Blog Posts: Hobby Horses & Rants

This page features some occasional pieces on (mostly transport) issues which have caught my eye. I do not expect everyone to agree with me, but I hope they will be prove thought provoking and may even stimulate some debate? Please let me know what you think.

NW City Regions divided by a common cause?

posted 11 Apr 2018, 08:39 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 12 Apr 2018, 09:03 ]

11th April 2018

I recently attended a very interesting presentation on the progress achieved by the Liverpool City Region Bus Alliance (LCRBA).

There were some impressive statistics quoted relating to patronage growth, fleet improvements etc. and all the partners are to be commended on what has been achieved. 

It was highlighted that the objectives of the bus operators and the Local Transport Authority are, broadly, the same - increasing patronage and reducing congestion.

However, what stuck me most, was how much of the Bus Alliance is actually about how it is all presented. I think this sort of promotion and branding is something that the Merseyside PTE has, consistently, done well over the years. 

Many of the initiatives identified under the LCRBA are actually good operational practice (eg punctuality and reliability, Smart ticketing, driver awareness training, cleaning regimes, common destination descriptions, etc.) Even the fleet renewals would have had to happen, although these have probably come along sooner and in greater magnitude, and with more ULEVs than they would otherwise have done without the partnership - as evidenced by recent statements by the big operators in relation to where their investment will be targeted. Bringing these initiatives together under the banner headline of the Bus Alliance has helped to raise their profile and show, collectively how much progress is being made.

Impressively, the Bus Alliance has even managed to dress up significant reductions to the funding for supported services, leading to service reductions and withdrawals as "Network Reviews" and making the bus services fit for the modern age!

What is most impressive to me, is that Merseytravel, Arriva and Stagecoach are, outwardly at least, speaking with one voice. Unfortunately, the other operators across Merseyside and Halton have yet to formally join the partnership, although they deliver quality services in their own way. 

Clearly, there remain many outstanding issues to be addressed and some of these were touched on during the presentation. Not least of these is the time lag in developing and delivering highways infrastructure schemes which can benefit bus movement. Even the "quick wins" can be frustratingly slow!

During the course of presentation I pondered on how this related to the present situation in the Greater Manchester City Region, where (publicly) the emphasis is on regulation and franchising of the bus network, rather than partnership working.
It is clear to me that if GMBOA, the major bus operators, TfGM and the district authorities were able to present a similar unified front, promoting all the current operational and highways initiatives to support public transport under a common label, many of the successes championed by the LCRBA could be similarly shown to be happening in Greater Manchester. (Provided, of course, that Greater Manchester could adopt some of the Scouse promotional chutzpah!) 

The involvement of GMBOA as an equal partner would have the bonus that this would include the smaller operators. 

The LCR experience has shown that closer, common working on supporting functions such as Driver training, Inspectorate, Cleaning, Information etc. can be achieved. There is no reason why this, and more, could not be done at the other end of the East Lancashire Road, too.

GMBOA's rebranding into OneBus presents a ready made vehicle for this to happen and it would enable some of the recent, ill-informed and negative rhetoric about bus services to be countered. 

Unfortunately, I don't think that this suits the current political regime!

Let's be busway bold in Liverpool?

posted 7 Mar 2018, 08:41 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 7 Mar 2018, 08:41 ]

7th March 2018

Liverpool City Council is this week showing the latest designs for a remodelling of Lime Street and St George's Plateau. The design reduces the present dual carriageway to a single carriageway and widens the Plateau area to create a bigger "performance space".

So far, so good - and the plans would enhance the setting of St George's Hall.

However, I think the plans put forward don't adequately consider the wider movement of public transport through this area.

The corridor leading into Lime Street and the Queen Square bus station is the most intensively used route into Liverpool City Centre.

I have calculated that there are currently up to 103 buses per hour in each direction, which operate in the London Road - Lime Street corridor. Some will say that this is far too many and is the root cause of the congestion and traffic problems. However, the fact that every one of those bus journeys is operated commercially, suggests that there is actually a very strong demand for bus travel into the City Centre from the north and west of the conurbation.

But, at times, it can take a bus upwards of 15 to 20 minutes to traverse the stretch of route between Low Hill and Queen Square, via the Royal Liverpool Hospital, London Road and Lime Street - a distance of just over one mile!

