GMITA and the Greater Manchester Bus Operators’ Association (GMBOA) launched a new Code of Conduct for bus operators last week, which sets a benchmark for the quality and standard of bus services within Greater Manchester. The aim of the scheme is to improve services by securing formal agreements with bus operators in relation to punctuality, reliability and vehicle standards. The “Big Three” operators (Arriva, First and Stagecoach) have signed up along with Transdev, Rossendale and Maytree – covering 84% of the Greater Manchester bus network already – and the hope is to eventually get all bus operators in the county to sign up. But what exactly does the scheme mean? What can passengers expect?
Happily, Manchester Transport has been reading up on the subject and can give you an overview of some of the main points proposed.
The following punctuality and reliability targets are set:
- 97% of advertised buses will operate
- 90% of scheduled bus services will depart “on-time” (less than 60 seconds early, less than 5 minutes 59 seconds late)
- 97% of headways on frequent services (every 12 minutes or better) will be less than twice the frequency (if you see what we mean)
These aren’t particularly onerous targets given that the Traffic Commissioners set a target of 99.5% reliability and 95% punctuality. However, the Code of Conduct recognises that these targets would not be met fully based on current performance: the aim is to ensure that all members do so within two years.
All scheduled mileage in Greater Manchester should be operated by Euro 3 or better standard buses by 2015, with 40% of mileage operated by Euro 5 or better standard buses by 2017. All single-deckers operating in Greater Manchester should be fully compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act by 2015, with all double-deckers compliant by 2016. Destination displays should display the correct details at all times – presumably including showing the correct destination for the direction travelled.
Buses should carry distinctive liveries so as to be easily recognised as being operated by the company in question: they should also carry an identifiable branding to show that the company follows the Code of Conduct, but such branding should be removed if the company withdraws from the scheme or if the buses are deployed to a different area. Information on tickets (e.g. day and season ticket prices) should be displayed to be viewed from outside, with further information on System One tickets, Traveline and complaint handling procedures displayed inside. There should be high standards of internal and external cleanliness and operators should work towards fitting CCTV on all vehicles.
Drivers are required to be well-trained with a structured driver training programme including awareness of disabled passengers. A consistent uniform standard is expected of operators, featuring at least a collared shirt or blouse, trousers or skirt (but *not* jeans!) and appropriate outerwear.
Operators are asked to work with GMPTE in order to bring about a simplified ticketing range within Greater Manchester, looking to have three simple fare bands by 2014. They should also help develop a Greater Manchester Smartcard scheme. Timetables should only be changed on specific change dates as determined by GMPTE, except by mutual agreement in exceptional circumstances. GMPTE should be notified (in confidence) of intended service changes 21 days in advance of registration – which is already 56 days in advance.
Operators will provide information on passenger complaints and comments to GMPTE, who will publish aggregated statistics against targets for this and all other monitoring benchmarks on its website, together with updates on what is being done to improve performance if targets are not met. Info for the last review period will also be displayed onboard vehicles. Operators can join the scheme at any point provided they meet the criteria above – but GMPTE may revoke the status of an operator if they are in material or persistent breach of the Code of Conduct. Operators may withdraw from the scheme with one month’s written notice.
In return, GMPTE promises certain standards of maintenance and comfort at bus stations and stops around the county, and to maintain accurate timetable information on the street and in leaflets, subject to sufficient notification. They also offer the chance to share best practice with other operators, and to work with local authorities and the Highways Agency to enforce traffic regulation orders, minimise the effects of roadworks, learn lessons on Winter gritting, liaise on sorting out traffic issues, and promote cycle safety and awareness.
Those are the main points in a nutshell – pretty commonsense really, and mostly something that operators should be (and in most cases are) working towards anyway. One other interesting tidbit: whilst the Code of Conduct is a voluntary scheme that seems to let both the operators and GMPTE get on with what they both do best, there are two mandatory schemes – so-called Quality Partnership Schemes – that are in the pipeline and hope to be introduced in March 2011. These involve two corridors in Greater Manchester: Leigh to Bolton (the main route which is the 582) and Manchester to Hazel Grove (the infamous 192).