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Northampton, UK

The abysmal state of buses in rural Northamptonshire

The abysmal state of buses in rural Northamptonshire

During last December and January, I lived in southern Northamptonshire on a canal boat, specifically in the villages of Cosgrove, Yardley Gobion and Stoke Bruerne.

Being on a canal boat moving from place to place, we can’t run a car so all transport is either on foot, by bike or using public transport. However, southern Northamptonshire has no train stations beyond Northampton itself and an abysmal bus service.

All 3 villages we stayed in have buses but they only come 2 times a day. You could just about get the bus in to town in the morning, do some shopping for say 2 or 3 hours and then there was just the one bus to get back home. This was always impractical for us. It didn’t allow you to just nip in for 30 minutes of shopping or spend the whole day in town, you had to spend that allotted 2-3 hours or drive (or cycle). Even if the bus would run hourly, you would have so much more flexibility within your daily plans.

The only bus I ever caught while living up there was the express bus to Milton Keynes which started in Northampton and ran roughly once an hour. At the time, we were moored a 3 minute walk from the main road it ran along, within a 10 minute walk of Stoke Bruerne village. 

However, it never stopped there to serve the village, it would just drive straight past. As a result, I had to walk 30 mins down the canal to the next village, the much smaller village of Grafton Regis, to pick it up. From here, it went non stop to Milton Keynes which was convenient for me but not if you’re going to Wolverton (where there is also a train station and connections to the far more frequent buses in North West Milton Keynes and across the city) or any of the villages between Milton Keynes and Northampton. That’s what the bus should be for, connecting the villages and small neighbourhoods to the towns and cities and then the train takes you between the towns and cities and to the bigger cities.

The awful public transport provisions also extend to trains. There are only 6 train stations in Northamptonshire and no local stations between Wolverton and Northampton. The rail line goes through 4 small villages each with very little or no bus service. Two, Castlethorpe and Roade, used to have stations and should have them reopened for local trains. These would be very easy to run once HS2 has been built as there will be more capacity on the West Coast Main Line.

If there only being 6 stations in the county wasn’t bad enough, they don’t connect to each other as they are scattered across 3 parallel lines which only really serve to take you to London or elsewhere into the Midlands. There have been proposals to reopen lines connecting the three remaining lines (West Coast Main Line, Chiltern Main Line and Midland Main Line) in the county but very little has got off the ground.

I think that this is a downstream reality of the fact that both the buses and rail provisions being awful feed into neither having any appetite to improve and a population resolute to forever relying on cars. Maybe for the buses to improve, investment has to be put in upgrading the trains first. With railways being bigger and so more visible infrastructure, it may be the catalyst for the people of West Northamptonshire to campaign for better buses too.

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