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Gaps in afternoon bus timetables

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ChrisC

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I have just been reading the thread 'Furthest day return trip by bus from your home town'. I quite like having days out by bus, but I don't think I would want to travel such huge distances as I prefer to base my days out around getting off and exploring interesting locations along my planned route. I often have days out by bus when I'm on holiday and can visit a number of locations in one day. I would like to be able to leave my car at home and do the same from home but unfortunately I live in one of those locations where there are no buses after 6pm. I do sometimes drive about 3 miles and park in another village, which has an evening bus service, but it's often easier to do the whole journey by car.

Something that I am noticing more and more, mainly outside of the large urban areas, is that on many bus services, which may have a regular hourly or two hourly service right through the morning, there are increasingly large gaps in the afternoon timetables with very few, or even no buses between 2pm and 5pm. This is especially so on school days where buses can be missing from the timetable or start/finish short at some inconvenient location with no onward connections. This can really restrict days out by bus when you arrive somewhere around lunchtime but have to get a return bus well before 3pm, otherwise there is no bus until around 5pm and then no chance of getting onward connections later in the journey for the last buses home.

Through the village where I live in Nottinghamshire, there is a bus every hour from 6.30am until 6.30pm but on schooldays the 3.30pm bus does not run, resulting in a gap of 2 hours, at just the time people want to return home. This is especially so in winter when it is nice to get home before dark. I just end up using my car more for days out because these gaps in afternoon timetables make the return journey so difficult. I know that in many cases the bus company gets a good financial return from the local authority for school services, but they must also be losing some income earlier in the day from people like myself who don't use the bus because of the inconvenient or non existent afternoon service for the return journey.
 
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Robertj21a

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I have just been reading the thread 'Furthest day return trip by bus from your home town'. I quite like having days out by bus, but I don't think I would want to travel such huge distances as I prefer to base my days out around getting off and exploring interesting locations along my planned route. I often have days out by bus when I'm on holiday and can visit a number of locations in one day. I would like to be able to leave my car at home and do the same from home but unfortunately I live in one of those locations where there are no buses after 6pm. I do sometimes drive about 3 miles and park in another village, which has an evening bus service, but it's often easier to do the whole journey by car.

Something that I am noticing more and more, mainly outside of the large urban areas, is that on many bus services, which may have a regular hourly or two hourly service right through the morning, there are increasingly large gaps in the afternoon timetables with very few, or even no buses between 2pm and 5pm. This is especially so on school days where buses can be missing from the timetable or start/finish short at some inconvenient location with no onward connections. This can really restrict days out by bus when you arrive somewhere around lunchtime but have to get a return bus well before 3pm, otherwise there is no bus until around 5pm and then no chance of getting onward connections later in the journey for the last buses home.

Through the village where I live in Nottinghamshire, there is a bus every hour from 6.30am until 6.30pm but on schooldays the 3.30pm bus does not run, resulting in a gap of 2 hours, at just the time people want to return home. This is especially so in winter when it is nice to get home before dark. I just end up using my car more for days out because these gaps in afternoon timetables make the return journey so difficult. I know that in many cases the bus company gets a good financial return from the local authority for school services, but they must also be losing some income earlier in the day from people like myself who don't use the bus because of the inconvenient or non existent afternoon service for the return journey.
I'm not sure the bus companies would agree that it is a 'good financial return' - perhaps 'adequate' for most operations. It's probably the steady, guaranteed, income that attracts them.
 

TheGrandWazoo

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I'm not sure the bus companies would agree that it is a 'good financial return' - perhaps 'adequate' for most operations. It's probably the steady, guaranteed, income that attracts them.
Very true - the reality is that many of the other passengers that are travelling home at that time are pass holders rather than commuters etc so the bus company will have the choice of a few under-remunerated pass journeys or the steady income of a schools contract.
 

gingerheid

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I think, sadly, a lot of these services in between school runs only exist because, assuming they can cover their variable costs, offering the driver more hours makes it easier to recruit people to drive the school run.
 

Gloster

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Does the service not run at all, or does it, or a close approximation, run, but as a school run? I believe that some councils have decided that school buses should not be available to the general public. The bus company may decide that it is a better use of resources to use the bus on a school run, rather than having a second vehicle out.
 

