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Author Topic: Close to each other, but unconnected ... trains and buses, Melksham example  (Read 1438 times)
grahame
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« on: January 26, 2020, 02:06:10 pm »

1. Early Wednesday evening, I met someone off the train at Melksham Station - and counted 36 people getting off the train, with six getting on.

2. On Thursday, I was arrive back myself at Melksham Station in the early evening, and as I walked up and left the top of Station Approach, an inbound bus passed me - far from empty, but with plenty of seats available.

3. On Friday, returning mid afternoon, from Westbury, an outbound bus to Corsham passed me at the top of station approach, carrying zero passengers.

Let's look at each of those

3. A bus with no passengers is not necessarily a bad thing, as it could be on its way from one significant loading to another.  It's where these near-empty sections join up and become predominant that we should start asking "why" ... and there are a lot of empty journeys at the moment.

2. A bus driving past a station, just after a train has arrived, yet without there being a bus stop there looks like a wasted opportunity to get more bums on seats and, yes, it was headed for the Town Centre, Melksham Forest residential area, Queensway with it's 'affordable' housing, the Pathfinder Way development where people are just moving into new homes, and the Bowerhill housing estates.

1. None of those 36 people who got off the train had the station as their final destinations.  Waiting cars cluttered the station turning circle.  A number of people collected their own cars from the station car park.  A couple cycled, most walked away. None has the station as their final destination, and none has the option of taking a bus, 'cos there ain't one.
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grahame
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« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2020, 02:23:06 pm »

The economics of a bus service are very largely influenced by getting passengers to use the services:

From Bristol Live

Quote
For the 12 months to the end of March 2019, First Bus West of England made a total of Ł5.4 million in profit - an annual figure that jumped almost seven times from the previous year.

Back then, in 2017-18, the local First Bus company made Ł800,000 in profit.

The profit figures equate to the firm making more than Ł100,000 a week clean profit, or almost Ł15,000 a day.

The company acknowledged that the jump in turnover, and the subsequent leap in profits, was largely down to an increase in passengers.

The bus company has effectively put on roughly the same number of buses as before, but now they are more full of passengers.

And in Melksham, perhaps we have the right number of buses, the right pool of potential passengers, but perhaps we don't join them up so that the people are on the buses ... to the benefit of the people, and the bus service provider.    And we are far from unique in that situation:

I sometimes find myself having to wait a while at Westbury station, and never look forward to it …  I've sometimes wandered out to see if there is a bus into the town, but as you have noted, there is no information in the station about any town service, which is extraordinary, and the bus stop offers no protection from the elements. …  The lack of joined-up thinking about public transport at Westbury station really does defy belief.

So - what should our objectives be?  Let's think about what we could do.   Seven objectives:

1. Treasure the existing customer base. Look at their usage and tune services to provide what works best for them now and will do so into the future.

2. Build for new customer bases, looking at opportunities in a changing town for both passengers and to help the economy and environment

3. A network that works for bus operators - operationally and towards their company's objectives, and is a pleasure for their staff to operate

4. A setup that's affordable and sustainable in terms of any support / subsidy needed and fits with the future neighbourhood plan.

5. A system of routes and fares that's joined up and easy to describe and use for both regular, occasional and first time users

6. Something we can all work together on and be proud of

7. Spare objective - reserved to add in objectives from other [consultation] input.

I have posts to follow up to translate these theories into practicalities based on current and forecast flows in the Melksham area - "I think I know how we can do it".   But before I follow up with that next step, any thoughts on my objectives - are they right, and what have I missed?
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CyclingSid
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« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2020, 07:13:14 am »

Different area, similar issues with linking up transport.

Some years ago the Hayling Ferry went into liquidation. When it was recommenced under new ownership the bus services had "vanished" with little interest in re-starting them.

Before the original ferry ceased a sizable number school children used it to get to school in Portsmouth. While there was no ferry people then got in the habit of driving 20 odd miles to Portsmouth secondary schools, each way probably twice a day.

The bus companies aren't willing to start a new service unless they are guaranteed passengers. How long does it take to change a habit/re-establish an old one.

All before we start thinking about traffic emissions etc.
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grahame
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« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2020, 08:06:16 am »

The bus companies aren't willing to start a new service unless they are guaranteed passengers. How long does it take to change a habit/re-establish an old one.

