Saturday, 4 April 2009

BusFact Plus

Leicester City Transport, 1983

I've been soliciting for ideas for BusFacts on Twitter. Jon Bounds asked me whether any other cities in the UK have huge outer circle routes like Birmingham's no 11. My gut instinct was to say no, but I couldn't rule out the possibility without a bit of research first. Here are the results.

Taking a list of cities in the UK, I'm getting rid of London and Westminster, and also Manchester and Salford. The two pairs of cities are located so close to one another that any "outer circle" route would have to encompass two city centres instead of the 11's single city. Which is a shame, as surely these large connurbations are some of the most likely suspects.

I'm also going to discount cities that are located either on the coast or on a large tidal stretch of river too. So we can say goodbye to Aberdeen, Bath, Belfast, Brighton and Hove, Bristol, Cardiff, Derry, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kingston upon Hull, Lancaster, Liverpool, Newcastle upon Tyne, Newport, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Preston, Southampton, Sunderland and Swansea. Bye bye: any "outer circle" route of a similar circumference to the 11 is likely to end up getting its tyres wet in permanent fashion.

I'm also going to discount the little cathedral or university towns that aren't big enough to have outer suburbs at a radius similar to Birmingham. These would include Bangor, Cambridge, Carlisle, Canterbury, Chester, Chichester, Durham, Ely, Hereford, Inverness, Lichfield, Lincoln, Lisburn, Newry, Norwich, Oxford, Peterborough, Ripon, Salisbury, St Albans, St David's, Stirling, Truro, Wells, Winchester, Worcester and York.

So that leaves us with the following cities: Bradford, Coventry, Derby, Exeter, Gloucester, Leeds, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent, Wakefield and Wolverhampton. The only one of these that currently has a circular bus service around the suburbs whilst not touching the city centre is the CircleLine in Leicester – but that only operates on an hourly basis. So from which we can state that Birmingham is pretty special.

However, some special mentions are due: services 9/10/11/12 in Dundee are branded as the outer circle, but all terminate in the city centre due to the Tay estuary being in the way; similarly the recent Orbit service in Preston doesn't actually travel south of the Ribble, but makes a great loop of the suburbs; Plymouth also has a similar service 46/47 that is somewhat hampered by The Sound.

Sheffield used to have an outer circle service as well as an inner circle service; the Trans-Lancs Express was in effect an "outer semi-circle" around the circumference of Manchester and Salford which today is replaced by three seperate high-frequency services between Bolton, Rochdale, Ashton and Stockport; Liverpool has an "inner circle" 26/27 that terminates in the city centre followed by a series of "outer semi-circles" 60/61/62/68/81 that run from Bootle to points near the Mersey in the south of the city.

Image credit: 2E0MCA on Flickr


Martin said...

Bradford and Leeds had orbital circulars until recently. First Leeds split the 8/9 into two a couple of years ago, while First Bradford axed their 601/602 circular only a few months ago leaving parts of the ringroad now untouched by buses.

Very sad to see them go but it's not surprising. Thirty years ago the 601/602 ran every 12-20 minutes Mon-Sat daytimes and every 20-30 minutes evenings and Sundays. By the end it was down to hourly at all times. Car travel had destroyed the need for inter-subrban bus travel it seems.

JimmyMac said...

Thanks for the further info, Martin. I'm not sure inter-suburban bus travel is dead - look at the 23 and the 169 for local examples in Manchester.

Circular services seem to be on the way out in most places, because of the lack of a dedicated turn-round point. Perhaps the outer circle in Birmingham bucks that trend because it actually passes by the front gate of Acocks Green bus depot?

Anonymous said...

In most places there's no good orbital arterial route that penetrates housing as well as radial arterials, and consequently circular routes take ages to do a circle so crossing the city centre is just as good really - probably quicker too. Max journey time on Leicester's is an hour; you can go through the city centre in that time usually and having full circulars just creates timetabling and operational problems.