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Saturday, 28 March 2015

First West Yorkshire releases consultation responses for their ‘New Bus for West Yorkshire’ project



New Bus for West Yorkshire is a vision from First Group to deliver radically improved bus services in West Yorkshire. Their package of measures includes new buses, smart ticketing and targeted infrastructure changes to speed up journeys. First Group want to achieve by radically changing bus services in the region of West Yorkshire.
First Group borrowed the New Routemaster bus from TFL to demonstrate it around West Yorkshire during the year 2014. They did this in order to collect surveys and information from people that are interested in the new proposal for a bus with a similar concept to the New Routemaster bus from London.

What are the proposals First Group want for users in West Yorkshire?
Their proposals are as follow:
·         A bus in a similar concept to the ‘New Routemaster’.
·         Two staircases and three doors for faster boarding.
·         Smartcard ticketing system
·         Cleaner engine with the latest in hybrid technology. Fuel consumption and engine emissions are significantly reduced with a 47% reduction in CO2 compared to diesel buses.
·         The bus could have been manufactured by Wrightbus from Northern Ireland.

The project is designed to bring greater efficiency to their bus use within West Yorkshire. Which includes speeding up bus journeys by minimising the time spent waiting for passengers to board and alight. This is the same concept that's used in London with the bus services regulated under the control of Transport for London. They did away with cash fares by mid 2014 which reduced problems and made boarding quicker by encouraging users to buy an Oyster Card or use a Contactless Payment Card from their bank.
What are their results from the ‘New Bus for West Yorkshire’ survey?
Their consultation showed that 77% of respondents said that they would consider using First Bus services more if the NBfWY proposal were to be introduced.
85% of their respondents thought the layout of the proposed 'new bus' was either 'good' or 'very good'.
Their Issue about the interior layout of the bus
26.7% of respondents prefer to have a single staircase whilst 73.3% of respondents prefer to have twin staircases. One respondent, exemplifying their mood by commenting that having two staircases would be "terrific". The concern about the seating layout of the bus is less on the lower deck because it needs to have space for the 2nd staircase at the rear. Their reoccurring comments said they included too much of the downstairs seating being too high for the elderly and how this might reduce accessible seating as well as the taller passengers not being able to stand up easily. Also, they note that the low ceiling height on the upper deck as 'being restrictive for tall passengers'.
Many people have commented about the narrowness of the gangway downstairs, saying that it might be inaccessible for wheelchair users and guide dogs, with visually impaired users especially noting the double seat at the front of the bus which protrudes into this space. The issue of space was also raised in regard to the lack of capacity for luggage, with various respondents asking if there was a possibility for more storage.
The responses from their wheelchair users were balanced on the new bus, with some concerned about the central pole in the wheelchair space, worrying that it may reduce manoeuvrability; however, others mentioned that they have the ease of accessibility in boarding and alighting of the bus.
The frequent request from their consultation showed that there ought to be increased pushchair and wheelchair space as well as marked priority seating. Visually impaired passengers raised concerns about the lack of space for their guide dogs on their priority seating, they suggested greater use of 'fold down' seats.
Other comments showed that the seats facing each other would encourage people to put their feet up and a significant amount of people who commented seemed to be in favour of a larger proportion of forward facing seats.
The results for the interior decorations
40% of the respondents like the 'Retro' London style interior whilst the remaining 60% of the respondents show that they prefer a more modern interior.
Those who are against the retro look said it appeared to be too dark and that they prefer lighter and brighter colours. Some respondents also felt that the retro 'London' look did not have sufficient resonance with bus users in West Yorkshire. There was a fine balance between those requesting  leather seats and those who were enthusiastic about the retro moquette style. The report forgot to mention that the interior and exterior of the bus was designed by Thomas Heatherwick who designed the Olympic Cauldron for the 2012 Olympic games in London.
Another concern with the design came from visually impaired passengers who suggested that the panels, seats, handrails and floor should have a stronger colour contrast. They also thought that having stripes rather than just one colour would help assist movement. FWT received a positive reaction in general to the amount of poles inside the bus from visually impaired passengers, but their concerns were raised regarding the pole on the rear platform being a hazard to those not familiar with the layout.
Audio Visual announcements
The responses for the 'next stop' visual announcements were overwhelmingly in favour, with 95.4% of respondents preferring to have them. A small minority of respondents, just 4.6% are against the next bus stop information screens. Also, a strong majority of 69% of respondents are in favour of audible next stop announcements.
Many of the respondents of this issue were from visually impaired and deaf people who said to have such announcements would make the bus more easily accessible to them. Many of these respondents recounted their experiences of having missed bus stops due to the lack of audio-visual announcements on their bus services.
One of the respondents said "Audible next stop information is essential to enable blind people to travel independently, stress-free and safely."
Results for the Air Conditioning or opening windows
62.2% of respondents prefer to have air conditioning whilst 37.8% of users prefer to have opening windows.
The problem is that the New Routemaster buses have an 'air cooling' system which people mistake for air conditioning, the reality is that during the summer the cooling system is faulty which leads to increased complaints about a 'faulty air cooling system' which increases temperature inside the bus. For the bus to have air conditioning it would require another axle because of the weight of the air conditioning system, for example, the buses in Hong Kong and Singapore are tri-axle because they have air conditioning systems for their climate. Vivien Chan, KMB Corporate Affairs Director said back in 2013 “While KMB has no intention of introducing the NBfL to Hong Kong in view of the lack of an air-conditioning, necessary given Hong Kong’s climate." That was when the New Routemaster was on a promotional world tour for the ‘Great Britain’ campaign promoting the innovation and inventions from Britain.
Smartcards
65.9% of those surveyed said they had used a smartcard system before.
64% of respondents prefer to use the smartcard as their method of payment. This is reflected for those people who had experience of using an Oyster Card in London which brings significant ease to the public transport experience. Many of those who responded, commented strongly in favour of the smartcard aspect of the proposal which would bring great improvements to the journey times in the same way as they do on London Buses.
One of the consultants said "People paying cash for their tickets is very very slow and journey times would be massively improved at peak times if everyone had an Oyster card style ticket. Without doubt there would be a cashless system implemented to avoid queues."
There are numerous responses saying that cash payments should not be phased out completely; for example, the elderly may not be able to use a cashless payment system and also for those 'ad hoc' bus users who would not possess such a card. Numerous respondents also requested to have the ability to use their Contactless Payment Cards (issued by their bank) to pay the bus fare, like London Buses provide.
You can see the report on the New Bus for West Yorkshire consultation here.
There is no mention about the second crew member which enables the open platform service, which allows users to jump on and off between stops. A small number of routes served by New Routemaster in London are served with 2nd crew members which enables the open platform at the rear. At least West Yorkshire has forgotten about the issue of the ‘open platform’ where all the buses usually have doors that are open at bus stops. But the ‘open platform’ issue in London is strange because commuters like to hop on and off between stops in order to reduce their journey times.
Regulated bus services for West Yorkshire
At the same time, the combined authorities of West Yorkshire consulted to have regulated bus services under the ‘Quality Contract scheme’. What this means is that the bus services in West Yorkshire would be regulated, with the routes contracted to bus operators in a style similar to that which London Buses provides with their competitive tender system.
On the ‘Transport for West Yorkshire’ website they have unveiled their vision which is a 15 year plan for the bus services which are:
·         simple fares and fully-integrated smartcard tickets that could be used on all public transport services in West Yorkshire;
·         a single brand for bus services in West Yorkshire to make it easier for people to understand the public transport network;
·         significantly reducing the number of service and timetable changes that take place;
·         reliable bus services which arrive on time;
·         high-frequency services on main routes;
·         high-quality commuter express services;
·         better connections with rail services;
·         better connections for rural and isolated communities including demand-responsive services where appropriate;
·         consistently high standards of customer service with trained customer-focused staff;
·         consistent quality low-emission buses, fully accessible, with CCTV and equipped with real-time monitoring equipment linked to public displays;
·         higher quality passenger information - which will be easier to keep up to date thanks to fewer service changes;
·         a standard compensation policy for passengers if things go wrong;
·         greater accountability to taxpayers who contribute some £70m a year towards the costs of local bus services.

