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Sunday, 20 September 2015

Back, But Different

This is not a U-Turn. If I'm honest I haven't missed blogging one bit. In fact it's been wonderful to get home and not have to worry about posting. I haven't had to bother about getting pics of new vehicles first, or concern myself about having my news nicked by others. No one promising to help then letting me down or anonymous cowards calling me names. So why the hell have I come back?

Quite simply I was asked. I've had many really nice emails from people I never knew read the blog saying how much they missed it, and I can't express how good that was, and thank you to everyone who has been in touch. However, it is not because of that I was persuaded to re-think my position.

The last people I expected to nag me to start posting again were the very people I criticise - the operators. However they have, and I have had 3 managers contact me saying I should resume. One of them remarkably said he missed the criticism and it was needed. He even broke his ridiculously tough schedule to buy me a pint and tell me. So when the industry I constantly criticise tell me to carry on I feel obliged to listen. Mind you no one has said they'll pay me......

However it's going to be different. I will not be chasing news. The only news I'll be reporting will be news I receive first hand. I will not be concentrating nearly as much on vehicles but on services. The original aim of the blog was to be a voice for transport users, lobbying operators and Councils to maintain and improve services, particularly in rural areas. I veered away from that policy but from now on it will be my priority. The blog will work in conjunction with a new project I have, which is still very much in its formative stage and will involve consulting a lot of people, but will have the aim of improving rural links for everyone, and for multiple purposes, despite the current apathy of our politicians towards rural bus services. Norwich - London in 90 is fine, but how about Leiston - Ipswich in 60?  How about Halesworth - Norwich in 45?

One of my main goals is for integrated ticketing, so for example fare payers can travel from Leiston to Saxmundham on First's 64, do their shopping and get BorderBus 521 back if they want JUST LIKE PASS HOLDERS CAN! How can companies bleat about not enough fare payers when they do naff all to give them reasons to spend their money on buses rather than petrol in their cars.

This week has been another bad week with Go-Ahead announcing a series of service cuts across the Konect and Anglian network. The number of vehicles at both companies is to be cut dramatically. The most surprising by far is Konect's decision to scrap the 2/2A between Norwich - Sheringham - Holt less than a month after branding 5 buses for the route in a blaze of publicity. Why didn't they say then the route was at risk? Where were the attempts to attract more passengers to the route with financial incentives? If the route was that poorly patronised why put higher capacity vehicles on it? Just doesn't make sense to me, and I fear most of these cuts have been ordered from up on high rather than local decisions.

So the time has come to act rather than just criticise, and an entirely new approach to bus services and how they are financed is needed. We cannot rely on deregulation coming to East Anglia and it looks highly likely that in 10 years time if you don't live in a town or city you won't know what a bus looks like. It's now or never, and frankly my dears, we have nothing to lose by giving it our all to Save Our Services. I'll certainly be giving it mine.


26 comments:

  1. Welcome back. Too easy for companies to come out and quote low passenger numbers as a reason for slashing services. Unless you live in a town/city where companies undercut each other,people out in the sticks are not offered any incentives to go by bus.Instead of wasting money branding buses ( then promptly moving them elsewhere or cutting the route),try and price it so people will use them. It just seems to me that companies are trying to slash costs (less routes mean less buses needed so ship them elsewhere).i was working in Beccles last week and was hugely jealous of what runs through there and the frequencies. On the 118 here,Galloway have put up the price of a return but i think have lowered the price of a ten trip tkt to Ipswich.Just a shame there is nothing in Ipswich to go in for! I dont expect companies to run buses for the sake of it but at least put some planning into it so that people can see the bus as a very real alternative.

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    1. Thanks, Trevor. Makes you wonder why fares have gone up with inflation at zero percent and diesel at very low prices. Truly inspiring. Perhaps someone from Galloway woud like to explain why the occasional traveller is being hit again. How about scrapping gimmicks like 10 trip tickets, mobile tickets, group tickets and so on and lowering fares for everyone. THEN you might start getting somewhere.