At Roy McDonald Consulting, we think there is an opportunity, here, to completely rethink how the operation of buses is viewed in this corridor, with the development of a new, dedicated, two-way busway (unguided) from the Low Hill/Prescot Street junction all the way into the Queen Square bus station.

The development of the new Royal Liverpool Hospital buildings are likely to alter many of the access points to the site. This can be a catalyst for the remodelling of Prescot Street with a two-way busway on the south (hospital) side of the road, featuring a new, high quality bus stop and shelter. Any necessary servicing access could be maintained by a single one-way, eastbound lane.

The two-way bus only route would continue along London Road from Prescot Street to Monument Place, where another high quality stop would be established to serve the shopping area and the proposed Fabric Quarter.

The busway route would continue across the Norton Street junction, and down the south side of London Road and into Lime Street, where the busway would use the existing southbound carriageway alignment adjacent to the Empire Theatre and Lime Street Station. Here, there would be an inbound alighting stop for access to the Station and Cultural Quarter, and another high quality passenger facility for outbound travellers. 

Limited general traffic would be accommodated in a single two-way road using the alignment of the existing northbound carriageway. Limited servicing and access could be permitted from Commutation Row into London Road in a single one-way, eastbound lane. 

The busway would then flow directly into Queen Square Bus Station via St George's Place. 

The diagram below, illustrates the proposal.

Provision of a busway would send out a clear message that bus travel in the City complements the rail network and is afforded a high level of priority.

The busway would benefit bus passengers through more regular journey times over this last mile into the City Centre, and the time savings could, potentially, allow bus operators to reduce the vehicle resources expended in trying to maintain schedules.

Going down the Partnership route ...?

posted 10 May 2016, 04:47 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 10 May 2016, 04:53 ]

10th May 2016

With the ever tightening squeeze on Local Authority budgets, support for public transport services is coming under more and more pressure and we have seen many LTA’s proposing bus service withdrawals – and even the complete removal of financial support for bus services.

Under this cloud, I think we need to reassess where the bus fits within the fabric of our communities. With this in mind, perhaps it is time that we reconsidered the potential of Community Bus Partnerships (CBPs), as originally championed by, amongst others,  Prof. Paul Salveson.

The concept of Community Partnerships in the rail sector now has some history and is even embraced in some of the new franchise awards.

However, I think the development of a Community Partnership for bus is different and would present some specific challenges.

Railway lines and stations, and the trains which serve them, have a place in the hearts of many communities and readily find enthusiastic volunteers to champion their cause – especially if faced with the threat of closure. Unfortunately, the humble bus is often seen as the “Cinderella” and finds it much more difficult to engender affection.

In addition, the railway has tangible structures – stations – as part of the service provision which act as a focus for community involvement.  A bus stop pole and plate – even with a passenger waiting shelter – on the public highway is much more difficult for the community to get excited about.

In short, rail possesses a romance and a permanence, which bus just cannot hope to emulate.

The principle of a Community Bus Partnership needs to focus on involvement with a single, clearly defined, bus service, (although a service can be made up of several route variants).

In looking to develop CBPs, the objectives need to be clearly established at the outset. 

  • What would a CBP hope to achieve? 
  • What role would the “Community” play?

The answers to these questions lie, largely, in whether the bus service is commercial or supported. In general, bus operators are inherently conservative in their approach to commercial operation. Participation in a partnership with “the community” could be regarded by some with suspicion and at odds with their commercial freedoms. Others may be willing to embrace the opportunity to interact with their potential customer base.

Where bus services are supported, the potential of a CBP to increase patronage should be encouraged. Here, much is likely to depend on the basis upon which the service is contracted.

For example, if the service is contracted  on a cost reimbursement (minimum cost) basis, the contracting Local Transport Authority ( takes the revenue risk, and the operator is paid the same amount, regardless of whether he carries full loads or travels empty. In this case, the operator is less interested in growing the demand for the service – unless there is some profit sharing agreement in place. Thus, there would be little benefit, financially, to the operator of participation in a CBP.

Under a net subsidy contract, the operator takes the revenue risk, having made an assessment of the expected revenue from all sources in calculating his bid price for the contract. In simple terms, the greater the patronage and revenue, the more profit the operator stands to make. In such cases, the ability of a CBP to help to grow the market and increase patronage and revenue is in the operator’s interest – as well as in the long-term interest of the funding authority.

