Green councillors are urging Lancashire County Council must re-think their apparent decision to remove bus timetable information from many of the bus stops across the district - replacing them with an advertisement for a mobile phone service costing 25p for each enquiry.
There is no longer any information to say what services call at the stop posted on bus shelters, or where they are going, leaving people who are unfamiliar with local bus routes literally clueless.
Instead, the familiar timetables have been replaced with a poster telling bus
users to send a text to find out when the next few buses are coming,
check online, or call a helpline on an 0871 number.
Bizarrely, at some stops there is also a second poster advertising the County Council's membership of TravelWise, a national campaign which encourages people to cut down on their car journeys and use sustainable transport such as buses.
"I asked County Councillor Tim Ashton, Cabinet member for Highways and Transport, for an explanation on the 24th April and have yet to receive a response," says County Councillor Sam Riches.
"I can only assume that this change is permanent, making this the second backward step for bus users in recent months, following the decision last year to switch off the bus information boards at Lancaster Bus Station.
"If the County Council were serious about promoting sustainable transport they would be making it easier to use buses, not harder."
"The assumption seems to be that all bus passengers have mobile phones or can research their journeys on the internet, but this is not the case," adds Councillor Dave Brookes said. "Buses are a lifeline for a lot of older people, who are the least likely to be users of the latest technology.
"Bus timetables don't just tell you when the next bus is, they tell you where it goes to and when it's going to get there, neither of which is provided by the text message.
"Advertising the text service as 'only' 25p plus network charge is adding insult to injury - who wants to pay a premium on top of their bus fare for substandard information that used to be free?"
"I have already heard a complaint from a young woman who went to catch a bus late one evening and was shocked to find that she had no way of knowing when or even if one would come," Councillor Ceri Mumford revealed. "Removing the timetables isn't just incredibly unhelpful, it's potentially dangerous."
• Texts to the bustxt service cost 25p plus standard network charge and provide times for the next three or four buses from the stop. At stops served by multiple services this does not necessarily provide a time for the service wanted.
• Calls to the 0871 Traveline number cost 10p per minute plus standard network charge.
• Information on TravelWise can be found at www.lancashire.gov/travelwise