TheGrandWazoo

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I think, sadly, a lot of these services in between school runs only exist because, assuming they can cover their variable costs, offering the driver more hours makes it easier to recruit people to drive the school run.
That's a very good point. In many instances, it isn't a journey being sacrificed to accommodate a schools run; rather, it's a timetable with the base being the schools contract around which the service is constructed.

And to be honest, this is not a new phenomenon. In my youth, I can remember services that would have the "SSH" code over the 1545 departure for Saturdays and School Holidays only, with some other variant being schooldays only "SDO" and either a variation to the route and/or extension to/from schools. It really was ever thus
 

Busaholic

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And to be honest, this is not a new phenomenon. In my youth, I can remember services that would have the "SSH" code over the 1545 departure for Saturdays and School Holidays only, with some other variant being schooldays only "SDO" and either a variation to the route and/or extension to/from schools. It really was ever thus
It all depended where you lived. The Central area London Transport network of my youth had no school routes and no SDO (Schooldays only) journeys on regular routes either. What you got on a few suburban routes were extra part-route journeys that, in theory at least, ran on non-schooldays as well, though those duties were the first to be cut on NSD if there was a crew or bus shortage. Schoolkids, workers and shoppers were expected to intermingle with no group getting priority.East and South East London were the first to buck the set up, with a long schooldays Only extension on the 145 and SDO journeys on the 124 to the huge Crown Woods Comprehensive, one of London's first such schools.
 

Flange Squeal

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There are a few examples local to me too, where buses do school runs leaving gaps in service, and other journeys starting/terminating at intermediate points.

The two-bus route 11 between Farnborough and Paddock Hill used to run hourly all day 0700-1800, but the 'second' bus to enter service on the route now does so at a midway point at a later time of 0824. In the afternoon, one journey then finishes at a midway point at 1440, with a second bus returning to the route at 1635. This sees a two hour gap in service in both directions during the afternoon.

Route 10 between Farnborough to Church Crookham generally runs every 60-90 mins during the day on the current timetable, however afternoon projections of journeys to serve a school away from the route causes a 2.5 hour gap in the Church Crookham to Farnborough direction between 1259 and 1534.

Routes 462/463 between Woking and Guildford combine to provide a generally hourly frequency, however an afternoon school projection sees a gap of two hours open up in Woking departures from 1350 to 1550.

And to be honest, this is not a new phenomenon. In my youth, I can remember services that would have the "SSH" code over the 1545 departure for Saturdays and School Holidays only, with some other variant being schooldays only "SDO" and either a variation to the route and/or extension to/from schools. It really was ever thus
These are still widespread but can generally be forgiven I feel, as they (at least pre-COVID) also served regular passengers along the original route. The examples where a large gap in a route is caused by the vehicle going off to do a totally different thing is a bit more annoying, however the efficiency this creates obviously makes things a bit more viable as it saves a vehicle/driver to cover a school run elsewhere, and one presumes the fact that the operator feels a gap in a route is acceptable is probably because the route isn't a big earner and needs all the efficiency it can get to survive? If that means creating a gap so a vehicle can be used on a money earning school route for a period, then I guess that gap in service is a small price to pay if the money coming in overall helps pay for it to cling on. I guess it might also help subsidised routes' survivals in terms of costing the local council less in subsidy, so perhaps less inclined to feel the need to axe it as a cost burden (or maybe that's just wishful thinking!)
 

TheGrandWazoo

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It all depended where you lived. The Central area London Transport network of my youth had no school routes and no SDO (Schooldays only) journeys on regular routes either. What you got on a few suburban routes were extra part-route journeys that, in theory at least, ran on non-schooldays as well, though those duties were the first to be cut on NSD if there was a crew or bus shortage. Schoolkids, workers and shoppers were expected to intermingle with no group getting priority.East and South East London were the first to buck the set up, with a long schooldays Only extension on the 145 and SDO journeys on the 124 to the huge Crown Woods Comprehensive, one of London's first such schools.
The OP said "outside of the major urban areas" so that discounts the central area of London Transport ;)
 

WM Bus

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Theres a couple of hours gap between the 28A and 28 on Saturday afternoons in Small Heath, which has a rather unusual timetable.

