Plans to cut estate’s bus service criticised

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Orchard Estate, in Ifield, is set to lose its spot on the Metrobus Route 2 timetable, from May 31.

The estate, including the Hindu temple off Ifield Avenue, currently gets five Route 2 buses per hour each way, taking residents to and from Tilgate, Crawley train station, Crawley Hospital, and K2 leisure centre.

Metrobus plans to increase the service to six buses per hour, but remove Orchard Estate from the route.

It will tweak Routes 526 and 527 to include Stafford Road, making them more convenient for estate residents.

However, as Spartan Way resident Richard Nixon has pointed out, these only provide one bus per hour each way, and do not run at all on Sundays.

In an email to Metrobus, copied to the Observer, Mr Nixon said: “As you know when the Orchard Estate was built in 2007/2008 and Hindu temple built in 2009/2010 provision of a bus service for both residents and users of the temple was a requirement of planning permission and the developers were required to pay a section 106 contribution to Crawley Borough Council towards improvement to public transport and in the case of the Hindu temple they have a travel plan that encourages users of the centre to travel by bus.”

Nick Hill, head of commercial development for Metrobus, responded saying that Route 2 was a popular service which the company was keen to upgrade.

“The increase to every 10 minutes reliably requires an additional two buses to run the service as only using one additional bus would result in a ‘tight’ unreliable service,” he said. “We would therefore be increasing costs by some 29% and the business case for this does not stack up.

“The diversion to serve the Orchard and the temple has added additional time to the schedule to the extent that if it didn’t operate we only require one additional bus increase the frequency to every 10 minutes, to which the business case is viable.

“We have undertaken a survey of usage and found that on a sample weekday, the Orchard stop was used by a total of 42 people boarding and 70 people alighting across 110 journeys. Keeping the route serving the Orchard would require an additional bus to be operated at the cost of around £150,000-200,000 per annum, the cost of which certainly would not be recouped from the revenue taken from passengers using the Orchard stop.”

He said they had consulted the councillors whose wards were on Route 2, and most had been in favour of the changes.