Friday, 29 July 2016

Reliability and Punctuality

After my previous post on the first breakdown so far on my Around the Edge of England bus tour I thought it was time I estabilshed just how reliable the buses are. The route I have taken is not exactly typical - too many rural routes and not enough urban journeys - but it does give a snapshot of what you can expect if you travel by bus.

The good news is that 96.1% of the buses I have used - or tried to use - have turned up and have completed their scheduled journeys.

Slightly less good is the "punctuality".  Only 71.5% of buses were "on time" as defined by the Traffic Commissioners' (a sort of industry regulator) definition of "one minute early to five minutes late". But if you extend that definition to include buses 10 minutes late (which is the measure applied to long-distance trains) the score rises to 90%

The national Rail Public Performance Measure, which measures trains that arrive at their terminating station "on time" (which is defined as up to 5 minutes late for local trains and 10 minutes for long-distance) is 88.5% (moving annual average to 25 June 2016).

Trains have two great advantages over buses.  They have exclusive use of the track, with only other trains to get in the way.  And because their punctuality is measured only at the terminating station they are allowed to "pad" the timetables with excessive running time between the penultimate and final stops to create an artificial recovery margin. Virgin Trains from Manchester to London, for example, are given 7 minutes to the first stop at Stockport. Coming north, however, London trains terminating in Manchester get typically 12 minutes from Stockport, which helps them to be "on time" at Manchester even though they might have been late at every other station.  Buses don't cheat like this! 

There is more detail on my journey here.

2 comments:

Steve B said...

Another thing about train journeys is that journey planners allow far too long for connections. Thus, although my journey on Saturday from Reading to Northampton via London was timed to be longer than 2 hours, I actually did it in rather less.

Jim said...

Buses have that problem too, especially on long routes with split registrations. The planners don't accept what appears to them to be a tight connection and tell you to get off the bus and wait for the next when in reality it's a through bus. As always with computers "rubbish in, rubbish out". Of course the real problem is the rather silly rules that require bus companies to register through services as two or more shorter separate ones to take advantage of "domestic" drivers' hours regs. Could abolition of these be the only possible benefit of leaving the EU?!