Sunday, 15 October 2017


A few days ago I published a post in an effort to explain why the amount of published news has waned in recent months. I'm pleased to say the majority, especially other bloggers agreed with me. However, some thought I was having a rant against operators. One gentleman called the post "utter drivel", saying there were still lots of pretty buses to take pictures of, which wasn't really the point, and when I responded someone else called me a 5yo. I'm told I was an utterly adorable (and much better looking) 5yo so I don't mind that really!

But then in came a comment for moderation that took my breath away. I didn't publish it as I wanted everyone to see it and discuss. Here it is, from a regular contributor calling himself (I assume) "Smurf".

The answer is simple Steve. Start running your own bus company; and you can make the news, and make sure there is no shortage of it too! After all as you keep telling us none of the rest of them know how to do it! There must be a few ££s lying around from all those savings on fares down the years!

You could, I suppose, cast a glance in the direction of First Essex, which does seem to be run for the benefit of itself and its bus enthusiasts. It looks lovely on paper. Not much use though to the passengers who don't have any alternative (who never know what, if, or when anything is going to turn up); but after all they're trying to use it for work and necessity rather than as a free hobby.

From what I can see most of the bus industry is trying with a fair degree of success in meeting the needs of the passengers better than ever. At, sadly, the expense of the hobbyists. I appreciate you'd like to see it the other way around. Sadly the rest of us might not be inclined to like it so much. 

So I'll answer Smurf's points.

Firstly I'd LOVE to have the money to run my own company, but I doubt that will ever happen. If I did, though, it certainly wouldn't be to create news, but yes, to try and drag East Anglia kicking and screaming into the 21st century, and take inspiration and advice from various operators and people in the industry I have the utmost respect for, who I'll mention later. 

I save very little on fares these days as due to the vast majority of services in my area being scrapped if I have to drive 6 miles to a bus stop I may as well drive all the way. Anyway that is my business and no one else's.

Having been sarcastic in saying "After all as you keep telling us none of the rest of them know how to do it" Smurf then goes on to criticise First Essex saying it is run for themselves and enthusiasts at the expense of passengers. But then he contradicts himself again! "From what I can see most of the bus industry is trying with a fair degree of success in meeting the needs of the passengers better than ever." Except First Essex I presume? And no, I wouldn't like to see it the other way round, because if the passengers had a decent service, coverage and frequencies there would be plenty for the enthusiast, like erm, there was 4 or 5 years ago when there were, erm, more buses and services.....

Finally it is clear Mr/Mrs Smurf is not an enthusiast. That's fine,, nor am I sometimes  - in fact I've always said I'm passenger first, enthusiast second, and if I had any buses round here that would still be the case - but just occasionally I will talk from the enthusiasts point of view. I feel I do my best to interact with operators and managers to clarify things. However to describe it as a "free hobby" shows ignorance of breathtaking proportions. I doubt few hobbyists spend more pursuing their hobby as transport enthusiasts do, have you seen how much rail tours cost?  Then if you are going to an event there is the cost. I was hoping to go to the 2017 Bus & Coach event in Birmingham last week but just plain couldn't afford it. Same with Showbus, same with Old Oak Common depot open day. That isn't free. I spend a fortune in petrol driving to locations to get pics and vids to share with everyone, hopefully from different locations to the majority of enthusiasts. Of course reading this blog and writing sarcastic comments is totally free!

So to recap what I was trying to say in the first post;

Fact: There are fewer buses on the roads of East Anglia compared with 5 years ago, and fewer types.
Fact: There are fewer routes served by buses than there were 5 years ago.
Fact: On the majority of routes there have been cuts in the last 5 years.

That is going to mean there is going to be less to write about. If the Football League was reduced from 92 clubs to 45 there would be less football news. It goes without saying. If there were only 200 MP's there would be fewer to interview. Not rocket science.

When Greater Anglia replaces its entire fleet of 10 different types of train (not including short set) next year will I still enjoy travelling by train - of course I will. Will there be less to write about - of course there will. I was on Thameslink yesterday when a couple of months ago you could have had a 319, or 377/87's in 4 different liveries, or a new 700. I could have written about different journeys on different stock. Now it's all 700's. One journey is all it needs and I'm done! Less to write about. Not criticism but fact.

It is also true other areas of the country are way in front of East Anglia when it comes to trying to lure people out of their cars. Transdev, led by Alex Hornby are going mad in Yorkshire, with luxury seating (2+1 upstairs), seat back tables, every bus with WiFi/charging facilities etc, interurban routes that find the quickest way around traffic using smart technology and much increased frequencies. It's not their fault new buses rattle! Doesn't assist them but certainly not their fault.

In Reading there are double deck gas buses, many hybrids (how many hybrids in East Anglia?) and the inspirational leadership of  Martijn Gilbert and John Bickerton is an example many could follow. I have regular Twitter chats with them and have learned a lot. Certainly their staff facilities and interaction seem second to none. Must get down there for a visit.

Nottingham pioneered electric buses outside London, Ensignbus under the Newmans decided to look abroad for decent buses and have brought the BCI Excellence and Enterprise to everyone's attention. Stagecoach in East Kent, under Matthew Arnold among others have tried bringing minibuses back to encourage patronage, and Arriva have even tried Uber style on demand services in certain areas. East Anglia has none of this. Not critcism but fact. So there is less to write about. If I want to talk about new innovations I have to travel a long way.

So Mr "utter drivel" you keep taking pictures of your pretty buses - I'm pleased that you still get great pleasure from your hobby, but this blog is more than pretty buses. Smurf, I'm grateful for your contributions but I'm not always going to speak from your viewpoint. Of course I'm always happy for guest posts so if anyone would like to write one, whether you agree with me or not then please email me. I'll be delighted to hear from you.

Finally some news!!! Thanks to Andrew Kleissner's heads up I can reveal that Ipswich buses are to slash the frequency of the 98 between Ipswich and Shotley to 1 journey a day in each direction. That's from 4 a day from Shotley and 6 a day from Ipswich. Happy days!

1 comment:

  1. Spot on Steve. It is everyone's right to disagree, but to do so, and to argue your point, you must be consistent (and get the facts correct).
    Here in North Carolina the bus scene is booming for the passenger, but boring, boring for the few enthusiasts - fares don't change, timetables are consistent seven days a week and evenings, buses are all the same (Go Durham, Go Triangle, and Go Raleigh standardize on low-floor Gilligs - and these are certainly not "plastic" - built like the proverbial brick s**t house). Passengers get a good deal here (I've lived here 12 years and the fares in Durham have not changed in all that time - yes, $1 flat fare). Surprisingly, for a country that relies and promotes car travel, the local authorities place a huge emphasis on providing decent public transit.
    I'll recap - for the enthusiast - boring, for the passenger - wonderful!
    That's a good reason for me to check in regularly with yours and Roy's blogs (and even the latter recognizes the "lack of news.")
    No, despite the names, our local authorities are not owned by GoAhead.
    Keep up the good work Steve.