Thursday, 11 October 2018

Change Of Tune Crossing the Lune (4)

The Horrors of Heysham
No reflection on this happy community, often subsumed as a mere subsidiary of Morecambe ...
... but a reflection on the complexity and potential confusion of their bus service. Here is the pattern before this week's network change.
Non residents will grapple with the geography (Heysham Village, Higher Heysham, Heysham Towers) but bus users had to cope with:-

2 and 2A (DARK GREEN) - two different routes to the terminus at Combermere Road.

2X (LIGHT GREEN) - an "express" route to Heysham via the newish Bay Gateway Road following a third route through the housing areas. And then, some route 2 buses became 2X buses at Morecambe (and vice versa) - but some didn't.

5 (ORANGE) - Overton, Heysham, Morecambe, Carnforth - hasn't changed and ought to be simple, but in the evenings and on Sundays did an extra wiggle via Heysham Village because the 3A and 4 didn't exist at those times.

4 (PALE PURPLE) joined the 5 via Higher Heysham but provides the Monday to Saturday daytime service to Heysham Village.

3A (DARK PURPLE) ran on Sundays when the 4 didn't. You will remember that the 3, 3A and 4 all followed different routes in Bare between Lancaster and Morecambe.

There were two common points on the Heysham routes. Travelling from south to north we first meet Combermere Road.
Then there is Heysham Towers where we have a very tidy bus turning circle.
The stretched double decker is a quirk of Streetview, not an unpublicised newbuild for Stagecoach. But there is no Heysham Towers!

There used to be.
A posh private pad, Heysham Tower, gained an "S" and became a family-owned holiday camp in the 1920s. It was later re-branded ...
... although it was some distance from the beach and the bay.
It had all the usual delights, namely a swimming pool (outdoor, of course - holidaymakers were a hardy lot back then) ...
... and ballroom for evening entertainment ...
... and delightful gardens.
You were woken up to the jolly strains of "The Happy Wanderer"!

By the late sixties the whole area was in decline for holidays and the camp closed in the early 70s and, as you might have guessed, is now a housing estate.
No more Heysham Towers but the fifty year old name persists - and probably always will!

So, back to the buses and this week's new network. Is it tidier and a little easier to understand.

But, in a word - not much! (that's two words.)
Service 5 (was orange) becomes PURPLE but is otherwise unchanged. It still does its Heysham Village diversion evenings and Sundays.

Services 3 and 4 (were purple) are now service 2 and 2X (ORANGE) with 2X buses becoming 2 (but a different 2, of course) in Morecambe.

One of the consequence of the 2/2X link is that journey planners simply don'y work. You are either offered a 2X via the Bay Gateway road and a long, long walk ...

From Combermere Road Heysham
Take 2X bus to Morecambe Road
Lancaster and Morecambe College
9 minutes. Depart 09:05, Arrive 09:14

Walk to Bare, Morecambe, Lancashire
28 minutes. Depart 09:14, Arrive 09:42

... or a 2X into Morcambe, an unnecessary 15 minute wait, then a 2 to Bare.

From Combermere Road Heysham,
Take 2X bus to Bus Station (Stand 3),
Central Drive, Morecambe
17 minutes. Depart 09:25, Arrive 09:42

Take 2 bus to Bare Lane By Station, Bare
14 minutes. Depart 09:57, Arrive 10:11

The 0925 2X is a through bus (as service 2) to Bare, Torrisholme and Lancaster!

Services 2, 2A and 2X (were green) become new service 1 (BLUE). Whereas the 2 and 2A showed which way the bus was going (via Kingsway 2, via Heysham Road 2A) the number 1 is used for both routes.

Bus watchers feel that the Heysham Road journeys should show 1A. Maybe the thinking is that having 1 AND 1A at the University will confuse the poor students.

Will passengers make mistakes? Possibly they will, especially if buses have become bunched earlier in the route (as for Lancaster University) and start to run "out of order".
One "complication" is that the shaded journeys (above) do not run during University vacations.

A more perplexing problem could be caused by the end of the route. It runs via Mossgate Park ...
... and area not previously served by bus.

But it's a loop. Surely the timetable should have a time point for Mossgate Park on both the outward and return tables?

Loops are an easy way out for the bus operator, but a difficult concept to cope with for the passenger. When would you expect your bus to turn up at Mossgate if you wanted to go to Morecambe? Will it run early? Is it easier to walk to Heysham Towers rather than face the uncertainty or sit waiting for your departure time at the Towers "terminus"?

