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.

Timetables are still "available shortly" but there are some helpful details of what to expect.

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.