Monday, 17 April 2017

Two More Campaign Successes

Early and late buses on service 580 are
being extended to and from Lancaster
Lancaster District Bus Users' Group has been successful in getting two bus operators to revise their services, restoring some of the cuts made following Lancashire County Council's reductions in bus service funding made in April 2016.

From 2nd May Stagecoach will revise the route of service 49 (Lancaster to Warton) via the Highfield Estate area of Carnforth. This will restore an hourly service between the area and Lancaster city centre as well as providing additional buses into Carnforth. 

The change follows a campaign led by members of the Bus Users' Group and Carnforth Town Council.

From the same date Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire will introduce three journeys between Lancaster and Kirkby Lonsdale on services 81 (via Tunstall) and 81A (via Whittington). These journeys are provided by buses that previously ran out-of-service to take up journeys on service 581 / 580 between Kirkby Lonsdale, Settle and Skipton. They will therefore provide guaranteed connections with the Skipton service.  This change follows a suggestion to the company made by local BUG members in the Lune Valley. 

A morning journey from Lancaster at 0745 runs via Whittington and provides a School Holiday and Saturday equivalent to the Stagecoach journey running on schooldays at the same time.  It means that residents of Gressingham, Arkholme and Whittington can get to Kirkby Lonsdale for 0835 six days a week throughout the year.

One journey returns from Kirkby Lonsdale via the same route at 1750 and provides a return service throughout the year for villagers working in Kirkby Lonsdale.   A second journey, at 1820 runs via the other side of the valley through Tunstall and Melling.  Both buses provide later journeys through to Lancaster than Stagecoach's last departure at 1715.

The new services receive no external funding and are being introduced at the commercial risk of the operators.  Despite this, at the time of writing just two weeks before the start of service, the Bus Users' Group has been unable to find any details of the new timetables on-line, either on the sites of the operators concerned, the county councils or Traveline. Both sets of changes were registered with the Traffic Commissioner by 15th March and the Dales & Bowland CIC, organisers of the Dales Bus network of summer Sunday buses have provided us with a timetable for services 81/81 which is available via this link.

Although these improvements are fairly modest (except for those people who will find them useful) they show what can be done by negotiating and working with bus companies and making them aware of possibilities to improve their services to the benefit of the travelling public.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Stagecoach Fares Increase

Image result for old bus tickets
Stagecoach Cumbria and North Lancs. is increasing its fares from Saturday, 8th April. Single and return fares will rise throughout the company's network, apart from in Carlisle, where the company faces competition from local operator, Reay's Coaches.

No details of these fares, or the level of increase, are yet available on the company's website.

Following the increase in the price of Bay Megariders in January (which rose by up to 32%) Stagecoach has now turned its attention to North West Megarider tickets, which cover the whole of its operating area throughout Cumbria and Lancashire (which to Stagecoach includes Wigan, Bolton, Southport and Liverpool - but not Manchester!)

The 1-day Explorer ticket, used by many Lancaster and Morecambe passengers to reach popular Lake District destinations, rises by just 20p to £11 for Adults (a 1.85% increase) but  by 30p to £8 for children and concessions, (which is 3.9%). "Family" and "Group" versions rise by 12% and 10% respectively to £28 and £33.  (In case you were wondering, a "Family" ticket is valid for up to 5 people, 2 of which may be adults, whereas a "Group" ticket is valid for up to five people ALL of whom may be adults, but is not valid for travel before 09.00 on Mondays to Fridays).

Three-Day Explorers rise from £24.70 to £25 (1.2%) with child versions increasing from £16.50 to £18 ( 9%).

Seven Day  Megarider Gold tickets are up 70p to £28 (2.6%)  with the 28-Day version rising 2% to what is effectively £100, although Stagecoach prefers to call it £99.99!  In a further retreat from discounts for online purchase a 28 Day Megarider Xtra (sic) bought via monthly Direct Debit rises by no less than 17.6% to the same price as the on-bus 28 Day ticket. Of course, with only 12 monthly payments a year this still offers a saving over 13 28-Day tickets at the same price, although potential purchasers using it for travel to and from work or school will need to take holidays into account even more.

