Tag Archives: buses

Bus News

subtext‘s intrepid Stagecoach correspondent reports…

Worries about virus transmission on public transport to and from campus have been, justifiably, one of the main concerns expressed by staff and students alike. So, how safe are things on the ground?

Signs as you embark ask passengers to sit in a window seat, with an empty row in front and behind you, but are these rules being enforced? Not really, but only because the buses are so sparsely populated that the risk now seems quite small, with many who would normally travel by bus opting to walk, cycle or drive instead. Your correspondent has only seen one example of a bus full sign being displayed, on a number 100 as it whizzed past the Infirmary; every other time, there have been at most 10 people on each deck.

The don’t sit next to anyone advice is adhered to rigorously, whilst the make sure there’s an empty row in front and behind you advice is being interpreted more flexibly: complied with if the numbers (or convenience) allow it, but not if they don’t. Almost everyone is dutifully wearing a mask, although this is reportedly not the case on some of the city centre shuttle services. Usually there will be at least one window open, so pack a parka.

subtext‘s paradoxical conclusion: for as long as many are avoiding Stagecoach because they’re worried about the risk of travelling by bus, the numbers on the buses will remain so low that the risk is likely minimal. Alas, in true tragedy of the commons style, as soon as enough of us realise this, the numbers are likely to rise until the risk becomes something to really worry about.

Maybe we shouldn’t be printing this story.

TOO FEW NUMBER TWOS

Our bus correspondent reports… locals in Bowerham and Hala are becoming increasingly irritated as they realise that what was a rather good number 2 bus service (6 double-deckers an hour) has become a distinctly inferior service (4 single-deckers an hour). This wouldn’t matter so much if they could get a seat, but for much of the day, as subtext readers know very well, this is a forlorn hope. What’s happening?

subtext understands the main problem is that, whereas previously the number 2 only went to and from the underpass, it now makes the circuit of Alexandra Park formerly taken by the number 3 (RIP). If you’re getting on at Cartmel, you’re unlikely to want to change to a number 1 at the underpass, so you’ll sit tight, despite the longer journey time. Hence the number 2 is now trying to ferry more people with fewer buses.

Longer term, the only solution looks like running more double-deckers – which Stagecoach currently doesn’t have. Stagecoach Group plc’s pre-tax profit in 2017-18: £95.3 million.

WHEN 3 BECOME 1

Stagecoach’s new timetable has been unveiled, now the Greyhound Bridge has re-opened, and the big news for vintage subtext readers is that the number 1 bus, much loved by Lancaster students and staff at the close of the last millennium, is back! This is, roughly, a rebadged number 3, shuttling up and down the A6, but more often, using double deckers. Meanwhile the number 2 carries on, with fewer double deckers, although there seem to be teething troubles with its new schedule. On more than one occasion in the past week, whilst waiting (and waiting …) at a bus stop, subtext’s correspondent has been told ‘there are no number 2’s at the moment!’, said by someone clearly in the know.

Early evidence suggests that the changeover is proving very helpful to less organised members of our community, as ‘I missed the bus because of all the number changes’ becomes the go-to reason for lateness.

WORKING AT LANCASTER

The University of Lancaster is preparing to undertake another staff survey. In order to ensure that the responses are as positive as possible, we at subtext would like to take a look back at where we went wrong in 2017-18 and offer some pointers. We could start by not doing any of the following…

In subtext 166, we reported that the Dean of FASS had drawn up a new procedure for appointing heads of department. This began in the Department of Politics, Philosophy, and Religion, whose natives expressed a clear preference for their next Head of Department (HoD). Dissatisfied with their choice, the Vice-Chancellor decided that future HoD’s should all be professors, and that he should have a direct say in their appointment. The VC’s micromanagement of appointment processes when he doesn’t like a particular candidate, no matter how far down the pecking order they are, is nothing new. But in this case, insisting that HoD’s must be professorial is not only a slap in the fact to the non-professorial staff who have led departments over the years, it also prevents junior (i.e. below professor) academics from developing their experience, and dries up opportunities for women and BME groups, who make up a very small portion of the professoriate at Lancaster.

