Use of electric buses in York to be suspended

New electric bus fleet launched last week

New electric bus fleet launched last month

As we said yesterday, it would be prudent to suspend the use of electric buses in York until the cause of yesterdays vehicle fire had been established.

It seems that, after some dithering, First intend to do just that.

UPDATE: First say that the vehicle manufacturers are undertaking precautionary checks on the fleet. Park and Ride services are unaffected

Safety must come first and we were concerned that comments from the York Council (which lets the contract for the Park and Ride services on which the buses are used) and local bus managers implied yesterday that the buses would continue in use.

In petrol powered engines, fires were not uncommon. Fires are comparatively rare in newer vehicles and, those that do occur, can usually be traced to faulty electrical components.

New technology – like that deployed in the battery powered bus fleet – is another matter. The technology is in its infancy and , although inherently safer than the internal combustion alternative, deployment needs to be cautious.

A quick investigation should reveal the cause of the fire.

If, for example, it turns out that a spanner was left by maintenance staff in the engine compartment, and this led to the short circuit which caused the fire, then that would  be one thing. A relatively easy fix (count the spanners!) and get the buses back on the road!

If a component has been incorrectly fitted then again the remedy is obvious.

Only if faulty components or – heaven forbid – a design flaw is revealed would an extensive and debilitating delay become inevitable.

We are after all just going through the first sustained period of warm weather since the large scale introduction of the buses in the City and who knows whether that might be factor?

So full marks to First for adopting a cautious approach, albeit a little late in the day.

They, and the Council, now face the headache of back-filling the gaps in the Park and Ride fleet.

Hopefully the York Council will now be open and transparent about the incident and the action that is being taken.

First York announce bus service changes.

old bus

First York have announced changes to bus services which they will implement from the beginning of August.

The number 13 and 13A services will be scrapped.

The latter provides the only link to the City centre from the Hamilton Drive area and is likely to lead to calls for the Council to substitute a tendered service. There are a lot of elderly people living in the area served by the 13A.

First say that Harrogate Coach Travel will run a replacement which may mitigate the loss of the 13 Haxby to Copmanthorpe (via Tadcaster Road) service but details are awaited.

Cllr Stephen Fenton has welcomed the extra early and late services on the number 12 route as ” good news”.

“The loss of the number 13 obviously impacts on Tadcaster Road, but is mitigated by the fact that there will be new service operated by a different operator, and residents are already served by the 4, 12 and the Coastliner”.

The changes were revealed only hours after First announced that it would be running 9 buses an hour (!) between the Railway Station and the University. The number 4 already provides 8 buses an hour. The combined service would provide a theoretical frequency of one every 3 minutes (and is probably the nearest thing to continuous public transport, short of a conveyor belt!!). 

Of course, York’s’ traffic conditions will mean that  buses on this route are likely to “bunch” so frequencies in practice may be much less than promised by the timetable. 

First have said that they intend to re-route the number 4 at the University end  but no details have as yet been made available.

Another major change affecting Acomb concerns the route of Service 5 which will be revised to run via Boroughbridge Road, Beckfield Lane and Ostman Road to serve more of north Acomb (instead of Carr Lane and Woodlea Avenue).

According to First, the proposed changes are:

  • Service 1 (Chapelfields – Wigginton) revised timetable to improve reliability
  • Service 4 (Acomb – University of York) revised route to the University
  • Service 5/5A (Acomb – Strensall) revised route between Station Rise & Boroughbridge Rd (via current 10 route). In Acomb service 5 will be revised to run via Boroughbridge Road, Beckfield Lane and Ostman Road in both directions omitting Carr Lane and Woodlea Avenue.
  • – Service 6 (Clifton Moor – City) frequency increase to every 10mins from 12mins (Mon-Fri only) to meet demand. Revised route to the City with the University link now provided by service 4
  • – Service 10/10A (Nether Poppleton – Stamford Bridge) rerouted between Rougier Street and Boroughbridge Road via the current route of services 5/5A serving National Railway Museum, Leeman Road, Salisbury Road and Water End. In Stamford Bridge services 10/10A will operate in a one way clockwise loop from The Square via Main Street, Burton Fields Road, Battlefields Way, Moor Road, Church Road, High Catton Road, Roman Avenue North, Roman Avenue South, High Catton Road and Church Road to The Square and then current route back towards the City Centre
  • Service 12 (Foxwood Lane – Monks Cross) revised timetable to improve reliability with an extra earlier journey from Elmfield Ave at 0643 and an extra later journey from the Stonebow at 1751
  • The current service 13/13A Copmanthorpe/Acomb/Haxby will be withdrawn due to low demand (customers will be able to use new service 13 between Haxby & Copmanthorpe provided by Harrogate Coach Travel Ltd.

NB. The Council announced last week that bus use in the City had reached a high of 15.6 million journeys last year. Most of these will have been generated by the new Park and Ride sites although the Council has so far declined to reveal the numbers using stage carriage services.

