Thursday, 18 January 2018

More News on Greyhound Bridge Closure

Following our post on how to find out about your bus service during the six months from 29th January that Greyhound Bridge will be closed there is now some information on Stagecoach's website.

There are now links to most new timetables with the rest expected to be added very shortly. 

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

New Bus Times During Greyhound Bridge Closure

Greyhound Bridge closes on 29th January for six months.

The closure of Greyhound Bridge in Lancaster from 29th January for at least six months will result in new timetables for ALL the city's bus services.

With less than a fortnight to go these new times are still not available on-line or in print, but the information is there, buried within Stagecoach's website. This makes it possible to check on how the new timetables will affect your journey. Here's how to do it on-line:

1.  Go to

2. Make sure the Location tab (top centre) is set to "Lancaster"

3. Click on Plan a Journey

4. Fill in the starting and finishing points of your journey and your departure time and set the date to after 29th January 2018

5. This will give you a journey plan that will apply when the new timetables are in place.  
In the example on this link you can see that a journey from Lancaster University to Heysham, which can normally be made on a through bus (service 2 or 2A) will need a change at Lancaster Bus Station because during the bridge closure there will be no (or at least very few) through buses between south Lancaster and Morecambe.

6. But don't be tempted to follow any more links. From the results page it looks as if it might be possible to reach a full timetable for the new services, but it isn't - and clicking on the new service number just takes you to a copy of the current (pre- 29th January) timetables!

We will post links to the new timetables as soon as they become available.

Monday, 8 January 2018

New Lune Valley Service Details Revealed

Matt Sutton from KLCH and Andrew Snowden from LCC launch the new service.

The Bus Users' Group has refrained from publishing what it knew about the new Lune Valley bus service to be introduced on 5th March following a request from Lancashire County Council to wait until all the details had been finalised.

There may be more news to come, but a timetable for "Service 582  Lancaster to Kirkby Lonsdale" has now appeared on Cumbria County Council's website (Kirkby Lonsdale is within that Council's jurisdiction).  As expected, the timetable shows buses operating every two hours between Lancaster and Kirkby Lonsdale via Hornby, Gressingham, Arkholme and Whittington and includes the limited peak hour services currently operated by Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire. There is also a new, later, evening journey from Kirkby to Lancaster.  First bus of the day from Kirkby Lonsdale is at 0730 (except Saturdays) with following journeys at 1015, 1215, 1415, 1615, 1815 and 2015 six days a week. There is also a journey on service 81 (via Melling and Tunstall) from Kirkby at 1915.

In the other direction, buses leave Lancaster at 0645, 0745, 0945, 1145, 1345 and 1545 all running Mondays to Saturdays.  Stagecoach buses on service 81 via Melling and Tunstall continue as now.

The Cumbria County Council timetable can be seen via this link.

What the Cumbria website doesn't tell you is that most buses on service 582 continue from Kirkby Lonsdale through to Settle as service 581 and then on to Skipton as 580. For example, passengers will be able to leave Lancaster at 0945 and without changing buses reach Settle for 1125 and Skipton at 1210. And, for example, passengers can leave Skipton at 1445  or Settle at 1530  and arrive home in Lancaster at 1705. Later journeys in both directions are available.

When the Bus Users' Group was campaigning for this new service we asked the County Council for two extra benefits:
 - For inter-available tickets to be made available between Kirkby Lonsdale and Stagecoach buses so that passengers could make best use of the available service and - 

- For someone - either the operators or the council - to produce a joint timetable showing ALL buses between Lancaster and Kirkby in one document.  We are still awaiting news on both these items although there is plenty of time yet before the service starts.

Monday, 1 January 2018

How Things are Done Elsewhere

We recently posted how one of our local MPs, Cat Smith, was trying to get the government to take action to implement its own legislation requiring bus operators to equip their buses with "next stop" audio-visual displays to assist ALL passengers. Read again here

Whereas in the UK a small number of bus companies have fitted a number of different systems, a recent visit to Switzerland showed how a different approach could succeed.

Every bus (or, at least, every bus we travelled on) was fitted with a screen (or more than one in larger vehicles) that showed the name of the approaching stop together with a diagram showing the next few stops with the time it would take to reach them as well as the ultimate destination of the bus.

This bus is on service 29 and is approaching the stop "Neuheim" in the village of Udlingenswil, where it is due at 14.48. It is on time as shown by the classic Swiss Railways clock graphic at the bottom right of the screen.
The two following stops are shown below and are 1 and 6 minutes away. The service terminates at "Root D4 Bahnhof" (which is a railway station in a large industrial estate/business park in the suburbs of Lucerne).