The widely-varying percentage rises give no clue as to what to expect when the increases for single and return tickets are revealed. With prices for multi-journey tickets rising by between 1.2% and 17.6% it appears that Stagecoach has been looking very closely at each ticket within its range with a view to maximising revenue without losing too many passengers in the process.  Variations between the increase in adult and child versions of the same tickets may be due partly to "rounding up" but it is hard to see why a child  1-Day explorer should increase by twice as much in percentage terms as an Adult version and a child 3-Day version should rise by a whopping 9% when the Adult equivalent goes up by a mere 1.2%!

There is no mention of any changes to Bay Dayrider or Bay Dayrider Plus tickets and no mention at all on Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancs website of the Lancashire Dayrider, although the sister site for Merseyside & South Lancs confirms that this will not increase.

Passengers wishing to find out how much their single and return fares will be after 8 April could try using the "Plan a Journey" facility on Stagecoach's website inputting a travel date on or after 8th April, although at the time of writing only current fares were being shown.

The increases to these tickets, and to singles and returns, are the first since March 2015.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

National Express Pulls Out of Morecambe

Busier days at Morecambe coach station
Morecambe is set to lose its last remaining long-distance express coach service when National Express re-routes its Whitehaven to London service 571 away from the town from Monday, 3rd April.  Also losing their connection with the national coach network are Carnforth and Bolton-le-Sands with coaches diverted to run via the M6 between Kendal and Lancaster.

The changes will mean that the morning coach to Birmingham and Lancaster will leave Lancaster bus station ten minutes earlier, at 0950, but due to additional running time being granted south of the city, arrival in London will be 15 minutes later at 1750. On Fridays even more time is added with coaches due to reach Victoria Coach Station at 1805.  The departure times at Lancaster University and Galgate are brought forward by similar amounts.

In the return direction coaches will leave London half-an-hour earlier at 1030, but due to the additonal time allowance, arrival at Lancaster will be only ten minutes earlier, at 1815 (1840 on Fridays, but earlier, at 1750 on Saturdays and Sundays) no doubt refelcting the differing traffic levels throughout the week.

Admittedly, Morecambe is no longer the important seaside resort it once was but it is hard to accept that the town, once a magnet for coaches from all over the north, the midlands and Scotland  is no longer thought worthy of even a single long-distance coach service.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Dales Bus Services for 2017 Announced: and Lancaster Gets Three!

Dales & Bowland CIC has announced details of the summer Sunday and Bank Holiday services for 2017 and the coming year sees a significant expansion of the service from Lancaster and the surrounding area. Additional sponsorship has been obtained from Northern Rail and the two new services offer connections with that company's trains at Bentham and Clitheroe.  The miserly - and possibly illegal - attitude of North Yorkshire and Lancashire County Councils unfortunately means that concessionary bus passes continue to be unavailable on these services but the Concessionary Dales Rover ticket at £7 for passholders  (£12 for adults) continues to allow an affordable day out in the Dales.

THE NORTHERN DALESMAN, which this year is numbered 830 throughout  the route, is diverted to take in Kirkby Lonsdale en-route to Ingleton, Hawes and Richmond and also continues through to Leyburn. This year it will be operated by Preston Bus and will therefore start at Preston, running non-stop via the M6 to Galgate then via Lancaster University (Underpass) calling at all stops along the A6 to Lancaster Bus Station. Although the Dalesman no longer serves Morecambe there will be a connection provided at Lancaster by the new Malham Tarn Shuttle (see below)

The Dalesman won't serve Keld on its outward run this year, but a timed connection will be made at Muker to allow walkers to reach the village.

First of the new services is the BOWLAND EXPLORER. To be known as service 833 and operated by Travellers Choice (although don't be surprised if a Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire bus turns up!)

It starts at Lancaster railway station at 0915 and calls at the bus station (where passengers from Morecambe have a connection (see below), before continuing along the Lune Valley to Hornby, then on to Bentham railway station, where it will connect with a train from Leeds and Skipton. 

