Duffers’ Guide to Bus Operations #2: Bus Stops and Stands

The second part of a concise guide to bus operations from a passenger point of view, aimed at bus noobs more than anything

Oldham Mumps TfGM bus stop flag
A common and garden bus stop, one of Transport for Greater Manchester’s very own.

In the literal sense, what exactly constitutes a Bus Stop? For many, a bus stop denotes the actual stop on the route. The stop itself might have a timetable display, a litter bin or a shelter. Though that is correct, a Bus Stop in a literal sense refers to two parts: its pole and a flag. A bit like a road sign, but some bus stops are more equal than others. In the Transport for London boundary, there are variants of the LT style bus stop for Request Stops, Compulsory Stops and Coach Stops.

There is no uniform standard of bus flag display unlike a typical Road Works or Maximum Speed Limit sign. In some areas, there may be a standard bus flag for County Council boundaries or Integrated Transport Authorities. Sometimes, the main operator would occupy part of the flag. Or there may be a mishmash of different company stops, even along a similar route.

The Typical Bus Stop Flag

A bus stop flag would comprise of:

  • The Ministry of Transport/VOSA Standard picture of a bus (as seen on road signs);
  • The words ‘Bus Stop’ (quelle surprise, or ‘Safie Bws’ in addition to ‘Bus Stop’ in Wales);
  • Any of the following: logos of most dominant operator, County or District Council, Integrated Transport Authority;
  • Reference to the direction of routes;
  • Enquiry numbers and/or SMS real time information numbers;
  • Reference to bus routes numbers and/or branded routes (i.e TransPeak or National Express services);
  • (Sometimes) a ‘Queue This Side’ or ‘Queue Other Side’ description.

Where the most dominant company occupies part of the bus stop flag, it sends out a message to casual users that FirstGroup, Stagecoach, Arriva or Bob’s Coaches is that town’s or village’s most dominant operator. It disregards the variations of any given route by rivals, take for example odd journeys contracted out to A.N Other Passenger Transport, further to Big Shot Buses’ commercial route.

County or District Council, or Integrated Transport Authority flags in the operators’ body in my book is more user-friendly. Not least the perception of neutrality to prospective passengers.

In Greater Manchester (and even System One Buscard and CountyCard holders can do this!), it is possible to see three different types of bus stop flag over a short distance on the 199 and 358 routes. Between High Lane and Newtown on the former, we see TfGM’s and GMPTE’s flags, then Cheshire East’s, and Derbyshire County Council’s. In the last two areas, route numbers are eschewed in favour High Peak’s route brands (in this case, Skyline and TransPeak instead of 199 and TP). In Greater Manchester, they are referred to as 199 and TP in TfGM’s Pantograph Sans typeface. TfGM’s approach is a lot clearer, and doesn’t allow for the same obsolescence which corporate styles might have.

In some areas, route numbers don’t feature on bus stop flags. For example, Metro West Yorkshire opts for places instead of route numbers on most stops. Main stops tend to have real time information using LED boards. For example, the stands outside Huddersfield railway station have the destinations on the flag, plus route number and destination details in real time.

It is common practice for town centre stops, immediately before the bus station to read ‘alighting only’. Therefore, this means the journey to the bus station for terminating routes is often short enough to walk.

*                           *                           *

Bus Stands

Just to round this entry off properly, the subtle differences between Bus Stops and Bus Stands. As we know, the Bus Stop often comprises of two elements (the pole and flag). Sometimes, a timetable display may be attached to the pole.

What constitutes a Bus Stand is any stopping point with a clearway on part of the road (marked with ‘BUS STOP’ using yellow dashed lines), or a purpose built lay by, which would often have the BUS STOP lettering and appropriate markings. In Scotland, they are often referred to as Bus Stances, as in the position which our bus is seen by the stop itself. Markings are put in place to deter motorists from parking. Where appropriate, ‘BUS STOP’ may be replaced by ‘BUS STAND’, especially in major urban centres. Along with Bus Stops (with or without clearway), Bus Stands or Stances are generally referred to as Bus Stops among the public.

Sometimes a collection of Bus Stands could be referred to informally as a Bus Station, even if it isn’t (technically speaking) a Bus Station as such. One great example is the multiplicity of stands in and around Piccadilly Gardens. The area nearest Piccadilly Plaza was part of the Parker Street Bus Station, dating from the 1930s, though much expanded and improved upon in 1960, till the Metrolink and the prohibition of cross-city bus routes (1995) prompted a change of layout.

Then again, a couple of stands – or even a single stand – could constitute a Bus Station, depending on the area. This will be dealt in another part of East of the M60’s Duffers’ Guide to Bus Operations

S.V., 03 June 2013.


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