Thursday, 6 September 2012

Overcrowding on morning commuter buses

Since the school term started on Tuesday, the bus I travel to work on has been grossly overcrowded every day. This is the 0720 A from Wyton Camp, which I board at Station Road, St Ives.  Passengers have had to stand from St Ives Park & Ride. On Tuesday and today (Thursday), there were so many people standing in the aisle (well over 20), that no-one could be picked up at Lonstanton, Oakington and Histon. The new timetable may inded be providing extra seating capacity during the middle of the day, but it seems that around 0730 the existing timetable cannot cope with the demand.



Have other journeys been affected by overcrowding?

42 comments:

  1. Today I caught an earlier bus than usual ( the 0645 from Chatteris, 0722 from St Ives). I think there were 18 people standing by the time it reached Histon. Coming back tonight I was aiming for the 1706 from Parkside, but when the bus actually arrived it was the late running 1651. This journey was running 24 minutes late on leaving New Square, with about 15 people standing. There were 20 standing on leaving CRC. Arrival at St Ives was 30 minutes late. As I left the bus station, the 1708 had arrived - it left for Chatteris 18 minutes late.

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  2. The 07:40 A from St.Ives P&R was full, no one got one and 10 minutes late. There was a crowd of at least 30 students all milling around where the buses stops, plus the usual commuters. It was a struggle to get on the B because of them. The B was very crowded as well.

    I presume this overcrowding is caused by Hills Road and Long Road students returning for the autumn term? Apparently there are no private contract buses to these colleges, but this has been the case last year. Strange that they are all going in early? It was not this band before the summer holidays?

    Lets hope the situation improves?

    Phil

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    1. Thanks, Phil.

      I was on that bus from St Ives Station Road this morning, and today was the first time I've had to stand. It picked up 2 or 3 at Fen Drayton, did not stop at Swavesey, dropped someone off at Longstanton but didn't pick any one up, picked up about half a dozen at Oakington. I think there were 18 or 19 people standing at one point. The bus was 12 minutes late at New Square, Cambridge.

      I don't see how the situation can improve unless they increase capacity by introducing more buses during this busy time. Maybe they could take guided buses off the Huntingdon-Peterborough route?

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  3. I suggest we should all start complaining. Emails to fenland.enquiries@stagecoachbus.com . I'd like to know if they (StageCoach) accept there is a problem and what they intend doing about it? It might be worth CC'ing in the local MP, Look East, Local papers and the Cambs County Council.

    God knows how you are supposed to get on between Longstanton & Histon when the majority of the A,s between 7:30 and 8:30 are "standing room only"?

    The timetable does need re-gigging. The new timetable has enhanced the B service at the expense of the A, just to bring down the journey times between PeterBoro', Huntingdon and Cambridge.

    Interestingly one of the guys at work came in (to the Science park) on a A from the Cambs town centre. Its was 30 minutes late.

    Phil

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  4. I guess this one reason behind the support for the railway option - a 3-car train provides about 200 seats and amply copes with the rush-hour demand.

    I don't think bus companies like idling buses and drivers during the middle of the day as they wait for the evening peak.

    Of course, they could just price passengers off the buses at peak times, like certain other travel modes do... then you'd have to see whether the extra revenue generated from higher fares would pay for peak-hour only buuses and drivers.

    Is not a solution to the "A" service overcrowding to get on a "B" then change to an "A" or 1/3/8 etc in Cambridge City centre?

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  5. Thanks, Stephen.

    Your point about the train is valid. Just a pity that Cambridge Station is so far out of the city centre. I think that is what scuppered the rail reopening idea. Given that we are stuck with guided buses for the moment, I think we do need faster routes in/out of the city. London has its 'red routes' for main bus routes i.e. no parking at all for cars. We need something liek that, I think. Cambridge's narrow roads are a major headache.

    If travelling to Addenbrooke's then using the B and switching to the Citi 1,3 or 7 is a good idea - except that the B is often slow getting from the busway to the city centre, and sometimes gets overtaken by the A.

    I think part of the capacity problems are an unintended result of the low bridge under Hills Road. This restricts the route A to single deckers - well, those that travel beyond Cambrdige railway station.

