Friday, 24 October 2014

4 : Bolster the Business

Another Nail in the Coffin?
Back in year 2000, Table B130 in the Great Britain Bus Timetable showed a rarity. An independent bus company plying its trade embedded in Western National territory. The operator of route 304 from Truro to Porthtowan was then, and is still now, Hopleys Coaches.
Based in an anonymous depot down an unsigned lane just outside the village of Mount Hawke ...
... the company has been around for some time.
Their vehicles always look smart ...
... and whenever fbb has seen the service 304, it is always well loaded with a loyal local clientele.
The timetable has improved over the years ...
click on timetable to enlarge

Hopleys also run the 315.
click on timetable to enlarge

... between St Agnes and Redruth.
Although Hopley's web site remains "schtum" about it, Hopleys start a third service on Monday (27th October). On Mondays to Fridays (but NOT Saturdays) they will operate 5 (6 on non schooldays) journeys in direct competition with Western Greyhound between St Agnes and Truro.
The new 303 runs on a loop similar to First's withdrawn 85 ...
... out via Goonbell and back via Presingoll Barns (as was). Needless to say, Traveline does not attempt to show the loop correctly; implying that you can travel FROM Presingoll Barns (which it calls "Goonbell" which is absolutely isn't) but not TO.

In view of the troubles that currently beset Western Greyhound, with rumours of takeover as rife as they could be, fbb sees this as a testing of the water by Hopleys. The company is putting its foot in the St Agnes to Truro door, ready perhaps, for greater things should WG's decline continue.

Meanwhile, newcomer Cornwall Busways continues to nibble away at WG's supremacy in the St Austell area. Traveline gives timetable for a route to Bugle & Roche (30), and a route to Par (31). The Earlier route 29 from St Austell to Bodmin was cancelled. Apart from a Facebook page, fbb can find little other information.
Opinion on-line is divided as to whether this new operator has a long-term future; time will tell, as usual.

One website shows this bus ...
... (ex Ensign, ex Metroline) photographed back in June. Wasn't Cornwall Busways a Western National brand?
Whatever the background, these are tough times for WG boss Mark Howarth.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

Thus wrote Charles Dickens (Tale of Two Cities). He could have been writing about Western Greyhound!
 Next bus blog : Saturday 24th October  

Thursday, 23 October 2014

3 : Bolster the Business

An Agnesian Antipodean Aside
No 1 son is something of an international star in the world of On-Line Learning. His premise can be summarised as; "what's the point of teaching our kiddies students loadsa facts, when all they have to do is tap a few keys or prod a smart phone screen?" He goes on to suggest, "educators need to be teaching how to use the information available to develop their students' knowledge whilst being aware of the on-line limitations." He has a blog (here) but you'll probably find it baffling. fbb does!

As a supply teacher, fbb was always frustrated to have to take an IT lesson in which the sprogs were busy copy-and-pasting stuff from Wikipedia without the slightest understanding of what it all meant! What was more galling was that the teachers gave them good marks for their ignorance.

Asking a newcomer to look up "buses in St Agnes" (it's in Cornwall) might produce similar problems.
Like a picture of St Agnes bus depot! Well, they certainly don't look like UK buses.
The State Transport Authority (STA) was the government agency which controlled public transport within the State of South Australia between 1974 and 1994. The STA was dissolved (and the 1974 Act repealed) as a consequence of the Passenger Transport Act 1994. These reforms split the STA into the Passenger Transport Board, which coordinated and funded the public transport system, and TransAdelaide, which actually operated metropolitan buses, trains and trams. The formation of TransAdelaide was a prelude to competitive tendering and the introduction of private operators into the Adelaide public transport network.

We can now surmise that the St Agnes bus depot pictured above is not in Cornwall but in South Australia and a quick check on Wikipedia reveals it as a suburb of Adelaide (pronounced "Air-delight" in strine**). St Agnes is part of community called Tea Tree Gully named, so it seems, after a gully where grew tea trees.
And so to the Adelaide Metro web site and a journey planning enquiry for St Agnes to Adelaide.
A quick poke, prod and click reveals stop 50 on Google maps ...
... and the associated Streetview shows us a bus about to depart.
There is a map of the route and the journey will take 32 minutes.
Searching for a timetable for route 542X produced only departure lists - no timetable. More research needed.

1994 legislation paved the way for the privatisation of bus services in South Australia; in simple terms on the French system of letting contracts for large blocks of services. The main contractor for this particular block of Adelaide routes was Torrens ...
... and, before that, Serco. Torrens still runs another block of Adelaide routes.

 In October 2011 Light-City Buses (part of Transfield) ... 
... commenced operating the Adelaide Metro North-South and Outer North East region (the latter covering St Agnes) services under contact to the Government of South Australia. The two contract regions cover 43% of the bus services in Adelaide.

They took over some of the buses from Torrens ...
... but everything runs in the Adelaide Metro livery and name. Light City have had problems.
It seems that they are not always running services as required by the contract. Some routes have been taken from them ...
... and one Oz politician naively commented, "Transfield quoted the cheapest price and assured us they could deliver." Now where have we heard that before?

