Smarter Cambridge Transport

“So there you have it: don’t depend on buses.”

Previously we have suggested that a service level agreement for bus passengers is needed. Here’s why.

Stagecoach’s Conditions of Carriage state: “…in the event of cancellation, delay, diversion or termination of any service or the service being unavailable to you as a result of the vehicle being fully loaded or for any other reasons, we shall not be liable for losses, damages, cost or inconvenience that you suffer as a result.”

So there you have it: don’t depend on buses.

There’s an EU regulation covering compensation to bus passengers. But Britain was granted an exemption from implementing it. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 grants rights to passengers on trains, but not on buses.

Most train operators issue refunds if services are delayed by more than 30 minutes. Making a claim is relatively straightforward under the new ‘Delay Repay’ scheme.

Bus operators object that most delays are beyond their control. That’s true, but doesn’t let them off the hook entirely. Anyway, aren’t they in the business of providing a transport service, not just driving buses?

So – what could we reasonably expect of bus operators?

The first bus of the day on a route is critical: if you have a hospital appointment or job interview, you can’t catch an earlier service as an insurance. The last bus is also critical: the alternative is a taxi or grovelling phone calls to family or friends. Those should be guaranteed services.

Significant delays or cancellations within an operator’s control, such as a bus breaking down or driver not turning up for their shift, should be penalised in a way that benefits users. Similarly if buses miss out stops because they’re full, there should be a penalty big enough to incentivise the operator to put on more buses.

Ideally, passengers would receive compensation along the lines of the rail Delay Repay scheme, but that may be impractical – at least until passengers tap in and out with a payment card. Then discounts and refunds could be applied automatically under defined circumstances.

This is all in aid of creating a stronger link between passengers and the quality of service they receive.

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 11 April 2018.

Edward Leigh

Edward Leigh is the leader of Smarter Cambridge Transport, chair and independent co-opted member of the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel, chair of the South Petersfield Residents Association, business owner, consultant, and occasional blogger about making the world and Cambridge a better place to live.

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