    Looking at the timetable for the Huntingdon-Peterborough route suggests that at at any one time there are about 3 guided buses on that section. If passengers from north of Huntingdon had to change to a connecting bus at Huntingdon, then those 2 or 3 guided vehicles could be released to give a capacity boost between Cambridge Station and St Ives during the morning and evening peaks. It would also mean they could run all 4 Bs per hour to Hinchingbrooke, i.e. imopriove and regularuise that service, and I would suggest that all of these journeys also run in and out of Huntingdon Rail Station.

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  6. Your point about the number of guided buses tied up in the Hunt-P section is good.

    Re your comment about the low bridge, I suggest a solution is for planners to swallow their pride and run some peak hour "A" services using double-deckers, and run them from the station to the hospital on the ordinary road.

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  7. I think running a couple of extra DD A's between St.Ives and the Rail Station in the morning would probably cope with the peaks.

    Going on the B instead of the A (as I have been doing) is fine as long as you can get to where you are going to. I've noticed an increase in People (not CRC students) getting off at Orchard Park East and walking to the Science park.

    I came in on the last of the A's at 8am this morning, I got a seat no problem but it was full up by Longstanton. Its clear to me that the A service is running at near to capacity and can't cope with those peaks that can happen from time to time.

    According to the new timetables (Look in the C route section) the 07:40 A St.Ives P&R service goes onto Long Road college, This might explain why it is popular with the students.

    Phil

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  8. Looks like my (and possible other's) complaints have filtered through to Stagecoach.

    There were two Stagecoach guys counting what spaces were left on each bus leaving the St.Ives P&R. One was on the phone relaying the information on.

    And today was quite a quiet day, as I managed to get on an A at 8:20 at the P&R which was pretty much half full. The 3 A's that left before were "Standing room only".

    Phil

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  9. Progress - we hope.

    Yesterday (18 Sep) the 0740 a from RAF Wyton was 'standing room only' (about 19 people at maximum) from St Ives Station Road. It picked up a few at the Park & Ride, but not at Fen Drayton, Longstanton, Oakington or Histon. It picked up at Swavesey, but only because someone alighted there. I had to stand the whole journey, and to add insult to injury, the bus was 12 minutes late.

    My journey home was on the 1708 from New Square. There were 22 standing when it left CRC. The busw as 10 minutes late at St Ives.

    Today (19 Sep), again I had to stand the whole way from Station Road to New Square - about 20 people standing.

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  10. Fingers crossed something positive will come of this.

    The only email I got from StageCoach in response from my complaint was from the Cambridge Depot saying it was the Huntingdon Depots problem ;-)

    Phil

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  11. Yesterday morning I travelled on the earlier A than usual( 0722 from Station Road). I got a seat OK, but there were about 8 standing on departure from the Park & Ride. The driver picked up passengers at every stop, and by CRC I reckon there were 25 standing.

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  12. Another Stagecoach employee surveying the punctuality and capacity of each service leaving the St. Ives P&R! A pity they picked a Friday and not a Monday to do it. Today was not as busy as yesterday.

    This morning I bumped into an old colleague on the bus at Histon. He says the service there is absolutely terrible, buses are full and not stopping. He has had to drive 3 times this week.

    I think some people are starting to vote with their feet (or rather their cars and bikes). Why didn't they do the survey when they introduced the new timetable? They must be losing customers?

    I sent another email out last night on the subject. Still no response from Stagecoach.

    Phil

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  13. I switched to the B this morning as I didn't relish the thought of standing the whole way. But it was slower, of course.

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  14. Please see today's Cambridge News (21 September, page 12) for a letter from a Histon resident who had to wait 50 minutes for a bus to work. All the buses were full and did not stop at Histon.

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    1. Yes, saw this letter - couldn't find an online copy of it, though. Maybe it's only on the subscriber version.

      Interesting that she said "bus emptied at CRC". Perhaps there should be some peak hour services only as far as CRC/Science Park - that would save on the number of buses required to do the job. Simple shuttle between St. Ives and Sc Pk? Shame no turning circle at ScPk!

