Thursday, 7 September 2017

Not Much for Lancaster in County's Christmas Stocking!

Service 81 at Kirkby Lonsdale. Will buses soon
return to both sides of the Lune Valley?
Lancashire County Council's cabinet will shortly consider proposals on how to spend the additional £1M the new administration has allocated to funding bus services with the improvements to take effect just before Christmas.

Given that the previous council cut approximately £5M from the bus budget it was always obvious that not all the services withdrawn in April 2016 would be replaced and indeed the money has been thinly spread throughout the county.

Despite significant improvements to services in Ribble Valley, Pendle, Fylde and West Lancs there's not much cheer for Lancaster's bus passengers with only one service set for improvement.

When the consultation on the funding was announced the Bus Users' Group put forward suggestions that would have restored a service to Crag Bank in Carnforth and those parts of Bolton-le-Sands that no longer have a bus. We also asked for more buses for Warton and Silverdale as well as the restoration of evening and Sunday buses in Lancaster, all of which we felt met the priorities that the Council had set itself. The Cabinet Report, to be considered on 14th September, however includes none of the above improvements. Indeed, the only part of Lancaster District to benefit will be the Lune Valley, where it does at least appear that the BUG's requests are being considered. The Report includes an action "to work with (bus) operators to develop a sustainable daytime service for the villages of Gressingham, Arkholme and Whittington as well as the Lune Valley as a whole".

As these villages were left without any usable buses by the April 2016 cuts and have since gained only a token service provided by Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire buses en-route to and from another service this is, to say the least, overdue.  The full report makes reference to the county council working with "operators and stakeholders" to develop proposals and the BUG has already asked for an input into the work of designing the new service.

The proposed introduction date for any new service is 10th December, which means that timetables will have to be agreed and ready by mid-October at the latest. As ever, we will post details on this site as soon as we get them.


Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Curious Case of the 2 and 2A

A service 2 bus on its way to the University
Designing a bus timetable is rather more complicated than the average passenger might think. As well as the obvious things to be taken into account such as the length of the route and the speed of the bus, consideration must be given to the number of stops and the type of road used; a given distance will take longer on a busy, urban road or housing estate than on a fast, rural main road.

Thought must also be given to economy of operation. The quicker the buses can complete the route the more trips they will be able to do each day and so the fewer the buses - and drivers - needed to provide the service.

With the Traffic Commissioners (a sort-of bus industry regulator) taking an increasing interest in bus punctuality bus service planners must also take into account the differing levels of traffic congestion evident throughout the day and build allowances into the timetable.  In the case of service 2A a standard journey between the University and Heysham Towers will take 68 minutes during most of the day, but a peak-hour trip such as the 0727 from Heysham takes as long as 86 minutes! On the other hand an evening bus needs only 48 minutes to complete the journey.

Anyone who knows Lancaster's traffic will understand why this has to be the case, but there are some variations that are harder to explain. Take a look at the following timetable:

Look at the first two trips, the 0727 service 2A and the 0750 service 2. Although the 2 and 2A follow different routes from Heysham to the Battery they share a common route on to Lancaster and the University. The 2A leaves the Battery at 0740, with the 2 following ten minutes later at 0750. However, by Torrisholme Square the 2 is only 8 minutes behind which is still the case when they arrive at Lancaster Bus Station (0814 / 0822). For reasons best known to Stagecoach the 2A then waits for 10 minutes in the Bus Station before departing at 0824, the same time as the 2, which has only had a two minute layover. Despite leaving simultaneously and following exactly the same route, just two stops later at Common Garden Street the 2 is supposed to be three minutes in front of the 2A!  At the Bowerham Hotel, about a kilometre farther on, it is five minutes in front and it stays five minutes ahead all the way to the University thereby arriving five minutes before the 2A despite setting off 10 minutes behind it!  Eight minutes of this gain is accounted for by the 2A's protracted stop in the bus station but the 2 has still completed the journey in seven minutes less running time on the same route and in the same traffic at the same time of day.

Seasoned timetable readers will have noticed the "Uni" code above the column of the 0750. This means it runs only during University terms, when traffic can be expected to be heavier, but the 2A has no such code, which means it operates all-year round including term time, so that can't be the explanation. In fact, if anyone from Stagecoach - management or staff - or anyone else for that matter can offer us an explanation we'd be glad to hear it!

Monday, 4 September 2017

Campaign for Better Transport Recognises Our Work

Any campaigning organisation is always pleased to have its work recognised, particularly if that recognition comes from  larger and well-established fellow-campaigners.  Lancaster District Bus Users Group was therefore delighted to be asked to contribute a "guest blog" for the Save Our Buses pages of the Campaign for Better Transport's website.

