Sunday, 31 August 2014

Council check: Lincolnshire County Council

Let's see what Lincolnshire County Council have to say about bus services on their patch.

They use the snazzy Lincsbus website, separate from the rest of the council's online presence:

Where do the buses go?

There's an easy-to-use interactive map of all bus routes in the county, including PDF enlargements for the major towns. You can't ask for more than that. 5 out of 5.


Times for all routes are easily available via the interactive map. 5 out of 5.


After such an encouraging start, it's a bit of a shock that Lincolnshire provides no information on fares or tickets at all, not even mentioning the operators' own tickets. As far as we know, there is no multi-operator ticket. Plusbus doesn't even get a mention, even though it is available in Lincoln, Grantham and Skegness. 0 out of 5.


First class maps and accessibility to timetables, let down by the complete absence of any information about tickets and fares. Lincolnshire County Council scores a total of 10 out of 15.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Report rues deregulation

The IPPR has issued a report that calls bus deregulation outside of London a failure. What was promoted as a way to bring better services and lower fares has in many cases brought fewer services and fares that are so high, many people find it cheaper to drive or use taxis. BBC News and the Guardian report on the report, while the Independent has an editorial on the issue.

London's regulated, but still privatised, system comes in for praise. Its success is backed up by a 99% rise in passenger numbers since 1986. Over the same period, passengers numbers across the UK excluding London have dropped by around a third.

The big difference in London of course is the level of subsidy the bus network receives, which is per capita far in excess of that granted to any other region of the UK.

As an illustration of the parallel universe that passengers outside London have to contend with, MPs in Warrington are lining up to criticise fare rises at Warrington Borough Transport of up to 65%, which were implemented in August. Full story in the Warrington Guardian.

Which other industry could get away with a 65% price rise overnight? There is a lot of innovation in the bus industry, but it is often far too patchy and companies have frequently lost sight of how things appear from the point of view of the existing or prospective customer, not to mention the wider economic and social impact of service changes.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Council check: Suffolk County Council

This week it's the turn of Suffolk County Council to show us how well they promote bus use.

Where do the buses go?

There is no county-wide map. We do have a page listing each are of Suffolk, where if you click on an area, you see timetables for all routes and a basic route diagram. Some diagrams are easier to follow than others however. This one for Ipswich Northeast is horrifically unclear:

You'd be better off using the maps produced by the bus operators, presuming of course, that you already know which operator you need. Traveline is a bit more useful and can be used to find a list of all routes serving a location. 2 out of 5.


They're all here and you can search by service number, area or exact location. 5 out of 5.


This page explains that the operators set the fares and that you should check directly with them. Factual, but not exactly helpful. There's no multi-operator ticket in the area, so if you need to use two different bus operators, you pay twice. Plusbus is mentioned - it's available in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds. 1 out of 5.


The only thing Suffolk does well is provide bus timetables. But there's no decent overview map to help visitors and those considering public transport for the first time find their way around and the fares information is pitiful. Suffolk County Council scores a total of 8 out of 15.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Western Greyhound woes and sabotage claims

Some unsettling reports from Cornwall. BBC News is rather muted, but the Cornish Guardian pulls no punches in hinting at behind-the-scenes trouble at one of the country's biggest and most respected independent bus operators.

Bus Users UK reports that many Western Greyhound journeys are failing to run and others are running unacceptably late.

Chief executive Mark Howarth has claimed on BBC Radio Cornwall that some of his own staff are attempting to sabotage the company.