Motorists advised to avoid Tadcaster Road if possible this afternoon

St Helen's Road 1400 hours 13th May 2015

St Helen’s Road 1400 hours 13th May 2015

It looks like Tadcaster Road will be very congested at teatime.

St Helen’s Road is still closed although now relatively free of surface water following the burst main earlier today. Workers are still digging their way down to the source of the problem. There is access for pedestrians and cyclists (who will need to dismount next to the roadworks)

It is race day so several hundred vehicles will be leaving the Knavesmire at tea time.

Those who can are advised to avoid driving down Tadcaster Road.

The number 4 bus route diversion remains in place.

Number 4 bus service diverted because of St Helen’s Road burst water main

  • Area: St Helens Bridge in Dringhouses
  • Cause: Burst Water Main

We have a road closure at St. Helens bridge in Dringhouses.

Service 4 is operating down Tadcaster Road to Askham Bar Roundabout and then diverting via Moor Lane Bridge, Chaloners Road and Thanet Road and back on normal service at Eason View.

Coming into York from Acomb we are running normal service to Eason View then left onto Thanet Road, left onto Chaloners Road and then left over Moor Lane bridge and onto Tadcaster Road picking up normal route at Cross Keys pub.

The diversion is due to a burst water main at the bridge and is expected to last for the foreseeable future.

York Council to spend £5.8 million on transport improvements over next 12 months

No ring road improvements scheduled. Little being spent on reducing congestion

The Councils transport investment programme has been published. As usual the devil will be in the detail and the programme could be scrapped if there are major changes in the make-up of the Council at the May 7th polls.

Bus Services

Around £775,000 is to be spent on improvements to bus services.  £250,000 of this will go on the delays Rougier Street bus shelter while £200,000 will address “pinch point improvements”. Once again sub-urban areas fare badly in the allocations (separately on the agenda for the same meeting a £20,000 plan to improve facilities in Rawcliffe is recommended for rejection)

Traffic congestion

Proposed extra lane for A19 pinch point

Proposed extra lane for A19 pinch point

£2 million is being spent easing the “pinch point” on the A19 near the Designer Outlet. Much less is being spent elsewhere in the £2.4 million budget although the modernisation of variable message boards – which have been increasingly unreliable – is welcome.

Cycling/Pedestrian schemes

£468,000 is being spent on a range of small schemes. The biggest is the provision of a cycle link at Scarborough Bridge. This is mostly being covered by central government grant.

Road Safety

Wetherby Road VAS

Wetherby Road VAS

This is only being allocated £450,000 in the programme which is still driven by Labour priorities.  School safety schemes, school crossing warning signs, “speed management” and the renewal of the vehicle activated signs (VAS), like those on Wetherby Road and Green Lane, will all get a boost.

Money is also asset aside to develop future improvements and to continue maintenance of the City Walls. The alleygating programme will also continue.

No expenditure on improvements to the northern by pass is expected over the next 12 months despite promises from the Labour Council leadership that this was now one of their priorities.

Nearly 150 buses across the country to be fitted with pollution-reducing technology. York awarded £475k to make cleaner buses for the city

Sightseeing bus converted to battery power

More cleaner buses will be on the streets of towns and cities across England following the announcement of over £3 million funding today (11 March 2015).

York first pioneered the development of battery powered buses in 2010

Seven towns and cities have been awarded government grants to fit green technology to existing buses to help improve air quality and create a better environment for residents and visitors.

Electric buses pioneered by York in 2010

Baroness Kramer said:

The £3 million funding announced today will help improve town centre air across England, benefitting residents and businesses. These grants continue this government’s commitment to lowering emissions from public transport and support the growth of green transport in the UK.

The funding is the latest tranche of support from the Clean Vehicle Technology Fund, which has retrofitted more than 1650 vehicles with green technology.

This round of awards will see technology suitable for the stop-start nature of bus travel fitted, including exhaust gas treatment and flywheel hybrid technology, developed originally for Formula 1.

The successful projects will monitor the effectiveness of the technologies to provide vital information on the working life of green vehicle upgrades.

York saw the launch of the world’s first double decker conversion of a City Sightseeing tour bus in York to fully electric drive last year. 

The DfT’s Clean Vehicle Technology fund will now enable the conversation of an additional five buses into ‘zero emission motion’ – meaning electric motors.

The electric retrofitted vehicles will eliminate the emission of 2000kg of poisonous Nitrogen Dioxide (NOx) per year and reduce the carbon footprint by 95 tons CO2. Operating costs of the electric buses will save over £75k per year. 

The converted buses are quieter and emit no pollution from the tailpipe as they run entirely on electric motors and battery packs.

The electric range is more than enough to complete a full day of touring and the buses will trickle charge overnight at their depot, using low carbon off peak electricity.

Some children’s bus fares to double in York

Behind closed doors decision hits number 20 bus service.