After our diligent on-line research we can now reveal that one of the three Transfield bus depots in Adelaide is at St Agnes, as illustrated above but the buses are now in the "Metro" livery as specified by the contract.
Eagle eyed readers may have spotted a logo that looks familiar.
Yes indeed. Its part of the same Australian transport group that runs buses in London, England.
9 April, 2013

Today, Transit Systems has announced the £21.3 million acquisition of three strategic London-based bus depots from FirstGroup plc. Operating as Tower Transit as part of the Transport for London network, the company will operate approximately 400 double and single deck buses from depots at Westbourne Park, Lea Interchange and Atlas Road, transitioning 1500 employees.
A Timely Warning?
Earlier this week, Nexus (The Tyne and Wear transport authority) announced its decision, against the wishes of the Bus Companies, to go ahead with a London, French, (Adelaide?) system which would bring the buses back under their direct control. Sir Brian ...
... who has previously threatened to close down his Newcastle operations completely if this plan were to come to fruition is reported as saying he "would rather drink acid ..." than be part of the Nexus plan.

Read the full story (here).
**strine ...
... is a word coined to describe the Australian "version" of spoken English.
The "language" was introduced to an unsuspecting world by author Afferbeck Lauder in this book:-
Back to developments in the "real" St Agnes tomorrow.

 Next bus blog : Friday 24th October 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

2 : Bolster the Business

Make up Your Mind, First Bus!

Until November 2013, First ran a service 85/85A between Truro and St Agnes.
The timetable (above) shows it as running alternately via Goonbell and Presingoll Barns. The original "Barns" complex ran into financial difficulties in 2010 and closed in 2011.

The site now trades as "Morgans", named after the family who, presumably, bought it.
In fact, services 85 and 85A ran alternate ways round at loop at St Agnes, either outwardly "direct" or via Goonbell. Noting the withdrawal Cornwall Council was happy to advise ...
... devastated passengers to use the existing Western Greyhound service 587 and new route 588.
Western Greyhound Service 588
hourly Monday to Saturday
Perranporth to Truro via
Bolingey, Chiverton Cross and Malabar
In a typical burst of incometence, First Bus merely repeated the Cornwall text on its own web site but gave no information about the 588, despite referring to it "below". There was nothing "below"!!

85 Truro/St Agnes/: this service is withdrawn. Alternative Western Greyhound services are available to/from St Agnes (see service 587 and 588 below).

As it turns out, this omission by First is probably sensible as the 588 veers off-piste at Chiverton Cross and does not serve Goonbell, St Agnes or Morgan's (ex Presingoll Barns).
The 588 no longer runs as such but has been linked with the Wadebridge to Truro route and now operates as WG's 594.
Perran Sands (dotted lines top right) may sound like a vast swathe of sandy beach, golden in the Summer sun, with azure breakers rolling in, ridden majestically by bronzed hunky surfers and watched by their bikini clad escorts BUT ...
... it's actually a vast caravan and chalet site!
If you are still with us and still taking the tablets (?), you will remember that, from 3rd November, (just a year after pulling out of St Agnes!) First Bus will start their own route 87, in competition with WG.
But it doesn't run via St Agnes; between Perranporth and Truro it is more like the 594.

But WG is not totally safe in St Agnes; beware another intruder as we shall see in due course. A new Bolster monster is ready to pounce on the nice green buses; but perhaps not quite as monstrously as First.
Still Waiting
fbb is still waiting for the promised pictures from last Monday's party celebrating one year of First's "Star" routes in Portsmouth. Meanwhile, Hampshire County Council is also a bit slow at keeping up-to-date. On their web site we have ...
... lots of information about "Zip" service 41 (or 8).
There is an interactive bus map, details of special fares offers etc. etc. all trendily branded.
About ZIP. With its own dedicated bus lane, the ZIP corridor has built-in bus priority – and that means reliable journey times for all your trips between Clanfield and Gunwharf Quays. Because buses go first on the ZIP corridor, taking the ZIP 8 route lets you beat the traffic queues, avoid the stress of driving and say ‘no’ to the cost of petrol and parking. You can plan your journey too, for greater freedom and flexibility, with reliable travel information on board, online and direct to your mobile.

And it must be up-to-date because of the copyright notice!
Zip had begun to disappear from the buses over a year ago, but the brand was formally replaced by "Star" from 20th October 2013. So only a year out, chaps - and counting.

And you thought that it was dead easy to keep the interwebnet up-to-date? Apparently not for Hampshire County Council!
Hot A Bit Tepid News
With less than two weeks until they start, First in Cornwall's web site has (at last) announced the new services outlined by fbb just over a week ago.

The routing of new service 91 follows the same routing as existing service 90 between Newquay Bus Station and the A392/A3058 Quintrell Downs Roundabout and between the A30/A39 Carland Cross roundabout and Truro Bus Station in both directions " service 91 is routed between the A392/A3058 Quintrell Downs Roundabout and the A30/A39 Carland Cross roundabout via A392 East Road, A392 road, White Cross, A392 road, unclassified road (St Columb Road level crossing), St Francis Road, Chapel Road, unclassified road, B3275 road, A30/B3275 junction and A30 road.

Thanks for putting it so clearly, First!

The on-line map is, of course, hopelessly out of date showing the service 88 which finished at the start of September. New services 90 and 91 don't go that way (as is explained so succinctly above). 
No rush chaps and chapesses; take your time!
 Next St Agnes blog : Thursday 23rd October