25 February 2013

Bus Stop Business

Bus StopThere have been few 'small' stories over the last few days that have caught my eye: 
A BUS stop has been painted on a road with no bus service – and then removed two days later. Malcolm Reynolds, who lives on Mountbatten Way, called The Herald to report the mistake as buses hadn't been down the road for two years. However, two days later workmen were seen removing the freshly painted markings from the road. A Plymouth City Council spokeswoman said: "Work is currently taking place to paint and repaint the road markings at bus stops across the city. "Unfortunately we painted road markings at four bus stops that are not currently served. "We are already removing the markings and have taken steps to ensure this does not happen again. The work has cost £1,245 in total."

Read more This is Plymouth

Although this was clearly just a mistake on someones part it does raise the interesting question of who pays for bus stop markings? At the moment a bus company can change a bus route pretty much when it wants to (with a certain amount of notice). A council could mark up all the bus stops along a route one day only to find out the next day that the bus company will no longer serve that road. If this was to happen would the bus company have to pay or the council just have to put up with it? I assume that generally councils will be in touch with bus operators to check these things but not all councils have good working relationships with their local operators. It does seem that here in Plymouth relations are pretty good between the City Council and all the bus companies but things can change!

So. I am a new bus operator. I have all the necessary funding to get the licences required, there are no issues about my repute or anything like that. I have the buses and drivers I need. There is an area in Plymouth where the locals are crying out for a new bus service and none of the big operators are interested and the council are not prepared to pay for someone to provide a service. I devise a new route through the area which serves several new roads for the first time. There are no objections from locals or police and access is fine as the roads can take full size buses and there are several places where bus stops can be set up with no problem. In all it requires ten new bus stops.

I submit the various applications and there are no objections the route is ready to go and the buses are ready once the required notice is up. The council come along and set up the 10 new bus stops with all the necessary road markings etc and of course the new timetables. We are on a roll the new route is ready to start on time.

We are now three months down the road and its clear that the route is not working. All those people who were crying out for a bus service dont actually use it! I try and make a few changes to keep it going for a few more months but I am a small company, I cant keep loosing money. Its no good. I have to call it a day and cancel the route. Less than 6 months on the roads are no longer served and the bus stops are redundant. The council clearly have had to spend a fair bit of money setting up all the bus stops. Who pays them for this? Do I, the operator, pay a set charge for all council services that goes towards bus stop maintenance or do they just have to pay if the stops are required?


So… If I was a bus operator and I wanted to set up a new bus route which served areas that are not currently served and there were no issues with the roads having a bus service, who has to set up the new bus stops required, and who pays for them? If my new route required just 8 new bus stops then it could cost a a couple of thousand pounds. If I then run the route but then discover to my cost the reason why no one else runs a bus


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  1. That definitely is worth thinking about. Perhaps the Council pays for a certain number of stops per operator per year, any more than that the operator pays for? Or, maybe the Council pays for all the stops though any which have to be removed in X months have to be paid for by the operator. Just my guesses, if anyone knows the true answer I'd be very interested in hearing it!

  2. Since there is no requirement for any road markings to be applied for a bus stop to exist if the operator was asked to pay the answer would be 'don't bother painting it we're not that fussed'. If the council want to paint markings and the like then that is their choice, it would be a very foolish council who would paint in markings and the like for a new route run by a new operator. In fact there is no clear responsibility on who is responsible for bus stops, it varies markedly from area to area. Essentially whilst councils often like to put up their own flags there is nothing to stop the operator going round and attaching a bus stop flag (and timetable case if they wish) to lamp posts and the like if they feel the need, the only thing an operator can't do is dig a hole to stick a pole in, if there is nothing to attach the flag to then you need the councils involvement to dig the hole & stick up the pole.

    There can be agreements for operators to pay for roadside infrastructure as part of a publicity deal, though it is normally about updating flags & timetable displays rather than anything more permanent. Shelters are normally supplied by advertising companies for free in return for the right to sell advertising on them with councils adding requirements for shelters across the network which are probably not very remunerative in return for the important city centre sites. Road markings are purely a council responsibility and are only necessary if you wish to control parking across the stop, in most places away from busy locations painting markings on the road is an unnecessary luxury.


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