Tuesday, 30 June 2015

It Exists To Make a Profit

So we should NOT be surprised.
But we are.
It began with sales (to Stagecoach) of Wigan Depot, then Chester and the Wirral. First London went to GoAhead and the Ozzy Tower Transit. There was undefended capitulation in North Devon and between Plymouth and  Torquay, again to Stagecoach; and, of course, in fbb's birth town of Northampton.

The Buses of Somerset idea proved over-optimistic and pruning has happened recently in Taunton; the competition with Webberbus has not yet been "resolved", to coin a phrase.**
Recent announcements have presaged some "reallocation of resources" in York (of which more later) and there has been a steady stream of rumours about the future of the Plymouth business.

But industry watchers weren't expecting yesterday's announcement!

Early arrivals in the fbb blog in-box were all about "Catch the Bus Week" including a cut-price offer on York's Park and Ride, beleaguered by last Thursday's battery bus blaze.
Beaming Ben Gilligan, complete with obligatory green hands, offers £2 return instead of £2.40. 
Four chunks of happy-passenger bus news! Plus, of course, the equally obligatory PR photo, this year on Westminster Bridge. {Exciting photo awaited]. But yesterday's announcement from First Bus was something of a shocker.

First Bus has announced proposals to close three of its smaller depots; Newcastle-under-Lyme, Hereford and Bracknell later this year.

Under the proposals, which are subject to consultation, Bracknell will close on 28 August. Some routes will be retained but will operate from First’s depot in Slough, including Greenline Services to London ...

... and Legoland services. First Bus, as previously announced, has also sold Route 90, which operates between Reading and Bracknell.
... to Reading Buses.

The 90 will change on 25th July. fbb understands that all Bracknell local services will cease frrom the above August date.

First proposes to close Hereford and Newcastle-under-Lyme depots on 5 September.

In Hereford just 3,500 passengers per day travel with First and therefore the company plans to withdraw completely from the area.
In the Potteries First proposes to combine its Newcastle under Lyme and Stoke Adderley Green Depots, which are in close proximity. First said it remains committed to running a significant fleet in the Potteries in the long term and will remain a major employer, but operating two depots in such close proximity is no longer a viable option.

Presumably there will also be some service reductions?

In both Bracknell and Hereford, given the volume of other bus operators in the area ...
Courtney buses in Bracknell

DRM buses in Hereford

... First said it was confident that customers shouldn’t be left without a service.

fbb expects Courtney and DRM to pick up some or all of the local business in their areas. 

Giles Fearnley, Managing Director of First Bus, said: “In 2012 we launched our transformation plan which has seen great success in a huge number of our local businesses, as we reported at our full year results earlier in June. We continue to see passenger and revenue growth across the business and we have a wide range of actions to be implemented throughout this year to further benefit our customers and maintain growth. However, despite all the hard work, we have been unable to make the progress we were seeking in Bracknell, Hereford and in some parts of the Potteries.

“Whilst these proposals are disappointing, we simply must ensure our local businesses are on a sustainable and solid footing in order that we maintain the momentum of change toward meeting our medium term financial targets and therefore protect jobs in the long term. Regrettably, we see no alternative, but to close these depots.”

So there we have it. To maintain the profitability of the business as a whole, to keep major shareholders happy, it is necessary to prune this twigs of the First forest that are not bearing fruit.

But no more news of Plymouth?

fbb will take a look at the Bracknell and Hereford areas in later blogs.

And if we want to speculate, there is this press release from South Yorkshire PTE.

The Deal’s public transport commitments include delivering improvements to local bus services by developing an efficient, integrated bus network that meets the needs of a growing economy, and is financially sustainable for fare payers, the taxpayer and bus operators.

Plans for the city’s optimised bus network builds on the progress of the successful Sheffield Bus Partnership; a voluntary agreement between Sheffield City Council (SCC), South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) and bus operators First South Yorkshire, Stagecoach in Sheffield and Sheffield Community Transport. 

