Friday, 9 December 2016

BUG ISSUES "FORMAL COMPLAINT" AGAINST COUNTY COUNCIL

The Northern Dalesman at Ribblehead (c) Northern Echo



For this year's summer season, Lancashire County Council for the first time excluded the popular Dales Bus service 832 from Morecambe to Ingleton (continuing to Hawes and Richmond) (The "Northern Dalesman") from the Concessionary Bus Pass Scheme. In doing so it was following the lead of North Yorkshire County Council, which similarly excluded most - but not all - similar services in its area.

Dales & Bowland CIC, which organises the services, was quick to respond with a cut-price offer for passholders who had previously travelled free of charge, but the Lancaster District Bus Users' Group felt that an issue of principle was at stake and that the two councils appeared to be acting outside the provisions of the relevant legislation.

An Amendment to the regulations in 2009 does allow councils to exclude "services operated primarily for the purposes of tourism" from the bus pass scheme and it is this that the two county councils appear to be relying on to justify their actions. "Tourism" however, is not defined in the amending Order whilst Guidance from the Department for Transport makes it clear that this provision is not intended to exclude ordinary bus services which just happen to serve places of interest to tourists; rather it is aimed at services such as Open-Top City Tours with commentaries and local guides or services operated by vehicles of historic interest.

Lancashire claims to have received legal advice that it is acting within the legislation but has chosen not to share it with the public. A Freedom of Information Request to see the Advice was refused, leaving us with no option but to issue the Formal Complaint.

You can read the text of the complaint via this link.

Apart from being illegal, Lancashire's actions are illogical. It won't pay for local people with bus passes (whom it defines as "tourists") to visit Ingleton or Hawes for a Sunday day out but is happy to pay for them to have a day out in the Lake District or in Blackpool!  It's also happy to pay for them to travel to Ingleton on weekdays - but apparently not on Sundays!

The Council says that Dales Bus services are "outside the spirit of the Act". The Bus Users' Group strongly disputes that but reminds the council that its obligation is to observe the LETTER of the law.

We await the response to our complaint with interest.


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Lancaster Park & Ride to start on Friday - Timetable Revealed

The Bus Users' Group has been told by two separate authoritative sources that Lancaster's long-awaited Park & Ride, from Junction 34 of M6 on Caton Road to the City Centre, will start on Friday, 9th December and a notice to that effect has now appeared on Lancashire's website.

It has to be said that there is very little evidence of this on the ground, but our eagle-eyed observer at the bus station unearthed a clue today, with the appearance of a new "service 1" on the electronic display board.

The hitherto-unknown "service 1" can be seen at the bottom of the left-hand bank of services, with a departure due at 1205.

This is also the first time that "Caton Road Business Park" has appeared as a "destination" on Lancaster's bus network. So much so, that the Bus Users' Group had to "Google" it to find out what - and where - it was!  (Answer here!)

As there are no known plans to introduce any other new bus services in Lancaster at the moment the BUG is forced to the conclusion that "service 1" is in fact Lancaster's new "Park & Ride"that has appeared a little prematurely on the destination board! The feeling that the board is premature was backed up by the lack of any paper timetable information on stand 15 as well as the non-arrival of the supposed 12.05 bus.

It then occurred to us that as the destination display gets its information from the same data source as Traveline and other on-line journey planners that if the Park & Ride is on the bus station display it might be in the Traveline system as well.

So, as the County Council has so far seen fit not to tell anyone about it, the Bus Users Group is pleased to announce that the Park and Ride will operate every 30 minutes from Caton Road, stopping at North Road (Waring & Gillow); George Street, China Street (the stop near Atkinson's that isn't used by any other buses), Lancaster Bus Station and Parliament Street. First bus from Caton Road  is at 06.50 (07.50 on Saturdays) and the last from George Street is at 19.30 (18.30 Saturdays) There is no Sunday service  and the full timetable is here:

For a clearer version of the timetable you can go to Traveline.info and enter "1" in the service number box and "Lancaster" as the locality. (Apologies, but unlike other Traveline regions it doesn't appear possible to link directly to a timetable on Traveline North West).

And having read the timetable, if you do spot a Park & Ride bus, let us know!

Friday, 2 December 2016

"Weeks Not Months" hope for Service 18 Improvement

Service 18 at the Bus Station
Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire service 18 is the only bus service to a large part of east Lancaster. Despite this, since June 2015 it has been reduced to a handful of journeys per day and has been of minimal benefit to local residents. It has continued in this way despite large sums of money being made available to the County Council by housing developers to improve it.  For the full story read here.

