Rail Replacement Bus Coordinaton: Incentives

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by Starmill, 21 Apr 2019.

  1. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    I am writing this from an unplanned contemplation break at Rochdale Station this morning. I was due to travel on the 0911 Northern rail replacement bus from Manchester Victoria followed by the 0943 train from Rochdale to Hebden Bridge.

    Our bus left Manchester Victoria accompanied by bus coordinator on time. It was not apparent to me that any delay occurred. The bus arrived at Rochdale at 0943. I assumed that the 0943 train would therefore be able to wait for 2 - 3 minutes to allow me and everyone else on the bus who wanted the train (probably about 20 people) to walk upstairs and catch it. This would have been all the time needed.

    Of course, this did not happen. At the moment the screen on platform 2 says that the train is still due so there is a large group of people waiting for it. However, it is apparent from NRE that the train departed right on time. He is very polite but unable to provide any form of alternative transport but over an hour to wait for the next train. I have tried to ask what the policy for such connections is. The man in the ticket office says it is the bus coordinators fault, and that the train could have waited. The bus coordinators say it is the train company's fault because the train did not wait. The truth is unclear to me.

    I do have to question how this sort of thing can still be happening if I'm honest. In particular it's hard to believe I'm surrounded by people who think that the train is coming despite the firm implication that it left some time ago, not reflected by the screen here.

    Why is there such a difficulty in organising relatively simple planned engineering work timetables? And why is there so little response on the day?
     

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    Last edited: 21 Apr 2019
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  3. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    Update: the 1044 from Rochdale to Hebden Bridge is now cancelled.
     
  4. darloscott

    darloscott Member

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    Seems to be a basic lack of common sense to me, if you advertise a connection such as replacement buses then you should make an effort to ensure they do connect properly. Obviously there is a limit to how long you can wait - but for a replacement bus to arrive at the time the train is due to depart and then the train depart without everyone anyway just seems wrong.
     
  5. Thomas6187

    Thomas6187 Member

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    Bus timed for just 22 minutes between Manchester and Rochdale is not enough to complete that journey. I live not to far away from Rochdale railway station and similar journey take me on average(on sunday morning) 25 minutes in the car.
     
  6. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    Hmm I see the problem now. I wonder how that could have happened.
     
  7. Carlisle

    Carlisle Established Member

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    Who employs the Bus coordinations? Ideally they should be TOC employees with sufficient authority to hold connections where necessary as you describe, however if they’re agency or outsourced staff, possibly they lack sufficient authority over train crew & operations to actually be able to do so
     
    Last edited: 21 Apr 2019
  8. Aictos

    Aictos On Moderation

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    Under First Capital Connect, they used a company who employed bus co-ordinators to manage the rail replacement work who had no authority other then ensure the buses ran to time or if they were late ensure their control room knew.

    The bus replacement services were timed to connect with the rail services and the station staff would usually advise the bus co-ordinator at the station when there was no more passengers coming off the connecting rail service and vice versa so there was no way anyone would have missed their connection.

    Course every company is different...
     
  9. Mag_seven

    Mag_seven Established Member

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    I wonder who exactly these bus coordinators are in contact with - TOC Control, station staff, train guards, train drivers? Are they in contact with anybody? If they are not then what is the point of them?
     
  10. Llanigraham

    Llanigraham On Moderation

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    Unfortunately, holding a train for 2 minutes can easily mean it will lose it's path elsewhere, potentially causing delays to other trains and therefore affecting many more passengers.
    I'm sorry to say that you have to look at the bigger picture.
     
  11. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    I understand that bus contracts and coordinators for Northern are supplied by Arriva. Arriva Rail Support or something like that?
     
  12. bb21

    bb21 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Bus co-ordinators do not have the power to hold railway connections. They do not have the necessary knowledge to enable them to make an informed decision.

    What they should be able to do in the event of a likely missed connection is report to control (either through a central contact or individually) that a connecting bus service is late. Control can then authorise a connecting rail service to be held if appropriate. At some locations there are also local arrangements in place where traincrew can hold services for up to a certain number of minutes without seeking control permission, by prior arrangements only.
     
