Arriva – Bus sails past pensioner at bus stop

I have always been sceptical about the customer service standards of many bus operators and yesterday I saw something that hardly made me want to change that view, indeed it reinforced it.

It was coming up to 12 noon at the bus stop and shelter in Lydiate’s Southport Road opposite the junction with Nedens Lane. I was stuck in a short queue of traffic heading towards Maghull as there were some temporary traffic lights due to road works.

I saw a retired lady stood at the Southport bound bus stop, she put out her hand to stop a 300 route bus and it flew straight past her with the driver looking determinedly ahead. The bus was not full I might add.

What’s going on Arriva? Why did you leave that lady stood at the bus stop when she wanted to get on your bus? What kind of customer service do you call this?

Note:- I have raised a complaint about this incident directly with Arriva.

Sefton Borough – Review of bus network – commercial and subsidised

Merseytravel logo

This is a vital issue for bus users as it could lead to changes in the bus network across Sefton Borough. Those with an interest in local bus services need to ensure that their voice is heard. The rest of this posting is taken directly from Merseytravel’s briefing note. Please read on:-

A shot of the recently lost 311 route

A shot of the recently lost 311 route

Merseytravel Briefing Note:

Sefton Bus Network Review

We are currently undertaking a phased approach in reviewing the bus network across the Liverpool City Region. The next area to be reviewed is Sefton, following work in Kirkby and St Helens earlier this year.

A key aim of the work, and that of the Bus Alliance (a formal partnership with operators Arriva and Stagecoach), is to create a simpler and clearer, and where possible, more direct network to help encourage people on board, driving more investment for bus services.

Historically bus routes have been considered on a piecemeal basis and the idea is to consider the commercial network and the supported network – that which relies on public subsidy via Merseytravel – as a whole for the first time, to ensure it best reflects current working and living patterns and new developments and how they are served.

As part of the reviews we are looking at how working in partnership can help us make efficiency savings – ensuring that increasingly limited resources for supported bus services are focused where there is most need.

We are working innovatively at a time when other areas across the country, due to budget pressures, are looking to significantly reduce or even remove their supported bus services, leaving some communities without services altogether.

As part of this review, we are looking for people to tell us how they use the bus network in the area, particularly any supported bus service.

A series of drop-in events are being held, starting next week, where members of the public will have the opportunity to speak to representatives from Merseytravel about bus services across the area. Previous events in Kirkby and St Helens provided useful feedback which helped to inform the changes to the bus network.

There will be six drop-in events taking place across the Sefton borough and in Liverpool over the next few weeks:

• Monday 26th September, 10am – 3pm – Maghull Central Square
• Tuesday 27th September, 10am – 3pm – Crosby Village
• Thursday 29th September, 10am – 3pm – Marian Square, Netherton
• Friday 30th September, 10am – 3pm – Chapel Street, Southport
• Monday 3rd October, 9am – 5pm – Bootle Strand
• Wednesday 5th October, 9am – 5pm – Williamson Square, Liverpool

There will also be an opportunity to provide feedback on bus services in Sefton via an online survey on the bus review pages on the Merseytravel website at www.merseytravel.gov.uk/busreview

With help from the feedback received from these events and via the Merseytravel website, proposed changes to the network will be drafted and an additional drop-in event and online consultation scheduled to give the public an opportunity to comment on them, details of which will be published on the Merseytravel website.

As in other areas where we’ve already undertaken these reviews, it is anticipated that we will work with the operators to extend or re-route some commercial services (i.e. those without public subsidy) to cover areas previously served by publicly supported services.

To make the network easier to understand we are also planning for services on the same routes to operate under the same number whatever the time of day where possible.

While there will be some changes to how people make their journeys as a result of the review, there is opportunity to make the network better reflect demand. Reviews in Kirkby and St Helens have seen improved services to key areas of employment, education and leisure.

We will be working with all operators, to endeavour that passengers will have alternative provision available within their area if a service is removed or changed. Any changes will come into effect in January 2017.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Jeanette Townson, Bus Development Manager on email at comments@merseytravel.gov.uk

Thanks to Cllr. John Dodd for the lead to this story.

Bus routes in Sefton – More cuts in subsidised services?

