Merseyside’s Bonkers Buses (part 1)

This is my first moan about public transport in Liverpool.

A lovely London bus stop

Now, I didn’t realise how spoilt I was in London when it came to public transport, especially the bus services.  Being able to catch a bus from the centre of London back to the outskirts where I lived was a given.  In fact, buses also ran every 15 minutes during the night.  In other words, buses ran 24 hours a day.

You don’t realise how you take this for granted until you move to a different area.

In Liverpool and the surrounding area, the bus service is awful with nobody taking an overall look at what is needed and working to a common plan.  The common authority appears to be an organisation called “Merseytravel”.  I’m not too sure what exactly their remit is because whenever I’ve generated a complaint they always say it’s nothing to do with them and that routes are run by commercial operators (typically Arriva, Stagecoach, etc.) over which they have no control.  As far as I can make out the only thing they control is the maintenance of the bus stops.

Which buses serve this Liverpool Football Club stop?

Don’t get me started on the bus stops.

Whilst in London, or even in neighbouring Manchester, the bus stops display the numbers of the buses likely to stop at them at the top where it says ‘Bus Stop’, they don’t in Liverpool.  The numbers are only displayed on a piece of paper that, if you are lucky, is situated behind a clear plastic cover either inside the bus shelter or on an associated post.  This piece of paper also gives the times.

In busy central locations, instead of being able to see which of the seven or eight adjacent bus stops your bus will serve by glancing at the masthead of the bus stop, you have to push past the crowd waiting around the bus stop and say “Excuse me” to be able to get a vague glance of the piece of paper.  You scan it to see if it mentions your bus or your destination, and then walk on to the next stop and repeat the process.  In London and most other cities you can scan the masthead of the bus stops from afar and quickly identify which bus stop to head to without having to head to all of them.

Outside of the city of Liverpool, the piece of paper is usually missing or the graffiti or increasing habit of setting fire to the plastic cover obscures your ability to read it.

This is not a Liverpool only thing, bus stops in London were regularly vandalised, but at least the number fixed at the top of the mast remained.  You might not know the times of the buses, but you knew which numbers served which bus stop.  In Liverpool, all you know is that it’s a bus stop. Even new bus drivers have been heard to ask passengers, “Do I stop at this one?” because they have no indication of which one is meant for their route unless they stop their bus and get off and look at the bit of paper (if it’s there).

All you need to know about the buses serving your stop. Not!

An interesting aside is that bus stops are the only place where the times that the buses should be there are actually available (subject to vandalism).  The printed timetables available from Merseytravel shops and on-line only give times at four or five key points on the route, not every stop.

When asked about this, once again Merseytravel told me that the times were up to the commercial operators, not them. Fine. But, if Merseytravel prints the piece of paper that may or may not be displayed at their bus stops why can’t it also have that information on-line or in the printed timetables?

Evening buses typically run every 30 minutes, some services every hour. This is a long lonely time to wait at a bus stop with no times displayed on it, not knowing if there will be a bus, you’ve just missed a bus, or if it just a random bus stop left there for decoration.

Sort it out!