Are buses on time?

28 August 2013

Outside of London it is quite difficult to know. Not much performance information is out there (well done First Group for what it does) – unlike the railways where more and more information is being put out. The odd case reaches the performance regulator, the Traffic Commissioners, but it is hard to draw overall conclusions. Some local authorities publish data.

The most comprehensive information probably comes from Passenger Focus’s Bus Passenger Survey. While the figures vary by region, company and route, many passengers in the March 2013 report were content with punctuality. So, fairly respectable scores.

However, what is useful on rail is that we can match National Passenger Survey forms to the actual train passengers were on – we then have the reality of the train arrival and the passenger perception.

Astronomy is based on observing phenomena from different angles – you can than calibrate change.

It would be good to be able to do this on the buses. I suspect buses are more punctual than is the perception. It would be be good if bus companies could advertise this – ‘nine out of ten buses from this stop were on time last month’. Fears of sharing data have muzzled the facts. We have a created a ‘safe space’ around our Bus Punctuality Project for the industry, regulators and local authorities to share information on poorly performing routes – an essential precursor to taking effective action.

Also the target used by the Traffic Commissioners for a lot of monitoring purposes – not more than one minute early or five late – does not seem to be based on any research on what passengers might find acceptable. Click here to read our research on bus passengers’ experience of delays and disruption

Many bus companies have tracking devices on their buses. They know where they are and how punctual they are. Passengers on the buses know what is happening. Maybe it’s time to link this information up. Who knows – it could be a good news story?

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