Then again, being a professor automatically makes you a better candidate for the post of HoD. You only have to look at our report in subtext 167 on the HoD who called an all-staff meeting, at which he berated and humiliated the Criminology personnel in front of the entire Law School, threatening them with closure if they didn’t drive up admissions. With morale boosting like that, it’s little wonder that Criminology at Lancaster is rated 1st in the Times Good University Guide.

Elsewhere, staff members on grade 6 and below were pleased to learn that their bus passes were now 30% more expensive. While this is a negligible amount for those on higher grades, the twenty six quid increase is going to be felt by those who aren’t. The situation is worse for staff on short term contracts, who often are employed on a termly / monthly basis, aren’t entitled to full year bus passes, and therefore have to buy a one term Unirider for a hundred quid. Three times a year if their contracts are extended. And none of these passes entitle them to travel to university during the vacation weeks.

It’s yet another blow to staff on precarious contracts, who make up 65.9% of our workforce. International staff make up a large part of this figure – our report in subtext 178 demonstrated that many of them declined to go on strike for fear of deportation.

Still. At least we can all get on with our research – something which the faculties are keen to help us to do. How? Well, as reported in subtext 179, the Faculty of Science and Technology aims to do this with Research Impact Fund Sub-Committees, scrutiny panels made up of academics often with different specialties to those in the research they’re scrutinising, who decide which academics win five thousand pounds to track their impact. It’s good to free up time to research, isn’t it?

The subtext collective tries to stay aware of the challenges and concerns facing our friends and colleagues who work with us at the university, because we believe our primary purpose is to provide a voice for staff to air those concerns. We think that we did this rather well in 2017-18, and you can read all of it via the links below.

http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/2017/10/12/hod-carrying/

http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/2017/11/09/subtext-168-giving-our-graduates-the-tools-to-make-subtexting-happen/

http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/2017/11/23/clod-hopping-hod-dropping/

http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/2017/10/26/lessons-in-how-not-to-do-things/

http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/2017/10/12/non-flexible-benefits/

http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/2018/04/24/deep-dive-casualisation-and-precarious-working-practices/

http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/2018/05/24/you-say-potato/

http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/2018/06/07/impacted-wisdom/

BUS, LIGHTS – ACTION

The recent hold-ups on the A6 caused by the roadworks opposite the Health Innovation Campus building site seems to have altered Stagecoach drivers’ behaviour. Previously, the buses as they left the University would take the outside lane on that passage of road that runs parallel with University, letting cars on the inside lane gently filter over. Whilst the temporary lights have been in operation buses have invariably taken the inside lane and proceeded to hurtle towards the lights at great speed. While some may appreciate the early holiday experience of subsequent blaring horns and squealing tyres, most passengers looked perplexed. Your correspondent did wonder how the much heralded driverless buses would react faced with such an obstacle and presumably an in-built programmed schedule. It also made your correspondent speculate (some of the jams at the lights were quite lengthy) how the new driverless cars would cope navigating the highways and byways of Lancaster. On any journey around the city you encounter cars parked on one or both sides of the road. Negotiating the subsequent oncoming traffic then involves the ritual of flashing headlights and waving of hands followed by the salute signifying ‘thank you’. Your correspondent had visions of Lancaster being gridlocked as autonomous vehicles struggled to cope with the etiquette of ‘giving way’. Not a nice thought as you trundle home from work.

BUS EVACUATION

On April 29, 1975, Operation Frequent Wind saw the evacuation of those Americans who remained is Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. It was the biggest helicopter lift of its kind in history — an 18-hour operation that carried 1,373 Americans and 5,595 Vietnamese to safety (or to escape the people’s justice, depending on your point of view).

Let’s talk about Roses weekend, and the associated difficulties getting to and from campus.

For those members of staff who use public transport, leaving campus last Friday was a fraught affair. Roses weekend necessitated (for whatever reason) the closure of Bigforth Drive, which meant that number 2 buses would not be running from the underpass. There was no indication as to where the buses WOULD run from (if at all), and no details of when the last bus would be setting off.

What to do? Your intrepid correspondent knew that such an exit would be complicated by the hold-ups on the A6 caused by the roadworks opposite the Health Innovation Campus building site. Should he leave shortly after arriving to avoid being trapped on Campus over the weekend? Or should he risk carrying on shredding confidential documents and deleting incriminating emails until the very last minute and be on that last bus leaving the University?

