As austerity measures start to take effect, many bus routes across the country are being reduced, or withdrawn altogether.
One bus journey may feel just the same as another to you, the passenger – but there is a crucial distinction at play. The vehicles are the same, the fares and even the drivers are the same – but often, services that would not make a profit for the operator are subsidised by the council.
These include early morning and late night runs, and routes taking in remote or rural locations, where passenger numbers don’t offset the cost of the journey. It is these services that are most at risk as the government puts pressure on local councils to spend less.
Slashing these routes might help the councils balance their budgets, but of course, removing a bus service can have a real impact on people’s daily lives. Those who have made the decision to live in rural areas, based on previously good public transport links, may find they can no longer get to work or their kids to school; disabled, elderly or otherwise vulnerable people may find that all contact with the extended community has been cut off.
So what can you do?
1. Start a FixMyTransport campaign
Start by locating the bus route in question, and contacting the operator: this is a good first move, because it means you get the facts laid out for you in their response – and even better, because you’re doing it through FixMyTransport, the response is online and available for everyone else to read, too.
Note that FixMyTransport’s database contains many discontinued routes, so you can still mount a campaign even if your route no longer exists.
2. Ask an expert
There’s a good chance that the reply will say “It’s a budgetary decision from the council, who subsidise this route”. If that happens, click the “ask an expert” button on your FixMyTransport page, and ask for the council’s email address to be added to your campaign. We’ll do that sharpish, and then you can then bring them into the conversation.
3. Gather support
One message won’t do much on its own, so look at our blog post on how to gather support and take your issue further. This sort of problem is particularly suitable for local press coverage and for getting your local councillors involved – we explain how to do both in that post.
You can also add your discontinued bus route to their crowd-sourced map. Because the CBT is running a nationwide campaign, they can get real traction behind the political issues driving the slashes in bus provision. They also have links to local groups, and can give advice too.
There’s strength in numbers – and if you’d like people to join your campaign, consider joining other ones yourself. People up and down the country are affected by the same issues, and if you share tips and offer support, you can ensure that you’re all more likely to succeed.
Here are just a few of the recent FixMyTransport campaigns about discontinued or at-risk routes:
Train delays can be an extremely frustrating experience. It is not just the time that you lose at the end of your journey (work time or time at home) but also the delay itself, particularly missed connections or a lack of information. Train operators have improved their communications significantly with tools such as Twitter and Facebook in recent years, but there is still room for improvement when services go wrong.
When it comes to complaining about train delays, Train Operators need to know which services were you intending to travel on and what actually happened?
What was your plan?
Times (including any connections and where they should have been made)
What actually happened?
Times (again, including connections)
Where the delays happened
Any reasons given at the time
In addition, it assists operators if you can provide any comments on the experience. Include any areas where information was lacking, where the service could be improved – or even where it worked well. This helps operators identify areas where they can improve, and also recognise which processes do not need changing. It’s always good to make sure the higher management know about staff who are doing a good job in difficult circumstances, too.
Once you’ve put together this information, you can of course send it to the train operator via FixMyTransport.
I use the notebook tool on my phone to record information that I think will be useful. It allows me to note events as they happen, and add thoughts about what is going on. I can then alter it later into a structure that a representative at the train operator would understand, and be able to act on.
Operators will ask you for your ticket if there is an opportunity for offering you compensation. If you send your tickets to them, you should take a copy first: either photocopy them, scan or take a picture. This means that you still have a record in case they are lost or misplaced.
What about after I have asked for a train refund?
There are two complaints that we see on FixMyTransport after passengers have submitted a refund request.
I have not received a response
If you have not received a response, it depends on how long has elapsed since you submitted your complaints. Most operators aim to respond to all complaints within twenty working days. If this time has passed you should contact Passenger Focus.
They have lost the tickets I sent them
If they have lost your tickets, you should have taken a copy of them and you should be able to send that copy to them. If you have not taken a copy, my advice would be to look for any further proof such as a receipt or bank statement. You should discuss if there are any options for using this as evidence.
Every day on FixMyTransport, we see a number of very frustrated passengers complaining that their buses are always late.