Returning to the objectives of CBPs, the Partnership would clearly have a major role in ensuring that awareness of the route, fares and journey opportunities are disseminated throughout the community. Service promotion is something which neither the majority of bus operators nor most LTAs are particularly good at.

Going further, the CBP can generate feedback from the communities to the Operators and LTA concerning routeing and timetabling issues.  A number of LTAs have developed Community “Champions”  - local volunteers through which information and publicity about local bus services can be channelled. Some have also encouraged “adoption” schemes for route infrastructure – bus stops, shelters and timetable display cases. A CBP could develop and build on such activities.

To be most  effective, it would be important that CBP properly represents the community it serves. Far too often Transport Consultation Fora are dominated by middle aged, middle class, male “enthusiasts” with little direct experience of the transport and travel issues of other sectors of the community. For example, any Partnership must recognise the interests of young people, shift workers and the unemployed.

It is most likely that the development of a CBP would be driven by a Local Transport Authority lead. However, most LTA Public Transport teams are under extreme stress balancing the budgets, “firefighting” service changes, dealing with concessionary travel funding issues, home to school and SEN transport issues, producing, issuing and maintaining publicity and dealing with passenger complaints. Having the staff time to devote to establishing and servicing Community Partnerships is a luxury which most do not have. A lucky few authorities do have a Community Rail Officer and, perhaps, their role could be expanded – and even shared between neighbouring authorities - to develop some pilot CBPs?

Community Bus Partnerships may be best envisaged in shire counties where there are discrete bus routes linking rural communities to Market towns. However, I think the concept could also be applied to bus services in urban areas. In the early post-deregulation years I specified and tendered a number of new bus services, taking advantage of the minibus “boom” to serve areas which previously had never had a bus service. Many of these “Happy Buses” continue to this day and are highly valued by the communities they serve.  There are many similar examples across the country.

Perhaps, some future Access and Growth Fund proposals could include funding to trial Community Bus Partnership schemes, to assess the benefits of the Partnership route?

An uncomfortable truth

posted 25 Mar 2016, 05:10 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 25 Mar 2016, 05:11 ]

25 March 2016

I have been travelling quite extensively by bus in recent days, and I have come to the conclusion that bus travel is not very nice.

There I have said it.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am a staunch supporter of the bus and believe in it as a practical, flexible provider of mass transport.

However, the uncomfortable truth is that travelling by bus is, er… uncomfortable.

This isn’t particularly the fault of the operators who are providing more and more new kit – it isn’t especially the fault of the bus builders (although some seat designers should try sitting in their products for more than a few minutes, and if a new car had the annoying squeaks and rattles of most new buses it would be straight back to the dealer for fixing or replacement!).

Rather, the main fault lies with the highway authorities.

The state of our roads is now quite shocking. Buses crashing over potholes, sunken manholes and gullies, poorly reinstated roadworks etc, is not conducive to a smooth and pleasant ride for the passenger.  After a couple of recent journeys I have considered filing for whiplash! It’s all very well having Wi-Fi on the bus but try using your “handheld device” to compose an email or text when the bus is lurching like a bucking bronco down the road.

There is an ongoing debate about the worth of bus lanes and other bus priority measures in our towns and cities. However, I would suggest that the priority needs to refocus on providing a quality road surface to enable our existing bus services to provide a quality ride to passengers. If we are serious about the role of bus, and encouraging modal switch, operators and highway authorities have to work together to identify the problem areas and the highway authority has to find the funds to rectify the issues. (and yes, I know, it’s easier said than done!)

In Greater Manchester, the new guided busway service is due to start next week. Between Leigh and Ellenbrook the guideway will provide a smooth trackway for brand new buses to glide along. However, I fear that once the bus leaves the guided section and joins the normal highway passengers will notice a vast difference in ride quality (and just wait till they get to those spectacular road humps on Crescent!)

Happy travelling…

Total Transport needs Total Recognition and Total Funding

posted 18 Apr 2015, 04:39 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 18 Apr 2015, 04:39 ]

18 April 2015

Several items relating to bus operations have caught my attention recently.


