Following Lancashire County Council's promise to the Bus Users' Group that the new, improved timetable on Lancaster service 18 would be introduced "in weeks, not months" there is some progress to report.
Two months (or is it 8 weeks?) after our meeting at County Hall details have emerged of the new timetable to be introduced now that the council has finally agreed to unlock £115,000 of the £500,000 it received from developers of the housing on the former Moor Hospital site back in 2012 to pay for transport improvements made necessary by the development. (The rest of the money has been spent on highway works that did not form part of the development agreement).
Buses will run every 30 minutes from 06.55 (07.25 on Saturdays) until 16.05, with four further journeys at 16.37, 17.10, 1742 and 18.15. These non-standard times being necessary to allow the bus extra time during the afternoon peak traffic period.
Here is the timetable that bus operators have been asked to tender to operate.
The final timetable may be slightly different, as operators can put forward their own suggestions during the tendering process, but should be at least as good as that above.
The available cash is likely to be enough to keep the service running for up to 19 months, although this will depend on the amount of revenue from passengers. During this time, however, further funding is expected be become available from other housing developments in the area. Hopefully, by the time the funding is exhausted the revenue on the service will have grown sufficiently to make it a commercial proposition for the bus company. The BUG will be doing its best to promote the service during that time.
During the process of trying to get the County Council to take some action the Bus Users' Group suggested a change of route for the service and we are pleased to see that this will be implemented.
The existing service returns from Lancaster Farms Prison via the Freehold area, which means that passengers from Moorlands have no direct service into town and have to make a lengthy circular trip via the Prison. Freehold is already served by Stagecoach service 10 and running the 18 back into town through Moorlands instead will give residents of Balmoral Road and surrounding streets a much quicker journey into the city, which should attract more riders.
Here is a map of the current service 18 route
(Map from LCC)
(Map from MapOmeter)
When will it happen?
The tendering process is complete and a contract will be awarded very shortly. Unfortunately there are various formalities to go through with the regulatory authorities before the new timetable can be introduced and the council is not being any more specific than "early Spring 2017" at this stage. The change of timetable may also see a change of operator and BUG understands that if this is the case there may be some improvements to other city services at the same time.
We will let you know as soon as we find out!