It has been a week that has cruelly put life into perspective. Suddenly it didn't matter what loan registrations were, when the latest repaint was being completed, or what loco was on what train. It just didn't matter and I couldn't have cared less. I postponed plans for hoped meetings and remembered what I do is a hobby and no more. Sometimes it's all too easy to forget that, and treat it like life and death. It's not. My heart goes out to those affected by the Manchester murders this week. To call it terrorism gives credence to the imagined justification for it. It wasn't terrorism it was murder. May the victims rest in peace, and their families find peace and strength in the love and support the entire nation has, and will continue to express.
Another rural route is about to be axed. The little known Paul Frost Travel 62 from Woodbridge to Framlingham is going from the end of June. There are rumours it may still operate a couple of days a week but there is no confirmation as yet. It's not for bad service - Nigel the regular driver couldn't be a nicer bloke, and to have a bus service playing ClassicFM is a welcome change from personal iPods blaring Lord knows what out. You can literally time your watch by the service. It has a loyal band of passengers which has clearly not proved enough. So what has been the route's downfall? Quite simply the route itself.
It was not designed for major use so no surprise it hasn't been majorly used. Where exactly was it linking Framlingham to and why? 3 hours in Woodbridge isn't easy to fill. It won't ever attract custom from Wickham Market with only 3 journeys a day. So it has served its extremely limited market to the best of its ability.
I have advocated for years now a bus service linking Wickham Market and Framingham to Campsea Ashe Station. If you live in Framlingham, which is expanding at quite a rate there is not a bus to any station anywhere except the Wednesday 62 to Saxmundham, which only gives you a couple of hours anyway so pointless for the station. And is being axed. Why not? If you live in Wickham Market there is no bus to your nearest station, you have to go to Melton ( a walk from bus) or Woodbridge then double back if you're heading towards Lowestoft unless you go to Saxmundham but of course the buses don't connect with the trains and the timetable I discussed with First to alter that was never implemented. It's hardly going to encourage passenger growth is it.
It's not even confined to the sticks either - there are no buses to Great Yarmouth station either can you believe. Want to catch a train if you live in Gorleston? Well you can go to Yarmouth Police Station and walk, or go to Lowestoft, and walk again unless your house is on Anglian's 61 that week! Surely that's not right. I thought the entire concept of "public transport" was the conveyance of passengers easily and conveniently from A - B in return for a fare. That concept seems to have gone out of the window when you see company Tweets like this one I saw today from an operator whose identity I shall keep secret.
"Great to catch up with X & Y to discuss further alignment of local transport to economic development"
What??????? How is that going to help Mrs Smith do the shopping or get to the station, or the kids to get back from the cinema without relying on their parents. The basics of public transport have been entirely forgotten, and if the future for bus services outside major towns and cities has any future then basics have to be resurrected with some tinkering, and that got me thinking.
Now I imagine when most of the great ideas of the world were first proposed they were met with incredulity and ridicule - let's put a man on the moon, let's build a passenger plane that goes twice the speed of sound, let's put dill pickle in a burger, let's put giant windmills 20 miles out to sea to generate electricity - so I'm not expecting universal cheering and acceptance of this idea, but it just might save rural bus services, increase public transport usage, and just for once show someone was serious about generating it. The idea is this;
As part of future rail franchises make compulsory bus links to stations from a 10 mile radius a condition, to connect with first and last trains. Give people a reason to use public transport, rather than reasons not to. Obviously those buses would be tendered out by the Train Operating Company, but let's face it - who are the major TOC's in the country? Oh yes First, Stagecoach, Arriva and Go Ahead. So instead of Councils tenderng the bus services it woud be the TOC as part of their franchise. Then my elderly friend in Wickham Market can keep her alarm in her sheltered flat, which is being taken away as the Council are no longer funding it. (Yes Smurf I know!) There has been a precedent to this - London Transport.
I asked a very knowledgeable contact of mine who has worked in the transport industry in London all his life if he could think of a single station served by either tube or train that didn't also have a bus serving the station. He couldn't. Not one. He said there must be but he couldn't think of any. That's because London Transport were an interested party in both modes, and realised that both had to link together if they were to be really attractive. Combined tickets were available and the rest is history.
