|This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2007)|
An FTR bus in York on Route 4
|Slogan||"The future of travel"|
|Service type||Bus rapid transit|
FTR is a British rapid-transit bus system, currently in operation in Leeds, Luton and Swansea. First Group has introduced the system, using Wright StreetCar articulated buses in conjunction with infrastructure upgrades by local authorities. The vehicles have been branded as "the future of travel", the operators claiming that ftr is Abjadic textspeak for the word future.
The FTR concept is made up of a bundle of simultaneously introduced innovations relating to the vehicle type, its configuration, the fare collection arrangements, consequent changes to infrastructure, and an integrated data-handling system for voice radio, vehicle location, real-time passenger information, on-board displays, vehicle diagnostics, and ticket machine data.
Each 'StreetCar' vehicle – costing over £300,000 – has a separate driver (or "pilot") compartment, resembling to some extent similar designs in continental Europe. Otherwise the vehicle itself is a modified conventional bus, with styling similar to contemporary trams and trolleybuses and a greater distance between axles to maximise the low-floor area for easily accessible seating. The vehicles are air-conditioned and have tinted windows to enhance the on-board ambience along with ergonomic seating. On-board information is provided using an "infotainment" screen which displays the next FTR stop (in a similar fashion to Transport for London's i-Bus system) and information related to that stop including local attractions/facilities and connecting bus/train routes. The screen also displays advertisements for local businesses.
A major difference between FTR and conventional bus services is the method of fare collection. In York, this initially involved purchase of cash fares from a self-service ticket machine or from the bus conductor, known as a "Customer Service Host", because the design of FTR allows no contact between driver and passengers. This was intended to reduce journey times but problems with ticketing machines resulted in their withdrawal. On the FTR Route 4 in Leeds, all passengers bought tickets from, or showed bus passes and permits to, the "Customer Service Host".
Current operations and future trials
Following the cancellation of the Leeds Supertram project, the local passenger transport executive Metro suggested various bus rapid transit options as a replacement, one of which was an FTR service. The FTR system was chosen, and the service ran from early 2007 until autumn 2012, on Route 4 'Olive Line' (part of the Leeds Overground colour-coded network of high frequency First Bus Routes) between Pudsey and Seacroft via City Square. The FTR buses were then refurbished, Wi-Fi installed, and given a new livery branded 'Hyperlink', ready for a new high-frequency service on the No. 72, Leeds to Bradford. As the route has almost no turns it is far more suited to bendy buses.
Four FTR buses were working for First Capital Connect, providing a frequent link between the airport and Luton Airport Parkway railway station. Three of these have now been replaced by Mercedes Citaros, releasing the FTRs for use in Swansea. The use of bigger buses reflects growth in the number of people using the airport rail link, which has more than doubled since the Parkway station opened in 1999. It now carries almost 10 million people a year. The FTR (along with the Mercs) are branded as train2plane and run every 10 minutes, 19 hours a day (05:00 – 00:00), and connect with all trains from London during the night.
FTR first operated in York with the conversion of First York's Route 4 between Acomb and the University of York. The service began on 8 May 2006, after the city council had made significant and expensive alterations to the road layout to accommodate the new vehicles. The York FTR service was withdrawn in March 2012.
Swansea gained a similar operation from 1 June 2009 with FTRs running on Route 4 in a phased introduction over several months. The service, publicised as ftrmetro, links Morriston Hospital, Morriston, the City Centre and the University/Singleton Hospital, with five services per hour through the daytime. Extensive streetworks were carried out along the route, including segregated running through the city centre and an "express route" by-passing the busy residential streets of Hafod. The fleet of Wright StreetCar articulated vehicles were removed from Swansea on 28 August 2015; First Cymru cite refurbishment costs as a key factor. Although the articulated vehicles were removed from service, the same route is now served by standard single-deck Wright StreetLite buses and other similar vehicles.
The launch of the FTR in York generated almost saturation coverage in the local media. On 10 May 2006 The Press devoted four full pages to it, including its front page and a double-page spread of 12 readers' letters, almost all of them hostile. The next day the paper published a defence of the vehicles' teething problems by First York's commercial director, accompanied by another five hostile letters. Another full-page article appeared two days later, and this was followed by national press coverage. On 17 May 2006, councillor Ann Reid was quoted as saying "The majority [of complaints] seem to have come from those who don't live on the route or certainly don't even catch the bus". The student press criticised the FTRs. Student anger was particularly directed at the price of tickets on the FTR, which increased by 20% in 2008 for a single ticket from campus into town. The price problem was resolved when the students' union negotiated a £2 student price for a return ticket from the campus to town.
FirstGroup is presently the only large UK transport company promoting such vehicles, with major operators such as Stagecoach and Lothian Buses preferring to avoid the additional outlay involved in procuring the Streetcar-type bus and instead purchase a larger number of conventional single and double deckers for fleet renewal and upgrading.
Some transport planners believe that the complaints are an expression of general middle class hostility towards public transport. Some industry sources believe that FTR projects may be being used by the government as a cheap alternative to light rail.
- "FTR – the future of travel". Retrieved 3 June 2007.
- Lewis, Stephen (24 April 2006). "It's the ftr of city travel". York Press. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- "The ftr of city travel arrives". York Press. 8 May 2006. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- Aitchison, Gavin (13 March 2012). "Controversial ftr buses make their final journey in York". York Press. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- Thomas, R. (2006), 'The future of public transport' meets hostile response in York, Local Transport Today, no.444, 1 June 2006.
- Clark, A. (2006), "The rise of the purple people-eaters", The Guardian (London), 15 May 2006.
- The monopoly of the Ftr bus service is set to stay if we do not act. Nouse.co.uk (23 January 2008). Retrieved 26 March 2012.
- YUSU begin negotiations with FTR. Nouse.co.uk (23 January 2008). Retrieved 26 March 2012.
- SU clash with Ftr over ticket cuts. Nouse.co.uk (24 October 2007). Retrieved 26 March 2012.
- Ftr: it's (still) a bus. Nouse.co.uk (23 January 2007). Retrieved 26 March 2012.
- Ftr are cause of controversy once more. Nouse.co.uk (23 January 2007). Retrieved 26 March 2012.
- Anna Goodman, "FTR is 4U". The Yorker. 13 October 2008
- Emmerson, G. (2006), Is the 'FTR' really the future of public transport?, Local Transport Today, no.445, 15 June 2006.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ftr.|
- FirstGroup Website
- BBC coverage of the trial in York
- BBC coverage of the Swansea announcement
- A more detailed FAQ on the actual buses
- Article in student newspaper Nouse – 'FTR buses meet fierce criticism'
- Latest FTR and bus rapid transit news on Transport Briefing
- A proposed route in Coventry and Warwickshire branded as "Sprint"
- Article on Luton Train2PLane