Also the daytime service to Small Heath is every hour, increases to every 30 minutes after about 6PM and on Sundays.

On a Saturday 15:04 28A to Ward End at Small Heath Park, next one is the 18:20 28 on a through journey all the way to Great Barr via Heartlands, Ward End and Erdington.

The main section of the 28 from Heartlands to Great Barr does of course run at every 12 min frequency throughout the afternoon, but not the subsidised section to Small Heath.



Another unusual one and again TFWM subsidised services, Berwicks Lane/Coleshill Road in Chelmsley Wood. The last A10 to Chelmsley Wood Interchange at 13:51, next bus is a 72A to Chelmsley Wood Interchange at 20:52, so 7 hour gap for stops along that section of route.
 
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PeterC

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No gaps for us since they cut our village bus service from 1bph to 1bp2h. Previously we had no 3:15 service which did catch me out once.
 

RT4038

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It all depended where you lived. The Central area London Transport network of my youth had no school routes and no SDO (Schooldays only) journeys on regular routes either. What you got on a few suburban routes were extra part-route journeys that, in theory at least, ran on non-schooldays as well, though those duties were the first to be cut on NSD if there was a crew or bus shortage. Schoolkids, workers and shoppers were expected to intermingle with no group getting priority.East and South East London were the first to buck the set up, with a long schooldays Only extension on the 145 and SDO journeys on the 124 to the huge Crown Woods Comprehensive, one of London's first such schools.
I don't think these Schoolday only trips would have caused a diminution of the frequency below the usual off peak levels, though.
 

ChrisC

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The OP said "outside of the major urban areas" so that discounts the central area of London Transport ;)
Yes, I was referring to routes that have a frequency of only once an hour or less. These are the routes where if a bus is missed out of the timetable it leaves a gap of 2 hours or more without a bus.
 

Bwsbro

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Doesn’t help at the moment with the requirements of dedicated School buses. Local to me there is services which terminates where the local high school is located, to then pick up the service further down the line to its main destination. On Saturday & school holidays we continue to have the full service.
 

DunsBus

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I remember both the Redby and Tyne & Wear Omnibus Company competitive strikes in Sunderland having a gap in service around lunchtime. In the case of the latter it was to allow TWOC drivers to have their statutory meal breaks away from base, as its Sunderland services were run from Gateshead depot. The timetables for the retaliatory Busways services also included the "lunch gap".
 

43055

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Midland Classic 19 springs to mind. Hourly service during the day but then drops quite significantly after 1400 leaving a 2 hour 25 min gap from Ashby towards Burton but a 90 min gap from Burton. The villages of Yoxhall, Kings Bromley and Alrewas also have a 2 hour gap in the afternoon as the buses on the 12 (Burton - Lichfield) run via the faster 12E route between 1500 and 1600. There use to be a few of open school routes around this time for the school at Barton.

12 timetable:
12-19.04.21.pdf (midlandclassic.com)

19 timetable:
19-19.04.21.pdf (midlandclassic.com)
 

PeterC

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Our 16:14 bus home starts from a local comprehensive on school days. Normally this is in general service but at the moment it is restricted to school and college pupils leaving a gap between 14:13 and 17:40. In practice adults avoid this service anyway although the kids are always well behaved, if noisy.
 

neilmc

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Basically you have to think very carefully before embarking on any bus jaunt outside of urban areas. There may well be no evening service, some buses may be operated by another provider and your all-day ticket found to be invalid, and increasingly there may be no afternoon service either as the bus is yanked off to do a school run leaving a large gap in a regular service. After all it's only a load of pensioners you are inconveniencing at that time of day and they don't pay anyway and does it matter if they decide to drive into town rather than catch the bus because the service has become so irregular?
 

Deerfold

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A few years ago Transdev Keighley did a consultation about combining 2 local bus services. They showed a half-hourly service, but with gaps of up to 50 minutes in the early evening peak. I responded, not minding if they combined the 2 services or not, but suggesting that if they wanted to put any office workers of getting the bus, that was the timetable to do it (buses were at 1620, 1700 and 1750). They ended up not combining the timetable, but do put an extra bus into the service for a couple of hours so the frequency increases slightly with 25 minute gaps instead of 30 minute ones for a couple of hours. I don't know if the anticipated gaps were due to losing a bus to a school service or increased congestion - another common problem for afternoon bus services.
 

