Thursday, 8 February 2018

It's a Boon When Crossing the Lune (4)

How It All Works - Or Doesn't?
By the time fbb got round to these blogs, almost all examples of the normal service (that operated before the Lancaster's Greyhound Bridge closed) had vanished from the ether. This has also coincided with one of those inevitable technological hiccups that plague confuser users, namely a blockage in the U-bend somewhere between fbb's e-mail server and his terminal.

But your author did find a copy of a Stagecoach Lancaster service 2 timetable showing a through service from Morecambe to Lancaster University. Herewith a Monday to Friday extract from September 2017.
Buses run every ten minutes during term time between Morecambe and Lancaster continuing to the University, terminating at the "Underpass".  This is a road tunnel ...
... under the central block of what used to be called a "campus" university, i.e. built on a green fields site away from the town.

In the vacations, frequency reduces to every 20 minutes/

Here is (courtesy of Google Streetview) a a service 2 about to plunge into the subterranean gloom.

The Greyhound Bridge revision creates this set-up for the 2.
If your maths is OK you can work out that there is a significantly increased running time, from 29 minutes from Morecambe Battery to the bus station to 38 minutes!

The route to the Uni is now numbered U2.
In this case another five minutes has been added to the running time, although this half is not diverted. The extra is presumably to allow for heavier traffic in Lancaster centre.

So now we can "do he math".

Before the "Bridge Crisis" it was 58 minutes from the Battery to the Uni, now, including a more lengthy wait at the bus station, the journey officially takes 38+7+29 minutes, a total of  one hour and 14 minutes.

16 minutes extra is quite a thump, but, to be fair, Stagecoach dos warn its passengers to allow and extra 15 minutes for their through journey.

Before we move on, a little oddity appears, On journeys from Heysham under the new system, two journeys every hour are shaded in a MUD GREEN colour, the 01 and 21 from Combermere Road.

The explanatory note reads:-

At times highlighted in green the bus will have 2X Morecambe Battery on the front, no need to change buses to get to Euston Road and Lancaster as the bus continues through. Through fares are available

In the other direction, TO Heysham, the note reads:-

At times highlighted in green the bus will show 2X on the front. No need to change buses as it continues through

2X? Excitedly, fbb scanned the leaflet for its timetable.
Help! "A map, a map, my kingdom for a map," as Shakespeare nearly wrote for Richard III. As there is no equivalent 2X leaflet extant under the "ancien régime", fbb thinks that these buses run as normal on the outward route to Heysham, then whizz back to Lancaster via the new A683 ...
... before rejoining the "normal" route at Morecambe Road and serving the college.
Hopefully local residents will understand all this and make the right decisions about their travel. But fbb struggles - without a map!

Aha! Just found a route map for the 2X on Lancashire County's web site. 
It does enlarge and becomes more helpful, but fbb's guess looks about right.

fbb has also heard from an old friend with whom he once did some business. Jim explains that the closure of the Greyhound Bridge means more problems for the buses than just two way traffic on Skerton Bridge.
There was a bus lane on Morecambe Road (top left) ...
... which has gone to allow this bit of the gyratory to become two way. The only help outbound buses get is priority at the new lights on the city side of Skerton Bridge.
The bus gets a green light while the rest of the traffic waits. Note the man in the dayglo yellow togs enforcing the buses only bit.

Inbound buses did not have to go all round the sausage-about. As they left the bridge they had a buses only right turn ...
... and a chunk of contraflow bus lane along Parliament Street (map above, lower right).
That has all gone, meaning buses have to join the common herd around the sausage. Warnings of delays and jams would seem to very very appropriate.

BUT ...

Jim writes:-

You may be interested in how things are working. There was a bit of "traffic chaos" on the first morning but I think everyone has been surprised at how well things are working out. In fact, they could be said to be working too well! 

Acting on advice from the county council, Stagecoach added extra running time to all services and split some cross-city routes at the bus station. They also brought in, I think, 6 additional vehicles and drivers to maintain frequencies.

However, it would seem that the extra running time is often not needed, which has resulted in the bus station filing up with parked-up buses waiting their next run when they were supposed to be stuck in traffic.

The fact that the local Lancaster Guardian couldn't find enough evidence to run a "shock, horror, traffic chaos" story in the first week says a lot.

So a possible overkill for Stagecoach and the County Council? Or did car drivers avoid the now two way bridge ...
... out of fear? If so, they will drift back and the chaos will appear in a few weeks!

Six months without the Greyhound Bridge may yet be a challenge.
Transport Minister Chris Grayling (nickname, apparently, Failing Grayling) has announced that Stagecoach (90% owners of Virgin East Coast Railway) will "hand in the keys" very shortly and the franchise will, once again, be directly operated by the Government - i.e. nationalised.

We might paraphrase Oscar Wilde ("To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.") ...

To lose one franchisee may be regarded as a misfortune; to lost two looks like carelessness but to lose three is just gross incompetence.

Sea Containers (GNER)
National Express
Virgin (i.e. Stagecoach) East Coast

have all thrown in the towel because, in all three cases, they bid too high a price to win the franchise. Mismanagement of track improvements by Notwork Rail and/or DaFT (Department for Transport) has not helped.

Shouldn't some transport minister or other realise that the franchising system is "not fit for purpose"?
 Next Thornbury blog : Friday 9th February 

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