Lancaster Bus Station - A P.S.
One of the challenges with bus travel in Lancaster is that the dominant operator is Stagecoach who produce some excellent publicity. But they do not include services operated by the other company, Kirby Lonsdale Coaches.
Amongst their Lancaster routes is the Park and Ride which used to show route 1 until Stagecoach pinched it for their new network!

Now Lancashire County Council no longer publish a bus map, there is no combined cartographic entity to show everything. Or, more correctly, there wasn't until now.

The Lancaster Bus Users Group has commissioned a diagrammatic map of the City including Morecambe and Heysham showing all "normal" bus services. It appeared in the LBUG display at the bus station several days before the timetable changes.
If you wish to enjoy, explore or check the LBUG efforts larger version is below. (click on the map to enlarge it)
At the time of writing it is the ONLY network bus map on display at the Lancaster bus station.

The person who has designed this stunning piece of cartographical genius is a shy a self-effacing individual who prefers to remain anonymous. Something of the map's background can be explored (here)

An extension of the map to show longer distance "country" routes is likely to appear soon.

A Response to a Comment
Anonymous is quite right.
BUT, yet again, his (or her?) comment is based on the unwavering belief in the UK's "commercial" bus system - a system which is increasingly failing to deliver what "the public" needs. Other methods of funding exist that rely on revenue from sources other than the farebox. If our "society" wants to encourage students to travel by bus rather than clogging up Lancaster with cars, then extra buses need to be provided at Peak Uni times.

If the Uni relies on student housing remote from the campus, then it is their responsibility to ensure there are adequate travel facilities.

Historically, the whole idea of Unis like Lancaster was that work, recreation and residence should all be centred on one campus.

 Next Northampton University blog : Friday 12th October 


  1. Andrew Kleissner11 October 2018 at 08:28

    Problem is, Universities have changed in lots of ways. One is that they have got bigger: Lancsaster has nearly 14000 students and over 4000 staff, I bet when the campus was envisaged in the late 60s it would have been a third of that number or less. Also fewer students follow the old full-time model: many have to take jobs to make ends meet, also the percentage who live in Halls of Residence is, I'm sure, much smaller. So the transport needs increase hugely.

  2. Interesting comment from Anon, and similarly an interesting reply.

    So, what about this conundrum?

    Parental choice at secondary schools leads to large numbers travelling from "out of catchment" to the (perceived) best schools. The parents demand transport, and are prepared to pay a fare, but the local bus network is council subsidised and the extra cost far exceeds the revenue on offer, even if, say, a "no child fares before 0900" rule was introduced. Furthermore, the new demand actually lives outside the LA area, so can't even claim they are paying Council Tax; yet still they demand. Worse still, because they board at the start of the route they fill the bus preventing the few entitled students allocated to the bus and workers from boarding.
    Or in another variation on a theme, what about when a school fills a particular year group meaning local children, some living within sight of the school, have to be bussed, at council tax payers expense to the school in the neighbouring town.

    These aren't rare examples, it happens at five secondary schools in my employer's area (hence the "Anon" - I hope people understand why). Several schools aren't interested in how the pupils get there, although to be fair some do provide their own coach services (although using school minibuses on S19 permits is a whole other area of discussion).

    So, if funding other than from the farebox is to be provided, what is the fair and equitable way to do it in the above example? And how deep does the funder's pocket need to be?

    If, as FBB contends, the commercial bus market is, if not actually broken, seriously flawed, what should be "regulated"? The buses? The school application process? The planning application process for universities? All of it?

    For one day this week the news was full of doom and gloom about the environment and the need to reduce emissions. The bus is ideally placed to help here, but now that the news has moved on did anyone in Government notice? Does anyone in Government even know the first thing about buses beyond the endless stream of red ones which pass Westminster and through Whitehall?

    I'm not suggesting an answer either way, merely highlighting similar issues. Accepting that where we are isn't ideal, how much do we need to do, and how wide ranging do we have to look, to make things better?

  3. I totally agree with the comments from anon about the school transport conundrum. I remember when parental choice came in. After a couple of years a local secondary school had applications from pupils attending over twenty different primary schools many out of its official catchment area. A worse case scenario. What developed in many towns in Kent were where there were school movements going in opposing directions between two neighbouring areas because parents wanted either the selective Grammar or non selective choice (both in the same LA area). Such services continue and have grown.