Future Years, the Yorkshire and Humber Forum on Ageing, has partnered with the University of Hull to evaluate the economic and social benefits of concessionary transport, and gather evidence on the value of Community Transport (CT). The study is expected to highlight how cuts to the funding of bus services and the lack of public transport can have a detrimental social impact on communities and exacerbate loneliness and social exclusion, especially amongst older people.


Similarly, a recently published study for Transport Scotland into the benefits of CT has clearly demonstrated that it offers a wide range of economic, social and health benefits. The study highlights that from a social perspective, the contribution of CT across a wide range of policy areas is clearly beneficial. It is not just Community Transport, but public transport, as a whole, which addresses issues such as poor accessibility and social isolation. The message is clear that transport  reduces inequalities, which, in turn, generates cost savings to social services, the NHS and local authorities.


Thirdly, this weekend, the Cross-River night buses between Liverpool and Wirral are being withdrawn due to cuts to their funding by Merseytravel.


Merseytravel is faced with some very difficult choices in the funding of “socially necessary bus services” within a limited budget. Notwithstanding the contribution that night buses make to the night-time economy and supporting crime prevention and security in the city centre, the provision of bus services enabling people to travel home from a night out in the City will rank below the provision of home to school buses, the daytime bus links to the hospital or the early morning buses to the workplace.


All this illustrates the dilemma faced by transport authorities. As the Passenger Transport Executives Group (Pteg) noted in the report Total Transport - Working across sectors to achieve better outcomes, “Too often,… transport is overlooked by those sectors that stand to benefit most from it… the consequence is that the transport sector itself bears the vast majority of the costs for interventions whose primary benefits accrue to other policy areas”.


It is easy for everyone to complain about the lack of, or the withdrawal of transport services, but the reality is that the provision of (and funding for) transport is usually overlooked by those sectors that stand to benefit most from it. As pteg notes, this downplaying of the role of transport might be due to a failure to grasp the importance of public and community transport to a large proportion of the population. More likely, it is that other sectors are reluctant to recognise the importance of transport to achieving their goals for fear that they might be obligated to make a funding contribution towards it.


At the end of March, the DfT announced the 37 lucky authorities in England who were successful in winning bids to the Total Transport Pilot Fund.   The Fund will provide £7.6 million to sponsor a range of feasibility studies as well as a number of pilot projects to “test the real-world scope for service integration in individual areas”.


Now don’t get me wrong, as a consultant, the funding of feasibility studies is a boost – and any new money into transport is welcome, but £7.6 million between 37 projects over two years isn’t going to change the world – and what happens when the study money runs out?


As much of the experience in Accessibility Planning has previously demonstrated, when these collaborative approaches are led by the transport agency, other partners tend to regard the identification of the issues, problems and solutions as transport related, and securing buy-in and commitment – let alone any financial contribution - can be difficult. As soon as it becomes clear that there is little or no new money and the task is about releasing the grip on the purse strings, interest in partnership working quickly wanes.


All this simply re-emphasises what we, as transport planners, already know.


But it, again, reinforces the message that transport crosses many sectoral boundaries and shouldn't carry the burden of social funding alone. Isn’t it right that other sectors should contribute to support our transport networks?


It is time that this was properly recognised.

Dial a bus?

posted 27 Mar 2015, 05:26 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 26 Jul 2015, 03:44 ]

Has the local bus had it’s day?

Clumsy and cumbersome, rumbustious,
Though you're a slow coach you're OK for us.
No need to hurry: there's no call to worry,
We couldn't care less what the time may be.
Grunting and chuntering, cantankerous,
You're rusty and you're dusty.
But no other bus would be good enough for us.

(with humble apologies to the late, great Jake Thackray – Country Bus)

When the bus is good, it can be very, very good. Clearly, there remains a role for the mass market people mover public transport service that the bus can be, when it addresses its strengths. Done properly, high frequency, high quality bus services operating on main corridors are unbeatable – especially where they are given the roadspace and priority to operate reliably.

However, once we get off the main roads, the service begins to fall down. Too often we find local bus services meandering around housing estates and back roads, whose primary purpose is largely to fill gaps and colour lines in on the network map. These routes are likely to be financially supported by the local transport authority and operated, at low frequencies, often by a motley collection of small operators, rather than the principal providers of the core corridor services.

