Monday, 12 February 2018

Greyhound Bridge: What do you think of it so far?

Two-way traffic on Skerton Bridge
Greyhound Bridge in Lancaster was closed to all traffic on 29th January when two-way working was introduced on Skerton Bridge for cross-river journeys.
The closure necessitated major changes to bus timetables, with extra time being allowed for the diversion and the expected traffic congestion that would occur. Some services were split into two halves, either side of the city, and extra buses and crews deployed to maintain frequencies.  Stagecoach warned passengers to allow extra time for their journeys and everyone expected major delays throughout the six-month period of the works.

So, after the first fortnight how are things working?

It was to be said that most people have been surprised at how well the traffic is flowing. The fact that the Lancaster Guardian has not been able to come up with a "Traffic Chaos, Shock, Horror" story in the two editions that have appeared since the closure says a lot.  There have been some delays to certain services at certain times but on the whole things are going a lot better than people expected.

It could be that some motorists have just discovered the existence of the Heysham Link Road, which acts as a diversionary route, or perhaps some people are avoiding the city altogether but the congestion and delays that were forecast don't seem to have happened - so far.

In fact, things could be said to be working almost too well.  The extra buses and the extra time allowed aren't always required - and buses are arriving at the bus station earlier than scheduled - when they should still be stuck in the traffic.  Unfortunately this does cause a problem: they have nowhere to go when they get there!  The bus station has very limited space for buses on layover between trips. This is a problem at the best of times and although some services have been moved to a different stand to help things, it's now getting out of hand. Buses arriving at the station are finding their departure stand already occupied and the nearest space can be at the other end of the station - if indeed there is space at all.

Buses queueing to reach a stand.

It's not unknown for buses to have to queue to get into the station and once inside it's common for drivers to have to leave their bus and go and look for the passengers who are waiting in the right place and shepherd them back to the bus. Needless to say, some are better at doing this than others.

"17...18....19....20??, Where's my bus?

Because of the uncertainty, passengers tend to mill about in the middle of the concourse, rather than wait at the designated stands.

Everything "on time" if you know where to look

The popular electronic departure screen can't be of any help to them as it can't be programmed to show any alterations to the departure stands and resolutely directs passengers to where the bus ought to be, rather than where it is. (The 100% "on time" record seems to confirm that the buses have more than adequate time added to their schedules).

Help is at hand

But Stagecoach is trying to help and extra staff are on duty to help and advise passengers. Something which appears to be very necessary at times.

The company tells us they are aware of the problem and are looking for alternative places to park buses between trips - although these can't be too far away from the station itself.

But apart from this, there don't seem to be too many operational problems at the moment, although if you've had a different experience please leave a comment and let us know.

Unfortunately, Lancashire County Council is rather letting the side down when it comes to bus stop information and we'll have more on that tomorrow.

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