Well - they finally let the public into the redeveloped Haymarket Bus Station in Leicester this weekend. The Open Day they had yesterday was fascinating - they even had a mix of new buses and Heritage buses on the stands.
I must admit there was an added intrigue to the Open Day for me (as well as my escapade at St Margaret's Bus Station today).
If I see anything about Heritage Public Transport in connection with Leicester I immediately think of someone who would definitely not recognise Leicester City Centre as it is now - and who would probably hate the way the Public Transport has become so disjointed.
I was educated about that self-same person yesterday at the "Heritage Bus" stand. To be perfectly honest - I am not sure if I have ever met him but I heard a lot about Lancelot Frank Watkinson from my Grandma. In fact - she was the one who originally told me he had worked for the Transport Department of Leicester Corporation (as it was then). She would have known that - being his niece.
I am not sure if I mentioned this elsewhere on my blog but Lance Watkinson was pictured at the decommissioning of the last tram in Leicester. (After the past couple of days I really think we need to either bring back the trams or create some sort of Underground system.).
The redeveloped Haymarket Bus Station is one of the best bus stations I have ever visited. I must admit that I was worried about the amount of glass in the place but the sun didn't appear to be as much of a problem as I thought it would be.
I will start with the good points about the bus station.
It is definitely more spacious than it looks on the outside although it is nowhere near as big as St Margaret's Bus Station (even though I think it actually has more stands). It is well lit - apart from the toilets.
Most of the signs and electronic displays were easy to read. I wonder if St Margaret's Bus Station could swap their confusing board (theoretically) showing when all the buses are due at which stand for one like the Haymarket Bus Station has now got. The Haymarket one is just one long screen with an unbroken list of buses - whereas the one at St Margaret's Bus Station has got two lists side by side with what appears to be smaller font.
In fact - as far as the electronic signage goes - I only have one complaint. There are three screens at the Haymarket Bus Station (as well as one in the waiting room at St Margaret's Bus Station) which are completely hopeless as far as I am concerned. They have too much information on in a font that I need a magnifying glass to read - even when they are at eye level to me - with unnecessary logos for the different bus companies which serve both Bus Stations.
Ah - yes - both bus stations. Put it this way - we now have one train station and two "proper" bus stations which apparently have nothing to visibly connect them to each other.
What is worse is - the Railway Station is on one side of the City Centre and all the the major "Collection Points" for the buses are on the other side of the City Centre (Humberstone Gate, Belgrave Gate, Haymarket Bus Station, and St Margaret's Bus Station). If you are not a native of Leicester you will not realise there is a bus layby outside the Railway Station for buses heading towards the Bus Stations.
The thing with made me think that Mr Watkinson would hate the disjointedness of the Public Transport system in Leicester was my trip to St Margaret's Bus Station today. More to the point - my trip home from there.
I admit it is only a short walk between the Haymarket Bus Station and St Margaret's Bus Station. However, I think they have missed a trick by not having a dedicated bus directly linking both Bus Stations with the Railway Station. Especially seeing as they moved the outbound bus stops on Charles Street away from the entrance to the Haymarket Bus Station (there is no longer a bus stop outside Wilko's on Charles St for example). I heard a rumour that there should be some way of getting off an inbound 84 (for example) very close to the Haymarket Bus Station to link up with the buses which serve that Bus Station. The buses which call at Haymarket Bus Station terminate there - and the buses which call at St Margaret's Bus Station terminate there (and never the twin shall meet).
However, I have to admit to being shocked at the state of St Margaret's Bus Station. The stands cannot decide if they are supposed to be numbered or lettered. The bus I arrived at St Margaret's Bus Station dropped the passengers off outside the side of the Bus Station - due to the driver apparently being told to do that - whereas other buses were letting passengers off in the bays. If the driver whose bus I travelled to St Margaret's Bus Station was actually correct I predict either a major bus jam - as the buses all try to drop their passengers off at the same stop at the same time - or someone getting seriously injured or killed by a bus.
What is - in a way - worse is that the old layout of Charles Street near Haymarket Bus Station appears to suit that bus station more than the new "accident waiting to happen" layout - especially when you think the buses pulling out of the Haymarket Bus Station will merge with the traffic heading for St Margaret's Bus Station - and some buses may have to cross the traffic. Yes - I know that the Haymarket Bus Station almost empties directly onto a roundabout but - still - I am half-expecting a crash between buses coming out of the Haymarket Bus Station and the ones going past it on their way to either St Margaret's Bus Station or Belgrave Gate.
All in all - the design of the Haymarket Bus Station is very good but the new layout of the road is rather worrying. The lack of any clear connection between the Haymarket Bus Station and St Margaret's Bus Station does not suggest to me that the needs of passengers have really been thought through.
We need a proper - cohesive - public transport strategy for Leicester putting into place which connects all the major hubs where the Public are likely to visit.
We also need some way of arranging the Public Transport so that the public do not have to rely on their cars (for example - a Sunday evening Home Match at the King Power Stadium will finish after the last bus has travelled either into or out of Leicester on the Aylestone Road).
The really annoying thing is knowing there are posters in the Leicester Royal Infirmary encouraging visitors to use Pubic Transport to get there - but no Bus Service to get to or from the Hospital either on a Sunday evening or late at night. As for buses going past the Main Entrance of a hospital - Leicester General and Glenfield Hospital both have bus stops virtually outside the Main Entrance. The Leicester Royal Infirmary doesn't. Not only that but the bus stops heading into the City Centre are the easiest ones to find. If you want a bus stop heading for the Southern side of the county you have to cross over two roads (head for Leicester Prison) to find it.
I am hoping for the Royal Infirmary to have bus stops where the Accident and Emergency entrance is now (when the new Accident and Emergency is open). I very much doubt that will happen somehow.
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