Now obviously I'm not suggesting that Framlingham gets a London Transport type service to Campsea Ashe station. But what's the point in getting the train into town for a night out if you have to drive to and from the station. Defeats the object of the exercise. I bet anything that if TOC's were responsible for local bus services they would make darn sure everything linked up together - timetables, ticketing, frequencies etc to get those bums on seats. Places like Beccles, Thorpe-le-Soken, and Sheringham would have buses connecting with last trains, and authorities with real teeth, unlike the Traffic Commissioners who only seem to hit the small guys, and the Rail Regulator - who as far as I've seen has done diddly squat over the various industrial disputes, could fine and withdraw franchises if necessary.
That is the basic idea. It couldn't be achieved overnight, but then nor was putting Neil Armstrong on the moon. It would take time to take off and get the public enthusiastic so initial losses must be expected. It would require investment, but that would pay for itself with the extra revenue generated. Never mind "further alignment of local transport to economic development", put buses where new houses are built, remember who public transport is for, who uses public transport, and the basic reason public transport was created in the first place.
Campsea Ashe from what I've seen,is fairly well used and im sure numbers would go up if there was a connection of some sorts. Look at the rapid increase on the line when it went hourly.ReplyDelete
Not sure who organises it but is integrated transport not what happens in Holland?. But of course in answer to your penultimate point public transport is of course to make money for the shareholders. Well except in London and a few other places where the idea of a public service still lingers.ReplyDelete
I think you misunderstand ho bus services operate in London. They all go out to public tenderDelete
All being the operative word. That means TfL get the profits from the money making routes which subsidise the loss making routes. That is what makes London different. Elsewhere the Councils are expected to subsidise loss making routes only without getting money in from profit making routes AND pay for Concessionary passes. Something has to change and soon.Delete
Only a handful of TfL routes make a profit about 99% operate at a loss ie the fares revenues are less than the tender costsDelete
Oh gawd! You want to put the politicians in charge of the commercial services? They've really shown that they know how to run public transport over the last century haven't they? (Or doesn't it apply to Southern Railway?). I'll grant they do know how the spend our taxes though (even, or especially, in London), and with everything else rising in price we're all anxious to pay more taxes aren't we? Isn't part of the problem that this country is always changing the regulation of its public transport? I'm talking about the last century and a half, not just the last decade.Delete
If I had a few bob for every time someone told me things must change, I'd be a rich man. The politicians and their friends have yet to have deliver the goods though.
The idea in the original article was interesting, but isn't that where we started at the turn of the nineteenth century when the rail companies developed bus offshoots, until legislation and economic necessity separated them. Perhaps Holland and other places don't have the same compulsion to tinker all the time? To do anything properly takes time, to mature. Assuming, of course, we've sown the right seed in the right place to start with; and that's the hardest part. We might be able to lead the horse to water (or plant the seed), but we can't make it, or the would-be passengers, drink, or grow. Learning from RELEVANT best practice is what makes the difference; not trying, however hard, to impose the solution (however clever) on the problem. We've been there, and done that. More than once; too often.
Similarly, I thought (though locals with better memory might correct me) SCC have in the recent past supported both a minibus/taxi bus service towards what I knew as Campsea Ashe station, which is where I think it is; and later on an evening subsidised taxi link from the East Suffolk line between Saxmundham and Aldeburgh. Neither caught on, so let's try a bigger conventional bus instead? Like when I knew Ipswich station in the late 1970s, Eastern Counties had a longstanding list of all the places you could get to prominently displayed at the platform entrance, and it was a long list. Why did they cease? Because people didn't want them, with their money or their votes. We can all think up excuses, and I certainly do the same too; but that is still the basic problem. Traveling around rural Suffolk over this spring, I'm still surprised at how GOOD the network the County Council supports still is, compared to RURAL services elsewhere. Many places in Suffolk still have a regular daily service, which would be a few days a week or once a week elsewhere. Yes they have to link towns to survive, but that's where people need to go. And not EVERYWHERE, I know. Name one Shire County where you can get EVERYWHERE by bus. I'd be interested to know. If people go out in the evening and Sundays, they don't want to wait around for a bus which wanders around, to get home. And they don't have to. There isn't a rover ticket, but who amongst the normal traveling public actually wants one, and hasn't a pass? If there was the demand, there'd be one. Neither the companies nor the Council are that stupid. Why haven't publicly owned Ipswich buses done it all already? Surely they're the regions biggest success story.
I've yet to see any commentator on this site, saying they need a rover or would regularly use an evening or Sunday bus if one were available, or even a link to Campsea Ashe, for that matter. Might that just conceivably be because they don't actually need one? Oh, goodness we can't have that, can we?
We can all tell people what we think they ought to have. Especially political manifestos. But nobody is listening. Not normal people anyway. Sorry about bursting the bubble. But that's what bubbles do.