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    2. Buses could turn left at the Science Park stop and turn at the Milton Road/A14 roundabout.

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    3. In the future they could simply turn at the new North Rail Station and head back to St Ives - that would save those who didn't want to, deviating via the new station...killing two birds with one stone!

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  15. Just got an email of apology from Stagecoach. They accept there is a problem, they have been working on a temporary solution of replacing 2 Single decker services with Double Deckers for the last the last 2 mornings.

    A long term solution is still to be decided.

    I think this a positive move from Stagecoach, lets hope they can sort something out quickly before they loose more customers.

    Phil

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  16. Yes. A positive response from Stagecoach. did they say which specific As they would replace with double deckers?

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  17. Andrew,

    The SC guy did not say which A's he'd upgraded to DD's. Monday morning will be an interesting test for this temporary measure.

    Phil

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  18. Might just be the 'schooldays only' trips which will be of no help to those of us who use the 0710 ex Marley road and the 0720 ex RAF Wyton.

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  19. Whippet are changing their route C/D timetable in October and it looks like they will be running a few more morning peak buses to Cambridge and back again in the evening. Whether that will be enough to help the situation is another matter tough.

    Unfortunately it looks like they will be abandoning reverse peak traffic, as the revised first arrival in St Ives will be post 9am and the last back at 1640.

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  20. Got on an DD A at St.Ives P&R at 08:15 today. Plenty of seats, not much of a queue, every one at Histon got on. It's not been like that since before the Summer Holidays. Fingers crossed.

    What was it like earlier Andrew?

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  21. It wasn't good earlier on and I had to stand for the whole journey.

    I caught the 0737 A from Station Road. There were about 5 people standing when the bus arrived, about 12 got on, and another 8 boarded at the Park & Ride. So I reckon there must have been 24 or 25 standing from there as far as CRC.

    To make matters worse, the bus left St Ives 12 minutes late. Not stopping at Fen Drayton, Swavesey, Longstanton, Oakington or Histon meant we caught up a few minutes, and were only 5 minutes late at New Square.

    There was a bloke on the bus giving out survey forms on behalf of Passengerfocus, and independent consumer organisation that represents bus passengers across England (except London).

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  22. So, the "short term" solution is only clearing the backlog of over capacity faster than before.

    If the "long term" solution is to add extra buses (which they don't have), it could be a number of months before we see an improvement in the service. I'd guess a lead time on a new bus would be 3 to 4 months. The only other option would be to hire in and/or convert other existing buses to run on the busway.

    Whippet maybe able to take up some of the capacity during peak periods, but the impression I got from the Stagecoach email was that the Busway is close to capacity in terms of the number of buses they can effectively run down it.

    Phil

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  23. My bus was only 5 minutes late today (25 Sep), and not so overcrowded when it left St Ives. But by the time passengers were picked up at Swavesey, the must heve been well over 20 standing. We did not stop at Longstanton, Oakington or Histon. Very few alighted at CRC or the Science Park, which makes me wonder if some the regulars have decisied to travel at a different time, or catch the B and walk from Orchard Park East, or swap to Whippet.

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  24. Today was very busy, I think the buses were running late. I didn't bother with the S.Dckr A at 08:15 as it was very crowded when it left.

    I took a B in preference to a DDckr A at 08:25 from the P&R just so I could get a seat and walked from Orchard Park. The A I chose not to take was very crowded when it passed me at the CRC.

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  25. Thanks for commenting. I should also perhaps note that there is also overcrowding on some evening commuter buses - but not, in my experience so far, as bad as the morning journeys. Last night I travelled on the late running A due to leave New Square at 1653, but 12 minutes late, so lsightly ahead of the 1708 to Chatteris. I think there were about 10 or 12 standing at maximum.

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  26. Andrew,

    I agree with you, the Cambs to St.Ives "A" service between 17:00 and 18:15 can be very congested by the time the buses get to the Science Park. I try not to travel between those times, but when I have to and I end up standing, and jammed up in other people's personal spaces, I will often get off at Histon and catch the next B which normally has seats available.

