Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Livery Delivery : Revisions Decisions [2]

Livery used to be simple. It never changed. A municipal bus operation had a colour plus a stripe or two, plus a coat of arms, plus the name. That was it. Southampton trams were red ...
... and the buses were a darker, more distinguished red. No name was necessary, these were the town's buses; an expression of civic pride.
Then came a trend for brighter lighter adornment which begat less red and more cream.
Privatisation brought competition, a new name, more red and routemasters. [also, in this case, a branded bus on the "wrong" route!]
All the former municipal fleet was painted a brighter red, slightly exaggerated in this shot.
But this was wiped unceremoniously away when First Bus bought the privatised city company. Boring barbie replaced tradition and the change was regretted.
There were some half-hearted attempts at route branding ...
... and some notable failures; and the First "refreshed" syle.
Then in 2013 came a minor revolution. Service 3 was rebranded as "the three" ...
... and allocated buses in an all-over red livery. They were refurbished hand-me-downs from Portsmouth, but, shhh, don't tell anyone,
Back to the future! Observers must assume that the branding was a success commercially as a recent timetable change enhanced the frequency.
But something even more dramatic is happening.
New buses for service 1 are being delivered ...
Complete with the inevitable WiFi ...
... SN14 FFH is the first of a fleet of Wright Streetlites branded "City Red"; with a further local tag at the rear.
With just a hint of First corporate identity in shadowy diagonals, the "official" font for "we" and "Southampton" and a barely visible First name plus logo, you could be forgiven for thinking that the City was back as owners. But no doubt that's the whole idea.

Thee questions. Will "The Three" disappear in favour of the city-wide brand? ...
... does Wilts and Dorset mind? And, when everything in Southampton is labelled "City Red" will the marketing gurus need a few green, orange, heliotrope, mustard, eau-de-nil or taupe buses to enhance awareness and increase revenue on selected routes? City NOT Reds? Well, you couldn't have a City where the buses were ALL all-over red, could you?
That would be really, really boring.

 Next bus blog : Wednesday 30th July 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Livery Delivery : Revisions Decisions [1]

William Blake (28 November 1757 to 12 August 1827) was an English painter, poet and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His prophetic poetry has been said to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language". What is often overlooked is his forward-looking interest in public transport. His poetically expressed antagonism against the proposal by businessman Sir Raymond Stenning for a horse drawn "omnibus" branded "Leppard" (Leopard) actually formed the basis of a later and more well known work.

Leppard, Leppard, gold with spot, 
What astounding pow'r thou've got; 
What immortal hand or eye,
Could paint an omnibus, or try? 

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare man aspire? 
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what motive, skill of penning, 
Should inspire Sir Raymonde Stennyng? 
And when hise heart began to beat, 
What weird hand? Is't trick or treat?

Leppard, Leppard, gold with spot, 
New omnibus thou just art not; 
One gross they saye is what thou bee 
Some man hath lower'd it unto three?

Prophetic indeed!
At the public launch, two brand new buses in their sleek 'leopard' livery were paraded in the Market Square next to the Town Hall and attracted much attention. 
Amanda Rose, Marketing Manager of Reading Buses' 'Charity of The Year' Launchpad was present at today's launch and said: "It's great to be able to raise the awareness of the Launchpad brand in the Wokingham area through the on-board information screens on the 'leopard' buses."
James Freeman, Chief Executive Officer of Reading Buses said today: "I've been looking forward to this date for a long time... a very long time. This is effectively a new route for Reading Buses."

Ray Stenning from Best Impressions, the design company who worked with Reading Buses to create the new 'leopard' look said: "We opted for animal prints, and a leopard print was our obvious choice. Animal print branding is quite 'in vogue' at the moment as there are other business elsewhere in the country who are also opting for something a little bit on the wild side."
You can say that again! Ray Stenning, more terrifying than a leopard?

