|Ipswich 85 Leyland Atlantean WRV 85L at Bexleyheath Station while on loan to Boro'line Pic by Andrew Ha's reproduced under CCL|
It turns out that Malcolm Robson joined Ipswich Buses around the same time I was driving them in London so he is approaching 25 years in the job now. Malcom is a Yorkshireman, who cut his bus teeth in Hull, and as I like the dry Yorkshire sense of humour I recognised an almost mischievous twinkle in his eye when he was talking about certain things. I felt at ease immediately.
I have long been a fan of Ipswich Buses - their vehicles are always immaculately turned out and have a fresh smell to them I have never encountered elsewhere. Not a single bus in their fleet has hard seats - even the Scania Omnidekkas have soft seating - which makes them unique in that respect. I liked the new livery straightaway and Malcolm told me a couple of interesting things about the livery. I knew the purple and green were the colours of Suffolk County Council from my library card, but they are also not just the colours of Wimbledon, but the colours of the Women's Suffragette Movement! He did confess though that he prefers the hybrid livery used by the reserve P&R buses, so just for him here is one of the them - an aforementioned Scania Omnidekka
|One of the hybrid liveried Scania Omnidekkas with sky blue replacing the purple|
Well I like my facts and figures, and I'm happy to say I came away with plenty of them. As a Concessionary Pass holder myself I have long said I would be happy to pay say £25 a year for mine as long as the money was ringfenced to provide more buses during evenings and on Sundays. That would create jobs and get people going out spending money in the general economy, something that was pointed out only today by greenerjourneys.com - that for every one pound spent on funding bus passes it creates £2.87 spent in the general economy. However it's not that simple. Malcolm told me that in 2008 IB received £1.20 for every Concessionary journey taken. 6 years later that has fallen to 93p. It has been calculated that to get back to the 2008 level the 19,000 pass holders in Ipswich would have to pay £50 a year, and that's before extra money is generated for new services, which obviously those paying would want to see.
|IB41 Volvo Olympian M41 EPV. Happily at least one of these Olympians is going to be bought privately for preservation|
Ipswich buses did just that when they launched the X3 to John Lewis in Ravenswood, an area that is still being developed. After an initial rise in passenger numbers of around 74% in the first few months after the route was launched it is still rising at a rate of 17%. That is qute an achievement, and backs up what this blog has said since its conception, that new routes are preferable to passenger poaching off existing routes. The passengers are out there, it just needs the right services going to the right places at the right times and the right prices. Not an easy nut to crack all the time but it seems IB have done it with the X3.
To mechanical stuff now, and I was told that the P&R Optare Versas have been fitted with a cooling system that claimed to have a dramatic saving on fuel consumption. I got the impression that claim was met with a little distrust, but it has proved to be successful. A fuel efficiency saving of 10.3% successful to be precise. Apparently the same systen can be fitted to Scania Omnicity's, which are notoriously thirsty, so three of them at Ipswich are being done.
|Scania Omnicity YN56 NVC being fitted with a fuel saving cooling system|
|IB 60 "Turkish" optare Spectra P442 SWX in the bus wash at Constantine Rd|
My thanks to Malcolm Robson and his staff for such an enjoyable chat and tour, and look forward to more chats in the future. I liked Ipswich Buses 25 years ago and absolutely nothing has done anything to change my mind now.