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Thursday, 10 December 2009

Back to back

In this chat I am pleased to bring up two issues from across at the Omnibuses blog the link for which is across on the right. Following my interview over on that site there were lots of comments but one (which you can see for yourself) talks about how there are a few examples of us at First “running small operators off the road.”

You’ll see me ask for examples – the ones suggested were Western Greyhound and Chester City Transport!

I know Mark Howarth, MD Western Greyhound, would find it jolly funny at the accusation. Western Greyhound has expanded considerably over the past few years, in many cases providing services with small buses on corridors which we used to run. I don’t think he feels “run off the road” at all!

And as for Chester City Transport – the Council decided to put it up for sale. We were one of the bidders but meanwhile Arriva registered on their routes and found themselves in the High Court. Eventually the potential buyers disappeared but we stayed in and paid the City Council real money to buy their loss-making bus company which was about to face stiff competition.

Arriva’s competitive services started on the day we took over and we remain in competition to this day.

There is room in the market for large and small operators and I assure you there are very stringent laws in place to prevent predatory activity, with commensurate penalties!

Omnibuses also features today an issue about the safety of reversing. It quotes from an article in the trade press and mentions that no trace was found of any law preventing reversing with passengers. I maintain there is - it was actually a question on my PSV driving test. “What would you do if you drove into a cul-de-sac with a bus full of people?” “Stop and get the passengers off” was the correct answer.

Think about this for a minute. You do now have umpteen passengers milling around outside for your reversing movement – wouldn't they be safer inside?

Another point is the feature of “drive in/reverse out” bays at bus stations (they have always been around but there seem to be more now). At First we don’t like them at all as it seems to introduce a risk which doesn’t need to be there at all. Try as you might unwitting pedestrians and sometimes staff are wandering about in the vehicle movement area. London has never had them and their bus stations are as crowded, busy and in a tight spot as anyone’s. We try and avoid them if possible but in many cases the design and development is in the hands of a local authority so we have to live with it.

What do you think?



  1. First has it right in Bath bus station. A site that’s constrained because of development etc so reversing is required but one where every effort’s been made to ensure no one (no passenger at any rate) can easily stray onto the running area.

    As for reversing with passengers, I felt this was apocryphal, as did the author of the piece in the trade mag. It’s something that drivers cite when another vehicle expects them to reverse. As Leon implies, it’s a matter of balancing risk and during manoeuvres, passengers seem safest when on the vehicle rather than off it.

  2. The forms for registering or varying local bus services outside London specifically ask whether there are any reversing movements on the route. Quite why this question is there I do not know, as I have never heard of a registration being rejected because the answer was yes.

    As for bus station design, although a site such as Bath entails reversing, it does enable passengers to congregate in one area - the parallel platform type of station such as Cardiff or Bolton can leave waiting passengers feeling somewhat vulnerable at off peak times.

  3. Bus station design that includes end on contact for passengers will invariably also have a requirement for reversing. This way the passengers are all in one place, with no conflict as they cross from one platform to another, and facilities can be provided for their comfort and safety. Dennis Dash's comparison of Bath and Cardiff highlight this.

    To avoid reversing and still provide the same passenger facilities would require much more space than most bus stations could realistically provide. I seem to remember the late Ken Glazier explaining that a fatality at Aylesbury many years ago was the cause of London's long standing aversity to reversing. I have always thought that what they had as a result was much less safe, remembering places like Golders Green of old.

  4. There is in fact a drive in reverse out bus station in London - Kingston Cromwell Road,. I'm too young to remember if it was like this pre the redevelopment in 1996 though!

  5. Rocky is right about Cromwell Road in Kingston, but I think that the previous facilities that it replaced (effectively 2 locations) did not involve reversing. If my memory is correct, that is!

    In Germany there seems to be an aversion to reversing, and I cannot think of a single bus station where reversing is required. It may have something to do with the more widespread use of artics!

    As I mentioned on the 'Omnibuses blogspot', in the 1970s I noted that managers seemed to prefer the single concourse design, with reversing, as it was considered safer than the likes of cardiff, or Caerphilly (in those days) - as Dennis Dash and Daddysgadgets suggest.

  6. In Manchester, First Solos on the free Metroshuttle services regularly load up at the two boarding pints then as part of the three point turn, reverse, at Piccadilly Rail terminus to get round the head of the cul-de-sac - the only other users of the road tend to be BT Police cars. but there are always people crossing the road - not directly behind the vehicles though.

    Paul W