Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Shock Change to Bus Service Registration Procedure

The application form available today on the DaFT website (note the date at the top)
The Department for Transport's official abbreviation is DfT, but sometimes (quite a lot of the time actually) it appears to live up to its unofficial acronym DaFT!

One such example has just come to light with a significant change to the procedure that bus operators must follow to notify changes to their services being introduced with no notice whatsoever, not even to the government body responsible for processing applications!

Bus industy publication Bus and Coach Buyer reported:
Concern has been raised over the lack of communication between the government and the PCV industry over changes made to bus service regulations.
The Public Service Vehicles (Registration of Local Services) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 came into force on 24 April and apply only to England. A key change is to the notice period to start or vary a bus service, which has been reduced from 56 to 42 days. It calls for every authority through whose area the service passes to be sent a form to confirm that they have been pre-notified.
The OTC will start the 42-day period when it receives an application with the relevant local authorities’ confirmations attached. If a council does not respond within 28 days, the operator can submit the registration anyway. The regulation change also means that when a service is reduced or cancelled, the authority can require information on the number of passenger journeys, details of the types of passenger, the journeys they make and the fares they pay.
The government’s intention to make the changes were announced while discussing secondary legislation under the Bus Services Act.

Stone King: ‘operators caught out’

Andrew Banks, partner at Bus & Coach Buyer’s legal experts, Stone King LLP, said: “The key change in the regulations is that although the notice period to start or vary a bus service has been reduced from 56 to 42 days the OTC will only start the 42-day time period when an application is received from the operator together with confirmations from local authorities who have bus stops on the route that they have been pre-notified of the change. The local authorities effectively have 28 days to confirm as if they fail to respond after that time the operator can submit the registration in any event. The impact on operators will be to introduce what may amount to an additional 14 days before a variation can be introduced.
“If a local authority does not respond or uses the full notice period it could be effectively 70 days before a variation completes the notice period. The current requirements can be cumbersome enough for operators but this potentially makes planning ahead more vital and further reduces flexibility in an operator’s practice. It is a pity there was no consultation on this change as operators were caught cold regarding the change. In terms of planning operators will probably need to be pessimistic and consider a 70-day lead in time to be the norm rather than the 56 days that provided some certainty before.
“Whether at this late stage it is worth making representations to the DfT is a moot point but the regulation is here to stay, at least for now.”
CPT’s Chief Executive, Simon Posner, said: “It is very disappointing that such a fundamental change to the bus service registration process has been made without warning. This has caused huge concern for operators seeking to register services, and has allowed no time for the industry or local authorities to adapt their processes.
CPT has raised this with DfT officials who have confirmed that guidance and advice to operators and local authorities is being prepared as a matter of urgency. DfT has also agreed to consider whether a period of grace could be offered in respect of registration applications made after the immediate introduction of the new arrangements.”
Public Service Vehicles (Registration of Local Services) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 can be seen in full here: https://goo.gl/z3rLMh
BUG Chair, Jim Davies commented:
"Although the bus industry is often described as "deregulated", in practice it is subject to a number of restrictions on the way it operates, not all of which act in the interest of passengers. Previously, operators had to give 56-days notice to the Traffic Commissioners and local authorities of their intention to start, end or alter bus services.  Part of the reason for this was to allow local councils to evaluate the changes and to decide, in the case of a service reduction or withdrawal, whether to organise a replacement service. However, with more and more councils, including Cumbria and Lancashire, deciding not to replace withdrawn buses as a matter of policy this has become less and less relevant. But the notice period applies equally to operators wishing to make improvements to timetables or introduce new services. In these cases the notice period was designed to protect other bus companies who may be running similar services and to allow them time to respond, but the reality these days is that such instances of on-road competition are few and far between. The main effect of the notice period is therefore to delay the introduction of improvements unnecessarily. That 56 days has now been extended potentially to 70 days and operators will in effect have to make two separate applications - one to the traffic commissioner and one to the council. It also introduces a degree of uncertainty as to when a proposed change will be approved, depending as it now will on the speed of response of the local authority.
Irrrespective of the merits of the revised procedure it is almost beyond belief that a responsible government department could make such a significant change to procedure WITHOUT TELLING ANYONE AT ALL!