    Phil

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  27. Phil, when you change at Histon, do you find the real time bus info is accurate? Or do you sometimes get caught out if the B is very delayed?

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  28. Andrew,

    When the buses are late, you can take what any of the displays say with a pinch of salt. I've noticed that the displays remove a bus from view if it is late by a couple of minutes. This can be quite disconcerting if you are new to the busway. Also, I think the system only knows when a bus is at a stop, I don't think they track using Sat nav technology, otherwise the time estimates would be a lot more accurate, either that or their software is pants.

    But usually I will have a look at the display before I decide get off at Histon. I have never had to wait more than 10 minutes at Histon for a B or another A. If it were any later, I am not that bothered. I have a good book and no reason to be home at a specific time. If it was really bad, there are plenty of good pubs in Histon to pass the time in ;-)

    I have the "MyBusTrip" app on my Droid phone as well and that seems to run off the same data feed as the displays. That is a shame cos it looks quite a reasonably written app.

    Phil

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  29. And some buses ( e.g. the schooldays only ones) don't seem to be on the system at all. And the system cannot cope with outposts such as Chatteris. Those buses just appear ( IF they appear) as St Ives. You are obviously a more patient person train me - I would resent having to wait 10 minutes just to get a seat! The pub idea sounds good!

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  30. I've always found the 'real time' information to be anything but and late running buses just disappear from the display shortly after the scheduled time.

    Real confusion arises when the clock on the real time information display is slow (as was the case at Swavesy a few weeks ago). The display was saying the bus was due in a few minutes when in reality it had gone 10 minutes earlier!

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  31. Yes, Doug, Real time info is a good idea. But useless if it doesn't work properly.

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  32. Does anyone have a feel for the proportion of people getting out at each major destination over the morning peak, and the change in distribution as the peak progresses (CRC/SP/Centre/RailStn/Hosp). Eg I'm assuming a surge of CRC exits just before 9am. I wonder what the total CRC figure is?

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  33. It might not solve this problem, but how about extending the B's to Cambridge station ? It is disgraceful that nothing seems to be in prospect for making use of the massive new capacity offered by the station interchange. And far too many buses from the station terminate at the city centre instead of continuing to provide through services to the northern parts of the city.

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  34. Yesterday I attempted to get the 17:35 service from the CRC to St.Ives. It turned up 5 minutes late and only one person got on due to overcrowding. Another passenger complained to the driver that the last 2 A's had not stopped. 7 of us left on the platform.

    I look at the display see that the next A is at 17:49. That is the scheduled time, and that service is normally 10 minutes late and very busy.

    I take a gamble and walk to Orchard Park to catch the 17:58 B to Huntingdon. Just as I near the Orchard Park East stop a Single Decker A comes sailing past with space on it at 17:45! As to whether that Service was the 17:49, I have no idea!

    The displays are not accurate.

    At least I got a seat.

    Phil

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  35. Over the last week, I have found things have improved on the morning commute from the St.Ives P&R as long as I travel after 08:00. The addition of extra double deckers seems to have eased the pressure on the system.

    Is anyone still regularly encountering problems?

    Phil

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  36. Last week was a continuing saga of overcrowded morning buses, both the 0722 and 0737 A journeys from Station Road St Ives.

    On Monday 24th, the 0737 was 12 minutes late from Station Road but managed to catch up a few minutes.

    Today (Monday 1st October) it was also 12 minutes late. A colleague who boarded this bus in Hill Rose told me that it was on time at her stop, but was slowed down by huge numbers of people joining at each stop.

    I wonder how much this is being caused by people buying weekly tickets from the driver on a Monday morning.

    Last week I had a few expereinces of late running in the homeward direction.

    On monday 24th, the 1653 A from New square was running 12 minutes late. On Thursday 27th, i was aiming for eth 1638 A, but travelled home on the 1623 which was running about 10 late.

    On Friday, instead of catching the 1708 A (destination Chatteris), I caught the 1653 A (destination RAF Wyton) which was 17 minutes late. So I got home a few minutes earlier than I expected, but passengers travelling to places beyond the top of Ramsey Road got a very poor deal.

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