It is annoying to be affected by a repeated failure of a service, we know. But some of these passengers don’t provide enough information to enable the operator to investigate the causes. Some of the largest operators can have fleets of up to 800 buses operating on a network around a major city and tracking these with very little information can be virtually impossible.
With the following details, the operator can start to investigate the issues affecting your bus service. They can look at the buses that were in the area and identify the cause. Some are even prepared to offer a refund if the delay was their fault.
Estimated length of the delay
Bus stop you were waiting at
Direction of travel / your destination
Including this information will help you get results. But don’t just use FixMyTransport once! If you keep reporting any late running you experience, you can help the operator develop a better picture of delays on the bus routes you use.
They are more likely to keep an eye on a situation if they know that someone else is watching it too.
Your information may help the operators understand how best to develop their services to meet the passengers’ needs. They can understand if there’s a need for additional buses or a change of route. Or perhaps they will gain the ear of the local council, to ask them improve the transport infrastructure where frequent delays occur.
Your communications can even help the operator create a business case for investment to its head office in new buses, more staff, new publicity and even new routes.
What may initially seem to be time consuming and pernickety complaints, can very quickly turn into effective lobbying. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, to use an not entirely inappropriate metaphor. Some people have told me that they would expect staff to report these issues or someone in management to be reviewing the services but it is the voice of the customer that can have the most impact on a business when implementing a change.
So, in short, if you want to start reporting delays and issues to your transport operators and local transport authorities, get on board at FixMyTransport. Your complaints really can have an effect, if you know what to include.
Every bus route is different: some stay completely within city boundaries, and others cross entire regions of the country. Each will have its own potential for delays, but there are some factors which every route can fall foul of:
Traffic: the UK suffers from very bad traffic congestion in its city and town centres – and it varies minute by minute, day by day. So, a bus journey that’s trouble-free for most of the day may have particular issues around the rush hours.
Weather: In extreme conditions, buses are forced to turn around, not run at all, or divert from their normal route. This can be at short notice. Extreme weather particularly affects routes which include steep hills, or coastal roads.
Roadworks: Typically buses will only divert their routes if the work is scheduled over several days – otherwise, people who don’t see the notifications complain about buses that never turned up.
Many different factors affect buses. You may know of notorious bottlenecks in your own area, or regular events such as football matches that mean the buses are held up.
So, how do you complain? There are a few options:
Ask the driver what he knows (when he finally does appear). He may tell you the reason right away – but there’s no guarantee that he’ll pass your complaint on, or get anything done about it.
Report it on FixMyTransport – of course; that’s what we’re here for, and you may find that other affected passengers also comment on your page.
Use Facebook and Twitter to contact the head office. This often gets a quick response, and, as is the case with FixMyTransport, operators are often keen to put things right in public.
Once you know the reason for the delays, you might find you’re quite satisfied. But what if the delay is an ongoing problem, perhaps simply caused by buses taking too long between points – in other words, the timetable is inadequate?
The best approach is to gather evidence that a change needs to take place. You can do this by taking notes on a regular basis. Keep a diary of the times you travelled on the bus, and write down the actual times versus the printed times. Presented with this evidence, the bus company or council will be able to see if there’s a good case for changing the times.
I’d recommend doing this over a period of a month at different times. You can write them in your diary, or use an Excel workbook – and of course, we recommend updating your FixMyTransport page regularly, so that everyone else who is affected can keep track and add their own comments and ideas.
Facts speak volumes when it comes to bus delays, so the more data you can gather, the better – and you may well get a good result.
If you have taken the steps described above, and still find that your bus is delayed, it is time to take your problem further.
One benefit of FixMyTransport is that you can contact everyone you need from your problem page, keeping a record of the correspondence in one place. When users report bus problems that are not resolved, we point them towards one of the following bodies:
Bus Users UK – an independent body who support bus passengers in England and Wales, apart from London
Have you ever considered what you would do if your usual transport route was suddenly blocked? How would you get to your destination? How much would it cost you? The aim of this blog post is to help you come up with a Plan B – just in case.
On Friday Morning (5th October 2012), thousands of commuters using the Tyne and Wear Metro to Newcastle were delayed because of power supply problems between Four Lane Ends/Regents Centre and Gateshead. The line was closed for seven hours and many passengers had unnecessary delays because they had not planned for a closure and the alternative options available to them.