Of course Stenningisation is not just about the vehicles. It's about the whole brand. Maps ...
... fares presentation ...
... the whole image.
But: belay that order, Jim; hold that hype.  "This is effectively a new route for Reading Buses"  Not quite, Cap'n James. Back in 1999 your Reading Buses predecessors ran a bus service to Wokingham, numbered 144. Here it is in the Great Britain Bus Timetable.
It was later operated by Tillingbourne, and it its most recent manifestation was as a Thames Travel service.
Their timetable looked like this ...
Whilst the Leopard route 3 has a sort of familiar face about it.
What has happened is that the most recent 144 was a tendered service. Reading Buses offered to "have a go" at running it commercially and, being Reading, the "have a go" involved making a really powerful marketing splash. Let's hope it works and the former marginal 144 becomes a commercial success as Leopard 3.

The species' success on the road is in part due to its opportunistic hunting behavior, its adaptability to habitats, its ability to run at speeds approaching 58 kilometres per hour (36 mph), its unequaled ability to climb hills even when carrying a heavy load, and its notorious ability for stealth. The leopard consumes virtually any passenger that it can hunt down and catch. Its habitat ranges from Reading to Wokingham.

[Description of "Leopard" as (not quite) written on Wikipedia! Look it up for yourself.]
Potteries Promotional
Paper-based Publicity
When examining the new network for the Potteries, fbb mentioned that he had requested a full set of timetables which had not appeared. They finally arrived on Saturday.

As might be expected there is a leaflet for each of the fruity routes (separate editions for the Cherry 3 and Cherry 4), each with a route map and summary of fares products, but with no detail of individual one-off fares.
The bland three (top left) are for the three unbranded inter-urban services to Leek (18), Uttoxeter (32) and Stafford (101).

The network guide is disappointing. The map is too small and the frequency guide, as well as having little or no practical value, is also unhelpful to all but the possessors of superb visual acuity.

How much nicer it would have been to have the whole lot in a timetable booklet. There is one slight sign of sense of the common variety. There is a phone number ...

 01782 592 500  

... for Potteries Buses; good. Daftly, the web site says that it will only be used until 4th August. It never ceases to amaze fbb that bus companies are happy to hand over one of their most important marketing channels, namely the phone, to remote and ill-informed call centres. Imagine this notice at Tesco.

  Want to know what we sell? 
  Ring 0890 xxxxxx 

 Next bus blog : Tuesday 29th July 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

A Cunning Plan : Failure and Success

No 1 son (he of the expertise on the invisible saxophone) ...
... was travelling from Holborn to Axminster after work on Friday to join the rest of the family staying at fbb mansions for the weekend.
Because he has an annual season ticket (he is a commuter, but it's not catching!) the cunning plan was for him to travel from Paddington to Reading on his "season", catch the little shuttle train to Basingstoke ...
... thence Southwest trains to Axminster arriving 2103. The single from Reading would cost approx. £40, a saving of £20 on a single from Waterloo.

Good plan eh?

But London was host to a bit of weather.
So when the lad arrived at Paddington things were a tad on the disappointing side.

Lightning strikes have caused "major disruption" to rail services in England and south Wales. Services between London Paddington and Reading, Swindon, Bristol and south Wales were affected by a strike at Twyford, Berkshire, at about 16:00. First Great Western said some of its services would be cancelled or delayed at short notice, with delays of up to two hours between Slough and Reading.

On arrival at Brunel's beautiful terminal, young sir found, contrary to the BBC news item quoted above, that nothing was running except Heathrow Express. So he rang pater who proffered this advice ...

"Go to Waterloo and hang the expense. Indeed you might blag your way on a train anyway if you tell them you were originally travelling from Paddington."

"It's chaos at Waterloo as well," came the plaintive reply.

And it was!
fbb had a quick look on-line. First Great Western's web site was, for some strange reason, under pressure. After 5 minutes, fbb has managed to persuade it to accept "London Pad ..." as input; followed by a substantial screenful of nothing.