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    2. Galloway now have fare charts up on their website,although as yet not every route is covered. 118 return UP 30p,10 trip down 50p. 119 fares not available yet. oil is currently 46-48$ a barrel so you could argue that diesel should be even cheaper. you will also know that Galloway have updated their bus fleet over the last 12-18 months,with more on way,apart front the loanees they currently have. my return ticket from Cretingham to Ipswich is now £5 for a 30 min journey.i would love to know how that compares with other routes.

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    3. I can promise you, Trevor, that if you had competition on the route it would be cheaper. For example Gorleston to Norwich is £5 return - a journey of an hour each way with competition, but Harleston to Norwich return on the 83 is £7 - a journey of 50 mins and no competition.

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    4. Meant 30 mins each way of course. Still,if it wasn't a tendered route,we would have nothing,except maybe a morning and evening peak journey. I dnt drive or have any intention of so its making the most of what we have.

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    5. konect Barford-norwich (30 mins) £5.80 konect Watton-Norwich £5.80

      Neither have competition.

      Why are they the same price for different lengths of journey and no competition.

      In norwich, a return (10 min journey each way) is £4-£4.50. Short journeys are a rip off compared to longer journeys.

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    6. Now that I totally agree with. When I first moved to Wickham Market I couldn't understand why the fare to Woodbriidge or Saxmundham was the same as the fare to Ipswich. This is undoubtedly a reason why not many people go to Saxmundham fro Wickham, as what's the point if for the same money you can go to Ipswich? I said then it wasn't encouraging local travel and I got numerous bland replies from First basically suggesting that it wasn't local fares that were expensive, but Ipswich fares were cheap!

      Let me give you an example from the other day. I was on an 83 from Harleston into Norwich when an old lady who doesn't possess a bus pass and is rather confused boarded going 5 mins up the road to Long Stratton. £4 return. Perhaps someone could tell me who sets fares on sponsored services in Norfolk as that is truly scandalous.

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    7. That is an absolute disgrace. How the hell is that goin to persuade people to use public transport? Long been acknowledged that the further you travel,the cheaper per mile it works out. Maybe someone can explain why. I got charged the same return fare for sax to martlesham black tiles as I was for sax to Ipswich and that was 6 years ago.

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    8. 1 Main reason is that the ticket machines konect/anglian use (first now also) can only hold 5 fare stages, meaning that they cannot have a different price for every minute.

      For example, City-Norwich Cathedral is 1 fare zone, then there are 4 fare zones left to fill (on route 4 konect) all the way to Swanton Morely. That's 1 fare zone per 20 minutes. Thus, going from City- 1 stop further than the cathedral costs the same as Norwich-NNUH

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    9. If ticket machines can now only hold 5 fare stages that is hardly progress from TIMs, Setrights and Almex's. However I doubt that is the case or routes like the X1 or 61 could never operate. I think it far more likely the operators use that as an excuse to have wide fare zones. However I will contact various operators using different ticketing systems to clarify.

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    10. The ticket machines that Konect use are different to those that Anglian use. Both can have as many stages as needed, they're kept low so it's easy for drivers

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  2. Great to have you back Steve! Unfortunately the problems at Go-Ahead are at the top, much like First a few years ago. Decisions are made by those remote from the local market using a one size fits all approach that simply does not work!

    David Brown (CEO) wants the bus operations to achieve a rediculous £100m operating profit and they have now realised they cannot reach this target, hence the recent drop in share price. Whilst some progress has been made towards the £100m this has been at the expensive of cost cutting - less money spent on maintenance, cleaning, investment etc which works in the short term but not the long term. Do they not realise the way to consistently achieve improved levels of profit is to provide high quality services that are better than competitors (whether the competitors be rail and bus operators or the private car). Another indication of Go-Ahead losing the plot are the recent departures of knowledgeable proper 'busmen' such as Roger French, Philip Kirk, Julian Patterson, etc leaving the operating companies to be run by somewhat amateur Directors that just do as they're told.