Instead of Jolly Green Giants, as the choppers out of Saigon were known, Stagecoach’s Big Red Double Deckers were our means of exodus. Travellers weren’t sure that Stagecoach staff would not be deployed, as U.S. Marines had been to smash the fingers of desperate Vietnamese trying to make it over the wall of the Embassy to safety, to restrict University staff trying to make it onto the overcrowded last bus.

When your correspondent managed to board one of the double-deckers, he found himself surrounded by evacuees nervously fingering their bags and frantically texting loved ones. As the bus left the underpass, thousands of people could be seen moving towards the road, as marshals (or marines – it was difficult to tell in the moment) closed in with barriers.

A few days later, news reached the subtext warehouse of further calamity as innocent visitors, having thought they were just ‘getting the number 2 to campus’, found themselves unceremoniously dumped outside Cartmel and told the bus wouldn’t be travelling any further.

subtext would like to hear any accounts from travellers caught in the thick of the operation. For this correspondent it was a close thing – something that could have been avoided by actually publishing the time of departure.

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?

Your travel correspondent was unfortunate to be travelling up to work last week (8th February) when the bus broke down. Distinct smell of burning as the bus croaked its last at St. Martin’s bus stop. The driver ushered everyone off and folk milled around wondering what to do. It was actually a nice warm day so for your correspondent the journey was completed on foot – a very pleasant stroll along the meandering cycleway. However lighting struck twice and this week (13th February) another journey, another breakdown and an altogether different outcome. It was pouring with rain so the dis-embarked passengers stood under the shelter and umbrellas to await the next bus. It was not long in coming but of course it was already quite full – the driver of the newly arrived bus was very calm and packed us all on as best he could. Lots of steam emanating from soaked passengers but everyone was jolly nice to one another and we all poured out at the underpass and went on our various ways. See, not all travel stories end badly!

MISCELLANY

OVERHEARD AT LANCASTER

In the Management School Hub. A young man obviously very thrilled to have been offered a job at Lancaster University. ‘I am so pleased, fantastic, and they told me I don’t have to wear a suit every day to work but under no circumstances must I ever wear jeans to work’. Obviously not a teaching post then.

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THE THIRD RED SCARE

In subtext 167, we reported on the ill-advised letter from Chris Heaton-Harris MP, sent to large numbers of Vice-Chancellors asking for all educational materials relating to Brexit, and the academics involved in its teaching. We were unsure at the time whether our own Vice-Chancellor had received Mr. Heaton-Harris’s pleasant little missive, and if so, what the response had been. Since then, SCAN has reported (http://tinyurl.com/y74h6dbd) that the VC did receive the request from Mr. Heaton-Harris, that it was considered under FOI procedures, and that the ruling followed the precedent set by Arkell v. Pressdram. It was to be expected, but pleasant to learn all the same.

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VIRTUALLY FINISHED

As one of subtext’s drones was returning from a trip to the balmy South [they get holidays now?? -ed], imagine its surprise when it saw, as it was cruising up the A6 and passing the field immediately north of the current Lancaster University campus, the label ‘Lancaster Science Park’ emblazoned over a large grey rectangle to the right of the road on its sat nav screen. There may be no buildings, paths, lights, or any activity whatsoever on the field between Bailrigg Village and campus as yet, but at least someone is preparing for Lancaster’s bold northward expansion!

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ANOTHER GLORIOUS VICTORY FOR SUBTEXT

Here in the warehouse we are always pleasantly surprised when we learn how widespread and diverse our readership is. Following our story on the overcrowded bus (subtext 168) it cannot be a coincidence that your correspondent witnessed a Stagecoach driver, in the underpass, stood outside of his bus counting the passengers on so not to exceed the legal numbers of standing passengers. The power of the press!

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LSESP

Following our trip down memory lane (see subtext 168) a number of readers have expressed interest in knowing a little more about the Lancaster Social Education Project during the miners strike (1984/85). subtext would like to hear from readers who involved with the project or indeed the children and grandchildren of people who were active during that time and know of any ‘tales from the campsite’.