Developed by the Partnership, proposals include improved key routes into the city centre that aim to remove excess services to keep traffic flowing and aid faster bus journey times, minimising congestion and pollution. And the reinvestment of services to improve access to employment and training sites and other public transport modes.

Public consultation on the network will take place between Monday 29 June and Friday 31 July 2015 online at travelsouthyorkshire.com/sbp.

Don't bother to log on to the URL above : there is  NOTHING  about "The Deal" there! Well done PTE.

It is the phrase "remove excess services" which provokes another sobering thought.

** although more First buses are in the new green livery and Webber lost the Flyer Park and Ride contract to First.
Meanwhile in Cornwall ...
... this email also popped into fbb's inbox later yesterday.

EXCITING NEWS IN CORNWALL! Look what's coming soon ...

Click on the link, slavering with near uncontained delirium, and what do you find?
Just the above. It looks a bit like a First Impressions super-twiddly web site.

Exciting news indeed. (Yawn).

Will the timetables (e.g. 39 & 45; 1, 1A & 1B) still be incomprehensible?

Will the bus stop flags tell us which buses stop there?
 Next bus blog : Wednesday 1st July 

Monday, 29 June 2015

Delights of the Dart [3]

Topless in Torquay
 DAY TWO (a bit more) 
PLUS : a few bits and pieces.

The other Dart River open top bus, also a VR ...
... began its days with Crosville Cymru (later to be Arriva) in North Wales ...
... where it found even greater fame as an EFE model.
But it was when the fbbs were seated atop the other topless VR that this beastie appeared.
The Riviera Tours fleet has a second and a more conventional "heritage" vehicle ...
... which came from Southport ...
... via Cobham Bus Museum. But the "chara" is "something else". Actually TR 6147 is something else. Despite its chauffeur's claim that the bus is "the only one running in the country" (which is true) the ancient motor vehicle dates from 1973/4.

It is a Hampshire Bus Bristol LH (NLJ 516M) like his one (possibly?) ...
... rebuilt at the company works at Barton Park, Eastleigh.
It has appeared in a variety of guises with a variety of owners ...
... before arriving on the English Riviera. It (or its double deck companion) operates two circular tours each day.

Two daily return tours leave Torquay Harbourside at 10.45 am and 1.30 pm (weather permitting) : 1&frac12 to 2 hour tour around the bay, visiting Babbacombe, Meadfoot and Paignton. With stunning views and live commentary from our tour guides. Call into our English Riviera Visitor Information Centre on Torquay Harbourside to book tickets, or purchase on the bus.
There doesn't appear to be an option 2!

Anyway, oddities apart, the fbb's were on a "Round Robin" tour.
Our best seller, the famous and award winning Round Robin is the best way to explore South Devon! You will visit the quaint towns of Paignton, Dartmouth and Totnes travelling on a steam train (c.30 minutes), a river boat (c.90 minutes) and a bus (c.30 minutes). Sit back and enjoy the scenery and we will take care of the rest. This award-winning ticket is a favourite with both young and old. Commentary provided.

 The "circular" started at Torquay (by bus) at 1000 arriving Totnes Steamer Quay at 1040 ...
... and time for coffee and a bun whilst waiting for the boat which left at 12 noon.
There was also time to enjoy the company's bus stop, welded together to slip over a wooden bollard at the layby ...
... and to muse on the poster designer's portrayal of an open top Bristol VR on the publicity.
Whatever vehicle it might have been, the company also had a left hand drive version as well!
fbb wonders if either have been preserved. The cruise down the river Dart was superbly tranquil and picturesque.
Arrival was in Dartmouth with an opportunity for lunch ...
... taken at The Wheelshouse caff. For Mrs fbb is was ...
... whilst your chubby blogger was a little more profligate with ...
... all washed down with a coupla cuppas each. Just under £20 all in. Excellent value and superb service.

Time for a potter round the shops or some observing of public transport (guess who did what) then to Kingswear on the frequent ferry, back to Paignton by train and across the road to pick up the 100 back to Taunton Torquay** from the conveniently placed bus station.