    The problem comes where not enough pupils want the service. Parents expect it - particularly where a service was already operating and they made a school choice on that basis. Schools and LA's are strapped for cash so they are increasingly being told its the parents responsibility to get their child to school. At the start of each school year there are sympathy stories in the local press about the lack of or withdrawal of such services or the fares they have to pay (even with a subsidised Kent Freedom Pass being available).

    The days of council run bus services with some buses at the back of the garage that could be dragged out have long gone as has the funding to run them!

  4. On a different topic, the Park and Ride buses have continued to show service 1 despite the operator having amended the registration to change the service "number" to PR. Presumably amending the registration is easier than re-programming the displays?

  5. Today I put a comment on yesterday's blog by mistake on the subject of Uni services. The university campuses are private property and so bus services are all run in conjunction with the University management. First has been overwhelmed at Bath Uni this year although it was fine last year. For Bristol Uni they run 2 dedicated contract routes to the Residential campus and the Veterinary school in the country which doubles as the local rural bus all year. First Bristol ... has 4 Unis, 5 specific FE colleges and many schools to provide for profitably. It is a challenge, but routes are amended to find the right balance along with traffic congestion and pollution issues as in Bath.

  6. New Funding channels;

    As an example take West Dorset. Dorset county council largely dropped all bus service funding (apart from 7 trunk routes) and the organisation of school bus services (like other counties).

    School bus services are organised by each school to meet their own needs, initially by an arranged single provider. This apparently works very well and is the case elsewhere in the country.

    On the regular buses, Lyme Regis, Bridport and Beaminster town councils have all arranged for subsidised services for their own towns. In the later case running it themselves.

    There is also an expanded community bus operation from the likes of Dorset Community transport and others. In this area over 80% of households have a car and over 50% 2 or more vehicles.

    In this area the ongoing struggle is to provide for Beaminster to Yeovil College which requires a morning peak hour service. The shopping service over the route is less of a challenge, but usually depends on the college bus. This route is currently run by Dorset directly, but ceases on 28/10 as part of the change process to a Unitary authority next year.

  7. Can only echo the comments above and that FBB appears to be out of touch with how universities have changed. The growth of university attendances has been massive with growth averaging at c.3% p.a. - compound that figure and you see why universities struggle to cope with accommodation. Not only that but in central campuses, there is a loss of accommodation in favour of teaching facilities again magnifying the issue. Therefore, you have greater requirements to create accommodation for freshers whilst those 2nd year veterans and older have to find commercial properties. That is what has happened in Lancaster - no space at Billing and students getting cheap accommodation in Lancaster and Morecambe. Appreciate that FBB's couched his comment in the historical concept but that was conceived in the 1950s. The growth in student numbers has outstripped the ability to develop more accommodation on a single site.

    Of course, the first few weeks are artificially busy as students have to attend all sorts of one off events (and haven't twigged what lectures they can afford to miss) and that puts greater pressure on resources though it is usually sorted in the first month.

    First Bath have been badly caught out this year and no-one seems to know why. Certainly, there are roadworks at Brougham Hayes that impact reliability and the closure of a local school has put more children on the already busy U2 but it doesn't explain everything. However, I'm sure that the management will be undertaking a post mortem after recent events to ensure there is no repetition.

  8. LBUG are to be commended for producing the map. A couple of (constructive) points from someone whose never been to Lancaster or Morecambe.

    Which way does the 1 go after Morecambe Battery - Heysham Road or Kingsway or are there two variations of the same route, but both numbered 1?

    Why is there no line for the 755?

    Where do all the bus routes that disappear of the edge of the map actually go?

    The big white box for central Lancaster also masks some detail on where buses actually terminate in the city (eg which side of the river)?

  9. @Ben
    As the blog explains, route number 1 is used for both routings. You cannot blame the cartographer for that!
    Googling "Stagecoach 755" will reveal that it makes minimal contribution to local travel.
    I agree that ultimate destinations would be useful, as would more detail in central Lancaster.

    1. We did ask the cartographer to include more detail in Lancaster and, especially Morecambe centres but it appears it is not possible within the scale used. In practice, everything in Lancaster goes to the bus station but Morecambe is more complicated - and confusing.