Students at the University have recently been expressing their discontent with the new Stagecoach bus services. Introduced on 8th October to coincide with the reopening of the Greyhound Bridge, the network changes have left commuters facing overcrowded buses and other problems.
Some bus users have complained about the changes, saying that the new services are causing them to be late for lectures and other timetabled teaching hours. Many have complained that they are left standing for prolonged periods of time in the Underpass waiting to get on a bus home, which becomes overcrowded and claustrophobic.
One student who has anxiety told SCAN that it can be unbearable waiting in the Underpass during peak travel times. Others have said that they have been left waiting as buses drive past them, too full to let anybody else on-board, with Cameron Redpath, disability officer for Lancashire Young Labour stating that the new services have brought ‘absolute chaos’ to the area.
Proposed changes were announced by Stagecoach in July, and were introduced with the intention of increasing the number of available seats for their passengers. Popular services Route 1 and Route 2 operate every 10 minutes and every 15 minutes during term time respectively. MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood Cat Smith has reportedly been in touch with Stagecoach and has asked for an increase in capacity for the number 2 route, which has currently been using single decker buses, to ‘ease the current problem.’
After hearing stories from a number of students about their experiences since the beginning of the term, SCAN conducted a Twitter poll in regard to the issue, and of those who responded, 56% suggested that their journeys had been affected in some way since the introduction of the new Stagecoach network.
The Lancaster District Bus Users Group have noted on their website that the new services have had more than a few ‘Teething problems’ and suggested that ‘If you wanted to completely revise routes and timetables for Lancaster’s busiest bus services, including all those too and from the University, you probably wouldn’t want to do it on the very first day of term, when lots of new students who don’t know the times, the routes or the fares are trying to make their journey for the first time!’ They also said that Stagecoach’s introduction of contactless card payment has not helped the issue; the machines have in multiple occasions failed to work correctly, passengers have been overcharged which in turn has caused many services to run late.
One complainant who spoke to SCAN said that on one particular occasion, they were late for a seminar by over 15 minutes due to delays. They said, ‘I got to the bus stop at twenty-five past nine, it didn’t arrive until quarter to ten and then didn’t leave until ten to ten. I left enough time to get to campus but I was still late.’
Another, when asked about their experiences this term said:
‘The evening commute is the worst because the buses are always packed and there is no order at the underpass. Big groups of students are trying to get onto one bus, with only one conductor to keep everything flowing smoothly. Some evenings you can be waiting and three buses will stop at different points are you will get pushed to the back of the queue and won’t get on. Zones on the underpass for each service would be helpful.’
Twitter user Beth Shepherd stated
‘I missed a lecture today because all your buses were running late and were overcrowded this morning, not what us students pay almost £300 a year on a bus pass for.’
SCAN reached out to Stagecoach about the complaints made, and a spokesperson for the company said, ‘Following feedback from our customers, at the start of this term we changed the way our services worked to provide double-decker buses on the fastest route to the University from the City centre. We were aware that there are more students living off-campus this year and we had planned for this by running extra buses at peak times.
Unfortunately, as a result of worse than anticipated congestion around the city centre we have seen some customers waiting longer than they should for a bus on Greaves Road and in Bowerham. We are sorry that this has been the case and we have been working to try and fix the problem.
Customers may have noticed in the past few days buses with ‘Stagecoach Hull’ on the side of them, as we have brought in additional buses from other Stagecoach depots to help solve this problem. We are hopeful that this will solve the problem in the short term and we are currently looking at what we can do in the long term to improve buses to the University.’