Monday, 30 April 2018

Next Stop Please! (Whatever it's called)

The Bus Users' Group has long held the view that one of the biggest barriers to people using buses for the first time - or to go somewhere they haven't been before by bus - is uncertainty and the fear of waiting in the wrong place at the wrong time for the wrong bus.

The best way of overcoming this is to ensure that information - on where stops are, when buses run  and which bus goes where - is presented logically, clearly and consistently.  Consistency is important because research has shown that a prospective passenger will often make several enquiries, using different sources, before committing themselves to an unfamiliar journey. Unfortunately some bus operators - and other information providers -  don't help here, especially when it comes to telling people where to wait.

Once public transport information started to become available online the need to identify the name and location of bus stops became apparent. The location of every stop in Britain is now contained in a database, together with a unique identity code and an official stop name. This data is made available to online map providers, such as Google Maps and is a great help to passengers needing to find out exactly where their buses go from (and arrive at).

Here are some screenshots from Google Maps showing the stop at Carlisle Bridge on the Lancaster to Morecambe road.
Bus stop locations clearly shown
Clicking on the stop symbol brings up information
(note the stop name and ID code)

A third click gives you the times.



For this system to work to maximum potential the bus stop names need to be shown consistently across all sources of information.  A potential passenger that has discovered via Google Maps or Traveline that he needs to catch a bus at, say, "Carlisle Bridge" would be disconcerted if he or she then discovered that the stop had been given a different name on the "bus stop" sign or in the timetable leaflet they had also consulted.  This can happen. One of the Bus Users' Group's first projects was to get Lancashire County Council and Stagecoach to agree on common stop names for a lengthy section of Greaves Road in Lancaster where some stops had one name on the map, another one on the sign and sometimes a third on the shelter or the timetable display!

For reasons best known to themselves, bus companies have been slow to adopt the official names in many cases.  Perhaps it's a case of "not invented here" as stops are named by the county council, which controls the database. As we shall see, in some cases the official names appear to have been arrived at without the benefit of local knowledge and therefore don't match the names used by passengers (who ought to know best!).

But the BUG was pleased to see that in the latest (22 April 2018) Stagecoach timetable leaflet for services 6/6A (Lancaster - Westgate - Morecambe) a number of timing points have been renamed and now follow the official designations in the national database.
Compare  the previous (29th January)  timetable. . . .


. . . with the latest version:

Ignore, for the moment, the use of "Lancaster, City Centre Bus Station". This description, with varying punctuation ("Lancaster City Centre,  Bus Station" at times) replaced the former "Lancaster, Bus Station" on most, but not all, timetables in the January editions. The BUG doesn't think this is a good idea. It's not the official name, it suggests that Lancaster might have more than one bus station, which is not the case and whatever its other merits the station itself is not particularly "central" to the shopping area.

On a more positive note, "Westgate, Gringley Road" has become "Westgate, Hawkshead Drive", which is its official name. There is more than one stop on Gringley Road so the new designation makes it clearer where the timing point actually is.  Similarly, "Westgate, Bartholomew Road" has replaced "Westgate, Hampsfell Drive/Altham". Again the name now matches that shown on the map, whilst "Morecambe, Morrisons" is now "Morecambe, Festival Market" which not only matches the name shown on the map but actually makes it clear which side of the dual-carriageway Central Drive is being referred to.

But this policy, whilst welcome, is not without its pitfalls.  Take the stop at "Asda, Lancaster". This stop also serves the nearby Salt Ayre Leisure Centre and prior to January was described in timetables as "Asda / Salt Ayre Leisure Centre". The use of the official name (with "Lancaster" added) unfortunately means that there is now no reference to the Leisure Centre in the timetable at all.  Similarly, there is now no reference to Hampsfell Drive in the timetable, despite this being shown as the destination on the front of service 6 buses. (Perhaps a simple "Westgate" would be better?)
There is another problem with "Asda" in that the two stops on Northgate, on the opposite side of Ovangle Road, also served by the 6A, are also officially designated "Asda" thus creating confusion as to where the timing point actually is.  The solution here is for the county council to redesignate the stop outside Asda as "Asda / Salt Ayre Leisure Centre" and to rename those on Northgate, perhaps after the large AXA Insurance building that is adjacent?  

