Monday, 24 February 2014

No change / No duplication

A comment article in Herald Scotland makes the case for a Netherlands-style national public transport smartcard. While the UK seems unwilling to even consider such a thing, could an independent Scotland make a go of it and revolutionise its public transport? The writer is clearly irked that Lothian Buses don't give change, a problem that smartcards would solve. It seems hard to believe that there are still some bus operators who refuse to give change when paying in cash for a fare, but somehow the likes of First Glasgow and National Express West Midlands have survived. Do you know of any more that are stuck in the 1980s when it comes to giving change? Name and shame them in the comments below.

An interesting idea has been floated in Chester, that I'm surprised hasn't already been tried elsewhere. Maybe it has. Chester First tells how Cheshire West and Chester Council is looking to curtail some subsidised bus routes where part of the route duplicates an existing route, such as one of the city's park and ride services. the idea is that rural buses instead of running into central Chester would instead terminate at a park & ride site on the edge of the city and those passengers intending to travel to the city centre would then have to transfer to the park & ride bus. The risks are obvious: waiting time at the new transfer point and ticket interavailability between the two buses you need to use. Pensioners won't get off lightly either. Look at this on the Chester Park & Ride website:

The dodgy highlighting is mine. Maybe this idea is a ploy to get pensioners to pay something towards their travel after all without going to the bother of axing the bus pass scheme. The council of course saves money because it's not paying to subsidise a bus to run where a commercial service or a park & ride bus already runs. As long as they can ensure that farepayers can buy one through ticket and publicise that fact, Chester could be on to something here.


  1. Preston Bus (Rotala) inherited a no change system from the prwvious owners.

  2. Nottingham City Transport & Cardiff Bus are other operators who maintain a exact fare operation - it tends to hold on in large cities who have a fairly simple zonal fare structure which is easy & simple to widely publicise & have strong off-bus season ticket sales which minimises the issues. It is also city bus operators that gain the most from the faster boarding times that result as they don't have the benefit of catching up delays through faster running as they never leave congested lower speed limit roads. For it to work it does require extensive & clear marketing of what the fares will be, which to be fair all the ones I have experienced who have retained it do very well (not sure about Preston or Lothian as haven't visited either in years).

    The idea of forcing long distance travellers to change on the edge of town to other services has been tried & hasn't worked successfully anywhere else. The most notorious was Tyne & Wear before deregulation where the PTE terminated every service at Metro stations and forced customers to change, it was very unpopular with everyone and was challenged by a small independent, Low Fell Coaches, under the regulated regime which Low Fell won enabling them to provide the service customers wanted and run through Gateshead to carry passengers direct to Newcastle City Centre. The problem is passengers don't like be forced to change modes for a journey they feel is reasonable to do without it (such as into the major city centre) and they don't particularly trust the interchange so all it results in is passengers who have alternative modes will switch to those and you are left with those who have no choice and the service withers and dies due to low usage. York had a couple of rural services that appeared to do something similar as they served a number of outlying villages before terminating at one of the Park & Ride sites but it is difficult to be sure if that was the intention as the site in question was attached to a major out of town shopping area so they may just have been aiming for that anyway.

  3. Passengers want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible.
    Any form of diversion or delay is unwelcome and makes this option unattractive. When something similar was tried on a local Park & Ride using main road buses to provide the P & R service it didn't work despite bus priority and other measures. Passengers on the main road service seriously disliked being diverted through the Park and Ride site which added minutes to their journey (that's without any change of bus) and the bus company reported declining numbers of longer distance passengers..

    Whilst it might have worked in theory there were also far to many ways - despite bus priority measures - that that buses on the main route (and others) could be delayed.

    If you delay a bus to await another running late you upset those already on board and that other service then also runs late.

    I think however that you are more concerned about the prospect of being able to charge bus pass holders on P & R!

    I had to look at this some years ago. At that point, and it may have changed, if bus passes were not going to be accepted on a P & R that service had to meet the definition of a 'special service' . In general terms the requirement was that the P & R should be precisely that and not offer a 'local service' purely for bus passengers. If it was a local bus service bus pass holders had to be carried for free. Its bus 'fare' should also be MORE than on comparative local bus services. That then confirms that the customer is paying for something other than just the bus ride e.g. parking. This however brings another problem in that car parking charges are liable to VAT which bus fares are not. Also that if you are saying that part of what a bus pass holder is then paying is a parking charge then same must apply to ALL users of the P & R not just the bus pass holders. You are then liable to paying 20% of whatever that figure is to Customs and Excise on every user (and hope they don't backdate it!),

    Trying to work that out creates a wider minefield.

    Some places may prefer to attract the bus pass holders into their town to spend whatever and increase footfall whilst leaving spaces free in town centre car parks and not adding to congestion on the arterial roads.

  4. Newport Bus (although they have a very simple two-tier fare structure on most routes) and National Express Dundee (aka mini West Midlands) also have fare boxes.

  5. I echo many of the points Clive C raises, I too have heard of this plan failing miserably elsewhere. Chester relies on day visitors for its economy, especially for the likes of the markets and racecourse events. I'm sure the last thing the travelling public wants, is to be spending their time changing onto other buses on the outskirts of the city.

  6. Thamesdown in Swindon went over to a exact fare system in the last ten years in order to speed their services up.

  7. Many passengers want to get to their destination as quickly as possible.The time saved by the use of cards and those who obtain change before they board can easily be lost by the irritant who tenders a £10 note or worse. Here in Plymouth both the major operators give change and I regularly witness the above scenario. I don't see anything wrong in encouraging a bit of pre journey thought for one's fellow passengers.

  8. Car parking machines rarely give change... If car drivers can cope with a no change policy why is it beyond bus passengers?

  9. Just was in Edinburgh for a few days. Lothian does publish it fares well, but at the airport they do sell tickest for Airlink (and give change) but dont sell their own day tickets. So if someone arrives from overseas without british coins, he has to try to obtain the necessary change elsewhere.

    I knew about and had the necessary money ready when I boarded on North Bridge. But another passsenger from somewhere afar hadn't and asking around, if some could change her 10 pound note certainly took longer than giving change would take.

    However I suspect the real reason for not giving change is not speed of boarding, but crime, as the driver cannot easily get to the money once it is in the box, there is not much point of robbing him.


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