With a review of Sefton’s bus services on the near horizon (and you can I think sadly read into that more cuts in the subsidised routes) this photo is telling:-

No passengers

Click on the photo to enlarge it

I took it around 7.30pm on 13th July at the Meadows shops in Maghull – it’s the 310 bus out of Liverpool. I happened to be there quite by chance when the bus arrived but the telling thing is that whilst the bus stopped there was no one on it and there was no one waiting to get on it.

Oh yes, and the review is being undertaken by Merseytravel the transport committee of the Liverpool City Region.

It was the recent ‘Knowsley’ Review that has led to the re-routing of the 133 bus route through Maghull & Melling. My previous posting refers:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/06/04/melling-gets-another-bus-cut-as-133-is-re-routed/

As someone who has campaigned to retain local bus routes for many years – the loss of the 311 Arriva route being the most recent one – I really do fear that with empty buses like this we are going to end up with fewer buses as we move forward. It reminds me of the decline of our railways after the Second World War. With less people using the trains the number of trains were reduced. Then as there were few trains less people used them etc. etc. You get my drift…….

But trains are making a remarkable come back, will the same happen to buses in years to come?

Merseyside Bus Alliance

Display on No.58  Nottingham bus

Merseytravel Committee Members recently took the decision to recommend that the Combined Liverpool City Region Authority gives consent to the signing of a ‘Bus Alliance’ agreement by Merseytravel, Arriva and Stagecoach.

This is me with the Lydiate & Maghull resident's petition in 2015 at a 311 bus stop in Lydiate. The petition was not collected by me I would add but by the hard work of locals concerned about the loss of this Arriva route to Ormskirk. The battle was sadly lost.

This is me with the Lydiate & Maghull resident’s petition in 2015 at a 311 bus stop in Lydiate. The petition was not collected by me I would add but by the hard work of locals concerned about the loss of this Arriva route to Ormskirk. The battle was sadly lost.

According to Merseytravel the Alliance, which other operators can join, is focused on offering bus users seamless, hassle free and value for money travel right from planning their journeys through to getting off at their destination. It aims to build on the high customer satisfaction levels for bus in the City Region and to encourage people who don’t currently use the bus to realise the benefits.

Mm, not sure about ‘high customer satisfaction levels for bus in the City Region’, they can’t be talking to the same people I talk to as the answer I am getting is that folks think our bus services in the Sefton part of Merseyside are poor indeed.

The first 12 months of the Alliance would see a number of initiatives including an initial £19m investment in greener buses with free WiFi and USB charging points; the introduction of one point of contact for ‘bus’ customer service; new customer service training for drivers; improved links to John Lennon Airport and the rail network; the development of a trial 24-hour bus route and the start of a strategic review to create a simpler, clearer bus network.

Subject to the signing of the ‘Bus Alliance’ agreement, Merseytravel Committee Members also approved both a three year plan for the continued roll out of smart ticketing– following the millionth ticket sale on the Walrus card back in February, and changes that would mark a key first stage in simplifying ticket buying.

Well, this sceptic hopes that Merseytravel can turn around the quality, reliability and customer friendliness issues that bedevil our local bus routes. Here’s hoping.

Smart ticketing developments would include customers being able to purchase operator tickets on Walrus cards and a new day Solo, which would launch in the summer and going smart later this year with people being able to load as many as they wanted on their Walrus for use when needed.

Merseytravel also approved recommendations for all Solo tickets to be ‘valid across Merseyside’ this summer, simplifying fares and bringing the costs down for current ‘all areas’ users by as much as £268 for those currently buying a yearly adult peak Solo.

My comments are those in italics

The Liverpool City Region Authority supported the Bus Alliance agreement at its meeting held on 15th April.

Merseyrail or is that Miseryrail? – Liverpool to Maghull in an hour

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-commuters-left-fuming-after-10897587

A Merseyrail electric unit

A Merseyrail electric unit

Yesterday’s Merseyrail problems were covered by the Liverpool Echo – see link above

Jen and I found ourselves in the middle of the later crisis when we attempted to get the 21:10 Ormskirk train home to Maghull from Liverpool Central. The journey took an hour and most of it was via a rail replacement bus service as we could only get as far as Sandhills by train.

The first we knew of the problem was a white board which seemed to have been hastily written on Central Station’s concourse. The hand writing was akin to mine so not easy to read. Jen’s heart sank and she said welcome to my world because her experiences of Merseyrail are invariably poor.

