Bid to reduce ‘ghost buses’ on digital timetables in Leeds

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By Don Mort

New technology should reduce the number of “ghost buses” which continue to show up on digital timetables after being cancelled, transport bosses have said.

Bus operators said they were working to speed up the reporting of cancelled services after commuters were left waiting for buses that never turned up.

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s transport committee launched a Ghost Bus Working Group to tackle the problem in January last year following complaints from bus users.

A report to Monday’s committee meeting said: “The customer sees an impending bus arrival on the bus stop display or online, but the bus does not arrive, and the predicted bus arrival disappears from the screen.”

The report said an upgrade of electronic ticket machines to 4G mobile technology should improve the tracking of vehicles.

Oliver Edwards, Labour councillor for Guiseley and Rawdon, asked bus operators Transdev and First for a commitment that future cancellations would be reported immediately.

He said: “It’s a big issue in the area I represent, and it’s an issue in many wards, especially outside of the city centres. And it’s still happening.

“It can be very serious for people if they don’t know whether the bus is coming.”

Mr Edwards also criticised First for not sharing bus performance data.

He said: “When we’ve asked for bus performance data, we’ve either been told it will be provided, but several months later we are still waiting for that, or we’ve been told it can’t be shared because of commercial sensitivity.

“What commercial sensitivity is it when there’s no competition on that route, and there’s not likely to be any competition any time soon?”

Brandon Jones, head of external relations at First Bus, said changes to computer software were starting to improve the reporting of cancellations.

He said: “There are some issues around data flow. We are very aware of these issues that occur for customers. The vast majority of the time it works well.”

Mr Jones said that in principle, the company was keen to share performance data. He said: “We do provide a lot of data through the Combined Authority already and we have had conversions around opening that up. ”

Transdev’s commercial director Paul Turner said cancellation systems were being upgraded at his company.

He said: “I think we do pretty well at getting our cancellations up to date.

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