Call for government to invest in the East Coast Main Line to improve reliability

• The East Coast Main Line is a key strategic rail route, stretching more than 500 miles, from Inverness and Aberdeen, through key stops at Edinburgh, Newcastle and York to London

East Coast Main Line

Councillors are calling on the UK and Scottish governments to secure funding for Network Rail to improve reliability with significant economic benefits

The Consortium of East Coast Mainline Authorities (ECMA) is calling on the UK and Scottish governments to invest in the East Coast Main Line, after research conducted on behalf of ECMA identified over £60 million of economic benefits per year through punctuality and reliability improvements on the line.

A third of the UK population lives within 20 minutes of an East Coast Main Line station and together they deliver 41% of the UK’s GDP.  However, constraints on the line can lead to significant disruption and in 2018, 12 major incidents occurred costing the UK economy £46.28 million. Each major incident equates to a full loss of service per day and this unreliability is one of the contributing factors to the Public Performance Measure* (PPM) of the East Coast Main Line dropping below 80% for the first time in 10 years.

Localised and smaller incidents can also cause significant disruption across the rail network but if the number of delays on the line over 10 minutes were halved, this would deliver an additional £62.8 million per annum to the wider economy.

In June 2018, the Government announced £780 million of investment for the East Coast Main Line in Control Period 6 (2019-2024), which will reduce journey times on key flows and provide new direct links to some cities and towns. However, the majority of this work will be completed by 2021 with no current plans for further improvements or resources to fund them.

ECMA members are calling on the government to identify additional funding to help tackle issues of capacity and resilience on the line, with Network Rail indicating that they have the capacity to undertake further work to improve the East Coast Main Line from 2021, if they can secure additional funding. 

Cllr Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council and Chair of ECMA, said:

“Investment in the East Coast Main Line will deliver economic benefits across the country from the Highlands to Hertfordshire and means customers benefit from better reliability and greater resilience.

“Currently, the line is vulnerable to major disruptions which is why ECMA is calling on the UK and Scottish governments to secure addition funding for Network Rail to deliver a more reliable rail network for customers.”

Cllr Andy DAgorne, Deputy Leader of City of York Council and Executive Member for Transport, said:

“York’s rail connectivity is a key asset to the city’s residents and businesses and a world-class transport hub which contributes significantly to our city’s economy. The ability to visit and do business with cities like London or Edinburgh in a day is a substantial benefit to the region which relies on this infrastructure being fit for purpose.

“It is vital that this much needed, sustainable transport network is given the care and investment it deserves to serve the populations up and down the country for years to come.”

In a letter sent to the Department for Transport and Transport Scotland, members of ECMA are calling on the governments to invest in the East Coast Main Line, and in particular:

  • Deliver the promised infrastructure improvements to allow the full delivery of the 2021 timetable
  • Secure additional funding for Network Rail to invest in East Coast Mail Line reliability improvements
  • Ring-fence Network Rail’s future funding for the East Coast Main Line improvements in Control Period 7 (2024-29)

Missed bin collections in York – backlog growing

The missed bins from yesterday and due for collection in Haxby, Huntington, Fulford and and Bishopthorpe today weren’t collected. This is put down to continuing staffing and vehicle reliability issues.

Skelton was also missed today

The Council says that it will try to empty all outstanding waste and garden bins tomorrow (Saturday)

It does increasingly seem that the bin emptying service, which was often regarded in public satisfaction surveys as the most appreciated local service provided by the Council, is now in decline.

York bus services reliability stats

The latest figures released by the Council suggest that frequent bus services are getting more reliable in York

Bus reliability trends in York

Bus reliability trends in York

The figures which represent a snap shot of bus reliability – are taken in the autumn of each year.

By last autumn, frequent bus services (defined as those routes with more than 6 buses per hour)  were on average less than 1/2 minute late.

However performance on routes with less frequent services showed a small decline in reliability. 83% were on time compared to 87% the previous year.

The figures are bound to rekindle calls for weekly service reliability figures to be published. These figures can be made available easily using the technology installed to provide “next bus due” real time information.