Friday night, large crowds formed at Waterloo station as people faced delays of up to two hours following a signal failure. All South West Train services from the station to Dorking and Hampton Court were cancelled, whilst services to Exeter and Salisbury were only running from Basingstoke. A lightning strike in Surbiton, south west London, led to the cancellation of trains travelling beyond the town.
But there was a glimmer of hope. SouthWest Trains seemed to think that the actual problem had been resolved but (you've heard it all before) trains and staff were all in the wrong place and substantial delays were inevitable.

fbb sent a txt to No 1 and repeated his advice; which was accepted. "Just hop on the Bakerloo Line"

Well, erm, no!

PADDINGTON UNDERGROUND STATION (BAKERLOO LINE): From Sunday 29 June until Thursday 21 August, Paddington station will be exit only for the Bakerloo line while escalator work takes place. Customers entering the station or changing from other lines at Paddington will not be able to gain access to the Bakerloo line platforms. For the Bakerloo line at these times, please walk or take a bus along Praed Street to Edgware Road (Bakerloo line) station or use Circle or Hammersmith & City line services from Paddington and change at Baker Street.

As they say, it never rains but it pours! Via Baker Street it was.
And at Waterloo something like this greeted his resigned and jaded eyesight.
After a brief pause a schedule delight appeared on the screens. 1805 to Weymouth calling at Basingstoke. We already know that Exeter trains were turning at Basingstoke, a regular response to wobbliness at Waterloo. IF (a big "if") this train ran to time (ha, jolly ha) it would connect with the 1907 from Basingstoke and young sir would actually be back on schedule.


IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on, who?
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied to, so don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can talk with dad and keep your virtue,
And trust the trains - some trust; perhaps not much!
If connections and other woes don't hurt you,
A likely train to Basinstoke or some such
May strive to beat an unforgiving minute.
With slick times, an unfettered train may run;
 Then yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And at Axminster you'll arrive on time, my son!

The 1805 to Weymouth left at 1818!  But with a 40 minute running time (approx) there was still a chance. With a further delay, the train arrived in Basingstoke at 1917 (approx).

Tears before bedtime.

But no. The lad arrived at Platform 2 ...
... to be greeted by an announcement that the next train from that very platform would be the delayed 1907 to Exeter.

Oh frabjous joy, callooh callay!

fbb drove in leisurely fashion to Axminster, where at about 2118 (a survivable fifteen minutes late) the train arrived.

And the conductor only charged son and heir for a single from Basingstoke at a modest £22.50

There has to be a big question, however. How can it be that with vastly clever signalling technology, updated at a cost of zillions of pounds, a simple thunderstorm paralyses vast tracts of a busy commuter railway? Surely there should be some surge protection plugs somewhere in the electronic wizardry?
They only cost £8.25.

You do wonder, sometimes, whether we have really progressed.
Please visit http://gruffish.blogspot.co.uk/.

 Next bus blog : Monday 28th July 

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Another Sad Farewell : Weeping in Wiltshire

It all began innocently enough, apparently. This headline in a local paper did not arouse too much concern; simply a bus company that was facing up to the inevitable challenges of the frailty of the business world.

Hatts Travel bus firm
to axe three Wiltshire services
The head of a bus company with operations in Wiltshire has said it will axe some commercial services.
Adrian Hillier, managing partner of Hatts Travel, said not enough passengers were using the services to make them viable. He said the 23 service, which sees three vehicles operating in Warminster, Trowbridge and the surrounding area, would be scrapped. Two of the company's services in Devizes town centre will also be axed.

Hatts Travel currently runs about 30 bus services in the county. Mr Hillier said the company operated two commercial routes in Devizes town centre. He said the council would tender for a replacement to the two services.

"The services will stop operating on 10 September," he said, "These are services which aren't subsidised by council. Like most of the big operators, we are having to cut those in the current climate because notoriously they have been semi-subsidised by more successful routes. There are not sufficient p assengers, that's the problem."