  13. G_for_Gnome

    G_for_Gnome Member

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    Having done the bus coordination job in the past, this is the very worst position you can find yourself in. 1 hour at a station, potentially unstaffed and in the middle of nowhere, with a bus load of people who have just missed the connecting train and it’s “your fault”. Bear in mind you will be employed by a contractor so will not be a TOC employee so will Have absolutely no authority over traincrew or to delay the service.

    It is up to the TOC Control to decide whether to delay the train, but there may be a reluctance if this means the train losing a path later on in the journey, and the risk of people missing their connections later on (these would be people on the train already at the interchange station having started their journey there, or passengers intending to join the train at a later station).

    The next problem is knowing what to tell the TOC Control, is the bus 2 minutes away or 30 minutes away? As a rule (there are some exceptions) Rail replacement buses are not satellite tracked in a way that bus coordinators have easy access to. Finding out where the driver is means a call to the contractors control room, who then need to call the bus operator, who then need to call the driver, who may or may not be able to answer, and then the message needs to be passed back through the chain. It all takes time, considering there is usually a 10 minute connection time, if the bus isn’t showing up at the scheduled arrival time, it can take more than 10 minutes to determine where it is.

    The huge problem, however, is that the TOCs generally set the running time for rail replacement buses. The times are standard and make no account for time of day, day of the week etc etc. I can think of at least 3 examples across different TOCs and different rail replacement contractor where the contractor has challenged the running time as been inadequate, the TOC has ignored the warning, and the point has been proven during the operation on the day - none of which helps the passenger stuck on a station for an hour after getting there just in time to see the tail lights of the “connecting train” pull out of the station.

    Much of the same logic applies to TOCs being advised when the capacity they specify for rail replacement bus operations is likely to be inadequate but warnings have fallen on deaf ears.

    Provision of planned rail
    replacement buses is an area of the industry can improve, but one where the challenges faced are often (not always) woefully misunderstood.
     
  14. Robertj21a

    Robertj21a Established Member

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    It's also fair to add that some of the replacement bus operators and/or drivers may not be the most suitable for the task. There are only a few quality operations specialising in such work (i.e Ensignbus).
     
  15. johntea

    johntea Established Member

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    Round here in Yorkshire since Arriva took over Northern guess who operate a lot of the replacement bus services! It always seems a lot more chaotic than the previous franchise and I now try and avoid travel at all if a replacement bus service is involved!
     
  16. RLBH

    RLBH Member

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    That sort of thing is perfectly acceptable to the average passenger - if it's clearly communicated. If the bus operator insists that there will be a connection into the 0943 train, and on arrival at 0943 the PIS is insisting that the 0943 train is still to arrive, passengers are going to expect to make the advertised connection. When they're told that was never going to happen, that's going to make them very unhappy.
     
  17. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    Northern state they will 'not consider' claims for delay compensation where there are delays to rail replacement bus services, such as in this case.
     
  18. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    This is not untypical of the sort of response I now expect from Northern these days, but it is absolutely totally and utterly incorrect.

    Take the case to the Ombudsman.
     
  19. ainsworth74

    ainsworth74 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Wow. Just. Wow.

    I would reply back asking them to explain where in their Delay Repay scheme this exception applies and if they are unable to provide proof of the exception that they therefore compensate accordingly. I'd ask them that if they intend to maintain their position that they issue a letter of deadlock to enable you to take it to the Ombudsman

    But that is staggering. Refusing to pay compensation against a validated itinerary is unbelievably poor.
     
  20. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    That's a staggeringly incompetent (or wilfully misleading) misinterpretation of the fact that an engineering works timetable is not in itself cause for Delay Repay to be claimed, provided it is operated on time.
     
  21. PHILIPE

    PHILIPE Established Member

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    There was a Tweet on GWR this Sunday that on a Rail Replacement Bus the passengers had to give the driver directions all along the route and reported that the bus was being driven very erratically to the point that some passengers didn't feel safe.
     
  22. G_for_Gnome

    G_for_Gnome Member

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    My understanding is that if your journey takes longer than normal because there is a preplanned rail replacement bus involved, and the journey goes to plan as advertised, no delay repay is due. Even though the service is altered, it has been delivered as advertised.

    If something goes wrong along the way and the journey takes longer than advertised (eg a bus breaks down, a connection missed due to late running bus or train) then delay repay is due if the delay takes you over whatever that TOCs threshold is.

