Thursday, 9 February 2023

Broken Shop Windows


The humble bus stop is more than just a place on the highway at which buses stop. It advertises the existence of the bus service, provides an opportunity for the bus operator to promote its wares and acts as a point of entry to the bus system for passengers old and new. It is, in fact, the bus operators' shop window.

Successful High Street retailers use their shop windows not just to advertise the goods they have for sale, but as marketing tools to entice passers-by to take a closer look and perhaps buy something they wouldn't otherwise have bought. It might not be quite so easy to persuade people to make a bus journey they weren't already thinking of making, but at the very least the bus stop can be used to reassure passengers that they are waiting at the right place for their chosen bus. At the same time, if the stop and its facilities are well maintained  it makes the passenger feel welcome  - and first impressions are important.

Unlike shopkeepers however, bus operators are not in control of their "shop windows". Strangely, almost uniquely in business, they have very little say in what facilities the stops provide (such as seating, shelters or timetables) or even how many stops there are or where they are sited. Bus stops are the responsibility of the County Council in its role as the highway authority. The council also decides where timetable cases are placed and what is shown inside them, whereas bus shelters can be provided by any one of the county council; the city council; advertising contractors or, in rural areas, parish councils.

Understandably therefore, the standard of bus stops varies enormously throughout the city and, indeed, the country. In Lancaster, an above-average percentage of bus stops appear to be equipped with shelters and timetables and the powers-that-be deserve credit for that. It has to be said, however, that there are areas of the city where provision is largely sub-standard.  

The Bus Users Group recently conducted an audit of the stops on service 7, which runs between the city centre and Vale and this is what we found:

Of the 13 bus stops that are unique to service 7 (i.e. not used by any other service):

  •     8 had bus stop signs that were damaged, faded or missing altogether
  •     8 did not display the stop name clearly or at all
  •     8 stops did not have level-access boarding kerbs to allow wheelchairs to board safely.
  •     at 7 stops the road markings to keep them clear from parked cars were worn or missing
  •     One stop name was misspelled and two stops, on different parts of the route, have the same name. A fourth stop name was out-of-date.

The Hathaway Road stop name is misspelled "Hatherway"!

One bus stop pole was found to be leaning dangerously. . .

Bus stop at Clare Road with leaning pole and faded markings

. . . whilst at another stop the sign appeared in danger of falling off.
McColl's on Barley Cop Lane, which is still officially named "Co-OP"
The sign appears to be about to fall off and the road markings are worn out.
How welcome would you feel here as a passenger?


The Report was forwarded to both councils and to Stagecoach, which operates the service.

Lancashire County Council was fairly quick to respond and has promised that by the time this is published the "leaning pole of Clare Road" should have put right and the loose signs re-fixed.

Adding or updating stop names on the signs will take a little longer as it is, apparently a county-wide problem. The Council is developing a programme of works on a route-by-route basis and service 7 will be added to the list, but with over 8,000 bus stops in the county and limited resources of staff and funding it will take time. The county council did seek funding through the Bus Service Improvement Plan to improve bus stops, as it recognises they are the first ;point of contact with the bus network, but the government declined to include it in the allocation received.

The same lack of resources means that there can be no quick resolution to the level-access boarding or road markings issue, but at least here it might be possible to divert additional resources to speed up the process, Once again, however, this is a county-wide issue and service 7 will have to take its turn.

As far as "Hatherway" Road is concerned, the feedback from the city council was that the county council (whose shelter it is) no longer uses that supplier for the provision of bus shelters and that therefore they cannot amend the wording! The only answer would be to replace the shelter!

No comments were received from Stagecoach, despite the state of the stops having a direct impact on its business.


The Audit has at least resulted in the dangerously leaning pole and the semi-detached signs being repaired much sooner than would have otherwise been the case.

The Vale stops are also now "on the list" for further improvements when time and money allows and again, this would not have been so without the Report.

Lastly, the Bus Users' Group has learned more about how the system of providing and maintaining bus stops works and the problems the county council faces, which will allow us to target our requests for improvements in the future. 

So we have achieved a little, but so much else needs to be done.