But that was three years ago.

Hatts operated a wide range of bus services, mainly in Wiltshire, possible the most "high profile" being the Salisbury Park and Ride.
A number of services tendered by Wiltshire County have been operated in recent times, including Salisbury locals 12 ...
... and 14.
Then at 0545 yesterday, Wilts and Dorset put out this press release.
Here at Salisbury Reds we are pleased to announce that with effect from today Friday 25 July will be operating the following services on behalf of Wiltshire Council, due to Hatts Travel ceasing to trade. The timetables and routes are the same however, for piece of mind they are all available here for you to download.

Routes 7, 8a Devizes Road/Quidhampton - Salisbury City
Route 12 Stratford Bridge – Devonshire Road – Salisbury
Route 14 Milton Road – Harnham Hill – Salisbury
Route 44 Salisbury – Ostock – Downton – Redlynch & Woodfalls
Routes 66/67 Salisbury – Targett’s Corner – Tidworth
Routes 29 Shaftesbury – Salisbury (operated by Damory)

If you have a Hatts season ticket or period pass these tickets will be valid until they expire. Fares have not changed on these routes. Our key products are also valid on these services.

Salisbury Reds (Wilts and Dorset) have published these timetables in their own style; quick work indeed.

Throughout yesterday morning all Hatt's on-line stuff was still in place and responding to mouse clicks as if nothing had happened. There was the usual mixture on Facebook ...
... and tweets appeared to be twittering happily.
Hatts main business had been luxury coach hire and tours ...
But it was later in the morning that the grim truth was revealed by the BBC.
A coach company in Wiltshire has gone into administration with the loss of 89 jobs and a knock-on effect on hundreds of customer bookings. Staff have been made redundant at Hatts Coaches across its offices and depots in Chippenham, Devizes and Salisbury.  The group, which also includes Bodmans Coaches and HQT Ltd, employs about 108 staff.

As many as 1,000 customers have already made bookings with the specialist coach and holiday tour operator.

An FRP spokesperson said: "The joint administrators are not aware of HQT (the group's holiday coach tours division) being a member of Abta or equivalent travel agent association, nor of the existence of any travel security bond." If this were the case, it would suggest that holidaymakers who have paid for holidays in advance might not get money refunded.

The company dates to 1928 and has been under the same family ownership for four generations.
By lunchtime the company's web site had vanished being replaced with this notice from the administrators.

 Andrew Martin Sheridan and Gareth Rutt Morris 
     were appointed Joint Administrators       
      of the following on 25 July 2014:-       

Hatts Quality Travel Limited
Adrian Hillier & Partners,
Adrian Charles Hillier & Partners,
Hatts Travel;
Hatts Coaches,

Hatts Hire,
Hatts Garage Services,
Hatts of Salisbury.
C Bodman & Sons,
Bodman(s) Coaches
Wiltshire Buses
The Bodman(s) Partnership

All the above business have ceased to trade with immediate effect except for Hatts of Salisbury which operates the Park and Ride operation for Wiltshire County Council that continues to be operated by the Administrators.
On the Salisbury Park and Ride site:-

Hatts coaches has ceased trading you can find out more information on how this will affect your bus services on our Hatts Travel Group page.

In general, this confirmed the details gleaned from above; namely that replacement operators had been found and services would run normally from Friday morning. It also confirmed that the Salisbury Park and Ride would continue to be operated by the adminstrators. 
The hassle for bus services is tough, but more tragic is the effect on the Comany's staff and, painful in the extreme, the loss of holidays, booked trips and coach hires paid up front by cash which, it would appear, were not protected in any way by the Company.
Anyone like to buy a coach and bus company?

Perhaps we should pass the Hatt round?

fbb acknowledges help from Gordon Edwards (now retired?) of Travelwatch South West who regularly supplies fbb with assorted and useful information.
 Next bus blog : Sunday 27th July