    Sounds like Northern are using the first reason to get out of paying in a case of the second reason. Or their customer relations team have just seen it was a preplanned bus, and given a stock answer without giving due consideration to the details. Because I’m an optimist I hope it gets resolved as a genuine human error. But then, this is Northern....To Be Continued I expect
     
  23. Bovverboy

    Bovverboy Member

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    I live very close to a rail route where there are late night RRBs a minimum of eight nights out of every forty-two and not much further away from one with four nights out of every forty-two. I've also done rail replacement myself, many years ago.
    My own feeling is that coach companies (and their drivers) are never going to take rail replacement seriously if the rail company (in this area, Northern) itself doesn't. In the event we've had some coach companies who've done very well indeed, in the circumstances.
     
  24. Tom B

    Tom B Established Member

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    This isn't unusual, and I suspect there are many factors at play. For instance, drivers may not be from the area but have been drafted in, and route training may have been less than adequate. (Some years ago a bus firm sent a new driver out on a school run and advised her to ask the kids at the first stop to show the route. The inevitable happened, I think they were many miles away before the driver got suspicious).
    '
    Also, I assume that the drivers are sourced by getting service drivers to work overtime, or use of agency staff?
     
  25. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    This is nothing new at all - I've had to direct RRBs on a number of occasions (and have also directed service buses before). As for poor driving I've had more issues with that on service buses than RRBs.
     
  26. Deafdoggie

    Deafdoggie Established Member

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    RRBs can be driven by all sorts, yes service drivers on overtime may not know the route, but then coach drivers can often be operating many miles from home and not know places. There is no excuse for planned replacements though really. The TOC should get it all booked in advance so drivers can be properly briefed.
    Short-notice replacements can of course be hard to source, and has to be just what there is available.

    I have been a passenger on a short-notice replacement between Rugely and Cannock. It was quite an adventure! The minibus driver was not local, and although had a sat-nav chose to ignore it, despite reprogramming it for the next station at each station we managed to find. We missed out a couple of stations, had a drive round an industrial estate, a Tesco car park, and we went past one station (Wednesbury) three times, before eventually pulling up outside. The driver expressed disappointment we weren't getting off there but eventually he carried on to Cannock. Where he left us on a housing estate close to...but not actually at...Cannock station. We were doing a walk, and when we walked back back to Wednesbury a few hours later, we saw the driver going round the block around the station there again. For all I know he is still driving around Wednesbury.
     
  27. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    He must have been particularly lost, as Wednesbury isn't between Rugeley and Cannock and hasn't had a railway station for half a century or so... Are you thinking of Hednesford?

    Do satnavs include railway stations or do you have to know the postcode?
     
  28. Deafdoggie

    Deafdoggie Established Member

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    I was wondering who would spot that mistake first :oops:

    He did have a list of stations and their post codes, for all the use it was
     
  29. robbeech

    robbeech Established Member

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    It’s ludicrous to think that a toc would reject a claim for this. But of course, back in the real world it’s actually not surprising at all.

    I know the owner of a company running RRBs and they have on numerous occasions been booked for a 2 hourly service and had their timetable confirmed for a 1 hourly service to be given to the public. Half the buses, rather unsurprisingly, don’t turn up and the TOC just blags their way through the day saying that it’s running late or the passenger was stood in the wrong place. Of course the bus drivers then get abuse from passengers because they’ve waited an hour. And if Some TOCs are going to reject claims for RRB when they’re timetables then it’s clear to see the financial incentive to booking half the buses. I’m not naming any TOCs or bus companies here.
     
  30. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    It's not when it's Northern you're talking about. Several people have said GTR is a worse TOC, but I've never had any of my many Delay Repay claims against them for failure to operate the WLL service refused, and the whole DOO debacle (at both TOCs) has been DaFT driven and not the TOC's fault (but the other inadequacies of Northern very much are their fault). Northern seem to refuse them on a total whim - I have no idea if that's just incompetence or malice, I guess more likely the former.
     
  31. CanalWalker

    CanalWalker Member

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    On one occasion on the Buxton line the RRB driver refused to take me to Chapel-en-le-Frith station because "the road is too narrow". I was left with a one mile uphill walk in the midnight dark.
    But, to be fair, after I complained NR compensated me with a £20 voucher
     

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