Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Lune Valley Improvements Delayed

No improvement yet for services to Kirkby Lonsdale
Lancashire County Council has published new timetables for its contracted bus services that will apply from 11 December, following the injection of an extra £1M per annum into the bus service support budget. There are a large number of improvements to services throughout the county, particularly in the Ribble Valley, Fylde and West Lancashire Districts. Lancaster, however, doesn't fare so well. 

The only improvement of note is the introduction, following a request from the Bus Users Group, of early evening journeys on service 51 between Carnforth and Silverdale (with connections to/from Lancaster). On Mondays to Fridays an extra journey will depart Carnforth at 1909 running through to Holgates Caravan Park at Silverdale for 1944. There will be a return journey (operated outside the contract by Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire) at 1945 arriving back in Carnforth at 2028.

On Saturdays there will be an extra bus from Carnforth to Silverdale at 1901 arriving at 1940, whilst in the return direction the present 1805 (retimed to 1817) and 1940 from Holgates Caravan Park to Silverdale Railway Station will run through to Carnforth.

Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire will utilise the bus arriving at Carnforth at 2028 each evening to operate new service 490, which follows the route of Stagecoach service 49, with a bus leaving Carnforth at 2028 via The Kellets and Halton to arrive Lancaster at 2110.  This journey will be operated free of charge to begin with until the service registration takes effect.

There is, however, no sign of the promised improvement to services in the Lune Valley between Lancaster and Kirkby Lonsdale and in particular for the villages of Arkholme, Gressingham and Whittington left almost busless by the April 2016 cuts.

The county council says only that "talks are continuing with commercial bus operators to provide a sustainable option to develop a daytime service link" to the affected villages. and whilst the council is known to have approached at least two local operators for proposals the mprovements to the service are not now expected until at least February 2018.  

Lancashire County Council's budget for bus service support is now £3M per annum compared with over £7M in 2015/16.

The county's leaflet explaining the changes from 11 December can be seen via this link  and the new timetables are on the Local Bus Maps and Timetables page of this website.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Stagecoach Win Silver at UK Bus Awards

Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancs was this week awarded a "Silver" at the prestigious UK Bus Awards  in what is described as a "glittering" ceremony in London's Docklands. The award, for "Sustained Marketing Excellence", was won for the company's marketing of sevice 555 which links Lancaster to Kendal and the Lake District.

Here's what the judges had to say:

Winner, Silver Award

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

A 555 bus with a Windermere steamer - two iconic images of the Lake District.

"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."
In what they described as a well written, model entry, the judges thought this was an example of best practice for an inter-urban bus route. Sustained investment and marketing with plans for future development should secure a future for this service."
Stagecoach nationally won nine awards, five silver and four bronze  although the smaller Go-Ahead Group, which runs buses on Tyneside, East Anglia and the south of England won no fewer that 12, including six golds.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Bus Users' Group Calls For Free Bus Travel for Christmas Shoppers

Image result for lancaster car park images

Lancaster District Bus Users' Group is calling upon the City Council to introduce free bus travel in the run up to Christmas to match its offer of free parking in the city’s car parks.
Between Sunday, November 26th and Sunday, December 24th all of the city council’s main car parks in Morecambe and Lancaster will be free to use on Sundays as well as after 6pm on Thursdays for late-night shopping.
Lancaster Bus Users’ Group feels that this is unfair to public transport users and is asking the City Council to match its offer to motorists with a similar one to bus passengers and to make bus travel free throughout the city at those times. 
Jim Davies, Chair of the Bus Users’ Group said:
“Bus passengers contribute towards the cost of the free parking through their council tax but receive no benefit”.
The Group admits that the free parking offer is popular and doesn’t want to see it abolished but says that it also brings its own problems. Jim Davies explained:

“The free parking attracts large numbers of shoppers to Lancaster, which is a good thing but the extra traffic generated causes congestion and delay to all road users and can act as a disincentive for shoppers to visit the city. Bus passengers suffer from delays to their services whilst still having to pay the full fare for their journeys. Offering free bus travel would allow more people to reach the city centre without adding to congestion and, by offering an alternative to the car would actually reduce it, whereas giving away free car parking and continuing to charge for bus travel is likely to reduce bus use as people who may have travelled by bus use their cars instead".

The Bus Users Group recognises that the city council does not run the bus service, but feels that it should be possible for the council to come to an arrangement with Stagecoach to make good the revenue lost by offering free travel.

Councillor James Leyshon, who has responsibility for car parking, is quoted in the Lancaster Guardian as saying that there is "no additional net cost to Council Tax payers" due to the initiative, but this clearly misunderstands the situation. All the city's car parks would be busy during both late-night shopping and Sundays in the run-up to Christmas, so a substantial amount of revenue is being lost, which has to be made up either through council tax, paid by motorists and non-motorists alike or through reduced public services.

Whilst it is probably too late to introduce free bus travel for 2017 the Group has called upon the council to consider it for future years.