The Round Robin fares seemed good value as well.
But fbb wasn't paying.

** Thanks to Petras409 for the correction. That was the official schedule back to Torquay. But the fbbs' hosts live close to the local route 22 (St Matthias Church Wellswood; top right) ...
... so it was by one of Stagecoach's finest that they returned. Occasional journeys on the 22 are operated (at normal fares) by the ex Devon General open topper; but fbb never spotted it when he was travelling.
Yet More on Aggie's Bus
A correspondent has emailed the following:-

My wife and I were in Plymouth the week before last, and made the effort to visit Aggie's house at Greenway. We travelled by train to Totnes, by Stagecoach Gold to Paignton, steam train to Greenway Halt, and then the Dartmouth Rail and River bus NT1, the one you spotted at Churston, to Greenway. It was being well used. The bus only goes to the main gate ...

... which is about ¼ mile walk to the house, but the walk from the (restricted) car park is just as long. There is the usual NT buggy for the halt and the lame. which we decided we weren't. Greenway is well worth a visit, and not too crowded when we were there.  

The AC1 bus, run by Greenway Ferry Ltd ...

... used to go right up to the house, but the service is indeed suspended. We went on to Dartmouth by the ferry, and found the Leyland PS1 with its rather strange Barnaby body parked on the quay at Greenway, looking in a sorry state.

"This Barnaby bodied Leyland PS1 was new in 1947 to J Bullock and Sons. In 1950 Bullock merged with the West Riding Automobile Co and the bus passed to West Riding.
 Next shock horror bus blog : Tuesday 30th June 

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Delights of the Dart [2]

Topless to Totnes
It is its palm trees and supposedly Riviera weather that endears Torquay to its droves of summer visitors. Yonks ago it was a little fishing village clustered round a tiny harbour.
It have growed a bit.

The town centre road network is incomprehensible; so much so that every time fbb has visited by car he has become utterly lost. But all buses meet up at "The Strand" alongside the harbour and beside Debenhams.
Torquay is Stagecoach-land with a typical mix of not very interesting vehicles ...
... but always smartly turned out. Over the years, uncle Brian has withdrawn from some of the less profitable local runs and these are now operated by "Local Link" a company based in Paignton,

Their leaflets ...
... are smart and professional, excellent in all respects except one. The maps are awful. No, really awful.
Compare this with reality.
The top (top) is actually the bottom (bottom) in reality and the intricacies of the route are quietly overlooked. 

Their vehicles (mainly Optares) seem to be in good nick ...
... but in July several of the routes lose their Saturday service, in the words of the notice, "to ensure the viability of that on Monday to Friday". A money saving but passenger losing policy, maybe?

But the fbbs were waiting for the once a day route 100, yet another part of the Dart Rail, River and Bus empire. Impressively, a Dart River man arrived to meet and greet the twenty or so hardy souls who were to travel topless to Totnes.
The vehicle, an aged Bristol VR ...
... is enjoying a second life on the English Riviera.
It looked nicer converted to Open Top.
As fbb has said, nothing very interesting about the vehicles he saw whilst waiting for service 100. But then something intriguing did appear.

More tomorrow, but, in the meantime, if you are waiting outside Debenhams in Torquay; and if you might be hoping to check on a timetable in the frame at the stop ...


Unless you are 8 feet tall or are carrying a portable lightweight step ladder.
Or even a heavyweight one!
Stagecoach/Torbay Council
timetable reading kit

Agatha Christie/Greenway Bus
A comment writer suggested this service (AC1) was suspended because of a bodywork problem.

At Churston Station yesterday, a train-bound fbb spotted this vehicle ...
... lettered NT1 which operates a shuttle from Churston to the estate's gates via Greenway Halt.
This is NOT the same service but it does provide a useful link (free to train ticket holders) that avoids the scramble from Halt to House.
 Next Dart blog : Monday 29th June