Lateness tolerated ‘within reason’
According to a recent Passenger Focus study, bus passengers are tolerant of some lateness, ‘within reason’, but feel their complaints will be ignored when there is a problem. The research, entitled ‘Bus Punctuality and Timetables’, suggests passengers are generally prepared to turn up early or catch an earlier service when their journey is time critical. However, the independent passenger transport watchdog found many feel there is no point complaining directly to bus operators because they believe they will not get a response.
The research found that most passengers are quite forgiving about buses turning up late, feeling there is little bus drivers can do to avoid traffic. They see timetables as a ‘guide’, mentioning that giving them five minutes’ leeway is appropriate. The consensus in the research was that all buses are not expected to be on time and bus users are prepared to ‘forgive’ occasional lateness so long as they perceive operators are doing their best and not running buses that regularly turn up late or ever leave early.
Overall, passengers interviewed would prefer a timetable that is accurate and harder to remember than one that is easy to remember but less accurate. Passenger Focus claims this challenges some conventional thinking on timetabling and may warrant some further exploration. It was found in the research that bus users seem to distinguish between poor punctuality and delays. According to the study, passengers feel that punctuality data, independently audited, should be published and made available to regulatory bodies even if most passengers have little appetite in searching it out. Some suggested that there might be a public relations benefit to operators from publicising that ‘more than nine out of ten of our services are on time’ on the back of buses.
Acting Chief Executive of Passenger Focus, David Sidebottom, said, ‘Our bus passenger survey shows punctuality is one of the main reasons for people to be unhappy with their bus service. We wanted to explore this, and find out what people actually want from published timetables. We’ll now take the results of this and our other work on punctuality round to local authorities and bus operators as a way of bringing to life what makes a good service for passengers.’
Visit www.passengerfocus.org.uk/research/overview to read the full report.