Behind closed doors logo

Two decisions were taken last week which affect bus services contracted by the Council with Arriva/Transdev in York.

There was no prior consultation with local Councillors or residents before the decisions were published.

The first change will see child fares on the 627/637/647 services increased so that they are “in line with those charged on other local bus services”. The services provide links to Fulford, Archbishop Holgate and Manor schools (from Acomb).

Currently children using these routes pay £1 return. This would be doubled to £2 (saving the Council  £19,711)

 The increase will be implemented from 1st September 2015.

The Council has promised to “ work with the contracting bus operator (Arriva) to explore opportunities for term pass discounts”

The number 20 bus service which links Tesco, Gale Lane and  Front Street with Poppleton, Wigginton and the University will run less frequently.

“Instead of an hourly ‘clock-face’ timetable, additional running time will be built in to the timetable meaning certain departures will be 70 or 75 minutes apart.

Most buses will run from Heslington Hall via University Road and Melrosegate (currently buses run from Heslington Hall via Field Lane, Osbaldwick village, Alcuin Avenue and Melrosegate). School-time journeys will still be routed via Osbaldwick as they carry a number of children from the village to and from Huntington and Joseph Rowntree schools“.

All buses will divert to call at Vangarde Shopping Park (John Lewis etc), providing a new transport link for staff and shoppers. “Providing this link may allow CYC to use some of the Vangarde Section 106 developer funding to offset a proportion of the contract price”.

The proposal will remove the section of route through Heslington East and Osbaldwick except for at school times. The Councils says that, “whilst some Osbaldwick resident are using the service (around 15 passengers per day on average), alternative bus links are available”.

Call for bus fares to be reduced

Liberal Democrats are calling for public transport users to enjoy the benefits of lower fuels prices.

Bus fares have risen steadily over the last 4 years with park and ride charges which were increased by 5% in January.

The No 12 bus to Foxwood Lane, York - one of a number of bus routes which could be cut

First buses last increased their single fares in September 2013. Some other fares were restructured in the light of falling customer numbers at the same time.

Since then fuel prices have dropped by 21%.

Taxi fares were last reviewed in April 2014. Another review is due next month. The Council has been asked under Freedom of Information legislation to release details of the cost assumptions made when approving fare increases.

Fuel costs have reduced by 17% since last April.

Public transport providers do, of course, face other costs. These include labour and depreciation costs while maintenance and licensing charges also take a toll. But most of these costs have been stable recently so passengers will be expecting to benefit.

Lower fares may mean a “win win” for operators with increased passenger numbers making up any reduction in income.

“Free station bus service is aimed at visitors”

Yesterday’s announcement that car parking charges would increase in order to fund a fares free bus service form the station to the hospital is attracting a growing level of criticism.

Bus users have pointed out that they will have already purchased a “through” ticket when boarding the bus on the first leg of their journeys. The majority of bus journeys are made by elderly concessionary pass holders anyway, who get “free” travel anyway (the bill is picked up by the government).

It seems that the only real beneficiaries of the new service will be visitors/tourists arriving by rail at the station.

Bus User Group seeking new recruits

Bus users are being invited to have their say on how bus services in York are planned and delivered.

Old Pullman bus

City of York Council and local bus operators are encouraging commuters, residents and visitors to join the Bus User Group (BUSUG) on a voluntary basis to be involved in helping to improve bus travel in York.

The group has already helped to make influential decisions shaping a number of changes to the network, including:
• the design of the new all-operator bus timetables, now in use at all bus stops in York
• and, the installation of real time information screens

New threat to Woodthorpe bus service?

Now First start consultation on “low usage” services

Just a few weeks after the York Council withdrew its threat to withdraw subsidies from services like the number 12, it seems that First themselves are now planning cuts.

Their web site says

“We’re undertaking some face-to-face consultation events and running an online survey to seek your views on services operating in the South West of York covering Acomb to Copmanthorpe as well as Haxby in the North.

Some services operating in these areas are experiencing low levels of usage which we’d like to address, to ensure that our buses go to the right places and that the levels of service meets the demand.

Our survey asks for feedback on your travel choices made within your area as well as ways to improve or amend our existing services.

It’s hoped that this feedback will assist in the development of the network to improve usage and long term viability of these services.

Come and meet us face-to-face at these events:

  • Thursday 12 February 1000-1300 Explore Acomb Library Learning Centre
  • Thursday 12 February1400-1600 Copmanthorpe Youth Club, School Lane
  • Friday 13 February 1430-1730 Snow Room G035, City of York Council Offices
  • Tuesday 24 February 1230-1530 Haxby & Wigginton Methodist Church Hall

If you’re not able to see us at one of these events, we still want your views – please let us know what you think by completing our online survey which is open until Saturday 28 February”.

The main concerns relate to possible reductions in the frequency of the  number 12 service which provides a link between the City centre and Woodthorpe. The future of the popular number 4 service is also understood to be under review.