As a regular traveller on a specific route, you should look at the available alternatives. FixMyTransport often receives problems from passengers who get caught up in delays – and they are usually complaining about a lack of information.
But if you plan ahead by following the points below, you can minimise the stress that transport disruption causes.
What can I find out?
It’s smart to check your service before you travel.
Twitter Most operators are on Twitter. Even if you don’t follow them (updates about the service can become tedious) you can still check their page just before you set off.
Twitter also offers a great way to find out the nature of any disruptions, and what alternatives are available. If you use trains, find out what your route is called and the three letter codes for your stations – that will help you grasp your operator’s updates more easily.
It’s not only the operators who have the latest news – sometimes commuters themselves are the most immediate source. It’s worth ‘getting to know’ a few frequent travellers on Twitter, and then you can all inform one another when you come up against an issue.
Phone numbers If your operator is not on Twitter, they will at least have a phone number clearly displayed on their website or print materials. Save it to your phone. To be extra safe, find out who alternative providers are, and save their numbers too.
News Keep an eye on places like the BBC local news, your local newspaper’s website, the operator’s websites or Facebook page, BBC Travel, or National Rail. It can be helpful to check just before you depart that your route is running OK.
With this information before you travel, you can make better plans to avoid the issue. This may involve staying at work/home, getting dinner somewhere else or setting off later/earlier.
What are the alternatives?
Tickets Can your ticket normally be used on other forms of transport? Check the terms and conditions while you have the leisure to do so – that kind of knowledge is invaluable when your habitual means of transport breaks down.
Cash If you needed cash for a bus or taxi, where would you get it? In city centres, it is easy. Rural areas are a lot more difficult, so plan ahead.
Food and drink If you are forced onto an alternative, maybe longer, route, you may want to pick up some food or water for the journey. If you’re in no rush, consider eating out near your departure point – then you can avoid the rush hour, or let any crowds clear.
Trains If the line was closed, could you go to a different destination, or is there any way to avoid the place where the disruption has arisen – eg could you get a taxi, or a lift, to a point further down the line? If Rail Replacement Buses were operating, do you know where you would go to pick up the bus?
Buses Research and make a note of the bus routes that run reasonably parallel to your transport route. Check the frequency. If they run every few minutes then you won’t really need a timetable, but if it is only hourly, you may want to look at other alternatives as well. Link to their timetable on your phone and you may want to add their phone number too, so you can find out if they are running.
Taxis Don’t be afraid to look at taxis if they can get you in and out of the area that is causing you a problem. Store the phone numbers of taxis at both ends of your journey. There is nothing worse than getting to a station after the last bus has gone and not knowing the number for the taxi.
Cycle If you’re travelling with your bike, you might be able to cycle part of the route – but if not, look around. It’s not just London that has a bike hire scheme. Other cities are catching on – see, for example, Brompton Bike lockers – or just find the nearest cycle-hire shop.
Walking It’s worth considering: could you walk between certain stops?
Parking If you drive part of your regular journey, can you park at an alternative stop or station? Will this cost more money?
Learn from your experience! Did your back-up plans work? Was there anything else that you could have done or did you discover something new?
Tell the operator If you were affected by any major delays, raise the issue with the operator. On the railways, they should provide you with some money back. On the buses, some operators are starting to provide refunds for delays that are their fault.
Jenny uses the Tyne and Wear Metro between Four Lane Ends and Newcastle Central every day. She is a five minute walk from Newcastle Central. She usually parks her car in the car park at Four Lane Ends.
Information Check BBC Newcastle/BBC Travel/Evening Chronicle Website/@my_metro
Tickets Jenny has a two zone Metro Season Ticket.
Alternatives There are carparks in other places on the Metro network (Regents Centre, Kingston Park and Northumberland Park) and Newcastle
She could take a train to Newcastle round via the coast
She could consider buses from Four Lane Ends to Newcastle(Stagecoach) or Go North East – X5, 55, 62 and 63
Taxi – Four Lane Ends is service by a number of taxi firms.
Cycle – Whipbikes operate cycle hire in Newcastle.
Walking routes – Not really an option for the full route although she can walk out of Newcastle into Jesmond or South Gosforth to Four Lane Ends.