When approaching major stops and interchanges the display alternates with a screen showing available connections.
This screen shows that from "Udingenswil, Frohsinn", which the bus reached, on time, at 14.47 there are departures on sevice 29 to Root  D4 Bahnhof as well as connections in both directions on the 73 to Udingenswil or Luzern (Lucerne). Note that the first two 73 journeys are shown in real time as running 1 minute late!
Whilst there did not appear to be any audio announcements, a loud and clear gong was sounded at the approach to each stop to alert passengers. Fortunately, perhaps, stops on rural Swiss buses are rather farther apart than in the UK!

Your BUG representative spent a few days travelling around the Lucerne area by bus and train and can report the following further differences to the UK scene:

1. The vast majority of buses and trains arrived on time. 

2. Bad weather, including heavy snow, appeared to have no impact on the service.

 This bus, which was operating on a rural service that connected with a mountain funicular railway was actually three minutes late when it picked up your BUG rep, but was back on time when it reached the town of Schwyz fifteen minutes later.

3. Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day are treated as normal service days. A Sunday service operates, but that's not very different from a weekday one anyway. There is no early close down on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. The bus in the small village where we stayed connected with trains from Lucerne right up until after midnight and again from 05:00 throughout the Christmas period as it does every day of the year.

4. Very few passengers pay cash, most having some form of pass or season ticket, although the high "walk-on" fares probably have a lot to do with this.

Overall, in Switzerland, one gets the feeling that one is using a properly planned and integrated system. Despite ownership being split between central government, local government and private operators there is a proper "network" with planned connections between buses and trains, buses and other buses and even buses and boats. Needless to say the fares are integrated and one ticket covers all operators and all modes of transport.  Information is easy to come by, both online and on paper and all stops have well-maintained, up to date and legible displays (county council please note) Even for someone unfamiliar with the language it is probably easier to find your way around than it would be in a strange city in the UK.  The only downside for a visitor is the lack of an overall timetable book and, as in Lancaster, one is expected to rely on individual service leaflets and just hope that you've managed to find all the ones you need.

Why can the Swiss do things so much better?  One is tempted to say that they just operate at a higher level of civilization, but clearly they, as a society, are prepared to put a lot more money into public transport than we are, both in terms of higher fares and higher contributions from local and central government. There is also a different approach in terms of politics. Public Transport is "non-political" in that there are no arguments over ownership. Buses and trains are publicly-planned but provided by a variety of public and private operators, and most rural and interurban bus services are run by the Post Office! Because systems are properly planned there is no issue with particular operators having a monopoly and no attempt to rely (unsuccessfully) on competition to improve things.  In short, buses are seen as a public service and one that is entitled to be funded to the necessary extent to ensure a high-quality operation. Because this is a view that prevails across the whole political spectrum there is no danger of a sudden change of approach upsetting the applecart and destroying what has been achieved.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

County Council Offers Day and Weekly Tickets on Supported Services

Co-incident with the introduction of new contracts for supported bus services in Lancashire the county council is requiring operators to issue and accept a range of one-day and one-week tickets.

Each service, or group of services, has a separate ticket and prices vary according to area. Not all services have a one-day version.  Of course, it's not possible to work out how much value-for-money the tickets represent compared with ordinary fares as these are, naturally, a closely-guarded secret and can only be found by asking the driver when you travel!  Nevertheless, it's a start.

Here is what is available in our area:

Service 51  Carnforth - Silverdale
Day ticket  Adult £6.30 Child £3.20   Weekly ticket Adult £17.00 Child N/A

Only valid for unlimited travel on the following local bus route:-
Service 51 Carnforth – Warton – The Yealands – Silverdale

Service 89  Lancaster - Knott End-on-Sea
Day ticket  Adult £6.30 Child £3.20   Weekly ticket Adult £17.00 Child N/A

Only valid for unlimited travel on the following local bus route:-
Service 89 Lancaster – Royal Infirmary – Cockerham – Pilling – Preesall – Knott End

Note that although the prices are identical the tickets are not interavailable and each service requires a separate ticket, perhaps understandable as the two services have no physical connection. There is no ticket for service 33 Morecambe-Bare Circular or the Park & Ride and, presumably, Stagecoach's own tickets are considered sufficient for service 18 in east Lancaster. Nevertheless, the Bus Users Group strongly hopes that a similar arrangement will now be made for the Lune Valley, where service improvements have been promised for February.

One of the most extensive networks covered by the ticket is in the East Lancashire where 10 different services provided by three different operators are included in one ticket, with both one-day and one-week versions available. Full details of services covered are here.

