Leeds ‘ghost’ buses: Why services disappear from digital timetables


By David Spereall, local democracy reporter

“Patchy” technology and GPS blackspots are largely to blame for mistakes on digital bus timetables across Leeds, operators have said.

‘Ghost buses’, where a service appears to be on its way but then disappears from real-time timetables and then never arrives, are a huge bugbear for passengers.

Now, operators Arriva and First have explained why the phenomenon happens, with faulty 4G technology blamed for misleading information.

Both called for investment to be made in the network to improve the issue, which was discussed at a Leeds Council scrutiny board on Thursday morning.

Kayleigh Ingham, commercial director for First Bus in West Yorkshire, said mistakes were occasionally due to “manual” issues, which she said the firm had worked hard to improve in recent months.

But she added: “The issue that’s less within our control is connectivity challenges.

“At the moment the technology is patchy and we’ll require extensive 5G upgrades across our network to ensure an ongoing connection between our buses and the depot.

“At the moment our buses are sending GPS data back to our depot about every 40 seconds.

“Sometimes we hit blackspots and that can result in this ghost bus phenomenon.”

Dwayne Wells, Arriva’s commercial manager, said that human delays in processing information could sometimes result in faults on the digital timetables.

But he added: “It is usually due to blackspots, or sometimes the buses terminating and the system predicting where they’re going to be.

“But there’s a growing focus to improve the accuracy because it’s clearly important to our customers.”

Mr Wells said the issue “tends to be in remote rural locations”.

He added: “For example, on the roads up to Wetherby where the signal is less (good) than it would be in an urbanised area such as Leeds.”


  1. I was waiting for a 42 on the Headrow yesterday, it counted down to ‘Due’ and then disappeared from the display. However, the bus turned up a minute later. So a bus disappears from the display but appears on the road.

  2. I see the opposite, buses being tracked from the city centre then just disappear within the Outer Ring Road and never appear, quite frankly as someone who has been in IT for 40 years their answer is a load of bull. We have to ask if, when there are no strikes, they are running a minimum acceptable level of service.

  3. Rather than line shareholder pockets, they could invest some of their £226.8m profits into a real time GPS system. Common service for taxis, delivery services etc.

    Also, the ‘manual’ issue was the main reason I’ve been given as to why ghost buses exist. Drivers simply not turning of their GPS system at the end of their shift when returning to depots.

  4. Bramley is hardly remote! Not sure what the 49 has been doing in recent days but it seems to be manage to be 10 mins late 2 stops on from Bramley station. Nationalise the lot of em.


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