Food/Drink – plenty of shops for snacks. Wetherspoons near Central for a meal.
I hope that this post has achieved its aim of making you think about alternative options if your regular route were blocked. I would love to see your plans and suggestions so please post them below, email or tweet them.
It is an awful feeling when you realise that you have become separated from your property whilst travelling on public transport. It is a common issue on FixMyTransport, and that’s why we have created this useful guide for you.
If you are viewing this before or just after losing something, and you are still on transport premises, my first piece of advice is to inform a member of staff as soon as possible. They can offer useful tips, and some are extremely good at locating lost property because of their contacts (whether it is getting a colleague to check the vehicle at its destination or contacting an onboard member of crew to check the seat you were on). There are a lot of good Samaritans out there who hand things in. If you experience one, please do thank them.
You can report lost property through FixMyTransport but to be honest, you’ll get better and quicker results by contacting the operators through their dedicated lost property channels, particularly by phone. My advice would be to phone them first and follow it up with an email or fill in the form provided (see the details below).
Lost property comes in all shapes and sizes, as you can see from the picture above. However, a significant majority of it is tickets, electronics and cycles. The first is because they’re small, and everyone has one. The law of averages says that a certain proportion will get mislaid! Sadly, the latter two categories are often not lost, but stolen.
A good piece of advice is to write your phone number on your ticket-holder – quickly done, with a black marker, perhaps on the fold. You may want to add your postcode too, in case your phone disappears with your ticket.
Note down the important details of your phone and keep them in a safe place (IMEI, SIM card number and phone number). In addition, get it registered with Immobilise, which numerous police forces support.
The British Transport Police offer cycle crime awareness sessions to show how to reduce the risk of bike theft. Keep an eye on their Twitter feed (@btp_uk) to see when they’re in your area.
“There are a number of measures cyclists can take to reduce their chances of becoming a victim, lock your bike whenever you leave it, preferably with a D Lock, which is a heavy steel lock in a D or U shape. When you lock your cycle, try to fit the bike stand, the rim of one of the wheels and the cycle frame into the D, this will make it harder for thieves to take and there’ll also be less space in the D which will prevent thieves from inserting bars or jacks to lever the lock.
“Wherever possible leave your bike in a busy, well-lit area which is covered by CCTV and please also ensure that your cycle has been property marked and fitted with an electronic tracing system or tag to help locate it in the event of a theft.
“Make sure your cycle is insured, keep a photograph of it and note the frame number and any markings which will help police to identify any stolen bikes that are recovered.”
Reporting lost property
These links were last checked in September 2012. If you spot a broken link or an error, please contact the FixMyTransport Team.
Due to the number of operators, I have not listed each operator’s lost property webpage. My advice would be to search for who operates your route on FixMyTransport, then Google for the operator’s website and find a phone number. If you are trying to do this out of office hours, you should also email them.
Transport for London
TfL have the following useful page for Lost Property.
Customers may report an Oyster card lost or stolen via their Oyster Online account. Once a customer has logged in they will see a heading on the left that states: ‘Lost or stolen card’. Click this and follow the instructions.
Alternatively, customers may call our Oyster card Helpline on 0845 330 9876 with their Oyster card number and answer to the security question. Our telephone agents will then be able to talk them through the process and arrange for the Oyster card to be deactivated.
Theft and Stolen Property
Theft and pickpocketing are crimes that occasionally happen on the UK Public Transport network. Although the British Transport Police focus on the railways (National Rail, London Underground, Midland Metro, Croydon Tramlink, Sunderland Metro and the Glasgow Subway), they have a number of useful pages that are helpful to all public transport users in the bid to combat crime.
Ticket offices are opening for shorter times, and it’s more common to buy tickets online for collection from a station these days. Consequently, ticket machines are becoming more and more important – and have more potential to frustrate the unwary passenger.
FixMyTransport users have reported a wide range of ticket machine issues. The good news is that they often relate to problems that are easy to fix, and we have had some good results in this area.
Then there’s the issue of collecting pre-paid tickets from machines.
Some stations allow you to pick up pre-paid tickets at the ticket office; some insist you only use the machines. Some companies will allow you to travel with just the booking information if you join a train at an unstaffed station with no machines (Greater Anglia recently said they allow this, and you can travel until you get to a station where you can pick it up), whereas other companies don’t. If you know the policy of your local operator, please tell us in a comment below. It’d be great to compile a definitive list!