Other public transport providers such as the train operating companies are required to routinely publish similar information.

York residents invited to give views at “Bus Surgery”

York’s bus users are being invited to give the city’s bus operators and the council their views on York’s bus services at a ‘Bus Surgery’ event on Thursday 6 October opposite York Railway Station.

The sessions come at a time where pressure continues to grow on the Council and bus operators to provide at least monthly reliability information on their services.


In some countries like New Zealand reliability stats are routinely published

At present only an annual figure – derived from a single week monitoring – is provided each year.

In the past opposition Councillors have called on bus operators to provide the kind of information routinely provided by train operating companies.

The information is available from the monitoring systems already installed in most busses in the City.

This weeks drop in  sessions will be running from 12pm-2pm and 4pm-6pm will see representatives from First, Arriva, Transdev, EYMS and Harrogate Coach Travel/ Connexions bus and the council on hand to speak with York’s residents and bus users about their experiences, what they think works well and what could be improved in future.

Executive Member for Transport and Planning, Cllr Ian Gillies, said: “Whilst bus use is increasing in the city, and York scores high in passenger satisfaction surveys for its bus services, the council alongside the Quality Bus Partnership want to continue to improve the city’s services. Bus Surgery events like this help us gain valuable feedback from bus users that can directly help us shape York’s bus service for the future. I would urge all bus users to come along and give us their views.”

The bus surgeries are part of a range of measures being taken forward by York’s Better Bus Area Programme – an initiative by the council and the city’s bus operators – to improve bus services in the city.

Work undertaken through the Better Bus Area has included refurbishment of many of the city’s bus stops and shelters, real-time information screens at many locations in the city, provision of York’s Bus Wardens and improved management of traffic to benefit bus services.

Since the Better Bus Area programme was formed in 2012 bus use in York has increased by 6 percent*. This equates to 900,000 passenger journeys a year, or approximately an additional 3,000 journeys a day.

For more information on travelling and around York visit

“87% of York bus services running on time” says Council

Unidentified object flies over Guildhall

Flying pig

Relative too many other areas, York’s bus services have achieved higher passenger numbers (per head of population)  for almost 15 years.

Although down from the high of 12 million passengers carried in 2006, stage carriage services still managed to attract 11 million users last year. On top of this, the expansion in Park and Ride continues with 4.5 million using the enlarged network last year.

At a time when the annual DpT statistics see bus services losing passengers in some other Cities, this is a cause for some relief in York and the Council might claim justification in celebrating its relative success through a media release (see below right)

It is being disingenuous in suggesting that passengers can expect to wait less than a minute for bus services to arrive or that timetabled services are 87% reliable. That simply isn’t the case at the times of the day, and seasons of the year, when people travel most.

Media release by York Council 9th Oct 2015

Media release by York Council 9th Oct 2015

The claims are based on DpT published statistics which can be found by clicking here for waiting times and here for passenger numbers

The reliability figures are the result of a one off check undertaken by the local authority in the autumn of each year (usually the least busy time on the highways network).

Sadly with the York Councils supposedly independent scrutiny committee system bogged down with trivia, it seems unlikely that anomalies like these will ever be challenged. Most scrutiny committee chairs seem to back away for even asking for regular quality of service reports. That leaves consumers in the dark – none more so than on bus service reliability.

The sooner that the figures collected each day by the “Your Next Bus” computer systems are routinely published, the sooner we are likely to get a more candid analysis of both the Councils performance and that of York’s bus operators.

Bus service performance stats provided by York Council and Department of Transport

Bus service performance stats provided by York Council and Department of Transport

York bus service reliability wobbles as York Council set to spend £7 million on transport

Hitherto reliable bus services like the number 4, which links Acomb to the City centre and the University beyond, have suffered a loss of reliability during recent days.

On the busesThe problems seem to have arisen since the changes to the timetables were introduced last month.

Checks – taken in the mid afternoon this week when congestion shouldn’t be a major issue – suggest that only about 40% of buses are now arriving on time*

This compares to an 80% reliability rate in the City reported in the lastest DpT “snapshot” survey recorded on their website.