You can see more information in the article here.
Also, you can view the West Yorkshire Local Transport Plan website here.
My Opinion
My personal feelings on this are that South Yorkshire PTE (Public Transport Executive) should have the bus services regulated, but the New Routemaster buses are diesel electric hybrid which means the diesel still emits pollution. So I think they would be better off having full electric buses in order to cut emissions and create a much smoother journey for bus users. So is it worth having the bus services re-regulated in order to unify bus services in West Yorkshire? Well, it would make it easier for passengers to travel without the confusion over different operators which have their own fare system in order to make profits for themselves. It will be interesting to see how things go. Some aspects of deregulation are ideal as they would make it simpler for bus operating companies to provide services and needs for the passengers, rather than just letting the local authority regulate what the operator can or can’t do. TFL have also done a survey on the New Routemaster back in 2011,you can view a Summary and a full report.
What are your thoughts on the proposals put forward by First Group? Do you think they're way off the mark or do you think there should be improved bus services by Transport for West Yorkshire with their ‘Quality Contract Scheme’?
Why not leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts on this.
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Image Attributions
"Arriva London bus LT2 (LT61 BHT), route 38, 3 February 2013 (09)" by David Anstiss. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arriva_London_bus_LT2_(LT61_BHT),_route_38,_3_February_2013_(09).jpg#/media/File:Arriva_London_bus_LT2_(LT61_BHT),_route_38,_3_February_2013_(09).jpg
"Arriva London bus LT2 (LT61 BHT), route 38, 3 February 2013 (05)" by David Anstiss. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arriva_London_bus_LT2_(LT61_BHT),_route_38,_3_February_2013_(05).jpg#/media/File:Arriva_London_bus_LT2_(LT61_BHT),_route_38,_3_February_2013_(05).jpg
"Arriva London bus LT1 (LT61 AHT) 2011 New Bus for London, Sutton, 7 January 2012 detail (06)" by Charlotte Gilhooly from London, England - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arriva_London_bus_LT1_(LT61_AHT)_2011_New_Bus_for_London,_Sutton,_7_January_2012_detail_(06).jpg#/media/File:Arriva_London_bus_LT1_(LT61_AHT)_2011_New_Bus_for_London,_Sutton,_7_January_2012_detail_(06).jpg

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