Bus stops and shelters

This fact sheet is aimed primarily at people who have concerns about the council’s (or, in London, Transport for London's) actions in respect of local bus stops and shelters and may be considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman.

I have a problem with decisions the council has made about our local bus stops and shelters. Can the Ombudsman help me?

In a few cases, yes. There are some matters we cannot look at by law. We cannot deal with a complaint that affects all or most people living within the council area or at decisions made by parish or town councils.

We would not, for example, consider a complaint that a particular council project was a ’waste of public money’.

You can complain to the Ombudsman if the circumstances particularly affect you, above and beyond what the general public might suffer and you would normally need to demonstrate that you live close by, or use the bus stop or shelter on a very regular basis.

How do I complain?

You should normally complain to the council first. Councils often have more than one stage in their complaints procedure and you will usually have to complete all stages before we will look at your complaint.

Then, if you are unhappy with the outcome, or the council is taking too long to look into the matter – we think 12 weeks is reasonable – you can complain to us.

Usually, you should complain to us within 12 months of when you first knew about the problem. If you leave it any later, we may not be able to help.

For more information on how to complain, please read our step by step process to making a complaint

If you consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?

We consider whether the council has done something wrong in the way it went about deciding what actions to take about the bus stops and shelters in its control and whether those decisions caused you problems. Some of the issues we can look at are if the council:

  • did not take into account, or failed to give proper reasons for, not following the relevant law, policy or guidance
  • failed to take into account the effect on road safety, in its duty as highway authority, of the siting of the bus stop or shelter,
  • failed to provide relevant information, either about the location of bus stops, or at a bus stop, and
  • failed to take into account the effects of its decisions on the residents living nearby: this would include difficulties with access to the highway as a result of the siting of the bus stop.

What happens if the Ombudsman finds that the council was at fault?

It depends on the nature of the fault and what the consequences are for you.

If the effect on you is very harmful we could recommend that the council takes steps to reduce the effects or alter the change where possible.

Where we find fault with the council’s procedures we will often recommend that the council introduces changes so that the same problem does not occur again in the future.

Examples of some complaints we have considered

Mr B complained that the transport authority had failed to consult on a bus stand outside his home and about nuisance from drivers and vibration from engines. The transport authority explained that the stand was an overflow stand for a route on the major road nearby which had been expanded to cater for increased demand. It therefore had no duty to consult. Following Mr B’s complaints, The transport  authority conducted a review of stops and stands and agreed to create additional space for standing buses on the main road and to lengthen the stand. The stand outside Mr B’s home would remain only as an overflow stand when the main stand was fully occupied.
Mr and Mrs C complained that the council allowed a bus shelter to be sited outside their house with seats facing their living room window. They felt that this was an invasion of their privacy, which was contrary to the provision of the Human Rights Act, because people could look in from the shelter and from the upper deck of passing buses. They lived in a Grade 2 listed building on the high street, a conservation area, and felt that the council did not consider the effect of the shelter on its surroundings. We investigated and found that the council had considered and rejected other options for the shelter. We found no fault with the way the council decided that the loss of privacy as a result of the bus shelter was no worse than that of passers-by looking into the windows of the complainant's house. We also found that the council had taken into account the appearance of the shelter and its position in a conservation area and so had stipulated that it should not carry advertisements. This, in turn, meant that it did not need planning permission from the planning department.We found no fault in this respect. We also noted that the council did not consult the complainants as there had already been a bus stop in place beforehand. Therefore, there was no obvious reason for the council to consult members of the public before changing the type of shelter.
Mrs D complained about the council’s decision to remove two bus stops (north and southbound) near her home. She had asked the council to install a hardstanding area to allow the bus to deploy its ramp for better access for her daughter. Instead her family now had to walk along a potentially dangerous major road.
The council said it completed a risk assessment and found the bus stops were not in safe positions. There was inadequate visibility for users and vehicles, and the northbound bus stop had no footpath. A safety auditor carried out a specialist assessment and supported the council’s decision to suspend use of the bus stops. The bus operator also said it would not use them because of drivers’ safety concerns. The council considered the alternatives, such as relocating the bus stops, and/or installing footways, hardstandings and footbridges. But, the low numbers of passengers using the route meant this would not be a good use of public money.
We found noted that the council had acted in accordance with policy and procedure. It had an obligation to suspend the use of the bus stops until the safety concerns could be resolved. It had properly considered whether it could justify the expense of carrying out major works, and decided it could not do so. As there was no fault in the way the council reached its decision, it was not open to the Ombudsman to criticise it. 

Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation. If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please contact us.

We provide a free, independent and impartial service. We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities. We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result we aim to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy.

November 2023 

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