Reprieve for number 3A and 12 bus services in west York

In September the current operator of services 3A and 12, First York, announced that they planned to withdraw service 3A (the 7-day per week evening Askham Bar Park & Ride service) and part of service 12 (specifically the section between Foxwood Lane and Alness Drive) as they were “no longer commercially viable”.

The Council agreed to subsidise the services until the end of the financial year, while seeking tenders for their continuation.

The cost of continuing the services is £24,000 for the 3A and £65,000 for the 12.

The Council is being recommended to use part of a government funded bus service operators grant (worth £150,416 in total) to subside these two services. The Council already allocates over £700,000 a year for bus service subsidies (not including the cost of the free pensioners bus pass, which is funded from central taxation).

The Council is banking on the two services being more popular in the future and therefore requiring a lower subsidy.

It says demand for service 3A may increase when the planned paid overnight parking service at Askham Bar Park & Ride site comes into action in spring 2020 and that demand for service 12 may increase when the LNER Community Stadium (at the other end of the route) opens in 2020.

Improvements in other bus services

Through the “Funding for Local Bus Services 2020-21” scheme, the council has the opportunity to bid for £83.5k one-off funding in order to achieve one or more of the following objectives (which must deliver an increase in services and therefore the 12 and 3A services are not eligible as they currently exist):

  • “to improve current local bus services – for instance increasing evening or weekend frequencies, or supporting additional seasonal services in tourist areas.
  • “to restore lost bus routes where most needed to ensure people have access to public transport services.
  • “to support new bus services, or extensions to current services, to access e.g. new housing, employment opportunities, healthcare facilities etc.”

The funding must be used for the provision of local bus services- i.e. time tabled services open to any member of the public upon payment of a fare.

The funding available in York is £83.5k – equivalent to the operating costs for a single bus for approximately 8 months. It would not therefore have a major impact on service levels.

The City has submitted a bid for “a package of enhancements to routes which support York’s evening economy”

City set to ditch electric sightseeing bus trial

York-03_P_264_70c11a22-aeed-4328-857a-66_P_264_feb74715-865d-4a32-a587-e80052a389a7

The Council is being recommended to ditch a trial which has seen City Tour buses converted to run on battery power. Apparently, a trial of “retrofitting” buses to run on electricity, started 5 years ago, has been judged a failure due to reliability problems.

A grant to convert some of the 6 open-top buses used on York’s City Sightseeing tour service from diesel engines to be fully electric was approved in 2013. The buses had been criticised during the last decade  for affecting air quality standards on some of the City’s narrower streets.

A report to a meeting next week says that in York , and other open top tour city’s, the conversion has not achieved high reliability standards. Only 4 buses were converted and many of the services provided by them had to be run by substitute diesel powered buses.

A “Clean Air Zone” has been introduced in the City centre. This means that those buses regularly accessing the City centre must either be electric or must meet the more stringent Euro VI diesel emission standards.

It is understood that the operators of the services have tried to obtain open topped low emission vehicles but currently none are available either as electrics or with Euro VI standard engines at affordable prices..

It looks like the open top service will cease later this year with conventional layout buses being substituted.

NB. There has been extensive investment in electric buses in the City. York will have one of the UK’s highest proportion of mileage operated by electric buses once the new park and ride electric fleet arrives over the next 3 months

Bus stop blocked by building works

The bus stop on Ascot Way, which has already been moved once to facilitate building works at the new disabled centre, is currently unusable

It is unclear how long the stop will be out of use, although the final plans for the development show the bus stop returning to its original location

Centre Of Excellence for Disabled Children 26th February 2020

Meanwhile the disabled centre building is getting its first layer of insulation. We remain sceptical about whether it will be completed by the promised date in May.

Number 12 bus service link to Bellhouse Way will continue “until the beginning of April”

It looks like a worrying 3 months for users of the number 12 (and 3a) bus service with the Council set to continue to agonise about their future.

A “behind closed doors” decision was taken to extend the current temporary contract. The report does, however, say that the cost of continuing to provide the services exceeds the available budget so a difficult decision may be faced in April.

The indecision about continuing the service comes at a time when the Council is being urged to subsidise more bus services in an attempt to counter the “climate emergency”.

If established services like these are under threat, then there is little hope that more funding will be found to provide more frequent services and fill in other gaps in the network.

Changes to bus services from 1st December

Includes further refinement of number 12 service

Changes affect following services. Click for detailed timetable

Chapelfields – Wigginton service 1

Clifton Moor – York Uni service 6

Bishopthorpe – Heworth service 11

Foxwood – Woodthorpe – Monks Cross service 12

Bus shelter clean up welcomed

We reported last week that several of the Council owned bus shelters in west York were looking shabby. Some were overgrown with weeds and undergrowth.

We are pleased to report that, following our highlighting the issue to the York Council , some of the shelters have been tidied up. Undergrowth has been cut back from the shelters making them much more user friendly.

However the work undertaken has also served to emphasise how much these shelters need a coat of paint and other refurbishment.

