I’ve had complaints from constituents in Lancaster concerning the Service 11 bus to Marsh. I’ve written to the MD of operator Stagecoach and I’ve published their reply here. If you have any further concerns please get in touch via my Contacts page.

“Service 11 to Marsh is operated commercially, that is entirely at Stagecoach’s risk, like most services in Lancaster and Lancashire.  Therefore it is a requirement upon us to make sure that the costs that go into providing  service are recovered from the passengers that make use of the service provided.  In this case the patronage that we have been successful in attracting supports the provision of resource that provides the current service level, which is essentially a half-hourly service.

You will be aware that we have recently been consulting on some changes and improvements to our services in Lancaster and Morecambe and we are looking to make a change to the 11 Service in the evening peak period.  This is because we are aware that we are seeing late running on Service 11.  This has been exacerbated by the closure of Greyhound Bridge, although our analysis has shown that even prior to this closure, we have experience difficulty in exiting Meeting House Lane and on to China Street in the City Centre.  This has been a particular problem in the evening rush hour. We have had a look at using other roads for example St George’s Quay or Dallas Street, however the exit from St George’s Quay appears to be even more congested than that of Meeting House Lane and exiting Dallas Street would mean that the bus was much further back in the queue of traffic going through the City Centre.  We do not believe that this would help address the issue and is why we have decided not to progress the suggestions that we have had made to us about using Dallas Street.

Regrettably, the change that we are making to the 11 in the evening peak (following the re-opening of Greyhound Bridge) will see the frequency of service reduced at this time to a bus every 40 minutes.  The increase in traffic congestion and the scarcity of effective bus priority measures mean that,  whilst we would rather stick with a 30 minute frequency, we cannot do this and still be punctual. Adding extra resource to service 11, to maintain the frequency, having considered that as an option, is not feasible as we do not believe that we would be able to recover the additional costs incurred and would in fact threaten the viability of the service as a whole should we progress with that.

This simply demonstrates the costs and impact of increasing and worsening congestion on bus passengers, and the loss of provision that is suffered by people who use and rely on bus services for employment, meeting family and friends and of course bringing harm to our local economy.  As a bus operator we need to make sure that our services operate reliably and are not running late, and of course if journey times increase as a result of worsened congestion for example, then our only response to ensure we comply with our regulators is to provide longer journey times.  It is not always possible to do this and maintain frequency.  Of course extending journey times is not in the customers interests, who wants to be on the bus or travelling for longer?  So any efforts such as this naturally make our product offering worse in the eyes of many customers and in the longer term we are concerned that continued traffic volume growth will continue to erode and damage our business.  This is why we have been calling for action to be taken in partnership with us, to address the route causes of traffic congestion and help to improve the operating conditions for buses so as we can reverse this trend and focus on securing growth.  We continue to show that where we can compete on journey time with the car, which is still our principal competitor, we can retain and attract new custom.

As you know I have recently been appointed as Managing Director for this business and I am aware that my predecessor and colleagues have been discussing these issues with our colleagues at Lancashire County Council, looking at ways that we can improve the operating environment for buses and I look forward to building on these discussions in partnership moving forward.

We believe that once the Greyhound Bridge has re-opened, and our changes have taken effect, whilst we will have a reduced number of possible journeys to Marsh, we will restore the reliability of the service and improve confidence of those using the services.

Mark Whitelocks
Managing Director
Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancashire

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