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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

London Buses route 96 and Fastrack between Dartford and Bluewater



On this article, I’ll be explaining about the section of Route 96 which goes from Dartford to Bluewater Shopping Centre non-stop.


Brief history of the London Buses route 96 on why it extended from Dartford to Bluewater, London Bus Routes website says “The 96 extension was actually introduced commercially by Stagecoach Selkent when the contract was let on net cost terms – an arrangement in which the operator keeps the revenue, and can therefore take commercial risks. This one clearly paid off even though the service level seemed excessive.”

TfL raised the issue with Dartford Borough Council to use the segregated busway for Fastrack route B which links directly to Bluewater Shopping Centre.

So what do you mean the Busway which Fastrack uses as a shortcut to go to Bluewater Shopping Centre?
You can see it on the Traveline map below.


The issue I’ve found out is Transport for London (TfL) wanting Route 96 to use the Fastrack busway to Bluewater Shopping Centre In order to make up for time connecting to the Darent Valley Hospital which London Buses Route 428 provides.

From Dartford Borough Council Agenda item during mid 2011.
Reference from Joint Transportation Board: Use of Segregated Bus Tracks

Summary:
To advise the Cabinet of the Joint Transportation Board’s concerns on the suggestion by the Transport for London that the segregated bus track into Bluewater be used by other bus services.

Recommendation:
That the Cabinet consider the concerns raised by the Board and, if supported, forward those concerns to the Leader of Kent County Council and the County’s relevant Cabinet member.

Minutes:
·    This report advised the Cabinet of the Joint Transportation Board’s concerns on the suggestion, by the Transport for London, that the segregated bus track into Bluewater be used by other bus services.
·    Members fully endorsed the concerns that had been raised by both Dartford Borough Council and Kent County Council Members of the Joint Transportation Board noting that requests similar to this had been received in the past. They felt that the Fastrack route should remain dedicated to Fastrack buses as had originally been specified in order to maintain the exemplary service currently being provided.
·    Members also noted that, as the ‘route 96’ bus did not stop on its journey between Dartford and Bluewater, allowing it to use the segregated track would deliver no additional benefits to the residents of Dartford. They also said that if ‘route 96’ buses were given permission to use the segregated bus track then this would set a precedence and encourage other bus operators to request use of these tracks.
·    Members noted that they had no objection to the ‘route 96’ bus making an additional stop at Darent Valley Hospital, but thought that its operator (Transport for London) should investigate other ways of making up for lost time, which did not involve the use of the dedicated Fastrack route into Bluewater.
·    Members also referred to the traffic congestion that was being experienced at Darent Valley Hospital and the fact that Arriva buses from Gravesend were no longer stopping at the hospital because of the impact that this congestion was having on their timetables. It was felt that this may result in a request from Arriva buses to also use the dedicated Fastrack routes. Although Members recognised that Darent Valley Hospital was trying to address its parking related problems it was suggested that the Joint Transportation Board be asked to look at the parking arrangements at Darent Valley Hospital, and also assess the associated impact being experienced by residents living on roads near to the hospital.
·    The Advisory Panel endorsed the report’s recommendations but asked that Cabinet note the concerns that had been raised in relation to parking and the associated road congestion that was being experienced at Darent Valley Hospital.

My personal view is that the best idea would be to allow other bus operators to use the Fastrack’s segregated busway to Bluewater Shopping Centre under rare circumstances like traffic gridlock due to road traffic accidents.

London Buses Route 96 has two ways of going in and out of Bluewater Shopping Centre from Dartford.


The section between Dartford and Bluewater has generated some competition for the bus services. According to the Thameside bus Information provided by Kent County Council, Bus routes from Dartford Town Centre to Bluewater are London Buses Routes 96, 428, 492 Fastrack routes A, B and Arriva bus routes 423, 477, 480 & 490.

Quick table to compare the daytime journey times from Dartford Home Gardens (for the Railway station) to Bluewater Shopping Centre.

Route
Operator
Journey Times
Frequency
A
Arriva for Fastrack
20 minutes
10 minutes
B
Arriva for Fastrack
15 minutes
10 minutes
Stagecoach for London Buses
11 minutes*
8 minutes
Arriva for London Buses
13 minutes*
15 minutes
Arriva
14 minutes
30 minutes
Arriva for London Buses
14 minutes
30 minutes

*Route 96 has a non-stop section between Dartford to Bluewater whilst route 428 goes non-stop from Dartford to Bluewater serving Darent Valley Hospital.

For the live bus departures, I recommend you to check out First Bus Next Bus page and Bus Times.

Now let’s compare the fares
Route
Service
Price
A
Arriva for Fastrack
£2.30 single
£3.50 return
B
Arriva for Fastrack
£2.30 single
£3.50 return
96
Stagecoach for London Buses
£1.50*
428
Arriva for London Buses
£1.50*
477
Arriva
Unknown
492
Arriva for London Buses
£1.50*

*From September 2016 London Buses will be providing a 1 hour hopper scheme where you transfer to any bus for 1 hour in one fare.

What I like to say is, I do believe London Buses seem to be superior with the service they provide with lower fare structure and high frequency service which makes it value for money. Plus they are mostly dual door buses which speeds up boarding as passengers enter by the front and exit by the middle. Since London Buses have been cashless since July 2014, passengers have to use Oyster or Contactless Bank Card to pay the London Bus fares.

As compared to Fastrack, the Bus Rapid Transit scheme is sponsored by Arriva, Kent County Council, Gravesham Borough Council, Dartford Borough Council and Prologis. They have single door buses for extra seating, but to speed up boarding times, they have ticket machines at bus stops where passengers pay their fares in cash. I do believe they should enable Contactless Payment Cards which London Buses provide. Fastrack also accept Arriva’s mobile ticketing as they are part of Arriva bus network in Kent Thameside.

So which do you prefer, London Buses or Fastrack? Feel free to express your opinion on the comments section below

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Multimedia
Image attribution
By Aubrey Morandarte from Coventry/London, United Kingdom - A and B, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49584392

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