|Service 2 via Bowerham is now worked by single-deckers|
It is true to say that the introduction of Stagecoach's new Lancaster network on 8th October did not go entirely smoothly. Due to the delay in the re-opening of Greyhound Bridge the introduction date co-incided with the first day of the new term at the University, meaning that drivers and regular passengers alike had no time to get to grips with the new service pattern before thousands of new students descended upon the city.
Things weren't helped by errors in the programming of Stagecoach's new electronic ticket machines which led to some passengers being overcharged and even drivers being unable to issue tickets for some journeys!
The new services hit trouble straight away (read again here) leaving many passengers - students and others - very unhappy by being unable to board buses that were already full and making them late for work and lectures.
But how are things one month on?
The Bus Users' Group has been working with staff at the University to monitor the situation, particularly between 0800 and 0900 each morning when demand for buses to the University is very high. In this respect at least, things seem to be getting better. For example, a check on Greaves Road on the morning of the 9th October saw a total of 11 buses pass Belle Vue Terrace between 0815 and 0905 but no fewer than nine of these were full and unable to pick up passengers including every bus between 0824 and 0854! Some passengers who had arrived at the stop before 0815 were still waiting fifty minutes later, although others had given up and walked. One scheduled bus did not appear at all.
On following day, six of the buses were full and a seventh which did pick up at Belle Vue Terrace and Lily Grove was full on departure with no room for anyone at subsequent stops.
|Service 1 heading back to the city on Greaves Road|
When the check was repeated on 7th November only 4 full buses were observed and any passengers unable to board were soon picked up by the next bus. Of course, the passenger loadings on Greaves Road depend to a certain extent to those on Bowerham Road as passengers in the city centre will board whichever bus comes along first, but the Bowerham situation also seems to have got better.
So what has changed? On October 9th of the 11 buses, 8 were double deckers and 3 singles a total of approximately 705 seats plus standing. On October 10th, when the survey covered a slightly longer period, the 13 buses seen consisted of nine double-deckers and four singles and about 815 seats
The 7th November check saw 15 buses - twelve of which were doubles and only 3 singles giving a total of over 1,000 seats - a huge improvement.
|Two service 1's to the University: That on the right is a scheduled duplicate.|
Stagecoach was known to have been scouring the country for additional double-deck buses as the only ones available locally were at Kendal depot and were open-toppers used in the Lakes on summer services. These were not considered suitable for winter use in Lancaster! At least one very nice new double-decker has been seen sporting Hull "Simplibus" branding and this is understood to be on loan from the local Stagecoach company in that city.
Heavy loadings are not confined to the peak however and duplicate buses continue to be required on service 1 throughout the day with demand concentrated on buses due to arrive at the University shortly before the hour, which is when many lectures begin.
The Group is continuing to monitor the situation and will press Stagecoach to make improvements, especially to timekeeping as many buses run very late and thus open up gaps in what should be a regular service.
Away from Lancaster, Morecambe residents have been having problems with the new service 2 and especially those buses that continue to Heysham as a 2X. These services replace the old 3 and 4, which ran from Lancaster via Bare and the promenade to Morecambe (3) and Heysham (4). The use of separate numbers was required by the differing routes between Lancaster and Bare but it also made it easy for passengers on the promenade to distinguish between those buses going through to Heysham and those going only as far as Morecambe bus station.
Now that these buses all follow the same route from Lancaster they all show service 2 "Morecambe" as a destination with those going further adding (in smaller type) "then 2X to Heysham". Unfortunately this isn't as easy for waiting passengers to read as a different number would be and some confusion is being caused especially in the case of late running buses appearing away from their scheduled times. Lancashire's road side timetable displays don't help either as they don't distinguish between the two destinations very clearly. The BUG feels these could be improved and that Stagecoach should take action to identify the two destinations more clearly, perhaps by the use of separate numbers.
|Service 1 at Heysham Towers. This one's going via Heysham Road.|
We are also aware that some passengers are being inconvenienced by the fact that these buses no longer call at Combermere Road and have asked Stagecoach to look again at this.
Also in Morecambe, the withdrawal of service 4 left the lower section of Bare Lane without any Stagecoach service at all. Of the three stops left unserved by the company two still have a service by way of Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire's "Bare Circular" service 33 operated under contract to the County Council. The third stop, on Hall Drive, is missed by the 33 but only by a few metres as it joins Bare Lane from Lonsdale Road just north of the stop. Following a request from the Group, Lancashire County Council has now agreed to place a stop on a trial basis on Lonsdale Road so that passengers previously using the 4 from Hall Drive will know where they can catch the 33.
|Service 6 / 6A has been improved with two 6A's an hour through to Lancaster from Morecambe via Westgate.|
In all of this, we shouldn't overlook the improvements that Stagecoach has made to local services. The revamped 6A, with double the number of buses previously running between Lancaster and Morecambe via Westgate seems to be doing well and passenger numbers are beginning to build on the 1 at Mossgate Park, despite the hostility to the very idea of a bus service on the part of a small number of residents there.
The Group will continue to monitor the network, so if there are any other problems that need looking at, please let us know.