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!


  1. I haven't experienced the system on the 555, though I doubt very much that the driver has any control over it. It almost certainly relies on mobile coverage to trigger each stop announcement, and the less urban the area, the less likely there is good mobile coverage. The system will thus drop out when it cannot find the appropriate trigger point for a particular stop. No parliamentary regulation offers a solution for this!

  2. You may be right, but why therefore does it work on some journeys but not others? It doesn't seem to come and go as the journey progresses, it's either on or off.

    1. In that case, it probably means that the driver has miskeyed something into the ticket machine (e.g. wrong journey number). Unless there is a perfect match, none of these systems will work properly. If there is a chance to check from on board a non-working bus, try looking at the on-line Stagecoach live bus information. If that isn't available either, then nine times out of ten, it will be a ticket machine error.

  3. That’s an interesting explanation and probably explains why so many local buses don’t show real time information on their systems