Congestion worsening rapidly, says top First man

Senior First Regional MD says ‘drastic actions’ are a result of ever-worsening on-road conditions

Traffic congestion has noticeably worsened over the past two years, and it is causing bus operators to have to take some “drastic actions” to ensure that timetables remain robust under deteriorating operational conditions, claims a senior industry manager.

Congestion is noticeably worsening in all three Midlands areas, says First

First Midlands Regional Managing Director Nigel Eggleton says that all three areas that he is responsible for – Leicester, North Staffordshire and Worcester – have seen significant increases in congestion since the new academic year in September 2015 compared with 12 months earlier.

“In September 2015, congestion was noticeably worse that it was at the same time in 2014,” says Mr Eggleton. His comments follow the publication of a report by Greener Journeys which claims that congestion may “destroy the bus sector” if left unchecked (routeONE, News, 8 June).

“We watched matters very closely in the autumn and early parts of winter as past experience told us that the problem would rectify itself come January. This year, it didn’t. Instead, it continued, and we have had to take some fairly drastic actions to rectify the consequences,” adds Mr Eggleton.

“In the Potteries, we have some routes where a round trip can easily be accomplished in 70 minutes off-peak, but that now increases to 90 minutes during the peak.”

In many cases, that has seen peak frequencies become wider than off-peak headways, he adds, something that he believes will continue. “It is not always feasible to add extra resource to service at busier times, so it is easy to see a 10-minute off-peak frequency becoming every 15 minutes during the peaks.”

Increasing congestion means that partnership working able to deliver tangible benefits to journey times is more important than ever, he continues, but that requires investment from both the local authority (LA) and the operator.

“If an LA sees the benefits of a quicker journey time that we can also invest in, then we will do so. But regardless of the regulatory framework, someone needs to spend money somewhere. Tackling congestion is not going to happen without it.”