Now I am not criticising the LTA’s or the operators for this. The situation is largely a product of the deregulated environment we are all operating in, and the desire of the LTA’s to maximise accessibility to the transport network within tightly constrained budgets.

Leaving aside all the debates about reregulation, quality partnerships, devolution and localism, is it time for a fundamental rethink of our urban bus networks ?

Transport for London’s surface transport managing director, Leon Daniels spoke about “disruptive technology“ at the recent UK Bus Summit. Alan Millar’s comment piece in this month’s Buses magazine (April 2015) picked up this theme, which struck a chord with me. Technology is rapidly changing the way we run our lives and each generation becomes much more tech-savvy than the last. OFCOM reports that 93% of adults in the UK now personally own/use a mobile phone (Q1 2014), of whom 61% use a Smartphone (up 10% from the previous year).

Imagine, if you will, that instead of these low frequency, wandering bus routes, we had a blanket Demand Responsive Transport coverage, provided by a fleet of third-party owned vehicles, operating under a single, umbrella brand, from a single call centre? We could summon a bus to our local stop by the simple press of a button on our Smartphone! Taxi applications like Uber have already shown that this can be done for door-to-door personalised transport, so why not something similar for a shared ride taxibus system?

It might not work in rural areas (and definitely not on Jake Thackray's Country Bus!) and clearly, there would have to be some restrictions in area coverage and in-vehicle travel time, but for local journeys centred around a town, could such a system offer a vision for the future of urban public transport?

The end of the road for Liverpool's bus lanes

posted 26 Oct 2014, 06:57 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 27 Oct 2014, 06:44 ]

October 24th 2014

Liverpool City Council has today agreed to the permanent discontinuation of the majority of the bus lanes in Liverpool.

Readers of Hobby Horses and Rants will recall that we commented on Lord Mayor Joe Anderson’s decision in October 2013 to suspend all 26 bus lanes across the City of Liverpool pending an 8 month review of their effectiveness. In July this year, this suspension was extended to allow more time for data collection and evaluation.

In a comprehensive 500+ page report, consultant Mott McDonald has reviewed each of the bus lanes and analysed before and after journey data, to reach a number of conclusions.

The report concluded that on 13 of 21 routes, buses were slower, after the removal of the bus lanes, with the biggest increase of up to one minute on a section of Picton Road. On six routes, both cars and buses saw their trips get longer.

This report has focussed, largely, on the effects of the bus lanes on journey times for both buses and other traffic. But, is journey time reduction the principal function of bus lanes? Don't bus lanes also help to regularise journey times, too? 

More importantly, to me, the report found that bus journey times were found to be more variable on 13 of the 24 bus lane sections, including an increase in journey time variability of 70% on the Kensington section of the A57 route into Liverpool City Centre. The report identified increases in bus service unreliability of 15% on the Wavertree Road corridor and 20% on the Prescot Road corridor.

Variability in journey time makes it very difficult for bus operators to maintain schedules – especially if the space to take layover to regulate the timetable is squeezed out at the end of the route - and the traffic commissioner is peering out of the "window of tolerance"! It also annoys passengers far more than a few extra seconds on their journey.

Overall, I am not convinced that the report does actually make the case for the permanent removal of the bus lanes. Indeed, it specifically highlights a number of other factors which affect traffic flow on the main corridors into the City:

  • Obstructive parking / loading along the corridor;

  • Buses pulling in at lay-by stops being unable to move back onto the main carriageway, adding further delay;

  • Reduced traffic signal times failing to provide enough time for buses to get through the junction;

  • Obstructive on-street parking and loading in local centres;

  • Turning traffic blocking through movements; and

  • Congestion at pinch points.

These are not new and plague the flow of traffic in every town and City. The Mott MacDonald report notes that :

“These initiatives focus on addressing key transport issues along the corridor, to the benefit of all users whilst also promoting consistent journey times for buses. It should be noted that these measures are concept only at this stage and will require further detailed investigation and consultation before any preferred arrangement is selected.”

This is fundamentally correct, and these are the issues which the Council should be focussing on.