All before we start thinking about traffic emissions etc.

Many thanks for that.

Your question (I have highlighted) is one that's exercised us and continues to do so.  When we got a 3 year trial service of extra trains from December 2013, one of the major objections to be heard was "it's only a trial" with people unwilling to establish a use habit in case it went away.

Looking at ideas to connect [in Melksham] - not looking at a new service but rather at updating a service of buses which - when they started - would have been pointless to call at the station as there were no trains to connect with.   There is an upcoming window of opportunity, with all the ducks lining up - it could be so much more than just "ideas".  And, yes, looking at other examples of a lack of connectivity (such as my posts over the weekend about Westbury) is cause for concern; I'm not interested in getting someone to subsidise carrying fresh air around a couple of times a day for a year or two.


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« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2020, 09:48:34 am »

Buses have a tendency to be clockface timed for the benefit of other users. If a train can arrive near enough the same time each hour (I'm unsure which direction is most popular at Melksham, or perhaps it depends on other connections elsewhere) then a bus can be within ten minutes of a train arrival. You could time all your buses to just meet trains but then you may loose the reliability of the bus service elsewhere. What occurs when a train is delayed? Do you delay the bus service and potentially have a knock on effect to the next journeys the bus will be doing? These journeys could also be meeting trains and private bus companies do not like to have buses standing still waiting recovery time. It's a difficult arrangement unless the bus service is of higher frequency, half hourly or above. I would say a good start would be to have comfortable waiting facilities and information at the station for buses so perhaps a 15 minute wait wouldn't be unreasonable.

On another note, it is quite amazing how much road traffic a station creates, when arriving at Tilehurst or Theale at certain times of the day, it can feel like I'm the only person on foot. Tilehurst has quite a reasonable onward bus service towards Purley too, but I doesn't pass the immediate front of the station, has no waiting shelter in the Purley direction and also runs round the housing estates possibly taking longer than time to walk to some areas. The bus service up to Tilehurst proper disappeared a few years ago but was only ever hourly so I personally would probably walk anyhow.
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grahame
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« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2020, 07:30:10 am »

Buses have a tendency to be clockface timed for the benefit of other users. If a train can arrive near enough the same time each hour (I'm unsure which direction is most popular at Melksham, or perhaps it depends on other connections elsewhere) then a bus can be within ten minutes of a train arrival. You could time all your buses to just meet trains but then you may loose the reliability of the bus service elsewhere. What occurs when a train is delayed? Do you delay the bus service and potentially have a knock on effect to the next journeys the bus will be doing? These journeys could also be meeting trains and private bus companies do not like to have buses standing still waiting recovery time. It's a difficult arrangement unless the bus service is of higher frequency, half hourly or above. I would say a good start would be to have comfortable waiting facilities and information at the station for buses so perhaps a 15 minute wait wouldn't be unreasonable.

On another note, it is quite amazing how much road traffic a station creates, when arriving at Tilehurst or Theale at certain times of the day, it can feel like I'm the only person on foot. Tilehurst has quite a reasonable onward bus service towards Purley too, but I doesn't pass the immediate front of the station, has no waiting shelter in the Purley direction and also runs round the housing estates possibly taking longer than time to walk to some areas. The bus service up to Tilehurst proper disappeared a few years ago but was only ever hourly so I personally would probably walk anyhow.

Excellent points / thoughts.  Some bullets from plans via http://www.mrug.org.uk/resources.html

Quote
Services to be based on hourly clock-face patterns
• Each vehicle to run an “hourglass” pattern, sharing the common Town Centre/Sainsbury’s/ Asda/Melksham Railway Station route
• Buses call at Melksham Station before and after trains to connect both ways, with a shorter section nearest the station served while the train is calling
• Routes to be designated “clockwise” or “anticlockwise” and switched between a.m. and p.m. to give the shortest journey for widest flows
• The outer route to service Bowerhill (businesses) giving them direct station and town links
• No served point currently more than once an hour to become less than once an hour
• One vehicle to start early to provide commuter links
• Does not compete with commercial interurban services through Bowerhill, Atworth, Beanacre or Semington (Those which pass close to Melksham Station could add calls at the station)
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