Yes I was contemplating a long, rambling reply about how I used the late bus back to Wickham Market EVERY Sunday and at least 2 other days a week before it was axed, and if there was an on demand service connecting with last trains from Darsham now I wouldn't need a car etc but I won't. I'll just say this.Delete
If there were a few less bubble bursters around, citing what happened in the 19th century as an excuse not to give something a go, and more people prepared to say yes, it's got to be worthy a go, then we are doomed. As the population lives longer more and more people will be driving long after they should really stop as they will have no alternative. Moe younger people will be forced into cars as the infrastructure won't be there anymore. Oh it will be if you want to get from London to Birmingham a nanosecond faster than now, but from Darsham to Norwich? that's what your so called "normal people" are interested in.
As I said in the original post - until we have people in charge who look for reason to do something rather than excuses not to do something then poor old travelling public may as well add bricks to the wall they are constantly banging their heads against.
Too many fingers in the pie, as usual.ReplyDelete
TOCs working with local bus operators could hardly make a worse hash of it could they? Even Abellio, perhaps, optimistically?
Diamond Geezer covered the subject of bus-unserved stations in Greater London earlier this month (the answer is not zero).ReplyDelete
Now that's an interesting article, and some surprising conclusions there. I guess it's how you define close to the station. Covent Garden for example has many buses, even if none actually stop outside the Tube Station. But I'm glad he's done all the research as that must have taken time.Delete
UKIP had an interesting idea in their manifesto for rural bus services they want to make it far easier to set up local community bus servicesDelete
At present rural bus services even in quite large towns are in terminal decline and the saervices if any provided are infrequent and many places are toally unserved by buses
So of course in an area that would benefit from such a policy UKIP have decided not to put up a candidate! Ho Hum!!Delete
Local Go-Ahead Group CompaniesReplyDelete
Once again they are late filling their accounts except for Konect which I think was the only one making a profit. Hedingham, Anglian & Chambers have yet to file their accounts which were all due by the end of March
This has been tried before, the Valley Lines around Cardiff had a number of regular rail links between stations and local towns off the rail network. These survived for a number of years but never became commercial and the moment the funding dried up they all disappeared fairly quickly. A pure dedicated rail link to a station is pretty much certain to require permanent subsidy as there is never enough dedicated traffic to produce commerciality. If you can find other flows to hang with the link you have a chance but you would have to wonder why they are not otherwise provided. People underestimate how much it costs to operate a bus commercially, for even a low cost operation (so not the higher cost big groups) you need somewhere around £350 per day per conventional bus (a smaller minibus would be less due to cheaper running costs) in income to reach commerciality which is a big hurdle to cross as it is a lot higher passenger need than many would assume. The idea is not a bad one but needs to be done with the assumption of long term funding (which the UK is very bad at) to establish at the least.ReplyDelete
The problem operators find with providing an integrated system between buses & trains is that most existing bus passengers aren't interested in using the station (we have actually had complaints in some cases when a route was diverted via the station and so had to omit the hospital as passengers preferred the latter to the former) whilst many stations across the UK aren't well situated for actual town centres (as when they were built they had to be put where landowners/space allowed often some distance from existing town centres) so often serving one compromises the other.
In relation to "further alignment of local transport to economic development" which you are somewhat derisive of is actually what you are then asking for. It is about talking to the people in charge of putting in new developments (building houses, hospitals, shops etc) and ensuring they are designed with proper consideration to being served by buses from the start. The wording may be a little catchphrasey but it is actually what you want to happen.
Oh dear so many are missing the point. This has nothing to do with subsidy by councils or anyone else. The requirement to provide the connecting bus services would be part of the rail franchise, and the Train Operating Companies would shoulder the cost, which they would obviously include in the tendering process. It would be up to them to make it attractive and used by not only satisfying current market demands but creating new markets.Delete
I didn't mention who would be funding in my response but since most rail franchises are effectively supported by the government you are just quibbling over terms. Whether the funding stream comes from a local council, from central government either directly or via a contractor or from a private business as terms of gaining a contract it is all subsidy and it is all reliant on political will and funding streams that have been shown to be unreliable. If you write it into the contract terms of the rail franchise it will inevitably mean the franchise is more expensive than it otherwise would be (especially as it is intended to draw people from driving to the station where the parking fees are a not insubstantial revenue stream for many franchises especially in the south east), how long do you think it would be for matters to be raised about how trains are more expensive and for that requirement to quietly disappear?Delete
My employers have services funded by NHS trusts, a University, a private student accommodation provider, private businesses & house builders but all are considered subsidised contracts, it is just that the organisation paying for the contract isn't the local council.