In the new 6A timetable "Westgate, Altham Road" has been replaced with "Westgate, William Mitchell", which is a local pub. As well as matching the national database, the pub is a much better landmark for intending passengers. But here again there are problems:


The timing point "William Mitchell"for buses heading towards Morecambe is the stop immediately to the left of the pub shown on the map. However, the two stops either side of the "Payphone" symbol on Westgate itself are also designated "William Mitchell" thus introducing an element of confusion into where to wait. Despite being nearer to the pub than either of the stops on Westgate, the stop on Altham Road for buses coming from Morecambe (shown above opposite Holmside Avenue) is named simply "Altham Road".  Stagecoach, quite sensibly, uses "William Mitchell" for both directions.

Another issue with stop names is keeping them up to date.  This can be tricky: passengers will sometimes insist on using old names for stops long after the feature they were named after has disappeared. But sometimes a new landmark is so obvious that it passes quickly into informal use and displaces the old, official name.  There is an example on the 6/6A on Morecambe promenade:

The bus stop outside Aldi on Marine Road West, is a timing point on service 6 to Westgate and 6A to Lancaster and on previous timetables was shown, unsurprisingly, as "Morecambe, Aldi". However, its official name on the national database is "Morecambe, Empire Shopping" (the stop across the road used by buses in the opposite direction is "Empire Shops"!) and Stagecoach's leaflet has been changed to come into line.  But here is a classic case of official names not keeping pace with reality. The "Empire Shopping Arcade" was the building behind Aldi, back towards the Midland Hotel. "Was" because it is no more, having been demolished to make way for a bigger Aldi store currently under construction!
The developer's impression of the new Aldi on the site of Empire Shopping Parade

Presumably the present Aldi shop will close when the new one opens. The "Empire Shopping Arcade" is already no more and soon the Aldi that gave its name to the bus stop will disappear. At the very least Stagecoach seems to have chosen an unfortunate time to re-name the stop!

But despite the difficulties, the Bus Users' Group feels that Stagecoach's approach is the right one. We will be taking up the issue of the out-of-date or inappropriate stop names with the county council and hope that Stagecoach, and other bus companies, will continue to move towards ensuring the stop names in their timetables (and on their tickets) match those that appear in the national database.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Stagecoach Re-Jigs Greyhound Bridge Timetables

Skerton Bridge has had two-way traffic since January
Stagecoach has confirmed what has been apparent to bus passengers for some time: the traffic congestion following the closure of Greyhound Bridge - and the diversion of west and northbound traffic over Skerton Bridge - has not been as bad as everyone expected.

Acting on the advice of Lancashire County Council Stagecoach added extra running time to most of its Lancaster services from 29th January and drafted in additional vehicles and drivers to maintain frequencies. Cross-river services were split at the bus station to prevent delays at Skerton Bridge affecting reliability in the south of the city. No help was forthcoming from the county council for the extra costs involved despite  requests from the company and the Bus Users' Group.

The extra running time combined with the relative lack of congestion led to two
Hopefully the new arrangements will
see an end to scenes like this.
unfortunate side effects. Outbound buses, if they left the bus station on time, were arriving early at their first timing points and having to wait, sometimes for considerable periods, until they could proceed.  Meanwhile inbound buses, despite having left their previous timing points on time were getting back to the bus station early, which lead to the departure stands becoming clogged with buses that shouldn't have been there and, when all stands were full, queues of buses waiting to enter the station.  The extra buses in the station meant that departing
Stagecoach has had extra staff on duty to help.
buses couldn't always leave from their allocated stands causing passengers to miss their buses on occasion despite the best efforts of drivers and inspectors to alert them. Your writer had a number of near misses himself!


But Stagecoach management has been well aware of the situation and has now announced that from 22nd April new timetables will be introduced to put things right. Most of the additional running time allocated to services that cross the river has been removed meaning that not all the extra vehicles are required and the congestion in the bus station should be reduced.  The changes appear to have been brought in at short notice, with the usual 56-day notice period being waived by the Traffic Commissioner.