We chose to tell the tale of our successful fight to restore a bus service to those parts of Lancaster badly-hit by the reductions to service 18 (East Lancaster Circular) and the County Council's reluctance to spend the money it had been given to improve it.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Evening Services from the Bus Station Relocated as Interior Refurbishment Begins.

When we said that Lancaster Bus Station would re-open "following the completion of the refurbishment works", what we SHOULD have said was that it was the external work that was complete.

As some people have pointed out, not a lot appeared to have been done to the inside of the station! The good news is that internal repainting and improvements to the passenger entrance will start after the bank holiday on Tuesday 29th August and continue until 1st September.

More good news is that this work will be done at night to minimise inconvenience to passengers. After 19.00hrs each evening all buses will leave from the "Night Stand" adjacent the taxi rank on Damside Street, which is usually used for departures after the bus station closes at 23.30 each evening including the overnight Scottish coaches. Sadly, the reduced evening service now operating in Lancaster means that all evening buses can be accommodated on this stand, at least for the period of the works during which the extra service 3s to the University will not be running.

Stagecoach will arrange supervision and notices to inform passengers, which at the suggestion of the Bus Users Group will include a map to indicate where the "Night Stand" is, although it should be easy to find as the picture below shows.
The "Night Stand" on Damside Street that will be used for all departures
 after 1900 during internal refurbishment of the bus station.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Bus Station to Re-open after early completion of refurbishment works.

Lancaster bus station will re-open fully from start of service on Friday, 18th August and all services will revert to their normal routes in the city centre, much to the relief of passengers who have been enduring the "summer" weather at the unprotected stops in Dalton Square for the last few weeks!

The refurbishment works were originally due to last up until the beginning of September, but have been completed ahead of schedule by the City Council and its contractors.

Work will continue for a short while to make Stand 1 more accessible to passengers in wheelchairs, following a campaign by Cameron Redpath - a Bus Users' Group member and passenger on the Ridge bus, so both this stand and adjacent stand 2 will remain closed. Stagecoach staff will be on hand to direct passengers to the alternative departure stands.

The Bus Users' Group has been observing the part-closure and the alternative arrangements and will be compiling a report on the exercise in the hope of avoiding some of the problems that have occurred should it become necessary to relocate buses away from the bus station for any reason in the future, but in the meantime our Congratulations and thanks are due to the Council and the Contractors as well as to Stagecoach for managing the process.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Minor Changes to Stagecoach Services in September

From Stagecoach's website:

Changes to timetables in Lancaster from 4 September 2017
From Monday 4 September we will be introducing some changes to services in Lancaster. The below is a summary of the changes and timetables will be available shortly.
Service 2/2A/N2 – We have re-timed some Monday to Friday journeys to improve reliability and this service will no longer stop at China Street in the city centre.
Service 5 – The Monday to Friday 0740 journey from Morecambe and the 0815 from Carnforth have been retimed to run 10 minutes earlier to improve reliability.
Service 55 – The Monday to Friday 1522 journey from Carnforth has been re-timed slightly to improve reliability.
Service 40/40A/41 – The 1640 40A School journey from Preston College has been re-timed to run 15 minutes later. Monday – Saturday evenings journeys and Sunday journeys have also been re-timed to improve reliability.
Services 500, 501, 502, 504 and Service 935– Minor timetable changes to improve punctuality.

The Bus Users' Group will post the new timetables as soon as they are available.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

County Council to Increase Spending on Buses

Service 81 was one of the services affected by the April 2016 cutbacks.
Lancashire County Council's Lead Member for Buses, Andrew Snowdon has begun a "cross-party consultation" within the council on the prospect of increasing the council's spend on bus service contracts by £1M per annum - a 50% rise in the existing budget. The move follows a change of control in the running of the council, from Labour to Conservative, in May.

County Councillors are being consulted on three "key priorities" for improving services and are being asked to put forward their own ideas.

Cllr Snowden said: “I’m keen to ensure passengers benefit from the improvements to bus services we promised as soon as possible, I have already been working with officers on some draft proposals for how we could best meet the needs of communities with the new funding. “However, I also want to ensure that county councillors have the opportunity to input into work on behalf of the communities they represent and raise any issues they are aware of which will help to make sure the proposals we eventually bring forward have a real impact and provide the best possible value for money. A good public transport network is vital to support our economy, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to access work and education.

The key priorities are:

To restore lost links between communities, particularly in rural areas where people who don’t drive or own a car rely most on public transport.

To increase the frequency of services on routes where there is more demand

And to stabilise the network to support routes which might otherwise disappear. 

The council’s new administration has committed to make an extra £1m available to support bus services, increasing the budget from £2m to £3m. Final proposals will be put before the council's cabinet on 14th September

It appears that at this stage consultation is restricted to elected councillors, so the Bus Users' Group will be putting our ideas to  local councillors so as to ensure that the Lancaster District gets its fair share of the pot.