From Bentham the Explorer continues to Ingleton and Clapham and  travels over Bowland Knotts, through Gisburn Forest and past Stocks Reservoir to Slaidburn before running over Newton Fells to Waddington and Clitheroe

 After meeting the train from Manchester at Clitheroe Interchange, the Explorer returns to Slaidburn and then travels over the Cross of Greet  Road and Lythe Fell to Bentham station for another train connection and another trip to Gisburn Forest. Return journeys from all points give a wide range of possibilities for walkers and the route is certain to prove attractive for those passengers "just along for the ride".  

Malham, when Pennine Motor Services ran the service.
The third Dales Bus service from Lancaster this year is the MALHAM TARN SHUTTLE, which as service 881 will be operated by Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire. 

The service starts at Morecambe Bus Station at 0835, calling at Lancaster Bus Station at 0855 to provide a connection onto the Northern Dalesman and Bowland Explorer buses for Morecambe passengers. It then runs via Hornby, Wennington, Bentham, Ingleton, Clapham, Giggleswick, Settle, Langcliffe and Streets to Malham Tarn and Malham village. 

There are two return journeys during the day as far as Ingleton (for connections with other Dales Bus services) and a final return journey to Lancaster and Morecambe arriving at 1810.

All three Dales Bus services run on Sundays and Bank Holidays  from 7 May until 24 September 2017 inclusive. 


 Individual single and return fares are available for all journeys, although the best value is likely to be a Dales Rover ticket, bought from the driver, at £12 for adults and £7 for students (with NUS card) or holders of English National Concessionary Bus Passes.  One or two children (aged 16 or under) may travel FREE with each Dales Rover ticket holder.
A new Bowland Explorer ticket will be available from Lancaster as far as Kirkby Lonsdale, Ingleton, Skipton and Clitheroe, priced at £8 for adults and £15 family (any group of up to 2 adults and 3 children).

The Dales & Bowland CIC are to be congratulated for finding the means to continue and expand the Dales Bus service in what have become very challenging times for local bus services, particularly in rural areas. Thanks are due to Northern Rail for supporting the services this year alongside existing sponsors including Settle - Carlisle Railway Development Co. Ltd.   Dales Bus services bring many passengers to Northern's trains - and vice-versa - and the network is an outstanding example of what can be achieved by the public transport industry working together in a spirit of co-operation rather than the unwanted competition that our present legislative framework often forces it into.

Monday, 6 March 2017

New Timetables on City Services Start Today

Three Lancaster city bus services have new timetables from today, Monday 6th March.

Service 9 on Primrose Street
Service 8  City - Ryelands - St. Chads - operated by Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire
There are extra journeys on this service at 08:15 from the Bus Station to St. Chads and 0827 from St. Chads to the Bus Station arriving at 08:38

Service 9 City - Primrose - Bowerham - Farmdale Road -  operated by Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire
There are extra journeys on this service to give a bus every hour in both directions.
Buses leave Farmdale Road for the city at 09:29 and every hour until 17:29
Buses return from the Bus Station to Farmdale Road at 09:10 and every hour until 17:10

Service 18  East City Circular  via Moorlands, Williamson Park and Lancaster Farms Prison  Operated by Stagecoach.
This service will operate regularly between 06:55 and 18:15 from the bus station. Between 09:00 and 16:00 buses leave at 5 and 35 minutes past each hour. Outside this period times may be slightly different as the timetable is adjusted to allow extra time to complete journeys due to the traffic.

The changes to services 8 and 9 have been made possible by Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire re-deploying the bus that used to operate the previous limited timetable on service 18.  The major improvement to service 18 follows a campaign by the Bus Users' Group and local city and county councillors to unlock funding from housing development that the county council has been sitting on since 2012.

There are links to the timetables on our LOCAL BUS MAPS AND TIMETABLES PAGE although at the time of posting Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire had not updated its website so we have linked to Traveline instead.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

East City Circular Successfully Launched

The culmination of eighteen months of campaigning by the Bus Users Group (and even longer by local city councillor Tim Hamilton-Cox) was marked today (Tuesday) at a brief ceremony in Williamson Park to launch the new timetable on service 18, or the "East City Circular" as it is to be known.
Stagecoach Cumbria and North Lancs Director, Matt Cranwell (left) and Operations Manager Willie McPhail (right) joined Lancaster City Councillors Tim Hamilton-Cox and Mel Guilding (centre front), Lancashire County Councillors Gina Dowding and Lizzi Collinge (centre rear) and Bus Users Group members at the Park gates to launch the new service.

