Saturday, 16 December 2017

County Council Offers Day and Weekly Tickets on Supported Services

Co-incident with the introduction of new contracts for supported bus services in Lancashire the county council is requiring operators to issue and accept a range of one-day and one-week tickets.

Each service, or group of services, has a separate ticket and prices vary according to area. Not all services have a one-day version.  Of course, it's not possible to work out how much value-for-money the tickets represent compared with ordinary fares as these are, naturally, a closely-guarded secret and can only be found by asking the driver when you travel!  Nevertheless, it's a start.

Here is what is available in our area:

Service 51  Carnforth - Silverdale
Day ticket  Adult £6.30 Child £3.20   Weekly ticket Adult £17.00 Child N/A

Only valid for unlimited travel on the following local bus route:-
Service 51 Carnforth – Warton – The Yealands – Silverdale

Service 89  Lancaster - Knott End-on-Sea
Day ticket  Adult £6.30 Child £3.20   Weekly ticket Adult £17.00 Child N/A

Only valid for unlimited travel on the following local bus route:-
Service 89 Lancaster – Royal Infirmary – Cockerham – Pilling – Preesall – Knott End

Note that although the prices are identical the tickets are not interavailable and each service requires a separate ticket, perhaps understandable as the two services have no physical connection. There is no ticket for service 33 Morecambe-Bare Circular or the Park & Ride and, presumably, Stagecoach's own tickets are considered sufficient for service 18 in east Lancaster. Nevertheless, the Bus Users Group strongly hopes that a similar arrangement will now be made for the Lune Valley, where service improvements have been promised for February.

One of the most extensive networks covered by the ticket is in the East Lancashire where 10 different services provided by three different operators are included in one ticket, with both one-day and one-week versions available. Full details of services covered are here.

Closer to home there are tickets for the Fylde Coast, Wyre and South Ribble  and a full list can be obtained via this link

It is important to realise that the tickets only cover the council-supported services and do not include commercial services in the areas covered. Nevertheless it is a welcome development. Hopefully the council will consider using forthcoming powers under the Bus Services Act to expand the scheme to take in commercial services and develop a series of multi-operator tickets throughout Lancashire.

A Ribble bus promoting the Red Rose Rambler ticket
in the old bus station in Lancaster in 1983.

Who knows, one day we might even get back to the situation that pertained a mere 35 years ago when a "Red Rose Rambler" ticket gave unlimited, all-operator travel all over the county, with some versions even including trains as well?

Now that would be "integrated transport"!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Local MP asks "Bus" Questions in the House

Cat Smith, member of parliament for Lancaster and Fleetwood has been asking questions about bus services in the House of Commons.  The questions have been addressed to Jesse Norman MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) who has provided written answers.

Ms Smith asked  about the provision of audio-visual "next stop" announcements on buses.
Here is her question:

Photo of Cat Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, when he plans to introduce regulations requiring operators of local bus services to make information available on buses in the form of announcements about forthcoming stops.
The Bus Services Act 2017 included provision for the government to require all bus operators to equip their vehicles with visual displays and audio announcements to let passengers know the name of the stops along the route, with each stop being announced just before the bus arrives.
Using GPS technology, this system is in use on every bus in London as well as an increasing number of English cities, with Nottingham being a prime example.

An example from Nottingham, showing the name
    of the approaching stop and the two following. Audio 
                     announcememts are also made.
Locally, it is in use on a small number of buses in the Blackburn and Burnley areas but the nearest we get to it here in Lancaster is on Stagecoach service 555 where an inferior audio-only system makes rather lengthy announcements when approaching some (but not all) of the stops north of Carnforth. Even then, it is often not working, although whether that is due to a faulty system or someone having chosen not to switch it on is unclear.

A simpler, but perhaps less cluttered example from London.
When used properly, such systems are invaluable for blind and partially-sighted passengers, whilst the visual displays cater for those who are hard-of-hearing. The
systems also help any passengers who may not have hearing or sight impediments but who may just be travelling a route for the first time or to a destination they have not been to before.  The Bus Users' Group was very pleased that this requirement had been built-in to the Bus Services Act and has been waiting for news of when it might be implemented, so we are grateful to Cat Smith for raising the issue in parliament. It does look, however, that the introduction of these systems may still take some time. Here is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary's reply:

Photo of Jesse Norman

The Bus Services Act 2017 incorporates powers to introduce an Accessible Information Requirement, mandating the provision of audible and visible information on local bus services in Great Britain.
We are currently working with stakeholders to develop the detail of the requirement, including timescales for its implementation, with a view to consulting publicly in 2018. Following consideration of the consultation responses, we expect to publish Regulations and accompanying guidance when the Parliamentary timetable permits.