On service 2/2A (University - City - Heysham) buses on the City to Heysham leg were given an extra 10 minutes to complete their journeys in January. This has now been reduced to just 2 additional minutes in most cases. On Monday to Saturday evenings (but not Sundays) the through service between the University and Heysham is restored, although this is shown only on the "U2" timetable with that for the 2/2A continuing to show buses as terminating in Lancaster!  The 20-minute headway between Heysham and the University at night is also restored and late journeys from Lancaster now all run through to Heysham Towers up to and including the 0038 from Lancaster (0010 from the University).
The new timetables are:
2  City - Heysham
U2 City - University*
* Details of the through evening service between University and Heysham are shown only on the U2 timetable.

Service 2X (Lancaster - Heysham By-Pass - Heysham - Battery) has had a seven minute reduction in running time on journeys towards Heysham and a 6 minute cut for buses towards Lancaster.
New Times:
2X Lancaster - Heysham - Battery

Service 3/3A (University - City - Heysham): Buses from Lancaster towards Morecambe and Heysham were given an additional 8 minutes in January, an allowance that has now been cut to 3 extra minutes over the normal times.
On the City to University section (numbered U3, or U3R for buses via the railway station) the timetable has been re-issued to make it clear that there is a service from the station through to the University as well as in the opposite direction, something the previous version failed to do.
For the first time, the two short workings towards the University that start at Greaves, Belle Vue Terrace are now shown in the timetable ("Belle Bue Terrace" is a typo!)

Only the journeys which start there at 0830 and 0841 are shown as calling at Belle Vue Terrace, although as the stop is, of course, served by all buses on the U3 / U3R as well as every other bus on Scotforth Road!  If you are not sure where this stop is, it's the stop called "Greaves Hotel" (named after a now-demolished pub) on your ticket if you travel to or from there!  
There continue to be separate timetables for "University Term Times" and "University Holidays" on these services although there is no indication anywhere as to when these term times and holidays are! (A fault that also applies to the U2 and U4 timetables).
New times:
3/3A Lancaster - Morecambe - Heysham
U3 / U3R  Lancaster - University

Service 4 (University - City - Higher Heysham) buses have also lost 5 of the extra 8 minutes running time between the City Centre and Torrisholme that they were given in January.
New times:
4  Lancaster - Heysham

Service 6 (Morecambe - Westgate) and  6A (Lancaster - Westgate  - Morecambe).  In January, 6A buses got an extra 13 minutes to cross the river, more than any other service. This has now been reduced to 7 minutes and a further 3 minutes has been saved on the next stage to Asda. The through journey time is now 42 minutes as opposed to 51 in January and 38 before the bridge closure. Buses will leave Lancaster at 15 minutes past the hour and return from Morecambe Bus Station at the same times.  Because the 6A interworks with the 6 (Morecambe - Westgate ) and forms part of a standard 15-minute frequency between Westgate and Morecambe the times of the 6A have also changed.
New times
6 / 6A  Lancaster - Westgate - Morecambe

Service 7 (Lancaster - Vale).  Buses to and from Vale have had 5 minutes cut from the round-trip time, which means that they now have 10 extra minutes per round-trip than they did before the bridge closure.
New times:
7 Lancaster - Vale

There are no changes to city services 10 (Ridge), 11 (Marsh) or 18 (Williamson Park). Inter-urban services 40/41 (Lancaster - Preston) and 42 (Lancaster - Morecambe) have only minor changes, mainly the reintroduction of some early morning and late evening through journeys from or to Morecambe).   On services 80 (Ingleton) and 81 (Kirkby Lonsdale) just 2 minutes has been cut from off-peak journey times and 5 minutes at peak times although there are more significant changes to the 0655 from Ingleton, which will arrive Lancaster at 0803 rather than 0820 and the 0710 from Kirkby Lonsdale, which will reach the city 17 minutes earlier at 0822.
New times:
40/41 (Morecambe - Lancaster - Preston)
42 (Lancaster - Blackpool)
80 (Lancaster - Ingleton)
81 (Lancaster - Kirkby Lonsdale)

Not mentioned in the Stagecoach Service Update, there are also changes to the following services.
49 Lancaster - Halton - Carnforth - Warton: Buses from Warton / Halton to Lancaster will arrive at Lancaster Bus Station 5 minutes earlier than previously. Times at other stops are unchanged and buses from Lancaster to Halton and Warton are not affected.

