Monday, 23 October 2017

December Service Changes - First Details Revealed

One of the supported services that will continue.

Last September Lancashire County Council began the process of spending the additional £1M funding allocated to local bus services by the new administration. As part of the process all existing contracts were cancelled and fresh tenders sought.  The new services are due to start on 10 December and the Bus Users' Group can now reveal how services in the Lancaster area will be affected.
The following services receive support from the County Council:

Service 1  Lancaster Park & Ride
This service will continue unchanged.

Service 18  East Lancaster Circular
This service will continue unchanged.

Service 33 Morecambe - Bare (Circular)
The route and timetable are unchanged but operation will pass from Travellers Choice to Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire.

Service 51 Carnforth - Silverdale
This service also passes from Travellers Choice to Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire. Following a request from the Bus Users' Group the early evening service is improved. There will be an additional journey from Carnforth to Silverdale at 19.09 on Mondays to Fridays and 19.01 on Saturdays. In the opposite direction on Mondays to Fridays  the 18.25 from Silverdale village to Silverdale Station will continue to Carnforth arriving at 19.06. On Saturdays the 16.35 and 18.05 from Silverdale Village to the station will continue through to Carnforth (the 18.05 will leave at 18.17) and there will be a new journey from Silverdale at 19.40 through to Carnforth arriving at 2021.
The new buses offer reasonable connections with the 555 at Carnforth. Passengers for Warton, Yealand and Silverdale will be able to leave Lancaster an hour later than present at 18.30 and it will be possible for them to leave Kendal at 18.05, Keswick at 16.30 and Bowness at 17.40 (on service 755).  It will also be easier for passengers from Lancaster to visit Silverdale as the new journeys to Carnforth will connect with Lancaster services there.

Service 89  Lancaster  - Knott End on Sea
Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire will continue to operate this service. All journeys will operate via the main entrance to the Infirmary (the "H" suffix is likely to be dropped and the section of route via MU2 is not operating due to building work at the turning point). 
The 07.02 Pilling to Lancaster journey will run 10 minutes earlier than now, whilst the first two buses of the day from Lancaster are retimed to depart 5 minutes earlier at 06.15 and 07.45.
The last supported bus of the day from Knott End to Lancaster remains at 18.00. The later, 19.30, journey is operated outside the contract and the BUG hopes this will continue to be the case.

Service 81 at Kirkby Lonsdale
The situation on the last supported service - the 81 Lancaster to Kirkby Lonsdale is not quite so straightforward. Lancashire County Council currently only pays for the 18.40 Lancaster to Kirby Lonsdale journey (which operates beyond Hornby only on request and was included in the supported network following a BUG campaign). The remainder of the service is provided commercially by Stagecoach, with some early and late journeys run by Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire and so the council cannot just seek tenders for an improved service.  Instead it is "in discussion" with the operators to develop a number of options for improvement that are likely to require some funding by the council for approval by the Cabinet Member, Cllr Keith Iddon.

The Bus Users' Group has submitted a number of ideas including re-introducing a service to the north side of the valley through Gressingham, Arkholme and Whittington; running the 18.40 all the way to Kirkby Lonsdale and back in service without the need to "request it" and requiring the two operators to accept each other's tickets and produce a joint timetable for the public.  We have been promised an input into the "discussions" although it has to be said there has been no sign of that to date.

As ever, we will post full timetables on this website as soon as they are available.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Stagecoach Short-Listed for Major Award

At a special event held today in Manchester's Museum of Transport the finalists for the 2017 UK Bus  Awards (the "OSCARS" of the bus industry world) Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancs was announced as a finalist for the Award for Sustained Marketing Excellence, sponsored by Exterion Media.This Award is designed to recognise marketing excellence over a sustained period that is likely to be measured in years rather than weeks.
The Award will go to the organisation that best demonstrates how an active, customer-focused marketing strategy, consistently applied over time, has driven business improvement, won extra journeys and captured new customers, ideally through a shift of travel from car to bus.
The winner of this Award will be able to show that this sustained approach has:
  • delivered measurable improvements in customer service and customer satisfaction
  • created or developed strong brands
  • helped to change public perceptions and/or consumer behaviour
  • genuinely driven all aspects of the business, particularly
    • customer service
    • staff training
    • management and supervision.
The important thing is that the winner can demonstrate a passion for marketing and for serving the customer over a sustained period.
Stagecoach is one of six finalists in this category, which was open to operators, authorities, partnerships or other organisations participating in the securing, marketing or promotion of registered local bus services.  Entries were welcomed from nominees, winners or runners-up of previous marketing initiative awards, who could now demonstrate how their sustained activity had produced results.
This was Stagecoach's case:

'Lakes Connection' 555 service - Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancashire

A 555 bus in Ambleside
The Stagecoach Cumbria and North Lancashire 555 service operates between Lancaster and Keswick, through the Lake District Park National Park, serving key destinations such as Kendal, Windermere, Ambleside and Grasmere. Tourism in the Lakes presents a drastic change in population during the summer months. This requires the marketing of the advantages of the service to those in the local area, bringing people in from Lancaster and Keswick, but also to stand out and attract those unfamiliar with the area who may be visiting for the day or weekend. Sustained, consistent and clear marketing of the service is a necessity to its success, as its route, frequency, cost and experience need to be communicated to a new audience each and every season. All social media platforms are used to promote the service, as well as more conventional leaflets and roadside publicity. The launch of 12 new vehicles in July last year was an opportunity taken to fully utilise the bus to promote the 555 service through eye catching branding and Stagecoach is continually looking for new ways to promote the service to encourage the public to leave the car at home or holiday accommodation.

The Bus Users' Group is happy to congratulate Stagecoach on being short-listed and wishes them "good luck" for the finals to be held in London on 21st November

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Greyhound Bridge Closure - Less Priority for Buses.

Greyhound Bridge
Greyhound Bridge carries the main Lancaster to Morecambe road over the River Lune as well as northbound traffic on the A6. Its importance in Lancaster's road network can be seen from this map, where it is the lower of the two crossings near the city centre, the other being Skerton Bridge, which carries south and eastbound traffic.

Despite it's importance, Lancashire County Council proposes to close it to all traffic for over six months from the end of January next year for "vital" maintenance work. The bridge originally carried the Lancaster to Morecambe railway line over the river and was converted to a roadway after the line closed in the 1960s. This allowed a one-way system to be set up with Skerton Bridge converted to carry only east and southbound traffic. Without the work the council says it would have to impose a weight limit on the bridge because of its condition.
Long-distance traffic will be encouraged to use the new Heysham Link Road - the A683 shown at the top of the map  - whilst all local traffic will be diverted over Skerton Bridge, which will revert to carrying two-way traffic for the duration. 

The closure will have a significant effect on bus services. Not only will west and north-bound services have to follow the diversion over Skerton Bridge, but buses will lose two important pieces of bus priority that help them to keep to time despite Lancaster's traffic.  At present, buses coming over Skerton Bridge into the city can turn right to  take advantage of a bus-only link to reach Parliament Street, which saves them from following other traffic around the back of the old Kingsway bus depot and Baths on Caton Road, saving them several minutes in the process. Once Skerton Bridge becomes two-way this will no longer be possible and buses will have to join the queue of other traffic on Caton Road.

This section of bus lane on Morecambe Road will have to carry all eastbound traffic with
 westboundvehicles using the adjacent lane (where the traffic is queueing.
The benefit of the bus lane to buses is clearly shown in the image above.
The second section of road to become two-way will be the Morecambe Road between the A6 and Carlisle Bridge, where it passes between Rylands Park and Our Lady's School. The current bus lane will carry all eastbound traffic with westbound vehicles using the general traffic lane.  Together with the loss of capacity for all vehicles during the work the suspension of these bus priorities is likely to cause serious problems for the bus operators, but details are now emerging of how they intend to cope.

Stagecoach intends to retain frequencies at current levels even though the increased journey times mean they will have to employ additional vehicles and drivers. As revenue is unlikely to increase - and may even decrease due to longer and less attractive journey times - this is a welcome move.

However, one major change is likely to come about. In order to confine reliability problems to the west side of the river the cross-city services that run between Heysham, Morecambe and the University are likely to be split at the bus station and operated in two parts. Passengers on services 2 2A 3 and 4 who now travel through the city centre will have to change buses at the bus station. Although inconvenient, this should ensure that delays suffered by buses crossing the river are not carried forward to affect services  - and passengers - between the city centre and University.  If this plan does go ahead we will post details of the new arrangements on our timetable pages.

The work is scheduled to start on 29th January and continue to August, although some necessary preparatory changes to the roads affected will happen before then.