    The withdrawal of the 2/2A is absurd, a seemingly profitable route just chopped almost overnight because it doesn't make as much money as some of the operators other routes!?

    Let's how Sanders and First now up their game significantly...

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    1. Thanks - and I agree entirely. You can add the names of David Squire and Andrew Pursey to that list of managers leaving because of interference from faceless accoutants in plush offices who know jack about the area or how rural networks operate. If things don't change that list will grow and even more local talent will be forced out of the area.

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  3. Great news and many thanks - I totally agree with you and look forward to reading your inputs. I find it very sad how rural people are treated. Good luck you have a lot of support from people i've met. Jane Hayward

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    1. Thanks, Jane I have replied privately.

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  4. He's back!!! And we are happy! Look forward to the new campaigning Steve on your "doorstep" very soon. Missed ya mate!

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  5. Great to see the blog is back - albeit from a different slant
    Welcome back Steve - catch up with you again soon
    Roy

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  6. Glad you are back on the blog. With respect to the Konnect 2/2A service. I pay Cromer and Sheringham many visits throughout the year and have used Sanders, Konnect and The Coasthopper services between the two places. One thing I think should be mentioned is the timetabling does not serve the passengers. Take a Sunday for instance, one can wait in East Runton for an hour then three buses from each respective company appear at the same time. Who ever makes it there first gets the fare. It would be more appropriate if these companies stopped competing and started offering a decent service to the would be passenger. In that way they may each get a fair share of the pie.

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  7. Steve Glad your back your blog is always interesting to read and very informative but do try include more of Essex . kind regards clive

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    1. Welcome back Steve! I agree with Clive, Essex is really unrepresented in the blogging world, unlike Norfolk! ;-) Interesting to see what will happen in Essex over the coming months, with First retreating and independent bus companies filling the void. Also Essex County Council have launched a review to 'improve' services operated under contract. The 'anon' comments berating you have been really uncalled for, but I can only put that down to you having a much better relationship with the operators and of course, the high standard of your articles.

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  9. Welcome back! I know I too often give the impression of being one of those awful moaners. Not intentionally, though. I can understand the smaller operators' (who are often more flexible and important to rural areas) concern about multi-operator ticketing that they don't get a fair share of the income, and a little loss is a big loss to them. I'd also just like (off topic) to publicly offer best wishes to the bus driver seriously injured in the Mersea accident today - it can be a dangerous as well as unappreciated job with the careless, unfortunate, or even idiots too often on the roads. Whilst I find their priorities a bit muddled, I do like Essex CC at least proposing to start with their dial a ride running up to 8pm; and that they are protecting and even proposing to enhance evening and Sunday services, and even extend their supported routes. First do seem to be a bit inflexible - a sort of all or nothing approach, though locally nagging does sometimes work even with them. (Why do they need nagging though? Their "network" wasn't handed down on tablets of stone). I can't think of a time in my nigh 60 years on this earth when economics hasn't played havoc with buses, and they've survived. None of us like change, but we're an adaptable species, and usually someone steps into the breach and even improves things. I've been one of those unfortunates, in a self-imposed purdah for the last six months, so my inventiveness and patience (as well as wallet) has been tested, and come through the experience as, I think, a successful learning opportunity. Occasionally frustrated, but not disappointed. (The dog has suffered - well if he knew what it is, though!).

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  10. Glad you're back Steve (only posting Anonymously due to my role within the rail industry!).

    Please, please keep on what you're doing (and don't feel pressure to do too much, only what you can manage). You are a hugely important voice in this industry.

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    1. Thank you seems a bit inadequate, but thank you. I hope one day you'll feel able to email me privately and reveal yourself as I would love to thank you personally for the motivation that comment gave me. I'd love to do more on the rail side but finances just won't stretch to it. (free pass nudge nudge, wink wink!)

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