RT4038

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Basically you have to think very carefully before embarking on any bus jaunt outside of urban areas. There may well be no evening service, some buses may be operated by another provider and your all-day ticket found to be invalid, and increasingly there may be no afternoon service either as the bus is yanked off to do a school run leaving a large gap in a regular service.
Welcome to the financial state of the bus industry outside of urban areas.

I am not sure who you might think might be concerned about.....
After all it's only a load of pensioners you are inconveniencing at that time of day and they don't pay anyway and does it matter if they decide to drive into town rather than catch the bus because the service has become so irregular?
the bus companies forced into doing it to stave off bankruptcy, or the cash strapped local authorities who have no money to spend on supporting extra buses to make up frequencies at school times?

Bus services outside of urban areas, and some key interurban routes, have become an almost irrelevant niche product to most of the population. Schoolchildren are a major demand at certain times of day it seems to make sense to operate the other services as a peripheral business only outside these times, unless we wish to commit more subsidy money. It is not what I want, just the reality of the situation.
 

PeterC

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Basically you have to think very carefully before embarking on any bus jaunt outside of urban areas. There may well be no evening service, some buses may be operated by another provider and your all-day ticket found to be invalid, and increasingly there may be no afternoon service either as the bus is yanked off to do a school run leaving a large gap in a regular service. After all it's only a load of pensioners you are inconveniencing at that time of day and they don't pay anyway and does it matter if they decide to drive into town rather than catch the bus because the service has become so irregular?
In practice most of the pensioner traffic is between before 14:00 in country areas even when later buses are available.
 

DunsBus

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View attachment 99052
I wonder why that could be......
Certainly where I live, 15 miles from Berwick, the last service 60 bus west from Berwick to Duns and Galashiels, on Mondays to Saturdays, has been at 1645 since this time last year and at 1658 on Sundays since last November, when the Sunday service was reinstated. Despite numerous pleas from passengers, Borders Buses have so far refused to reinstate the later buses from Berwick, which leads me to think that these journeys are now off for good.
 

neilmc

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In practice most of the pensioner traffic is between before 14:00 in country areas even when later buses are available.

Well, that's certainly the case in Cumbria. There's an impressive list of villages which in theory have a bus service, what that conceals is the fact that for the vast majority there's just one bus per week, in from the village mid-morning and out again early afternoon giving a couple of hours in town. This is no use to anyone wanting a joined-up series of journeys as if you caught any of these buses from a supposed travel hub (e.g. Penrith) you'd end up stuck in a village from which you can't get back. In fact, it's no use to anybody except local pensioners and the occasional villager whose car is off the road and needs a bit of shopping/bank visit. And maybe someone who's been caught drink-driving once too often?

We just bought a book of hikes in Eden district and the author makes it clear that the guide says there is no public transport to or from most villages even when in theory there is, simply because it's useless to a hiker from a practical point of view so better not even mentioned.
 

Adtrainsam

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Here in Essex, it's quite common with one of the independent operators I'm rather familiar with. The Blackwater Link 90 run by Stephensons is one of its flagship routes and (impressively) runs every 30 minutes during the week serving many rural and high income areas. Yet, the timetable attached shows gaps in the morning towards Witham around 08:30 and back the other way between 15:30 - 16:30. This is strange where I would assume there is demand for an extra bus but they don't have the resources, as buses come off/run onto school routes.


Another occurrence is the 61 local route in Southend which now packs up before 14:00 as the buses run onto School Routes. Intriguingly this route used to run until 15:30 but changed when the number of school services from Mid-Essex was cut at the first lockdown from 4 to 2. The 61 is worked by 2 buses from Maldon depot between school routes. (although bustimes.org has stopped tracking the 61 in recent months)
 

Statto

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41 Chester-Tattenhall-Whitchurch, it's 2 hourly Chester-Whitchurch, but hourly Tattenhall-Chester, the 14.30 only goes Chester-Waverton with no northbound short service [presumably done so the bus can do a school trip] so passengers who miss the 14.05 Tattenhall-Chester, have to wait for the 16.05
 
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