 "Stakeholders", of course, will include the bus industry itself, which will no doubt find many reasons why the introduction of such systems should be delayed or even abandonned. The industry is notoriously short-termist in its thinking and usually acts as if keeping costs down will prove more beneficial (to it) than improving its offering to the public.  We hope the government keeps its nerve on this and works towards early implementation.  But here lies another problem. Note the reference above to publishing Regulations "when the Parliamentary timetable permits".  Anyone who takes any interest in politics may have noticed that the "parliamentary timetable" is presently somewhat over-subscribed with the a certain issue involving us and our European neighbours. The BUG won't be holding its breath!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

(Almost) Everything You Need to Know About Buses Over Christmas

"Everything you need to know about buses in Lancaster and Morecambe over the festive period" is the title of the leaflet produced by Stagecoach to advertise their services over Christmas and the New Year.  You can read a copy via this link

As in previous years, services will close down early evening on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve and there will be no buses at all on Christmas Day.  Boxing Day (26th December) sees a special daytime service operating on the following routes:

2A University - Lancaster - Heysham (Combermere Road)
3A Lancaster - Bare - Heysham (Combermere Road)
6A Lancaster - Morecambe
40 Morecambe - Lancaster - Preston
55 Lancaster - Carnforth

Full timetables are in the leaflet

However, despite its title, the leaflet doesn't really tell you everything about Lancaster's bus service over Christmas.  Service 555 Lancaster - Carnforth - Kendal - Keswick will be providing a Sunday service on Boxing Day, but as it's operated by a completely different part of Stagecoach (known as "Kendal Depot") there is no mention of this in the "Lancaster and Morecambe" Christmas leaflet. 

If you want to check, you need the "Kendal and the Lake District" leaflet, which you can see here.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

New Round of County Council Cuts Threatens Carnforth and Morecambe Information Centres

Carnforth railway station
Even before an additional £1M of spending on bus services has come into effect Lancashire County Council has announced cuts to funding for bus and train information centres across the county.

As part of a round of spending reductions totalling £7M per annum Lancashire proposes to close the bus station enquiry offices at Preston and Nelson as well as the ticket offices at Clitheroe and Carnforth railway stations. Funding for staff who deal with transport and tourism enquiries at Morecambe Visitor Information Centre is also to be withdrawn in a bid to save £198,000 over the next two years.

Cabinet Report
A report due to be considered by the Council's cabinet on Thursday 7th December admits that the service provided by the centres is "popular" and that the public would no longer have access to public transport information or, in the case of Clitheroe and Carnforth railway stations, the ability to purchase tickets. The council-owned property at Clitheroe would become "surplus to requirements" whereas the Nelson office would be left vacant and would "still incur costs until disposed of (or) leased" The report admits that disposals may be "difficult to achieve" given the localtions and that the council would therefore still incur maintenance costs for the empty and unused properties.

The Carnforth office provides a rail ticket booking facility for staff travelling on council business and the loss of this service "will have an impact on business support services and possibly greater costs to service budgets".

Lancaster's bus station enquiry office survives only because it is operated by Stagecoach although that means it  only provides information on that company's services.

It was only following the election in May this year that the ruling Consrervative party increased the funding for non-commercial bus services by 50% to a new total of £3M per annum, achieved by re-directing funding from the aborted Parish Bus Scheme. It now proposes to save at most £198,000 and possibly much less than that by removing the ability of the travelling public to find out about the new bus services it is paying for as well as those provided at no cost to the council by commercial bus operators.

The Report also admits that "(The) Proposal may make travel by public transport more difficult for older people and for people with disabilities because other sources of information and tickets are less understandable. Older and disabled people are less likely to use digital alternatives to obtain travel information or tickets".  Therefore "The proposal may be updated following consultation".  The BUG will be looking out for the promised "consultation" and hopes that as many people as possible make their views known to Lancashire.