Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Now The Buses Can Talk, But They Can't Hide!

"Thank you driver, we enjoyed your talking bus", said the young mum with her daughter as they alighted from the 2X at Heysham Village this morning.

They had been travelling on one of the six new double-deckers that entered service today on routes 2X and 100 linking Heysham, Morecambe, Lancaster and the University. 
First Day in Service for 11204 in George Street
Outwardly similar to the last batch of new buses delivered in January and used on the 1 / 1A, these six are the first to be fitted with Stagecoach's new Audio/Visual Passenger Information System.

Each deck has a display screen showing the service number and destination of the bus and the name of the next stop. The screens are above the front windows upstairs and on the bulkhead behind the stairs on the lower deck
UPSTAIRS: No doubt about where you're going or which stop comes next.
DOWNSTAIRS: Clearer in actuality than in this 'phone camera photo
BUG's reporter took a trip over to Morecambe and back to see how the system was working. He came back very impressed.

The buses carry route branding for the 100 and 2X services, which are inter-worked and advertise the various on-board features now offered.
Everything the modern-day bus passenger could ask for!
The visual displays could easily be seen from throughout the bus and the audio announcements were clear, well-enunciated and consistent. Unlike those on the 555, which uses an earlier system, they are also short:  "The next stop is xxx", which is really all you need. The volume, at least on the two vehicles sampled, was just right: loud enough to be heard without being intrusive. The volume also appeared to be consistent throughout the bus.  The name of the next stop is shown and announced immediately the bus leaves the preceeding stop, giving passengers plenty of time to ring the bell and get ready to alight. On arrival, the stop name is repeated, provided that the bus has actually stopped.

The stop names used are the "official" ones contained in the NaPTAN database and therefore used by Traveline and Google/Transit.  One of the Bus Users' Group's first tasks was to get Stagecoach and the County Council to get the stop names on Greaves Road in Lancaster to match so that only one name for each stop was used by both parties so we know how important this is.

BUG's reporter had just two gripes, both of which have been reported to Stagecoach in the hope that they are just teething troubles.
On arrival at "Festival Market" on the 100 from Lancaster the system just switched off, giving no indication that the bus should continue one more stop to Morecambe bus station. Our reporter says that many drivers on the 100 choose to take at least part of their layover at the penultimate stop rather than at the bus station, but he was surprised that the system appeared to condone this.

The other, perhaps more readily fixed, was the pronunciation of "Heysham" as "Hay-sham" rather than the local form of "Hee-sham". The "voice" used to make the audio announcements is an accent-free neutral one and the BUG wonders whether a more local "voice" would have been better and would have eliminated such an elementary error.

On the whole though, the BUG is very pleased with what it has seen. We understand that at present the system is only set up for the 2X and 100 routes and should the buses stray onto a different service it won't work. Stagecoach, however, say that the system will soon be extended to incorporate any service the buses might find themselves working.

The last of the line?

We also understand that these six buses are the last to be delivered anywhere in the country carrying the existing Stagecoach livery.  The company has been developing a new-look for its vehicles and it is likely that the rest of Morecambe's new buses could be delivered either in a completely new colour scheme, or - if this is not ready - they will run in plain white until the new livery is announced.

Bus Spotting - for everyone

In another technological breakthrough, passengers can now track Stagecoach buses on an online map and see (almost) exactly where they are at any given time.

The bus information website "Bus Times" has added our local Stagecoach fleet to its online real time maps

17:30 hours today.  The service 80 and the rest of the buses behind it shown
between Melishaw and Torrisholme are actually at White Lund depot!

For the current situation, follow this link