Buying a ticket in advance is not always the solution: many machines will only issue tickets for travel on the same day, and those which do sell tickets for the next day often limit them to expensive peak ones for travel early the following morning.
Many franchises have commitments to electronic ticketing and this will eventually help reduce the dependency on machines. Until then, if you’re infuriated by any ticket machine issues, FixMyTransport can be used to support campaigns pushing for improvements. That’s got to be better than the traditional method of giving the machine a good kick and swearing a blue streak.
FixMyTransport receives lots of queries from people who have been unable to find up-to-date information about transport services, so here is short guide to planning your journey.
Traveline is almost always the best place to start. It provides comprehensive and impartial information about all forms of public transport, thanks to a partnership between local authorities and transport operators. The site operates as 11 regional services, with journey planning and timetables provided for each region. This does make for variations, particularly with how timetables are presented.
The best Traveline regions in this respect are Scotland, East Midlands, East Anglia, Southeast, London and South West. Each provides full downloadable timetables, with links from the journey planner.
Northern Ireland has timetables but they are only accessible through a search. Yorkshire, North West, the West Midlands, and Wales provide short extracts, not complete timetables, with all but Wales linked to from their journey planners. Traveline North East simply has a list of links to external websites.
Traveline also run the NextBuses service, providing bus stop departure times across the whole country; realtime information where available, otherwise scheduled times. Nextbuses can be viewed on a mobile phone, but there are also downloadable apps which can display this information.
Multi-mode travel planning across the whole country can also be accessed via the government’s Transport Direct website. While Traveline covers bus, coach, train and ferry journeys, Transport Direct also covers routes for car, foot and cycle.
National Rail Enquiries
The rail industry runs National Rail Enquiries which provides a journey planner, real time station arrival and departure information, fare queries and is linked to external sites selling tickets.
We’ve noticed that the smaller the operator, the less likely they are to remember to refresh their online information when routes or times change. Another source of confusion can be third party websites, which have gathered timetables but have never updated them.
Our advice? It is always best to use the sources listed above, which are more likely to be accurate. Also, many cities have their own public transport websites, so it’s worth checking your local council site for links.
In general there is very little information published on websites about bus fares. This is something we’d very much like to see changed – why should it be such a secret how much change you need to have in your pocket?
Our national rail network is carrying more and more passengers, with growth of several percent per year. Inevitably, this leads to problems with overcrowding – and a great deal of frustration amongst passengers who are left standing.
Extra trains are of course the obvious solution, but there are other reasons why your particular train may be overcrowded. For example:
Cancellation of a preceding service
A special event bringing in more passengers
Train fault or maintenance backlog leading to fewer carriages being provided
Extra trains available, but platform lengths or track capacity prevent their use
Ticketing policy causing overcrowding on off-peak services
Incorrect balance between first and standard classes
Extra trains only needed once a day, so cannot be financially justified
While it doesn’t change the fact that you can’t get a seat, sometimes it helps to understand what the reasons for overcrowding are. FixMyTransport is great for finding out what caused the problem, and provides a way of seeing if anyone else if having a similar issue, which strengthens the case for sorting it out.
Overcrowding is an issue that comes up time and again amongst our users. Here are some examples which show the strength of feeling up and down the country:
Frustratingly for anyone running a campaign, information about train overcrowding is treated as commercially confidential by the rail operators and Department for Transport (DfT) – so it’s not available even through a Freedom of Information Request.
Providing such data would give passengers a much better idea of what was happening, and would allow us to make informed decisions about which services to avoid. Unfortunately, secrecy prevails, though some operators do give information about which services are expected to be busy.
So, if operators are aware of the overcrowding, and it happens all the time, but there are no current plans to fix it, then what can be done?
It really comes down to persuading the Government and the Department for Transport to make some changes. Routes are run by operators on a franchise basis – and those franchises are just a few years in length. Carriages typically cost between £1m and £2.5m each, and have a life of 40 years, so investment decisions are not trivial. Many operators may look at the short time remaining on their franchise, and make the decision that there is no point in sinking that kind of money into rolling stock.