We and WG's passengers hope that things settle down very soon.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Coach "Plusbus" in Nottingham

Yourbus and National Express have joined forced to give long-distance coach passengers through travel on local bus routes in Nottingham. The Nottingham Post explains how bus journeys on Yourbus are now free for National Express coach ticket holders. This seems to be the first scheme of its kind in the country, but makes absolute sense. Rail passengers have Plusbus tickets with which to gain discounts on onward local bus travel, so it's only right that coach passengers have something similar. After all, coach passengers are probably more likely to need to use a local bus to complete their journey and with coaches often stopping at bus stations, such an interchange is often easier than rail to bus. This blog calls for a national Coach-Plus-Bus scheme. Local bus travel wouldn't necessarily have to be free everywhere, but should at least be discounted, say a flat fare of £1, in order to encourage bus-coach-bus journeys.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Council check: Devon County Council

Each Sunday, we gauge how well a local transport authority is promoting the bus services in its territory. This week, we look at Devon County Council.

Where do the buses go?

There's an interactive map of the whole county, which includes detailed town plans. 5 out of 5.


All routes are covered by Area Timetable Booklets plus you can also click through to individual route timetables from the interactive county map. 5 out of 5.


There is a page dedicated to different ticket types, but there's no way to find out the price of a single journey. If you click through to the day tickets page, it looks like you should be able to click on each one to see prices and the validity area, but this does not work. There is however a pdf that provides more information on day tickets, including prices. The only multi-operator ticket, the Dartmoor Sunday Rover, is only valid for one day a week, but the county council has arranged for the Stagecoach Devon Explorer and FirstDay South West tickets to be valid on all county-subsidised routes. Plusbus is mentioned, but only if you look under train fares, and only for Exeter, Newton Abbot and Totnes, missing Barnstaple. 2 out of 5.


Maps and timetables are nice and easy to find. As has been the case all too often in this survey, fares and tickets are the stumbling point. Devon County Council scores a total of 12 out of 15.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Council check: Derbyshire County Council

This week, we take a look at how Derbyshire County Council is informing the public about bus services there.

Where do the buses go?

Maps are provided for the whole county, individual towns and villages. 5 out of 5.


There's a full bus timetable library providing details of every single route in the county. 5 out of 5.


Most councils don't bother with single fares, but Derbyshire goes the extra mile. First there is an explanation of why they can't provide exact details of single fares, but then we have a pdf of sample fares so that people have some idea of what they will need to pay. Then we have details of bus and train ticket interavailability on the Hope Valley Line and First's 272 route between Castleton and Sheffield, along with details of Plusbus in Derby (outside the county council's remit) and Chesterfield. Plusbus is also available in the Peak District, but the council forgot to mention that. On the Rover Tickets page, we have a summary of day tickets that are available, including operators' own tickets and the two multi-operator tickets that are valid in the county: Derbyshire Wayfarer and TfGM Wayfarer. There are even details of the City of Derby's own multi-operator ticket, even though Derby is administered separately from Derbyshire. 4 out of 5.


An excellent performance by Derbyshire. All of the information is easy to find and it truly is comprehensive. I've forgiven their omission of the Peak District Plusbus ticket because of their efforts to at least give passengers an idea of how much single tickets cost. Derbyshire County Council scores a total of 14 out of 15.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Council check: Nottinghamshire County Council

Each Sunday we take a look at how one of our local transport authorities publicises the bus services on its patch. Today, Nottinghamshire County Council.

Where do the buses go?

There is a county-wide map, which can also be downloaded as a pdf. There are also some town enlargements, but they can only be chosen from the drop-down menu and then viewed and scrolled one square at a time. Local maps are available in pdf format as part of the Area Guides. 5 out of 5.


We are referred over to Traveline East Midlands, where you can search for timetables by route number or location. While Traveline is good in the Midlands, it's no substitute for direct links to the timetables. 2 out of 5.


You could be forgiven for thinking it costs nothing to use the buses in Nottinghamshire, as there is no information on fares and tickets provided whatsoever. All we get is a list of bus operators. Presumably no multi-operator ticket exists. Plusbus, available in Newark, Mansfield, Worksop and Retford, is ignored completely. Poor show: 0 out of 5.


Good, comprehensive maps are let down by referring potential passengers to third parties for timetables and the total omission of any ticketing information. It was a good start, but Nottinghamshire County Council only manages to score a total of 7 out of 15.