Sunday, 3 July 2022

Lune Valley Timetables - Almost Perfect!

 Regular readers will be aware of the somewhat shambolic nature of the way in which last April's changes to bus routes and times in the Lune Valley were conveyed to the travelling public.

Those unfamiliar with the situation may like to read our previous posts:

10th June 2022 Confusion Still Reigns Over Lune Valley Bus Times

24th April 2022  Lune Valley Timetables: You Couldn't Make it Up

5th April 2022  Buses: The Secret Service

Many of the problems seem have arisen from the Traveline National Data Set (TNDS) not having been updated when the new services began. This was eventually done towards the end of June, following which a number of improvements rapidly followed. So, THREE MONTHS after the changes came into force how are the various parties doing?

The Bus Operator

Since some time in May, Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire has had a timetable for the new services available on its website (the services started on 4th April). We believe this to be a record of what is actually operating apart from the single journey on service 80, which we (and Lancashire CC) think runs on schooldays only, not "Monday to Friday".

The operator appears, however, to have abandoned its attempt to produce a printed timetable leaflet.

Lancashire County Council

New leaflet being printed.

Lancashire deserves recognition for updating the timetable cases in its area promptly, ensuring that at least some information for the public was available from day one. It also had the new timetables on its website equally promptly, although this was marred by there being a number of discrepancies between them and those publicised by the operator. It also forgot to remove the old service 582 from its website which led to some confusion.  These matters are now resolved.

The good news is that the Council has now taken on the job of producing printed publicity for the new services and the Bus Users' Group was recently asked for our views on a new leaflet that is very shortly going to print and which will then be available in Lancashire's libraries and Visitor Information Centres.

Cumbria County Council

Cumbria, only marginally involved in the changes, has correct timetables for the 81 82 and 581 on its site. There is still no mention of the 80/583 (Kirkby Lonsdale - Ingleton - Bentham) service, but we understand that this is in hand.

North Yorkshire County Council

Despite the 581 (Kirkby Lonsdale - Settle) and 583 being operated under contract to the council, there is only an out of date copy of the former and no mention at all of the latter on their website.  North Yorkshire blames this on the failure to update the TNDS (see above) and also on the introduction of a new system for dealing with timetable information, which is causing difficulties.
We find it surprising that an authority that is paying to have these services provided for it cannot find a means to publicise them.

Traveline, Google, Bus Times etc

The various third party websites and apps that provide bus information rely largely on the TNDS for their information, so when this fails, they do too.  Now that the Data Set has been updated they are all showing the services properly (although we do still think that service 80 operates "schooldays only" and not "Monday to Friday")

A word here about the excellent website provided by the Dales Bus Organisation, which has managed to include the most up-to-date information throughout, as indeed have our own Timetable Pages

Lancaster Bus Station Display Board

The display board at Lancaster bus station has a complicated management system with a number of parties involved (including the Bus Users' Group on occasion!).  It continued to show the pre-April times for service 582 and to ignore the new 81 and 82 times after the services changed.
We had assumed that the updating of the TNDS would put an end to this error and that the system would somehow automatically pick up changes and apply them. But it appears it is more complicated than that!

The operating system distinguishes between majority operator "Stagecoach" services and "non-Stagecoach" ones and has to be told to look for "Stagecoach" or "public" data for each of the 20 stands in the bus station. When a service switches stands, as happened here when the Lune Valley services were standardised on stand 14, a manual adjustment has to made by staff at Lancaster University, which was involved in setting up the system.  

It seems that no one thought to tell the University that the services had switched stands and it was only after liaison between the University, the County Council and the Bus Users' Group that action was taken to put things right.  

So, after three months of operation, the public now has access to up to date information (except perhaps on service 80) on two of the four websites where it might expect to find it, with updates to the other two now promised. The various third-party sources should also be correct. The roadside displays have been updated and a timetable leaflet is about to go to the printers, whilst passengers in Lancaster bus station can now check their departures on the electronic board.

The reorganisation of services in the Lune Valley was one of the biggest such changes undertaken in Lancaster for a few years; we hope that lessons have been learned and that future changes will be handled better.