Friday, 2 May 2014

Undercover on the Buses

The evidence, m'lud.
I've spent much of the last month helping out with a project for Travel Watch North West a body that represents the interests of bus and train passengers. Travel Watch had been asked to help investigate a complaint from a passenger that the "From" and "To" stops shown on his(?) tickets,when making journeys on his concessionary bus pass, didn't correspond with the actual journeys made. This is important because the payment the bus company receives from the Council for carrying passholders free-of-charge is based on this information recorded by the ticket machines. (If any passholders amongst my readers are interested I could go into considerable detail about how these payments are calculated, but it might take several weeks by the end of which I'd have no readers left!)

My task, and that of several other volunteers, was to travel by bus between Lancaster and Morecambe as often as we could and compare the actual journeys made with the tickets issued. Fortunately there are four quite distinct routes between the two towns and several different types of bus in use, which made it more interesting than it might otherwise have been!  The excercise found very little wrong and I suspect that the original complainant didn't understand the difference between "bus stops" and "fare stages", the latter being principal stops along the route from which fares are calculated and which are the only stops shown on the tickets.  What it did show, however, to me at least, was what a well-run bus service the area has. Despite passing through two town centres with all the associated traffic problems and despite there being significant roadworks affecting the two principal routes, out of 20 journeys made 17 were on time. One rush-hour bus was seven minutes late, probably due to being held up at the notorious Bare Lane Level Crossing, and one mid-day journey was an inexplicable 14 minutes behind time. Regrettably, one journey was running four minutes early - the most serious crime a bus driver can commit.  All the buses were clean and well-presented and most of the drivers were at least civil if not exactly friendly. One driver did go out of his way on one trip to warn passengers that traffic conditions were such that the last few hundred metres into the Bus Station were likely to take 10 minutes to cover and opened the door between stops (another "crime") to let those who wanted to walk get off.

In my time I've been a bus driver, conductor and surveyor but this is the first time I've been a bus spy!

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