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Coachways vision policy context in South East England

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There is a well developed policy on express coaches in South East England which advocates the development of an integrated express coach network in areas where rail network coverage is poor or nonexistent (GOSE 2009). In particular there are long term plans for a Thames Valley bus and coach network (see Coach scheme aspirations), to provide connections between the smaller settlements in the Thames Valley area that are not already linked by rail lines (e.g. Bracknell to Maidenhead) (South East England Regional Transport Board 2009).



There was no mention of a role for coaches in the first Regional Transport Strategy (GOSE 2001) published by the newly established South East Regional Assembly in 2001. An explicit policy on express coaches first emerged in working towards the interim Regional Transport Strategy released in 2004 (SEERA 2004) (Interim in that it bridged the gap between the 2001 Regional Planning Guidance and the 2009 Regional Spatial Strategy). Indeed, coaches were first noted in policy T13 of the draft Regional Transport Strategy (SEERA 2002 p.16) which expressed that “development and improvement of the public transport network should give priority to...intra-regional scheduled coach services and rail services as links with the transport hubs.”

This developing policy had been strongly influenced by the multi-modal studies undertaken in the area (SEERA 2002, p.38): The Thames Valley Multi-Modal Study (Atkins 2003a) and The London Orbit Study (KBR 2002). Both of which had explicitly recognised a potential role for coach services. The London Orbit study recommended “a network of new [coach] services providing orbital journeys in two rings around London (along the M25 and 15 to 25 kms outside) and along connecting radial motorways and principal roads, including links with rail and underground stations” (KBR 2002 p.29). The establishment of a Strategic Coach Authority was also recommended in order to secure the delivery of a fully integrated coach network (KBR 2002 p.29).

The Thames Valley Multi-Modal Study meanwhile suggested “enhanced public transport services, including new express bus/coach services connecting urban areas” (Atkins 2003a p.1). This work was accompanied by the more detailed Express Bus and Coach Study (Atkins 2003b) which essentially laid the foundation for the now quite well developed idea of a Thames Valley bus and coach network described in the preceding section.

Another notable and relevant change in the approach to planning and appraising the region’s transport network also emerged in working towards the interim Regional Transport Strategy (SEERA 2004) – Rather than simply evaluating the specific road and rail links that exist between major settlements, in order to take a cross-modal view of transport issues, the region’s transport network was described and analysed in terms of the more abstract concepts of hubs (settlements) and spokes (corridors or desire lines) connecting the hubs. This conceptualisation has been retained in all policy thinking up to and including the latest Regional Transport Strategy (GOSE 2009); as has the strong advocacy of express coach networks.

Regional transport policy timeline

Date Development
Mar 2001 A new Regional Transport Strategy is included in the updated Regional Planning Guidance for the South East (RPG9) (GOSE 2001)
Jun 2002 From Crisis to Cutting Edge: Regional Transport Strategy Consultation Draft is published (SEERA 2002)
Nov 2002 London Orbit (multi modal) Study is published (KBR 2002)
Apr 2003 Thames Valley Multi Modal Study is published (Atkins 2003a)
Jul 2004

An amended Regional Transport Strategy (Chapter 9 of Regional Planning Guidance for the South East RPG9) is published (SEERA 2004)

Oct 2007 The Regional Assembly recommend further studies into the development of a network of strategic express bus and coach services (SEERTB 2007)
May 2009 A new Regional Transport Strategy is published in The South East Plan: Regional Spatial Strategy for the South East of England (GOSE 2009)
Apr 2009 Colin Buchanan report the findings of the Thames Valley Strategic Bus and Coach Network Study to the Regional Assembly (South East England Regional Transport Board 2009)
Dec 2009 Buckinghamshire County Council submit Major Scheme programme entry to the DfT for the High Wycombe Coachway (Buckinghamshire County Council 2010)

Recently completed coach schemes

No coach network related schemes have been completed in the recent past.

Coach schemes currently in progress

The rebuilt Milton Keynes Coachway close to junction 14 of the M1 (Milton Keynes), is in the process of being rebuilt. It was original due to open in spring 2010 (Milton Keynes Council 2009) but will now open on 13 December 2010.

Coach scheme proposals

High Wycombe Coachway interchange

Buckinghamshire County Council are bidding for funding from the Department for Transport to construct a new The High Wycombe Coachway interchange along the A404 at High Wycombe, close to junction 4 of the M40. So far, an application for major scheme programme entry has been submitted (Buckinghamshire County Council 2010).

The London Orbital Coach Network

The London Orbit (multi-modal study) said "We consider that a wide range of improvements would be required, including a high quality coach system, new rail lines and services, shared taxi services and park-and-ride sites, to form a comprehensive the hubs). (KBR 2002 p.5) "A coach system, coupled with the suggested rail schemes and shared taxi services, could, in general terms, form a system of ‘hubs’ (major transport interchanges) and ‘spokes’ (the services between the hubs). The hubs would also be served by improved local bus services to aid commuting by public transport".(KBR 2002 p.28) "We consider that the best opportunity for providing improved public transport that would be attractive to M25 users is a considerably enhanced, high quality, orbital coach system which could provide a real alternative for some of the existing trips made by car on the M25...".(KBR 2002 p.29) They recommended a "network of new [coach] services providing orbital journeys in two rings around London (along the M25 and 15 to 25 kms outside) and along connecting radial motorways and principal roads, including links with rail and underground stations” (KBR 2002 p.29). They noted that "important features of the coach system are that it can be implemented, in a phased manner, and can adapt to changing circumstances. Initially, the system can be developed through a series of pilot services to connect key transport hubs. When demand increases, there may be justification in some corridors for upgrading the coach services to light or heavy rail services in the medium or long term. Our demand forecasts indicate that the initial phases of the coach network should be based on key public transport hubs at Gatwick Airport, Heathrow Airport and Watford, concentrating on the inner orbital route and radial operations along the M3, M40, M11 and M23.(KBR 2002 p.30) The programme manager warned that "Widening the M25 has been likened to digging a ditch in a bog – it fills up as fast as you dig”.

Strategic Coach Authority

The London Orbit (multi-modal study) report said "we do not believe that the development of such a coach system should be left to the private sector. We consider that it should be very actively promoted by Government and that, for this purpose, a Strategic Coach Authority could be established".(KBR 2002 p.29)

The Thames Valley Bus and Coach Network

The South East Regional Assembly commissioned a study to investigate the feasibility of a coach network in the Thames Valley (South East England Regional Transport Board 2009). Nine potential coach links were identified (see diagram). Of these, the following four routes were identified as having the most potential in the short term:

  • Newbury to Basingstoke;
  • Bracknell to Windsor to Slough;
  • Maidenhead to Slough to Heathrow; and
  • Slough to High Wycombe.

The Slough to High Wycombe corridor has been earmarked as the strongest candidate for delivery. However, the report identifies that a new source of revenue support is required to deliver the full proposals.


London Orbital Express Bus Network

The incumbent London Mayor, Boris Johnson, proposed in his manifesto to “commission a trial of orbital express bus routes for outer London” (The London Assembly 2009). The trial to date has included a doubling in frequency of the X26 bus route to 2 buses an hour between Croydon and Heathrow (Transport for London 2008).

See also


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