55 Lancaster - Hest Bank - Carnforth: Buses leaving Lancaster between 1550 and 1730 have had 2 minutes cut from the running time to Beaumont Bridge. Curiously, the 1610 Lancaster to Carnforth runs 2 minutes earlier between Beaumont Bridge and Hest Bank but the arrival times at Carnforth and Over Kellet differ depending on whether one looks at the 49/55 timetable page (Carnforth 1647, Over Kellet 1704) or the joint 55/555 pages (Carnforth 1652, Windermere Road 1704). Either Stagecoach has mastered the art of having buses in two places at once or the timetables were done in a bit of a hurry! (The BUG is loathe to criticise however and realises that timetable compilation and publication is a much bigger job than it might seem to the outsider!)

Journeys into Lancaster on the 55 have had reductions in running time of 2 to 3 minutes in the morning peak and late evenings (except the 0725 from Carnforth which continues to arrive at 0757) whilst off-peak journey times are reduced by up to 12 minutes.
New times: (and thanks to blog reader Peter Brown for finding them)
49 Lancaster - Warton
55 Lancaster - Carnforth

The Bus Users' Group hopes that these changes will alleviate the problems experienced by passengers due to buses having to stop and wait for time during their journeys and also that most buses will now be able to use their correct stands in the bus station.  We will be keeping an eye on things and letting Stagecoach now what we find.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Change of Stop in Blackpool for service 42

If you're planning on a trip to Blackpool in the next few weeks please note this announcement from Stagecoach

The latest phase of works on Talbot Road, affecting Clifton Street and Corporation Street run from Tuesday 3rd April and will last for approximately five weeks. During this time service 42 to Lancaster will start from the stop on Talbot Road outside Wilko's instead of  its usual stop on Abingdon Street. Buses arriving in Blackpool from Lancaster will set down passengers opposite Wilko's. (We've amended the wording slightly to make it clearer).
If you want to learn more about these works please visit www.blackpool.gov.uk/BetterBlackpool
Stagecoach would like to apologise for any disruption caused to your journey during these works.
This map, from Blackpool Transport's website, hasn't been updated to show the new arrangements but does show the usual stop in Abingdon Street (at bottom of map) and the temporary stop on Talbot Road between the two roundabouts (numbers 2 2c 5 6 7 9 14 18 19 - to which should now be added 42 for journeys to Lancaster).

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Don't Forget Dales Bus this Easter.


Here is a press release from Dales Bus concerning their "Malham Tarn Shuttle 881" service.


EXTENDED DALES BUS SERVICE LINKS LANCASTER & MORECAMBE WITH THE YORKSHIRE DALES NATIONAL PARKS.

The popular Dales Bus service 881 from Morecambe, Lancaster and Kirkby Lonsdale has been extended to operate from Easter weekend to provide a direct link for walkers and sightseers to Malham, one of the most iconic visitor destinations in any UK National Park.

Malham Tarn: Visit it on service 881.
The Malham Tarn Shuttle 881 will operate every Sunday and Bank Holiday from April 1st until 21st October.  It will pick up from Morecambe Bus Station at 0825, Lancaster Bus Station at 0850 and Kirkby Lonsdale (Market Square) at 0930 for Ingleton, Clapham (for access to Ingleborough), Austwick and Settle before crossing over some of the most spectacular limestone countryside in England, past Malham Tarn National Nature Reserve before descending to the village of Malham and terminating at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Centre.

Malham is a paradise for walkers. There are beautiful and spectacular walks – to Malham Cove, Janet’s Foss and Gordale, or for keen walkers along the Pennine Way to Malham Tarn or the Pennine Bridleway back to Settle.

To keep prices as low as possible to encourage everyone to get out into the National Park for their health and wellbeing, Dales Bus offer a range of good-value day tickets purchasable from the bus driver. A Western Dales Explorer Ticket covers a day’s travel on Dales Bus from Morecambe or Lancaster as far as Malham for just £9 (adult), or £15 for a family ticket for up to 2 adults and 3 children. A £7.50 Dales Privilege Rover Ticket is available for anyone with a senior or disabled bus pass, railcard or student ID. 

