Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Woodstock and Bladon News: cafes and buses

Woodstock and Bladon News,
February 2017
About 500 of those who read my irregular posts here have visited for my history of Ponteland newspapers (of which the printed version in Pont Island News for 2012 adds more context ), but in these ages of regionalised news hubs an increasing amount of local journalism is voluntary. The Woodstock and Bladon News has been published for several years, but has recently acquired a new editor and publisher, Peter Jay, former mayor of Woodstock and sometime British ambassador to the United States, but whose first public role in my memory was as presenter of London Weekend Television's Sunday lunchtime current affairs programme for ITV, Weekend World, although my memory doesn't stretch quite as far back as this interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It's encouraging to see the Woodstock and Bladon News evolve over the two months Peter Jay has conducted it - the publication is now printed rather than photocopied, has colour on the front and back pages, and has attracted several new correspondents. Rachel Phipps of The Woodstock Bookshop has written on new retail arrivals, particularly cafés - I had no idea Woodstock now has a vegan café next to the church, for example, and will try it.

An issue which makes a subtle mark on the front cover is the current competition for bus passengers in Woodstock. This is not as major a conflict as the series of intermittent commercial skirmishes between the Oxford Bus Company (since 1994 part of Go-Ahead) and Thames Transit (since 1997 owned by Stagecoach and trading under local variants of its parent company's name) which lasted between 1987 and the establishment of joint ticketing on major city routes under the Oxford Bus Partnership in 2011. Nevertheless, the decision of Oxford Bus Company to extend their Park and Ride 500 service (which never seemed to me as well-supported as their other Park and Ride routes) north from Oxford Parkway railway station through Kidlington and Yarnton, and the response by Stagecoach in Oxfordshire, who for several years have had a monopoly on Woodstock to Oxford bus transport on a lone route via Begbroke and Yarnton, to defend it by launching their own route 7 largely duplicating the extended 500 route, risked disruption. As the cover shows, Oxford Bus Company have chosen to turn their buses around at the Town Hall rather than proceed further north to the quieter and less congested Vermont Drive; this has caused traffic problems, including issues with disabled drivers parking in extremis on yellow lines at times when there is no on-street parking available, as is the case for much of the day. The 7 timetable shadows the 500 closely and the two buses often reach the Marlborough Arms stop at the same time.

Oxford Bus Company Park and Ride 500
 behind Stagecoach in Oxfordshire Gold 7,
outside the Marlborough Arms, Oxford Street, Woodstock,
 pictured by Matthew Kilburn on 6 February 2017
In the case pictured here the 7 was able to park first, but most waiting passengers seemed to want the longer-established route, now numbered S3. So far neither the county council nor the bus operators show signs of sorting this out; at the moment a useful connection to Kidlington and Oxford Parkway, which will surely be busier in spring and summer as tourists find a new public transport route to Blenheim Palace without having to navigate central Oxford, seems endangered by the splitting of a small clientele between two firms. A further advantage is the increased connectivity between Woodstock and Oxford in evenings which will surely help the literary and poetry festivals and other events.

1 comment:

  1. "rather than proceed further north to the quieter and less congested Vermont Drive"

    I live on the corner of Vermont drive and Rosamund Drive and I can tell you now that this route is not a better option for the buses to turn. The buses have caused us lots of distress. They turn outside our house. Leave their vey noisy engines and fans running and beep when reversing. When they sit and wait in the bus stop (sometimes two at a time) they block the road and when leaving the estate it is very dangerous as you cannot see past the buses.