But yesterday the Bus Users' Group attended a meeting in County Hall, Preston together with senior County Council officers; County Councillor John Fillis (Cabinet Member for Highways & Transport); County Councillor Gina Dowding (Lancaster Central and a BUG member); County Councillor Lizzie Collinge (Lancaster East); Lancaster City Councillor Tim Hamilton-Cox (also a BUG member) and even Cat Smith MP!

With all the top brass present, the Bus Users' Group was hopeful of a satisfactory outcome and we were not disappointed.  The Council officers initial position was that all the highways works that the developers' money was also provided for would have to be completed and the actual costs established before they would know how much money was available to enhance the bus service.

This was clearly nonsense and the BUG was able to show the Cabinet Member that there was no reason why the two parts of the project could not proceed in tandem, with officers using their available budget estimates to establish the level of bus service that could be afforded.

Councillor Fillis then instructed the officers to set aside a sum of money to allow the timetable enhancement on service 18 to go ahead. The proposal is to run a service every 30 minutes on the existing service 18 route between about 7am and 6pm on Mondays to Saturdays. The sum of money mentioned appears enough - with other money known to be in the pipeline -  to run the new timetable for long enough to establish viablility. When the BUG Chair asked how long it would be before the new timetable was introduced there was no definite commitment, but the officers agreed it could be "weeks not months".

The Council will have to seek tenders from bus operators and will need to get the service registered with the Traffic Commissioners so we won't see anything this side of Christmas  but it does appear that the end of this whole sorry saga is now in sight!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Stagecoach Announces Christmas Services

Funny Christmas background with Santa Clause and deer in busWith still over a month to go, Stagecoach has announced details of its Christmas and New Year bus services. This year there is a better service on Boxing Day, with enhanced Sunday timetables operating on Lancaster services  2A  3A (Lancaster - Heysham)  6A  40  and 55 and a normal Sunday timetable on service 555. There are stil no services on Christmas Day or New Year's Day. At present the details are buried deep in the company's website (under "Regional promos (sic) and offers" so we have extracted them for you here:



Saturday 24th December 2016
We will run a normal Saturday timetable on all services but service 2/2A, 3/3A/4, 6/6A, 40/41 and 55 will finish around 2000.  Last journeys for services finishing early are below
All other services will run their normal Saturday timetable.

Service 2/2A: Lancaster Bus Station - University 19:19, Lancaster Bus Station - Heysham Towers 19:31, Lancaster Bus Station - Morecambe Battery 19:31, Lancaster Bus Station - Torrisholme Square 20:11
Service 3/3A: Lancaster Bus Station - Morcambe 19:05, Morecambe Battery - Lancaster 19:35
Service 6/6A: Lancaster Bus Station - Morecambe Bus Station 19:05, Morecambe Bus Station - Lancaster Bus Station 19:32
Service 40/41: Morecambe Bus Station -Preston 18:10, Lancaster Bus Station - Preston 18:30, Lancaster Bus Station - Galgate 18:30, Preston - Lancaster 19:40
Service 55: Lancaster - Carnforth 20:00, Carnforth - Lancaster 20:23
Service 555: Lancaster - Kendal 19:30, Kendal - Lancaster Bus Station 18:05
Sunday 25th December 2016
No services will run on Christmas Day.

Monday 26th December 2016 - WE'RE RUNNING ON BOXING DAY!
A special Boxing day timetable will run on Service  2A, 3A, 6A, 40 and 55. Service 555 will run a Sunday timetable. No other service will run today. 

Tuesday 27th December 2016
We will run a Sunday timetable on all services. 

Wednesday 28th, Thursday 29th and Friday 30th December 2016
We will run a normal Monday - Friday timetable. 

Saturday 31st December 2016
We will run a normal Saturday timetable on all services but service 2/2A, 3/3A/4, 6/6A, 40/41 and 55 will finish around 2000.  All other services will run their full timetable. Last journeys in Lancaster are the same as Christmas Eve.
Sunday 1st January 2017
No services will run on New Years Day.

Monday 2nd January 2017
We will run a Sunday timetable on all services.

Tuesday 3rd January 2017
All services are back to normal from today.
The Bus Users' Group would like to congratulate Stagecoach for making this information available sufficiently far in advance to allow people to plan their travel over the Christmas period (although perhaps it could be made just a little more prominent on the website?)

Thursday, 17 November 2016

New Hope for Service 18 Improvement?

The Bus Users' Group is pleased to announce that some progress appears to be being made on improving the bus service to east Lancaster after the County Council has sat on available funding for almost five years. Now, with additional section 106 money coming from another development it looks, at last,  as if something might actually happen.  For the full story read on:

Image result for standen park lancaster
Standen Park

Bus service 18 links Lancaster City Centre with Moorlands, Williamson Park, Lancaster Leisure Park, Lancaster Farms Prison and Ridge as well as the Standen Park housing development on the former Moor Hospital site.

