Sunday, 21 May 2017

Party Manifestos on Buses: We've read them so you don't have to!

Obviously buses won't be the only thing on people's minds when it comes to deciding how to vote on June 8th, but if you want to take the various parties' policies on buses into account here they are.

The on line versions of the manifestos don't have a search facility and the Conservative one came in very small text with no "enlarge" facility so please forgive us if we've missed something.

Labour has quite a lot to say.  Firstly, like the others it promises to keep the free bus pass. There is no mention of this being "for the duration of this parliament" although it is surely not unreasonable to expect that ALL policies put forward in the manifesto should be taken this way. Here's what it says:

Labour also wants to change the way in which bus services are regulated and provided - or at least to provide local authorities with the tools to do so:

The Bus Services Act, rushed through parliament just before the election was called, will give powers to councils with directly-elected mayors to regulate buses and Labour's policy would extend this to all. There are pros and cons to re-regulation and the Bus Users' Group has taken no view on this to date.  If the suggested new municipal bus companies are to be "publicly run for passengers not profit" there may need to be changes to other legislation, such as the Transport Act 1985, to allow this.

Regulations to protect routes of "critical community value"  would need to come with the funding to provide them.

Labour is also interested in lowering emissions from diesel vehicles

The suggestion that "We" (i.e. a Labour government) will retrofit buses with cleaner engines suggests that they (i.e. a Labour government)would meet the cost through grants. If that's not the case it will be the passengers that end up paying through higher fares.

The most interesting of the Lib Dems' policies is that to provide cut-price bus travel for young people.

This will be very welcome to those in the target age group (Stagecoach already offer cheap fares to under-19s and students) but it is essential that the reimbursement to bus operators for providing the concession is adequate. Young people together with Over-60s make up the majority of bus companies' customers and there are already issues surrounding how much bus companies are paid to accept the Elderly and Disabled Passes. If they are not reimbursed adequately for accepting concessionary passes this will only lead to higher fares for other users or the withdrawal of services that may be well-used but which are no longer commercially viable.

Other Liberal Democrat policies on buses are:

The party doesn't say how, exactly, it will halt the decline in bus services" other than by commissioning a review. The Bus Users Group would be happy to undertake that review for no fee and, in fact, is happy to supply the answer now:  Increase the funding for them!

"Principal" local authorities, to which powers to regulate buses would be given, are not defined and may or may not be the same as those with directly-elected mayors that have already gained this right through the Bus Services Act.  Powers to improve ticketing and introduce network-wide ticketing are already in the new Act but unless such powers come with funding and unless the legitimate concerns of commercial bus operators over revenue can me met then they are unlikely to be used.

The Conservatives have the least to say about buses.  Like the others the promise to keep the free buses passes for elderly and disabled people:

Note the "for the duration of this parliament", which can be taken in one of two ways: either that they will not continue beyond 2022 (or whenever the next election happens to be) or that they will definitely continue until 2022 at the very least.  Labour and the Lib Dems make no such stipulation.

The only other mention of buses in the manifesto is a reference to reducing pollution from diesel vehicles:

"Investing" in low-emission buses and "supporting" (much needed) audio-visual displays suggests that some funding will be available to make them happen, although there is no suggestion of making either a requirement for bus operators to provide.  The Conservatives also appear to fallen into the common trap of assuming the "community minibuses" are the answer to the rural public transport problem, something which recent experience in Cumbria and Lancashire shows is not the case.

At the time of posting no other party manifestos were available on line.

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.