As the report to City Council Cabinet notes that “The City (and Merseytravel) have procured Mott Macdonald to undertake a Strategic Transport Plan to review all modes and their routes in the City. This work will conclude in February 2015 and will result in a set of recommendations to:

  • Shape the future transport needs of the City

  • Forecast future demand for all modes of travel

  • Improved gateway routes, Public Realm and pedestrianisation

  • Improve all public transport infrastructure

Given all this, isn’t it premature to discount bus lane priority measures, before the strategy has been determined? 

Despite Mayor Anderson’s comment that  We are not committing to this being a final process. It will be reviewed regularly, and if it’s not working, we’ll change it back”, it is clear where his priorities lie, when he says, “But these companies make a lot of money, and need to consider investing in conductors at peak times. It would seriously improve bus traffic - they need to look at themselves.”

Laughably, the City Council Cabinet report notes that “The proposals outlined within this report will support a number of the Council’s Corporate Aims as follows:

We will make Liverpool the preferred choice for investment and job creation.

The improvement of traffic flow on the City’s highway network, and a reduction in congestion levels along some key routes across the City will make Liverpool more attractive to existing and new businesses, therefore promoting investment and job creation.

We will empower people to enjoy the best possible quality of life and reach their full potential.

With its aim of improving traffic movements, the network changes will support regeneration and development, helping to bring economic benefits and improve quality of life for residents.

We will make Liverpool a more sustainable, connected and attractive city.

The changes will help to maintain the flow of traffic on key routes within the City. Improved access to business and development sites will make Liverpool a more attractive proposition for developers, businesses and new business start-ups.

We will build strong, attractive and accessible neighbourhoods.

Easing congestion and traffic flows promotes accessibility across the city and promotes development, helping to attract investment that will improve neighbourhoods.

We will ensure services are efficient, effective and offer value for money.

The monitoring and analysis of the effectiveness of bus lanes has helped to identify measures to help LCC ensure that road space can be effectively allocated to maximise the level of service provided by the highway network and get best use from the Council’s assets for the benefit of highway users.

The same statements would actually hold true, if the City Council was proposing a pro-bus transport strategy, which supported sustainable development!

(Oh, and by the way, people, it’s not a “Castle kerb”. I think you mean a Kassel kerb?!)

Broken buses and leaky tanks?

posted 29 Aug 2014, 06:43 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 29 Aug 2014, 06:43 ]

29th August 2014

So, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a “centre-left think tank “ has issued a report  which notes that bus services outside London need better regulation and that deregulation elsewhere had "largely failed".

Well, knock me down with a rolled up timetable!

Strip away the ideology and political posturing about regulation and control and the undeniable fact is that the financial support for the public transport system in London is substantially greater than that of any other region of the UK.  At the end of the day, you pay your money and you take your choice!

The Government’s Spending Review, which led to stringent funding restrictions imposed on local authorities, has meant that very difficult choices have had to be made on where financial support is directed. Unfortunately, funding for bus services is not a statutory requirement and do not require formal consultation. Bus cuts are easy! As a result buses have suffered a greater proportion of the reductions to budgets. Pteg estimates that by 2014/15, overall funding for bus networks outside London will be around £500 million lower than if 2010/11 funding levels had increased in line with inflation.

All this makes it more ironic that the Department for Transport (DfT – although I prefer my Spellchecker’s version!) claim, "The DfT provides significant funding for bus services across England and Wales. Decisions about bus services are best made locally in partnership between councils and the companies which run the buses.” Ah, localism in action….!

It’s easy to get embroiled in arguments about “public = bad, private = good”, and point to apparent successes and alleged market failures, but the truth is that after 30 years of trying, we have to come up with something better.

But firstly, we have to recognise and accept that a quality transport system, which properly serves our villages, towns and cities has to be properly paid for.

I do not for one minute think that any future Labour/Socialist/Coalition Government will nationalise the transport industry. Further, I do not think that reregulation is the answer.  

However, I do believe that a properly planned and co-ordinated public transport network is the way forward for our regions.

Therefore, I am calling for the establishment of Regional Transport Boards (RTBs) run by Transport people, rather than politicians, able to take a long-term, strategic view.  The RTBs would include representatives of local Transport Operators and the communities.