Poster in place on the launch bus
The East City Circular provides a much needed link to Williamson Park as well as Lancaster Leisure Park, Lancaster Farms Prison, Moorlands and Standen Gate and is operated under contract to Lancashire County Council. It is funded through money made available as part of the planning consent by the developers of the new housing at the old Moor Hospital site. The new timetable starts on Monday, 6th March and Stagecoach is already doing its bit to help publicise it with posters due to appear on city buses in then next few days.

Both the bus company and the Bus Users' Group have produced timetable leaflets for the service and BUG members will be helping to distribute these along the route before the service begins. Copies will also be available from the Stagecoach enquiry office at Lancaster Bus Station.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

How to Get the County Council to Spend its Own Money

Service 18 on Balmoral Road
Finally, after almost two years of campaigning and over two months after a meeting at County Hall in which we were promised improvements in "weeks not months" the Bus Users' Group can announce that the new timetable on service 18 in Lancaster will start on 6th March. The new operator will be Stagecoach. (Details of the new route and timetable can be found in the post below)

Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire reduced its previous hourly service to just four journeys a day in June 2015 when an attempt to take the previously-contracted service commercial failed. Lancashire County Council had just adopted a policy of not entering into any new bus service contracts due to its deteriorating financial position and refused to pay for replacing the withdrawn journeys, despite the fact that until recently they had been subsidised.

The Bus Users' Group was then put in touch with Lancaster City Councillor Tim Hamilton-Cox, who made us aware of the existence of £500,000 of developer contributions made available by the developers of the former Moor Hospital site, now known as Standen Gate, in March 2012. The Agreement under which the money was provided required it to be spent on three things:

1.  Improvement of the bus service

2.  Provision of a cycleway

3. Introduction of a 20 mph limit on nearby roads.

Item three had been completed before the Agreement came into force but there had been no sign of the other two requirements, which Tim Hamilton-Cox had been trying to get progressed.

Once the BUG got involved it became apparent that part of the problem was a lack of communication between the City Council (who as housing authority had received the money) and the County Council (whose job as highway authority it was to spend it). 

We have to admit that we made little progress at first. The County Council's public transport officers appeared unsure as to whether funding was actually available, whilst more senior staff appeared to blame the City Council for not releasing the cash.  Last summer, the County Council started work on a scheme to improve the roads at the junction of Quernmore Road, Wyresdale Road and Moor Lane and it appeared that the bulk of the available funding was to be used to pay for this, with the bus service improvement having to wait until the final cost was known and make the best of whatever funding was left over.

Throughout the campaign we had experienced great difficulty in getting a straight answer from anyone who ought to know - and frequently got no answer at all, with letters and emails to County Hall going ignored.

The breakthrough came when Cllr John Fillis, LCC's Cabinet Member for Highways & Transport agreed to speak at our October meeting.  When the matter of service 18 was raised he claimed to be unaware of the problem but did agree to our member - and Green Party County Councillor  - Gina Dowding's request for a separate meeting to discuss it at which Bus User Group representatives would be invited.

The meeting took place in December and involved BUG representatives as well as County Councillors Gina Dowding and Lizzi Collinge, City Councillor Tim Hamilton-Cox and even Cat Smith MP, who made a point of being in County Hall so she could attend.  When it became clear that the senior highway officers present were showing no sense of urgency towards the bus service and were sticking to the line that it would have to wait until all the other works had been completed and paid for we pointed out that the whole purpose of making the money available was that the bus service should be improved at an early stage in the housing development so that new residents could take it into account before their new travel habits became established. We also pointed out that someone had been sitting on the money since 2012 and that the terms of the Agreement required it to be spent - or at least committed - within five years of when it was signed.

To his credit, Councillor Fillis then instructed the officers to make at least £100,000 available and to organise the new service in "weeks not months".   The new contract actually has a value of £115,000 and should be sufficient to operate the new timetable for 19 months or until September 2018. During that time additional developer funding is expected to become available and this will allow the service to be extended. The BUG will be doing all it can to help promote the new service and to increase ridership to a point where the service will be a commercial proposition after funding comes to an end.