Passenger satisfaction on issues such as overcrowding will be more important in future; the recently awarded InterCity West Coast franchise promises “for the first time in an intercity franchise, better customer satisfaction as measured by the National Passenger Survey”, and there have also been resultant calls for more transparency in the franchising process.
As a passenger who is squashed like a sardine into your train every morning and night, it may not seem particularly useful to know the high-level reasons behind your route’s overcrowding: the temptation might be to give up and find an alternative method of getting to work. But we built FixMyTransport to help with huge problems as well as little niggles. What if everyone in your carriage signed up to your FixMyTransport campaign? 50 names are harder to ignore than just one.
And we have built-in functionality that allows you to contact the people who can make a difference to your campaign. Your MP will have some influence over these decisions, or you could support a local rail users group in pushing for improvements.
Once you know the reasons for the overcrowding on your route, you’re in an excellent position to gather support and press for change – and we’ll help you all the way.
You might think that now you’ve used FixMyTransport to contact a transport operator, your work is done. Well, perhaps it is – sometimes, all you have to do is ask. But, more than likely, your issue could do with a little help.
Here’s what to do next, if you want to make FixMyTransport really work for you.
FixMyTransport allows other people to discuss or join your campaign – and you need to attract as many as you can. Campaigns with lots of supporters are taken more seriously by everyone, including the operator.
Keep the conversation going. Every time you receive a comment or a supporter, your page goes back to the top of the recent issues list – one of our most-read pages. So don’t just create your page and forget about it. It’s worth replying to others, adding updates, and drumming up support, perhaps over a period of several days.
Work that social media
There are buttons at the top of your campaign that allow you to broadcast your issue via Twitter, Facebook or email. You don’t have to bore the pants off your pals, but it’s worth tweeting a few times, maybe at different times in the day.
Twitter is also great for targeting those who will be interested in your specific problem. Why not tweet your campaign URL to a local blog, newspaper, or even a celebrity, if you think they’d be interested? Or use a hashtag (#) for the location of your problem. Many cities and towns have a Twitter account that automatically retweets mentions.
Take it into the real world
Not a big fan of social media? You can just as easily pass on the URL of your campaign page by word of mouth. Use a link-shortener like TinyURL, that lets you include a relevant a word or phrase in the new URL, and then it’ll be more memorable.
Put messages where they will be seen – how about a post office window just by the bus stop?
Or talk to your fellow passengers – they are the ones who are most affected by your issue, so they will care the most. Hand out that link and make sure they understand how to join a campaign (“Click on the big green button” should do the trick).
Don’t take no for an answer
Some operators just don’t send a reply. Or you might receive a response, but it doesn’t fix your problem. If you believe your issue is worth pursuing, don’t give up.
Now is the time to use FixMyTransport’s ‘ask an expert‘ button (as in the screenshot, above). Your message goes straight to the inboxes of the FixMyTransport volunteers, known as ‘Anoraks’. We have a long list of contacts, and several of us have experience in the transport sector, too.
Our Anoraks are on hand to help you, but you can also take action yourself. There are plenty of next steps you can take – each will be suitable for a different type of issue.
You might write to an independent watchdog, like Passenger Focus or Bus Users UK.
It’s always worth involving your local councillor – they have a duty to ensure that public transport is working for their constituents.
If your story has enough human interest, the local press might want to run a story.
See if there’s a pressure group with the same interests as you. The best fit might be a local cycling group, or an accessibility charity, or a commuter group… there are organisations for almost every issue.
The nice thing about FixMyTransport is that you can do all this from your campaign page. Your messages, and any answers you receive, are all published on the page, making a permanent record for anyone else with the same problem in the future.
First impressions are everything
Take a good look at your FixMyTransport campaign page, or maybe ask a friend to have a look at it. Remember that people will arrive on your page with little or no previous knowledge of your issue. Does it make immediate sense? Is it framed as an issue that other people will actually want to support?
If not, FixMyTransport does allow you to reword it. Just click the yellow button in the panel at the top of your page (image as above). Note – it does not alter the text of your message to the operator, which, in most cases, is sent as soon as you submit it.
Everything in order? Good! Now let’s see if we can get that bus shelter cleaned, that train to leave on time, or that ticket machine fixed.