registered.
Question 1: What is it about the Strettons that encourages the use of mobility scooters?
There are plenty of other users in the Strettons: this shows future/potential users that mobility scooters are a viable option.
There is the Mobility Store which provides excellent support and services.
The terrain is not an impediment for mobility scooters as nowadays there exists a wide range of scooters that can cope with slopes.
Theft of parked scooters is not a problem in the Strettons.
The perception of mobility scooters has changed. There is no longer a stigma associated with their use; they have become almost “cool”.
Question 2: What aspects of the Strettons cause difficulties for mobility scooter users?
Cars parking on the drop kerbs prevents scooters from getting on and off pavements.
Cars parking on pavements preventing scooters passing along the pavement.
A-Boards also cause difficulties.
There are places where the pavement is too narrow for a scooter to use, therefore scooters are forced onto the road with all its associated dangers.
Question 3: What improvements would you suggest that the Strettons undertake to improve the situation for mobility scooter users?
More traffic wardens targeting bad parking.
More drop kerbs to facilitate access to pavements.
Improve the surface of pavements: many have uneven surfaces.