Many are now rusting quite badly.

Foxwood Lane shelter. No longer an Arboretum
Shelter near Otterwood Lane as tidied up
Askham Lane bus shelter, although very rusty, is now free of undergrowth

We were also pleased to see for the first time for some time today that the Cornlands Park was largely free of litter.

There seems to be a slow improvement in some public service standards in the City following a disappointing summer.

Cornlands park

Councillor revives threat to number 12 bus service

“Use it or lose it” message for bus service users from transport chief

Just days after the number 12 bus service was reprieved, residents are being urged to make full use of it after falling passenger numbers left the long-term future of one section of its route in jeopardy.

Service 12 runs between Foxwood, the city centre and Monks Cross, but the section of the route between Alness Drive and Foxwood Lane has suffered a decline in patronage, This summer, bus operator First York announced its intention to withdraw the service that it provides along that section of the route on the basis that it is no longer commercially viable.

However, City of York Council stepped in to provide the funding required to continue operating the service in its entirety, but only up until 31 January, 2020. This will allow time for a tendering process to be carried out in a bid to find the most cost-effective, long-term solution. A decision about the future of the service will be made once that process is complete.

Councillor Andy D’Agorne, Executive Member for Transport, said: “It’s positive that the council has agreed to provide the funding needed to ensure that bus service 12 can continue to operate between Alness Drive and Foxwood Lane in the short-term but, as we work to identify a longer-term solution, it’s really important that local people make full use of the service.”

We think that the threat is ill timed. Details of the reprieved service weren’t generally circulated until over a week after the decision was taken.

Bus stop timetables similarly weren’t undated.

We think that Council should get its own house in order before preaching to passengers, many of whom are vulnerable.

Do bus passengers get a fair deal in York?

After several stable years, we have seen some criticism recently of some bus services in the City. Changes to the number 12 service were poorly publicised following a late decision by the York Council to step in and save part of the service

Passengers in west York have criticised for a long time the lack of “real time” bus arrival information screens in the area.

Bus reliability stats, provided by tracking technology, are not shared with passengers, although a “one off” sample survey – due to be conducted in a few days time – does produce a snap shot of reliability.

One area that the York Council can help passengers with is the “bus stop experience”.

Unfortunately bus shelters, provided by the Council around 10 years ago, are now looking distinctly shabby.

The Foxwood Lane bus shelter has been re-purposed as an Arboretum. Weeds dangle from the gutters, and strangle the interior. The shelter is never cleaned, the perspex is opaque and the paint continues to peal.
The nearby shelter on Askham Lane is no better. At least the sight lines from the shelter are better this year as the Council actually cut part of the adjacent hedge in the spring. You can just about still see if a bus is on its way. Unfortunately they didn’t trim the hedge at the back of the shelter making cleaning and routine maintenance impossible. It is now very scruffy.
At least the weeds are held at bay on this Windsor Garth shelter. But it is rusting badly and also sports opaque windows.

Number 12 bus service gets better buses

They are 5 year old vehicles
  • Bus upgrade on services 11 & 12 for passengers in Bishopthorpe, Ashley Park, Monks Cross, Foxwood Lane / Woodthorpe Lane
  • Investment will replace existing buses with low-emission services to support Clean Air Zone objectives
“Streetlite” bus

First York say that passengers on bus services 11 & 12 are “set to benefit this month with a bus upgrade providing improved travelling comfort together with lower engine emissions.

The service upgrade will be complete by mid-October with the introduction of eight 5-year old ‘StreetLite’ single-deck vehicles that will replace older buses operating on service 11 (Ashley Park – York – Bishopthorpe) and service 12 (Monks Cross – York – Foxwood Lane)”.

However they fall short of the latest specification buses which the financially troubled Wrights company were selling before they went into administration. The latest version of the “StreetLite” has a Euro 6 emission compliant engine while the “Max” model is all electric.

The number 12 service was saved last week following an 11th hour intervention by the York Council who will now subsidise part of the timetable.

First say that the “upgrade represents an investment of £800,000 and will provide customers with a superior interior including leather seating and lighter environment with more space for customers with pushchairs.

The newer buses are fitted with Euro V engine technology and will be upgraded to Euro VI to meet the Clean Air Zone requirements in partnership with City of York Council & the Government’s Clean Bus Technology Fund.

This investment follows the positive change for customers last month on service 10 (Stamford Bridge – York – Poppleon) with new journeys added and the evening service taken on by First York commercially.

This latest announcement comes in advance of a significant investment in York which will see 21 new electric double decker buses introduced later this year”.

Marc Bichtemann, Managing Director of First York, said,

“We are committed to providing safe, punctual and reliable bus travel for the people of York, so it’s important that we continue to invest in our bus services. With the support of our partners including City of York Council, this investment will also reduce bus emissions on the corridor and support the Clean Air Zone requirements. I’m sure our customers and the local community will welcome these improvements and encourage more people to switch to using bus services.”