What you are suggesting is how it should be but to achieve it requires a change in political thought from everyone from the top politicians down through the media to the ordinary voter that spending money on socially necessary services like this is a good thing. You could see a limited number of small scale schemes being done almost as PR exercises but wide scale implementation requires an acceptance of paying more money ultimately by the taxpayer.
The Tyne and Wear Metro was set up as an integrated system with the aims of improving public congestion and reducing congestion. In the early days it was all run by the PTE with god connections between bus and train, through ticketing and reduced bus services to the City Centre from the Metro-served areas. It all went well for a couple of years but then Conservative politics moved in and said that this was a monopoly, buses had to be deregulated and the trains ought to compete with trains rather than integrate with them. As you say, it wouldn't be difficult for operators such as Stagecoach to integrate rail and bus services (although of course each are separate businesses) but I doubt that they would be permitted to do so under current legislation.ReplyDelete
New legislation comming in would allow for it to be done on a TfL type bases where the local council is responsible for the network but the services etc are put out to tender.Delete
I think you could get a lot of efficency gains by running services as a network rather then companies competing directly with each other. I think UKIP's idea of community run local bus services also has a lot of merit. I would see the community bus service running the local service which the larger bus companies are not really interest in and leaving the inter urban services to the main bus companies
Although I can see real problems arising if community bus services of any frequency or regularity are supposed to be run by volunteers.Delete
I dont think the intention is for volunteers to drive the bus as these would be regular scheduled services. Volunters may be used in support rolls such as running an enquiry line with some routine admin work and possibly cleaning the busesDelete
The ending of the enforced integration of buses with the Tyne & Wear Metro (i.e: the terminating of bus routes at the first Metro station they reached rather than running through to the logical destination with a stop at the Metro station) predated bus deregulation by a couple of years. The cause was actually a small local independent operator (Low Fell Coaches) who, in response to the request of passengers, applied to operate a direct service into Newcastle rather than terminating at Gateshead as the existing services were forced to do. Despite Tyne & Wear PTE opposition they were successful in this application in front of the Traffic Commissioners (this was still during the regulated era) due to the fact they could show large customer support for their proposal. Once they had done this the NBC subsidiaries were able to follow suit. The services in question still serve the Metro Interchanges that they previously served just that they then continue into the logical destination of the city centre giving customers the choice of mode. The problem is that for some reason British people, unlike much of the rest of the world, seem to have an aversion to changing mode/service in the middle unless it is logical to them - London is the one place where this has less effect, possibly very low fares, off bus ticketing so customers don't feel they are paying and very high frequencies so they don't have to wait very long at any change is the only solution.Delete
Probably because services are so infrequent that changing bus makes the journey non viable particularly as the normally dont connect in any case so unless you hasve a day to spare it is not an option add in as well that most bus stations have gone or where the exist they are totally inadequate then you can see why passengers dont see changing buses as an optionDelete
The particular problem that Low Fell solved was the length of time to interchange at Gateshead - which is barely a mile from central Newcastle. The Metro station is considerably below the surface, needing two escalators to get to platform level. Add in waiting time, and the bus would almost certainly have reached central Newcastle before anyone interchanging had left Gateshead.ReplyDelete
At surface stations such as Four Lane Ends, interchange was easier and continues to this day - aided and abetted by the fact that it is so much further out, that the time benefits of changing are better.
To return to the core proposition, what do you do to the bus timetable when train times change because of engineering works? Adjusting it is (a) difficult within current legislation and (b) largely restricts the market to very well informed rail customers only. These problems also contributed to the end of the Glamorgan rail links referred to earlier.
To which I should also add, if there is one bus on a dedicated link, what does it do when a train is late? Wait for that train and miss the connection to the next one. Or vice versa?
I would have thought that the answer is the same as for branch line connections to/from delayed mainline train services (eg Sheringham branch) - wait as long as you can, but go if you have to. However, if you have a properly integrated system the bus driver (or station staff, if it's a staffed station) ought to be able to keep in touch with Control, who can then radio to the Train Conductor, who can at least inform the passengers what is going to happen ... and even hustle them from train to bus if necessary. Even "bad news" is better than "no news" and apprehension!ReplyDelete
(Of course, if it is a truly integrated link, the rail company should organise taxis to replace the missed connection ... oh, did you see that pig flying over, too?)