The Northern Dalesman services from Lancaster to Wensleydale and Swaledale and the Bowland Explorer bus service will both commence at Spring Bank Holiday weekend on May 27th following new rail timetable changes.

Full details of all Dales Bus services for 2018 are now on the Dales Bus web site – www.dalesbus.org.   

Friday, 16 March 2018

Thirty Years Later

The new picture on our masthead celebrates the introduction of Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire's new service 582 between Lancaster and Kirkby Lonsdale, introduced on 5th March.

Lancaster to Skipton by bus in 2018
Buses on this service continue through to Settle and Skipton as services 581/580 and restore the link between Lancaster and Skipton. Buses were first operated between the two towns by Pennine Motor Services of Gargrave in 1926 and from 1931 the service was jointly-operated with Ribble Motor Services of Preston (which eventually became part of the Stagecoach empire).

How things were in 1981: A Pennine bus at Settle bound for Ingleton, where it would connect with a Lancaster service

1981 Again: This bus is at Clapham, heading for Skipton from Lancaster.  Service 582 now provides this link.
The joint service was numbered 580 in the Ribble series and had co-ordinated timetables and common fares with inter-available tickets.  By the 1980s only Pennine buses completed the whole route, with four through journeys per day. At other times, Ribble buses ran from Lancaster to Ingleton and connected with Pennine buses on to Skipton to give an hourly link. This arrangement lasted until 1986 when the government decided that such co-operation was bad for passengers and what was really needed was competition.  Unfortunately, the decline in the use of rural bus services  meant that there was no room for two competing companies on the route and the operation was soon split into two halves, with Ribble operating between Lancaster and Ingleton and Pennine running between Ingleton and Skipton, with all the benefits of a through service being lost.

Pennine Motor Services ceased to trade in 2014, although by then it had retreated from Ingleton to Settle, and after a short period when replacement services between Settle and Skipton were provided by North Yorkshire County Council using its own 16-seater minibuses, Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire, which was by then operating between Kirkby Lonsdale and Settle, extended its service to Skipton, marketing it as "The Craven Connection"

The Ingleton to Lancaster section continued to be operated by Stagecoach, the successors to Ribble Motor Services, as its service 80 and continues to follow the original joint route via Bentham. The Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire services link Lancaster and Skipton in a slightly different way, taking passengers through Kirkby Lonsdale rather than Bentham, but the reintroduction of through buses is very welcome and restores the historic connection.

If you fancy a ride on the new service you will find a link to the timetable here.





Monday, 26 February 2018

Easter Start for Dales Bus This Year

See Malham Tarn with Dales Bus
Fans of the Dales Bus services that link Lancaster and Morecambe to the Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland will be pleased to learn that one of their favourite services - the "Malham Tarn Shuttle" - will have an extended season in 2018 starting at Easter and continuing through until 21st October.

Service 881, which will be operated by Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire, runs on Sundays and Bank Holidays linking Morecambe, Lancaster and the Lune Valley with Ingleton, Settle, Malham and Malham Tarn.  The bus leaves Morecambe at 0825, Lancaster Bus Station at 0850 and Kirkby Lonsdale at 0930 and arrives in Settle at 1020, Malham Tarn at 1038 and Malham village at 1050.

The timetable allows either a full day at Malham, with the return bus leaving at 1605 or there are earlier buses at 1125 and 1330 to Settle and Ingleton allowing passengers to spend some time in one or both towns before returning to Lancaster for 1805 and Morecambe at 1825.

A full timetable can be found via this link

Unfortunately, concessionary bus passes cannot be used for free travel on the Malham Tarn Shuttle because Lancashire and North Yorkshire County Councils say that it should only be used by "tourists" rather than local people (who actually make up the bulk of the ridership), but good-value discounted tickets are available to all bus pass holders.

Lancaster's other Dales Bus services, the 830 Northern Dalesman to Ribblehead, Wensleydale and Swaledale and the 833 to Ingleton, Gisburn Forest, Slaidburn and Clitheroe will re-start on 20th May and full timetable details will be posted here as soon as they are available.

The Bus Users' Group wishes to offer its congratulations to the Dales & Bowland CIC, which organises the services, for once-again securing the funding for the network in what are still very challenging times for public services and we will be encouraging our members to make full use of the services over the coming summer.