Down to the platforms we went where the platform announcements were, like all railway station announcements, indecipherable. But there was a group of Merseytravel/Merseyrail staff down there although they only seemed to respond to people asking them what was going on rather than volunteering information.

We were put on a Sandhills bound train but, before it set off, the laughing of the group of platform staff sufficiently irked a passenger who got up and shouted through the open door at them ‘I’m glad you find it funny’. With that we set off for Sandhills. Strangely though the destination sign in the carriage we were in said we were going to Liverpool Central? The IT system must have been confused?

At Sandhills there was no one on the platform, that I saw, to tell us what happened next so we followed the crowd onto the street where an Arriva bus for Kirkby was sat with few folks on it. However, there were a lot of us wanting to get to stations along the Ormskirk line. Then a bus arrived and we all piled on but again the staff present only answered questions and did not volunteer any information otherwise.

We got to Kirkdale Station where no one got off. We went to Walton Station twice! Once to drop a chap off and then we drove past it again on the other side of the road to make sure he was safe and well and to give him a wave. Well that may not have been the official reason for going past it twice but it provided a little entertainment.

We did not seem to stop at Orrell Park but did have a lovely trip around the park and ride car park at Aintree Station when there was a bus stop right outside it on the A59 which we had sailed past!

We dropped of some folk at Old Roan and set off for Maghull. We got there just as the local 231 Maghull/Lydiate circular bus was pulling out! A bus some on our bus wanted to get on. The circular bus driver must surely have worked that out so why did it take off? Indeed, having picked up our car at Maghull Station we then drove to Jen’s house only to catch up with the Cumfybus 231 circular. It was sat at a bus stop in Liverpool Road North with no one on it and stayed there for a while. We assumed it was running early so had to sit there until its advertised departure time?

Liverpool to Maghull took us an hour instead of 20 minutes by rail. Of course break-downs happen and it seems the track had given out around Walton which had to be repaired. But I now know why the words ‘rail replacement buses’ are about as frustrating as ‘an unexpected item in the bagging area’ because it was hardly well organised/communicated. To me it was more like work it out for yourself, which fortunately we did.

Northern rail franchise – Doubts over Arriva winning it but good news for local rail services

I could hardly say that a cheered when I heard that Arriva had won the Northern rail franchise today as I immediately thought back to them running Merseyrail some years ago and my recollection is that they did not cover themselves in glory back then.

Northern Rail the present operator of the Northern rail franchise has lost the contract to operate it to Arriva Trains. This is a Northern Rail train standing in Southport Station.

Northern Rail the present operator of the Northern rail franchise has lost the contract to operate it to Arriva Trains. This is a Northern Rail train standing in Southport Station.

Of course they are also our major local bus operator and again I groan when I think about them. Loss of the 311 bus recently comes to mind! Also, a concern I picked up only last Monday, when for reasons unknown, they were seemingly not running the 310 or 300 out of Liverpool for the evening rush hour. I heard some angry words about this from a regular Arriva user.

So, sorry Department for Transport we are not jumping for joy but we do hope that Arriva’s second attempt at running a rail franchise in northern England will be better than their first go.

But the good news is that there are to be improvements in some local rail services as part of the new franchise such as:-

* An hourly service on Ormskirk to Preston line, which will mean a significant increase up to 17 trains a day. But the need for a Sunday service on this line is not in the initial announcements so it looks like it may well have been ignored. If so this will be bad news for Edge Hill University and its students.

* One train per hour Southport – Manchester Victoria – Leeds and/or Bradford. But what of the Southport services to Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport? More information needed here.

The dates for the improved services are not yet known.

So at face value a mixed bad of good and not so good things with many questions yet to be answered.

Of course credit for campaigning on these issues goes to the Southport Rail Transport Forum, OPSTA and John Pugh MP because they have raised the profile of rail transport issues from Southport and through West Lancs. Without their efforts no improvements would have been forthcoming at all in my view.

And another thing, by way of a gripe. In my latter days of being a Sefton Councillor I had to batter away at Merseytravel to get them to put the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line into the Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy as it was not even mentioned in their original draft. Working with others we got them to include it in the final draft so it is somewhat ironic that Merseytravel now seems so pleased about the services out of Southport, on this very line, being down to be improved!