First, and some other bus companies refuse, to release reliability figures although commendably Transdev – who now run the 44 link down Hamilton Drive – say they will release service reliability figures. This would bring them into line with train operating companies who release reliability figures each month.

They also operate a “mystery passenger” audit which they use to improve journey quality

The York Council used to check reliability and the quality of bus journeys in the City but this was ditched when Labour took control of the Council in 2011.

Since then they have relied on the computer system which generates “next bus due” information on mobile phone “apps” as well as on the signs at some bus stops. The contract for renewal of the service is currently being let. However the historic reliability information generated by a sub set of the system – cannot be released by the Council without the agreement of participating bus companies.

The York Council, will shortly agree how to spend around £7 million this year on improvements to the transport system in York.

Of this £1.6 million  will be spent on public transport improvements.

 £104,390 will go on “off bus ticket machines” which will be funded by West Yorkshire CA.

There is little in the programme for improvements to sub-urban bus stops. We continue to believe that busy suburban stops like Foxwood Lane should have a “next bus due” screen.

That would be doubly important if buses continue to run up to 30 minutes late.

*Up to 5 minutes after scheduled time or 1 minute before.

2015 transport investment

New contract for real time bus information in York


Tenders for a new real time bus information system are currently being evaluated. A new contract, which replaces one last let in 2002, is being managed through the “West Yorkshire Combined Authority”.

Tenders were invited last year and evaluation is currently underway.

The contract provides real time information at bus stops. It is linked to (most) buses which operate in York. The information also feeds into (generally good) mobile phone apps 

The 2002 contract was worth around £400,000. When it expired in 2012, the York Council decided to pay £60,000 a year to continue to maintain the old system.

Although systems like these are also capable of providing weekly or monthly reliability statistics, the old Labour run authority refused to publicise this data.

The only guide to reliability in the City comes from an annual single day sample published by the Department of Transport. The last reported figure suggested that 80% of buses were running “on time”

The new Council has yet to announce its policy on the provision of public transport reliability and quality information.

Bus users get boost in York but still no reliability information being published

We can recommend the updated bus app for mobiles. It now has a facility to report problems with bus stops 

click to access

click to access

With a new team in power at the Council, we will be renewing our calls for quality of service and reliability statistics to be made available each month.

At the moment the Council only passes on the data – which is collected automatically by route monitoring systems – for publication on a national web site once a year.

The last published figure – which is a snapshot – revealed that 1 in 5 buses were not running on time in the City.

While most bus users are mainly interested in when their next bus will arrive, the absence of the kind of bus service performance information routinely published by train companies, is a glaring omission for public transport users in York.

The last Labour Council discontinued the “mystery traveller” checks undertaken before 2011.

Since then ,there has been no sytematic independent checks on bus service quality in the City.

Traffic signal reliability questioned

The seemingly endless series of faults on York’s traffic lights and signalised pedestrian crossings will be questioned at the Council meeting on 10th October.

Residents were particularly concerned when the pelican crossing on Front Street was faulty for several days last week.

The London solution

The London solution

The Council has not published any reliability statistics on traffic lights for over 2 years.

The response time targets for the Council’s maintenance contractor have also not been published

Cllr Ann Reid will ask the transport chief

“How many faults have been reported on traffic signals in York so far this year and what is the total time that signals have been out of service? How does this compare to the equivalent period last year?”


The continued unavailability of traffic camera real time information on the Councils web site will also be highlighted at the meeting.

It is 6 months since the Council opened its new £300,000 CCTV control centre and put traffic camera icons on its web based congestion map.

In July the Council accepted that the move had been premature although the North Yorkshire Council has had similar camera access available for many years. Assurances were given that the links would go live shortly.

3 months later and the links still aren’t working.

Liberal Democrat Councillors have therefore tabled a question asking, “Why is the feed from the traffic cameras to the “itravel” York web site map still not working despite the assurances given at the July Council meeting? “

A list of all the questions submitted for the meeting can be read here: