Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Black Friday and Bus Fares

A Weird Name for a Sale?
Apparently this year's Black Friday was more restrained than last. The video compilation courtesy of YouTube is, of course, from the USA, where else? But there were similar scenes a year ago in the UK. When fbb was researching Wessex Bus and their incursion into First's Cribbs Causeway business, he spotted this on the Wessex web site.
Looking round on-line publicity, there is little evidence of seasonal sales at Stagecoach. Manchester looks interesting at first ...
... but it only refers to standard "Megarider" products. A campaign surely aimed at the youff?
There was no evidence of Christmas Sales as such but "season ticket" deals can be a bargain for seasoned season ticket travellers.


The Stagecoach Winchester offer below seems unrelated to the Season.
On the other side of the Great Divide, First Bus has been making much more of the Festive Reduction game. Here is Swansea.
The "Big Hearts of Swansea" is a City Centre Shops promotion not directly related to Spendmas.
Southampton's offer might be more to do with increasing competition with Blue Star.
The Cornwall offer is for the lead-up to Christmas ...
... and on until New Year's Eve. And fbb downbloaded this header banner and now can't remember where it came from.
But the most dramatic Black Friday ONY deal was on offering in the Potteries.
Amazing offers on yearly tickets on Black Friday - 27 November

Save an amazing 50% on yearly tickets on Black Friday - that's 12 months travel for the price of 6! Be quick though - these offers are available for one day only.

Potteries Area
Adult price just £225 - normally £449, that's less than £4.50 a week!
Young Person price just £170 - normally £339, that's less than £3.50 a week!

Network Area
Adult price just £310 - normally £620, that's less than £6 a week
Young Person price just £225 - normally £450, that's less than £4.50 a week

To take advantage of these great offers pop into our travel shop in Hanley bus station or Newcastle Guildhall & Kidsgrove customer service centres - but be quick, they're only available on Friday 27 November.

fbb wonders how many they sold; were many Potteries people scouring the First web site in eager antricipation of a cheap annual season. Perhaps the crowds were tearing one another's hair out to get there before the Hanley office closed.
fbb guesses there were not many! But, to be fair, Potteries also has a more wider ranging Christmas Offer.
It was many years ago that fbb (then less f) was in heated discussion with his chums at Sheffield Transport Department. "Why," asked you chubby blogger, "don't you sell bus services like the supermarkets sell baked beans?" The concept, back in the mid to late 60s was almost unknown in the bus industry and was greeted with blank expressions.

With privatisation, deregulation and competition, bus companies have learned the need to "do" marketing. Even so, we see much less in the way of day-to-day special offers that can be spotted in the widows and advertisements from Tesco.

Tesco's "Club Card" is a superb data collection device and enables the compady to tailor offers to individual customers. Mrs fbb regularly gets great discounts on offer for goods she bought once and will probably never buy again.

The "Ice" website reminds us (as of Sunday 20th November 2015) that Stagecoach offers points to collect ...
... which is all very nice and dandy. But ...
... it doesn't! They closed their association with the scheme back in July.

In the end it all boils down to cost versus benefit; and that's not benefit to the passenger as such. We all know that reducing bus fares by 50% will attract some extra business, but passenger numbers need to double to maintain "the bottom line" and more that double to increase profits.

As even the great Tesco are finding these days, it's tough out there on the mean streets of consumerism.

A few January sales offer in Sheffield might rebuild a bit of customer loyalty.

Ecclesiastically, Christmas starts on 24th December and finishes on Twelfth Night, 6th January. For the religious nit-pickers amongst us, we are in the season of Advent.
This derives from Latin words meaning "to" and  "come" and the season implies a period of expectancy and preparation for the Christ Child's coming to the world. Hence we prepare by opening a door in an Advent Calendar - with most of today's versions having little to do with the Christian season.
Here is an Advent Hymn (or carol).
So, what's all that about? Lots of old-fashioned language. Is it relevant in the 21st century? Possible answers (some of them at least) from tomorrow.
     Next bus blog : Wednesday 2nd December  

Monday, 30 November 2015

East Bank Bus Bosses Encounter

The Second Battle of El Alamein (23 October to 11 November 1942) took place near the Egyptian railway halt of El Alamein.
With the Allies victorious, it marked a major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery had taken command of the British Eighth Army from General Claude Auchinleck. This victory turned the tide in the North African Campaign and revived the morale of the Allies, being the first major offensive against the Axis since the start of the European war in 1939 in which the Western Allies had achieved a decisive victory.
It brought a particularly Churchillian sound bite:- "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Winnie's wise words might well be a basis for the outcome of fbb's meeting with the Sheffield Bus Partnership publicity team last week. fbb's relationship with such groups means that details must be confidential until any public announcement is made. 

The meeting took place at Olive Grove depot, formerly East Bank Bus Garage ...
... one of three new-builds to accommodate tram-replacement buses. The other two were on Herries Road at Wadsley Bridge ...
... and Greenland Road at Darnall.
These joined Townhead ...
... and Leadmill both on the fringes of the city centre ...
... and both adapted from tram sheds. Of these five, Herries is a warehouse, Leadmill remains in light industrial use in part, Townhead and Greenland have been demolished and First Bus retains only East Bank. Many Sheffield services are worked from the extensive Midland Road depot in Rotherham.

But back to the meeting.

There had been agreement all-round, fbb understands, between operators, consultants and politicians that the Partnership's November revolution was necessary commercially to create a network in the city that makes enough money to justify investment in new vehicles with the now essential wifi stuff, posh seats and other luxuries like engines. There is grudging acceptance that the implementation of the scheme left a lot to be desired, particularly as far as publicity (or lack of it) was concerned. Suggesting that bus service cuts were an "improvement" was undoubtedly an own goal.

The local press, doing its job in printing the worst news rather than the best, is still ready to print derogatory letters, this one from a week ago.

What did you expect? Who seriously believed the Sheffield Bus Partnership, (SBP), when they said they’d been “working together to improve your bus travel”. And just who are the SBP? My heart sank when I read that the discredited First bus company, was one of the participating organisations, and it all became crystal clear. Especially when other partners were revealed to be Sheffield City Council, (surely the Wiggy Bobs of town hall politics), and the insipid SYPTE.

But, prejudices aside, at least they were supposedly working together.

For whom? Not for me or other people at Wisewood or Loxley, that’s for sure. And definitely not for the 5,000 incensed passengers who signed the petition to reverse the vindictive changes.

The SYPTE wants people to complain to the SBP. Don’t! There was never an initial consultation document in the first place. Rather it was an imposition borne of misleading information.
But fbb's observations during last week's visit suggest that the vast majority of Sheffielders have coped well with the changes (although many of them have no choice - car ownership is not as high as in some cities).

And there is a real deep-seated desire to "get it sorted". Horrific road works as part of the "Streets Ahead" project (Streets Chaos project?) have been making things very difficult on some routes. Likewise the annual Yorkshire Water "Digging Up West Street" Christmas show is in full swing.

These are due to end on December 13th, so things can only improve thereafter, we are told.
Emergency registrations are now with the Traffic Commissioners for implementation from 3rd January. These are designed to do some "firefighting". fbb wonders how they will be publicised.

But then what? fbb's lips are sealed, mainly because no major decisions will be taken until the road works are clear. But there are hopeful rumblings of improved publicity (don't hold your breath; although it couldn't get much worse!)

When fbb ran a catering team for childrens' summer camps, a "wise word" in the staff manual said, "treat the local butcher with polite suspicion." We are at the stage of treating the publicity team with "polite suspicion".

Maybe, just maybe, the Partnership will begin to accept the dictionary definition of the word?

A relationship between individuals or groups that is characterized by mutual cooperation and responsibility, as for the achievement of a specified goal. (Running buses efficiently?)

A business entity in which two or more co-owners contribute resources, share in profits and losses, and are individually liable for the entity's actions. (and for sorting out the mess?)

If the "Partnership" can be tweaked into working properly, or maybe beaten with a huge stick until it does, then things really can only get better.

We can but dream.
Or will it be a nightmare.
Our Northampton correspondent writes:-

I am told, by what the press would call "an informed source", that the new Stagecoach website "might" go live this week to be followed by an "app".

All this and Christmas too!
 Next bus blog : Tuesday 1st December 

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Bellicosity in Bristol (2)

What Would Mr Cribb Think Today?
No-one rally knows who Cribb was, and why he had a causeway named after him. The causeway isn't over anything, like a river or a marsh, it's just an ancient road, possibly Roman. The whole area has changed out of all recognition.
There's an M5 with its A4018 access road, there's Filton airfield (now closed) and lots of housing development with much more to come. And then there is the new Cribbs Causeway. Technically the big shopping centre is called "The Mall" and is situated in a sea of retail parks, hypermarkets and entertainment "facilities". The Hamlet of Charlton has gone for ever.

A few reminders of the past history of the area can be found. The Hollywood Tower still stands (top left) ...
... and Pen Park Hole remains although well hidden.
But of course, far more interesting than any of this is the joy and delight to be experienced from a visit to The Mall shopping centre.
Sadly it is too far to go from Seaton for the old folks. 
One more acceptable excitement is the Cribbs Causeway bus station; with the atmosphere of a Shakespearean blasted heath.
It is here where Wessex Buses have chosen to retaliate against the perceived success of First Bus in its services to the University of the West of England (UWE in acronym and Yew-ee in speech) and Bath University.

Recent timetable changes and route number simplification (whereby small numbers apparently attract huge numbers of extra passengers who cannot count to more than 9) have come to benefit (?) the travelling public. The reasonably direct 1 and 2 ...
... now have colour branded buses with tastefully not-quite-matching orange slash.
The timetable leaflet shows a bus every five minutes on a Saturday ...
... but with a halved headway on Monday to Friday.
Shouldn't that read "then every ten minutes on each service"?

Two indirect routes have recently been renumbered 3 and 4 ...
... to "make it easier for passengers" travelling between city centre and Clifton. Lets hope not too many of them take the 3 to their retail therapy and enjoy a time consuming tour of the delights of Avonmouth!
Sadly the rich architectural heritage of the Grain Silo has now been demolished. Surely it should have been a Grade 1 listed building?

At last we get to the point, because whilst fbb was following the horrors of Sheffield, Wessex Bus have started a competitive route from Bristol centre to Cribbs Causeway.
Offering "lower fares" and buses "every 7-10 minutes" ...
... actually every ten with a few extras to Westbury appearing now and then. A correspondent was out bus watching a few days ago and reported that First appeared to be carrying the majority of  customers.
"The One" is, arguably, Weseex's first foray into commercial bus operation in Bristol city, away from tendered work or services associated with the universities and  (service 3 and variants) with Azrec West business area. "The One" will join tendered 622 and 625 (Sundays only) at Cribbs Causeway.
It is probably reasonably easy to make money in the run-up to Spendmas; it will be interesting to see how things progress as the cold winds of January and February whistle across the bleakness of Cribbs Causeway bus station.

Will First enter a fares war, or just wait and see?
fbb dispatched a correspondent to have a look and report back.
His highly subjective and statistically inaccurate comments are as follows:-

The presentation of "The One" is generally very good.
The reliability is less than ideal
      (roadworks, also affecting First, and staff shortages)
Occasional signs of "improper" behaviour to get in front of First
Wessex doing better on Sundays 
       with a 15 min frequency matching First's
 Next bus blog : Monday 30th November