Bus Special: Making it easier for the passenger

ONE of the biggest obstacles to persuading more passengers out of their cars and onto public transport is the difficulty of getting reliable timetable information for journeys that involve more than one bus operator. I had exactly that problem when I cam

ONE of the biggest obstacles to persuading more passengers out of their cars and onto public transport is the difficulty of getting reliable timetable information for journeys that involve more than one bus operator.

"I had exactly that problem when I came for my interview for this job," said Glenn Edge, Cambridgeshire County Council's head of passenger transport. "But, now I know the answer, it's quite simple."

It is called Traveline, and can be accessed on the Internet or the telephone, though calls can be long and therefore a bit costly - www.travelineeastanglia.co.uk has a journey planner from which origin and destination information will generate a route and times. The phone number is 0871 200 22 33.

Once you know where you are going, new sources of information are coming on stream. Many bus stops on the Huntingdon-Cambridge route already have real-time information that tells passengers not only when the next bus is due but when it is actually likely to arrive, so they know whether they have time to buy a drink or a copy of The Hunts Post before the bus turns up.

That GPS-based system is also starting to be used to turn traffic lights green in favour of late-running buses. It is already installed at the new George Street junction for the contra-flow bus lane on Huntingdon ring road that came into use today, and will be installed at the junction of Hartford Road at the other side of the ring road, near the fire station.

About half of the Whippet fleet is already fitted with the GPS hardware, as is one-third of the H&D fleet, with another third shortly to be fitted. The county council is paying for the kit and installation, with the operators footing the bill for its maintenance.

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Not all the county's 3,000 bus stops are in line for the new kit, but the council hopes to equip many rural areas before April 2009.

But passengers do not need to be at the bus stop to find out when the next service will be along. Each stop has its own reference number. Passengers who dial it from a mobile phone get back a text message detailing the next buses. For those stops equipped with real-time information, that will be included.

SMS codes for each bus stop in the county will be posted on the county council's website in the next couple of months.

Useful numbers

Dews Coaches:

01487 740241

Cedar Coaches:

01234 354054

Huntingdon & District:

01480 453159

National Express:

0870 580 8080

Ramsey & District

Community Bus

Association:

01487 815543

Saffords Coaches:

01767 677395

Stagecoach in Cambridge: 01223 423578

Traveline:

0871 200 2233

Village Community Minibus:

01234 228337

Whippet Coaches:

01480 463792

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