Closer to home there are tickets for the Fylde Coast, Wyre and South Ribble  and a full list can be obtained via this link

It is important to realise that the tickets only cover the council-supported services and do not include commercial services in the areas covered. Nevertheless it is a welcome development. Hopefully the council will consider using forthcoming powers under the Bus Services Act to expand the scheme to take in commercial services and develop a series of multi-operator tickets throughout Lancashire.

A Ribble bus promoting the Red Rose Rambler ticket
in the old bus station in Lancaster in 1983.

Who knows, one day we might even get back to the situation that pertained a mere 35 years ago when a "Red Rose Rambler" ticket gave unlimited, all-operator travel all over the county, with some versions even including trains as well?

Now that would be "integrated transport"!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Local MP asks "Bus" Questions in the House

Cat Smith, member of parliament for Lancaster and Fleetwood has been asking questions about bus services in the House of Commons.  The questions have been addressed to Jesse Norman MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) who has provided written answers.

Ms Smith asked  about the provision of audio-visual "next stop" announcements on buses.
Here is her question:

Photo of Cat Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, when he plans to introduce regulations requiring operators of local bus services to make information available on buses in the form of announcements about forthcoming stops.
The Bus Services Act 2017 included provision for the government to require all bus operators to equip their vehicles with visual displays and audio announcements to let passengers know the name of the stops along the route, with each stop being announced just before the bus arrives.
Using GPS technology, this system is in use on every bus in London as well as an increasing number of English cities, with Nottingham being a prime example.

An example from Nottingham, showing the name
    of the approaching stop and the two following. Audio 
                     announcememts are also made.
Locally, it is in use on a small number of buses in the Blackburn and Burnley areas but the nearest we get to it here in Lancaster is on Stagecoach service 555 where an inferior audio-only system makes rather lengthy announcements when approaching some (but not all) of the stops north of Carnforth. Even then, it is often not working, although whether that is due to a faulty system or someone having chosen not to switch it on is unclear.

A simpler, but perhaps less cluttered example from London.
When used properly, such systems are invaluable for blind and partially-sighted passengers, whilst the visual displays cater for those who are hard-of-hearing. The
systems also help any passengers who may not have hearing or sight impediments but who may just be travelling a route for the first time or to a destination they have not been to before.  The Bus Users' Group was very pleased that this requirement had been built-in to the Bus Services Act and has been waiting for news of when it might be implemented, so we are grateful to Cat Smith for raising the issue in parliament. It does look, however, that the introduction of these systems may still take some time. Here is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary's reply:

Photo of Jesse Norman

The Bus Services Act 2017 incorporates powers to introduce an Accessible Information Requirement, mandating the provision of audible and visible information on local bus services in Great Britain.
We are currently working with stakeholders to develop the detail of the requirement, including timescales for its implementation, with a view to consulting publicly in 2018. Following consideration of the consultation responses, we expect to publish Regulations and accompanying guidance when the Parliamentary timetable permits.

 "Stakeholders", of course, will include the bus industry itself, which will no doubt find many reasons why the introduction of such systems should be delayed or even abandonned. The industry is notoriously short-termist in its thinking and usually acts as if keeping costs down will prove more beneficial (to it) than improving its offering to the public.  We hope the government keeps its nerve on this and works towards early implementation.  But here lies another problem. Note the reference above to publishing Regulations "when the Parliamentary timetable permits".  Anyone who takes any interest in politics may have noticed that the "parliamentary timetable" is presently somewhat over-subscribed with the a certain issue involving us and our European neighbours. The BUG won't be holding its breath!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

(Almost) Everything You Need to Know About Buses Over Christmas

"Everything you need to know about buses in Lancaster and Morecambe over the festive period" is the title of the leaflet produced by Stagecoach to advertise their services over Christmas and the New Year.  You can read a copy via this link

As in previous years, services will close down early evening on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve and there will be no buses at all on Christmas Day.  Boxing Day (26th December) sees a special daytime service operating on the following routes:

2A University - Lancaster - Heysham (Combermere Road)
3A Lancaster - Bare - Heysham (Combermere Road)
6A Lancaster - Morecambe
40 Morecambe - Lancaster - Preston
55 Lancaster - Carnforth

Full timetables are in the leaflet

However, despite its title, the leaflet doesn't really tell you everything about Lancaster's bus service over Christmas.  Service 555 Lancaster - Carnforth - Kendal - Keswick will be providing a Sunday service on Boxing Day, but as it's operated by a completely different part of Stagecoach (known as "Kendal Depot") there is no mention of this in the "Lancaster and Morecambe" Christmas leaflet. 

If you want to check, you need the "Kendal and the Lake District" leaflet, which you can see here.