Thursday, 30 September 2021

Stagecoach Cease Using Sainsbury's Bus Stop

The North Road stop
 From Sunday, 3rd October Stagecoach buses will   no longer observe the southbound bus stop   outside the old Gillow's building on North Road.   The stop, which has had various names over the   last few years is currently known as "opposite   Sainsburys" and traditionally was used mainly   by   passengers alighting from buses heading to   the   city centre from the west and north.

 However, the growth of student accommodation   has led to large numbers of passengers boarding   buses there, particularly those heading for the   University in the morning peak hour. Although   few passengers pay cash, the boarding process   is   still prolonged by the need for all prepaid   tickets   to be scanned and read by the ticket   machine,   leading to delays to the buses and to   traffic that   is stuck behind the loading   bus.   Stagecoach also says that by not observing the stop, buses will be able to remain in the outside lane on North Road and therefore access the bus station more easily.

Buses operated by Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire on services 8 (St Chads), 582 (Skipton) and L1 (Park & Ride) will continue to use the stop, which is not being removed.

Whilst the Bus Users' Group would normally be opposed in principle to the removal of a much-used bus stop we do recognize the problems caused both to car drivers and to bus passengers heading for the bus station who are being delayed by the use of this stop. Loading the University-bound passengers at the bus station, which is only 280 metres away via the pedestrian crossing on North Road and where the buses are allowed time in the schedule to load and unload, does not appear too unreasonable. Passengers who currently alight here to visit the Sainsbury's supermarket on the other side of the road will find that the bus station is a mere 60 or so metres farther away.

We will, however, keep an eye on the situation and if other difficulties become apparent we will take them up with the powers-that-be.


Thursday, 23 September 2021

Bus Service Improvement Plan - First details emerge


First details have emerged of Lancashire's Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), which is required to be published by the end of October under the government's National Bus Strategy for England, "Bus Back Better".

In a letter to District Council Leaders, the County Council's Executive Director of Growth, Environment and Transport, Stephen Young, has set out the basis of the Plan.

Base Line Data

The first part of the plan will contain information on the present-day bus service in Lancashire.

It will:

  • Explain the current local situation. 
  • Provide information about passenger numbers, average fares, bus speeds, road congestion and other factors affecting public transport operations. 
  • Detail information about local operators and how services are designed with local people in mind. 
  • State how much funding does the LTA currently use to support services and what are the main barriers to bus usage and growth in the area?

 This starting point data will be used to measure the success of the future Enhanced Partnership of bus operators and the county council in delivering improvements.

Implementing the National Bus Strategy

The Plan will then show how the key goals of the National Bus Strategy will be implemented in Lancashire. These include

  • More frequent bus services with better provision in evenings and weekends. They should be faster and more reliable, cheaper and easier to understand. There should be better integration with other modes and innovation.
  • There must be significant increases in bus priority, which means protected bus lanes and bus gates. 
  • Bus stations should be protected from closure and redevelopment, be improved and well maintained and there should be staff available for customer care and information.
  • The local bus network should be presented as a single network with clear passenger information. There should be a strong network identity, bus stops should show accurate information, with real time where relevant, and timetable changes minimised.
  • Buses should also be accessible for all, so stopping facilities need to be upgraded and be Equalities Act compliant. There will be options to bid for the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas Scheme with partners, to deliver more modern buses and decarbonisation.

It is intended that BSIP's will give passengers more of a voice so there is a requirement for a Passenger Charter, for the Enhanced Partnership, giving users rights to certain standards and mechanism for redress at a local level .


It is intended that BSIP's will require regular updates, as a living document, at least every 12 months.

Detailed discussions

The Bus Users' Group has also heard from Andrew Varley, the County Council's Public Transport Manager, that discussions between bus operators and the council are focussing on the following key themes:

  • Multi-operator ticketing.  Making it possible for passengers to buy one ticket that will be valid on all buses for the journeys they wish to make, irrespective of operator, has been a long-time ambition of the county council and the National Bus Strategy will make this much easier to achieve.
  • A standard offer for Under 19s.  Most bus operators in the county offer discounted travel to young people and children, but terms and conditions vary. Under the BSIP it is hoped that a standard product can be offered to these passengers.
  • Bus Priority Schemes and removal of "pinch points" , where buses suffer delay as part of the development of a key interurban route network throughout the county.
  • Evening and weekend services to be strengthened where appropriate.
  • Information and publicity improvements for bus services including both traditional paper timetables and electronic and real-time information services.
  • Seeing how Community Transport fits into the BSIP and whether demand-responsive transport services can fulfill a need.

Not all plain sailing?

Whilst what is being proposed aligns quite strongly with the Bus Users' Group's own Lancaster Bus Service Improvement Plan submitted to the council in May (read it here)  we would still like to see more detail, particularly on how bus stations, such as Lancaster's, can be improved and how the issue of a "common network identity" is being explored.

There may be other problems ahead.  Andrew Varley points out that implementation of the Plan will be subject to the amount of funding the Enhanced Partnership will receive from the government and that so far there has been no announcement on this or even on how it will be calculated.

Then, with bus patronage in the county still only slowly recovering from the drastic falls due to Covid-19 in the Spring of 2020 and the government's emergency Bus Service Recovery Grant due to end next April, there is a possibility that the replacement funding for the BSIP might have to be used, at least in part, to maintain the existing network rather than improve it.

Lastly, of course, is the shortage of bus drivers, which is already causing cancellations on a daily basis in Lancaster as well as throughout the country and if not solved could make it very difficult to increase frequencies or introduce new routes.

The BSIP is due to be published in October and will then form the basis of the work of Enhanced Partnership of bus operators and the county council which should see improvements delivered sometime after April 2022.

The County Council would also like to learn your views as to how services could be improved. If you would like to help please fill in this short online survey