In 2012, Lancaster City Council received £500,000 funding from the developers of Standen Park under section 106 of the Town and County Planning Act 1991 to improve the bus service to the development and for improved provision for cyclists and pedestrians.  The objective of such funding is to provide alternatives to car use for residents of the new homes and therefore to mitigate the environmental effect of the development.

At the time, service 18 was subsidised by Lancashire County Council and operated once an hour during daytime on Mondays to Saturdays.  The section 106 money would have allowed the frequency of the service to be at least doubled and for evening and Sunday journeys to be added. However, despite the receipt of the money no action was taken. In 2014, the service operator, Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire decided to run this and other city services on a commercial basis, thereby ending the County Council's involvement.

Unfortunately, service 18 did not prove to be a commercial success for Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire and in June 2015 it was reduced to four journeys a day. Again, despite a request from the Bus Users' Group, the County Council refused to take any action to replace the withdrawn journeys, despite the £500,000 being still available, Instead, it announced that the bulk of the funding would  be spent on an improvement to the junction of Wyresdale Road / Quernmore Road / East Road and Moor Gate, despite this not being the purpose for which the money was provided. This work was undertaken over the summer of 2016 and is now complete although the County has refused to divulge the cost and therefore identify how much money may be left for the bus service.

In the meantime another housing development - the Miller Homes site at Lancaster Leisure Park - has come on stream with additional section 106 money being made available to enhance the number 18.

In order to prevent further delays, the Bus Users' Group informed the County Council's Public Transport Team and asked them to take action internally to secure this new money and apply it for the purpose for which it is intended.

It now appears that County has been speaking to at least one local operator and is "awaiting feedback on options" to improve the service.  This is the first sign that any action is being taken by LCC almost five years after the initial funding became available. Whilst we accept that some time will have to be taken to ensure that the new money is spent wisely we will continue to press the council to bring about an early improvement to the service.

The Bus Users' Group has also been invited to attend a meeting at County Hall in Preston with the Council's Cabinet Member for Highways & Transport and County Councillors to discus the original section 106 funding and, hopefully, to ensure that whatever is left of it is now allocated to its intended purpose.





Sunday, 6 November 2016

BUG Says "Thank You" to Local Councillors

The Bus Users' Group has received a grant of £100 from both County Councillor Gina Dowding (Green Party, Lancaster Central) and County Councillor Lizzie Collinge (Labour Party, Lancaster East) from the Local Members Grants that each Councillor can award to local groups working to benefit local people.  The grants will help to meet the running costs of the Group and enable us to increase our work on behalf of bus passengers throughout the District.

The Bus Users' Group would like to place on record its thanks to Cllrs. Dowding and Collinge.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Large Fall Reported in Lancashire Bus Passengers


The number of passengers using buses in Lancashire fell by 5% in 2015/16 compared to the previous year according to statistics released by the Department of Transport. There were 2.5 million fewer journeys made by bus in the administrative county, which excludes Blackburn and Blackpool as well as those areas administered separately since 1974, with the total falling to 47.6 million per annum.


The drop was significantly greater than in each of the two previous years, when the reduction was around 3% per annum. Since 2009/10 the county has lost a whopping 22% of its bus passengers with only one authority in the North West region reporting a steeper decline.

In the North West as a whole the  reduction was just under 3% for the year and 11% since 2009/10 meaning that Lancashire's loss of passengers is twice the regional average. Only Warrington in the North West has done worse, losing almost 13% passengers in the year and over a third of all passengers since 2009/10

For England as a whole bus passenger journeys have fallen only 2.5%  due to the inclusion of London in the figures, where a huge financial investment in new buses, extra services, modern payment systems such as Oyster and contactless bank cards, as well as the sheer difficulty in using cars in the city, had led to steady growth until 2014/15, although even here the last year has seen a decline.

The Department's report doesn't attempt to explain the figures but the years since 2009/10 (and long before) have seen steady above-inflation increases in bus fares and reductions in services, with rural services being particularly badly affected as councils have sought to reduce or even eliminate funding for non-commercial services.  A further factor has been the falling price of motoring, particularly fuel, which despite very recent increases has been very cheap for the last few years with oil prices falling and government reluctance to increase fuel duty.  None of these, however, would seem to explain why Lancashire has done so much worse than the rest of the region or England as a whole.

As for the future, at least one major operator, Stagecoach, has frozen its fares for the current financial year and has introduced better-value fares for young people, which should encourage extra journeys. However the effect of this could well be overturned by the withdrawal of many bus services no longer paid for by the County Council following  the cuts in April this year.  The decline is therefore likely to continue.

The Department for Transport's report is available via this link  (see table BUS0109 Passenger journeys by local authority area England)