New bus operator reveals plans

A NEW operator will take over key bus services in a traffic-choked Essex town later this month - vowing to introduce more frequent journeys, it has emerged.

By Juliette Maxam

A NEW operator will take over key bus services in a traffic-choked Essex town later this month - vowing to introduce more frequent journeys, it has emerged.

Transport giant Arriva is selling off its fleet of buses in Colchester to Tellings Golden Miller, a bus and coach operator based mainly in the South East, with the transfer due to be completed by August 29.

Last night, Bill Hiron, bus director at Tellings Golden Miller, said: “Our main opposition is the private car. Our business is to get passengers out of private cars, not to fight other bus companies.

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“We believe Colchester has big potential, not least because of the growth of the town and all the new development.”

He said the company plans to put in more modern buses which will run more frequently, although for the first few months there will be no changes.

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“We will be looking at providing an improved service network probably this side of Christmas and the New Year.”

Drivers' pay and conditions will remain the same under employment transfer regulations, and there are no immediate plans to change fares.

Mr Hiron said: “The staff have no need to worry. We haven't acquired Colchester on the basis we're going to let it peter out, it's a business with a bright future.”

Yesterday, Transport and General Workers Union regional industrial organiser Bill Lumb welcomed the news, predicting it would lead to more jobs in the future.

Mr Lumb has held a meeting with bus drivers from Arriva and Mr Hiron.

“At the moment optimism is the name of the day. The indication is additional work will be acquired which will lead to more jobs.”

Arriva currently has a fleet of 35 buses in Colchester with just under 100 employees.

Bob Scowen, managing director at Arriva Southern Counties said: “Geographically Colchester is a significant distance from our other services across the South East, and we've found it increasingly difficult to integrate the business with our other operations.

“We will be working with our employees at Colchester and Tellings Golden Miller Group to ensure a smooth transition of the Colchester depot to minimise any impact on our services throughout the process.”

Last night, another operator in the county, First Essex Buses, said it also had plans to improve services.

Stephen Smith, managing director, said: “Our network is growing and we have plans to invest further in the network in the next 12 months.”

One of the fastest growing bus routes in the country is run by First Essex Buses in Colchester. Their 65 “Centurion” service has seen passenger numbers increase by 250% since it started.

Traffic congestion has been a bugbear in Colchester for decades but controversy has engulfed nearly every scheme designed to prise people out of their cars and encourage them to use public transport instead.

Bus lanes have in the past been hailed as the best weapons to clear the jams - a move which infuriated car drivers.

There are still continual complaints about the effectiveness of the St Botolph's bus lane while the lane installed in North Hill in 1998 was eventually removed in October on safety grounds after a huge campaign.

Some traders also claim the bus gate in Nayland Road has killed off trade.

There is also an idea in the pipeline for a reversible or "tidal" bus lane through the centre of the Avenue of Remembrance to give buses priority over cars.

One of the most far-reaching proposals aimed at reducing the number of vehicles in Colchester town centre was announced in November.

There are no concrete plans to go ahead with it, but traffic chiefs were considering a one-way system which stopped drivers entering the town centre, except by Head Street and Headgate, and made all traffic, apart from public transport, leave by Queen Street and St Botolph's Street.

The current park and ride scheme forces drivers to make their way through town centre traffic to access it, while plans for more accessible alternatives on the edge of the A12 have been hit by delays.

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