RTBs would identify the system, plan the integration of services, co-ordinate multi-journey and multi-modal tickets. Some of the routes within the network could still be operated commercially, but under some agreed terms and conditions. The other routes to make up the network would be franchised through a competitive tendering process. Operating incentives would be built into the tendering to encourage the providers to deliver quality services and generate patronage and revenue growth.

2015 is election year. We need the future of public transport to be on the Manifestos.

Rail matters

posted 10 Jul 2014, 08:45 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 11 Jul 2014, 03:35 ]

10 July 2014

Roy McDonald Consulting welcomes several recent announcements concerning rail development in the North West of England.

Whilst we have been lukewarm towards HS2, we believe that the concept of HS3 for a high speed east-west rail link across the North of England is an altogether more enticing prospect. However, we are disappointed (but not surprised) that the focus is primarily on connecting Manchester and Leeds.

Properly thought out, the opportunity is there to promote a true east-west high speed rail corridor which would connect the principal cities of the north. (Sorry Newcastle, but I see you as an extension of HS2). By utilising existing infrastructure and formations, wherever possible, we believe that a new game-changing railway could be created in a much more cost effective way.

Imagine, if you will, a route which starts on the Liverpool Waterfront, near the King's Dock Arena and utilises the old Wapping tunnel out of the City. 

A new station at Speke, would improve access to Liverpool John Lennon Airport and encourage the airports of the North to work in a co-ordinated way. (i.e.scheduled, long-haul from Manchester and short haul and charter from Liverpool and Leeds-Bradford).The new line could then take the old St Helens Railway route through Widnes - with a new strategic Parkway station on the north bank of the Mersey serving the new Mersey Gateway crossing, before diving under Warrington Bank Quay station (for interchange with the West Coast Main Line). Admittedly, the alignment around Manchester, to serve the City Centre and the Airport would need to be worked out in conjunction with HS2.

East of Manchester, the Woodhead tunnel is the obvious choice for a high speed crossing of the Pennines - although it has long be said that this cannot now be used because of the National Grid electricity cables. However, it is our contention that a solution could be found to avoid these, and at less cost than boring new tunnels under Standedge.

Once through Woodhead the route would bifurcate, with a spur north to Leeds and a second south to Sheffield. 

Reducing inter-city journey times would undoubtedly be good for the North, but crucially, the new route would free up capacity on the existing rail lines for enhanced commuter services and freight movements.

HS3 is an exciting concept, which deserves to be taken seriously. However, we are concerned that it is currently lacking the vision to truly support the "Northern Powerhouse".

Also announced recently was the go-ahead (finally) for the Halton Curve. Why this has been prevaricated over for so long has baffled us. Our only concern is where the rolling stock will be found for the potential new services!

Next up, could we finally see the go-ahead given for the extension of the Merseyrail electrification on the Borderlands line?

Consultation is underway for both the new Northern and Trans-Pennine rail franchises. It is pleasing to see that these documents recognise the issue of insufficient and inadequate rolling stock. 

But is it right that the North West to Scotland services are still included in the Trans-Pennine franchise? There is no doubt that First TPE has done an excellent job in developing these services and the new electric stock has been welcomed (although from a passenger perspective whether they are the correct vehicles for the route is another debate!).

Is there a case for these Anglo-Scottish services to be devolved into a separate franchise, with through services from Liverpool and Blackpool added to the service pattern? TPE has already shown that they can join and split trains at Preston?

Similarly, within the Northern franchise area, we believe that there are a number of missed opportunities for the micro-franchising of some individual lines, which would enable committed local providers to develop services and facilities tailored both to local needs, and to promoting the tourist potential. 

Whichever way you look at it, for the North of England, rail really does matter!

The power of advertising

posted 10 May 2014, 08:34 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 10 May 2014, 08:37 ]

I spotted this poster during my lunchtime perambulations in Manchester the other day...

My first reaction was "Oh no, they bl**dy don't!", but it got me thinking...

Some cyclists do seem to think that traffic signals don't apply to them and don't stop at red lights, so this must be an instruction rather than a statement!

But do cyclists really need to be told this? They already know that they should, but choose not to.

This poster was on the side of a bus shelter, facing away from the direction of traffic. Is this where this message is best communicated to errant pedallers?

And then I started thinking of other posters, which could form a series;

"Drivers. Stay on your side of the road"

"Pedestrians. Look where you are going"

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