The overriding aim of operators is to run their bus services to the timetable they publish, and this is an expectation of the Traffic Commissioner. It is accepted that there are times when a bus may be delayed in traffic or road works, and the timetable should be constructed to take account of this at times when delays are inevitable, but is not acceptable for a bus to run early.
There is an expectation placed on operators to monitor scheduled and registered services closely to ensure adherence to the required criteria. Best practice is to undertake monitoring exercises along the route using the current published timetable and to record the findings in order that they can be evaluated and action taken if there is a problem. It may be that the report highlights areas along the service route that are busy at certain times or specific places, during temporary or major roadworks, and that the timetable needs adjusting. It may also be that there is a lack of passengers on some routes and the service would be better to be withdrawn or cancelled, but without undertaking the monitoring exercise operators may not be fully aware of the situation or difficulties.
Ninety five percent of services should depart from the given timing points with the 'window of tolerance', not more than 1 minute early and not more than five minutes late. Frequent services, where the service interval is 10 minutes or less, should have a 95% achievement of 6 or more buses departing from the start point of the journey within any period of 60 minutes and the interval between consecutive buses not exceeding 15 minutes. All services are expected to fulfil the 95% attainment, with a 70% absolute minimum expectation, and to arrive at the final destination not more than five minutes late without undue recovery time being built in to the timetable towards the end of the journey.
Drivers have a vital role in customer satisfaction and service delivery, so it is equally as important to monitor performance and interaction with passengers. It may be that there is a system in place to monitor the events for vehicle and environmental considerations, but it may not give an insight into the drivers and their interaction with the passengers and other road users.
The penalties for failing to meet the criteria can be severe. So how do operators ensure their services are running to time? Regularly checking the service delivery to ensure reliability and punctuality is an expectation for those running regular services. Monitoring is a good way to check that the service and the driver are performing as expected, whether it is by way of collecting information from a covert passenger or at timing points along the route. It is also important to have records of the monitoring you have undertaken so that it can be presented to the regulatory authority and enforcement agency if required. Passenger complaints are an important part of providing services to the public and should be investigated as this can highlight problematic areas along the route or drivers who, for various reasons, may have failed to meet the high standards you require of them.
PTS have considerable experience of monitoring bus services gained over 40 years. We can provide a comprehensive report to include feedback on service usage, fare collection and ticket validation as well as general driver performance. We will also highlight areas of concern with accurate records enabling and working with operators to instigate action to alleviate any problems encountered.