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Thursday, 1 February 2018

Stagecoach in Norfolk and Other News

If you live in the Anglian region you will have undoubtedly heard the news that broke late on Tuesday, that Stagecoach are considering closing their Kings Lynn depot, less than 5 years after buying Norfolk Green. An obligatory consultation is taking place, but looking at the activity of other operators it looks to be a done deal. I was alerted to this news a couple of days previously thanks to my wonderful network of contacts, you know who you are, so many thanks for that. Just a shame I was down in Kent on family duties when the news broke!

Konect immediately announced that they were launching a Norwich - Fakenham service from April. Their statement reads as follows.

"Konectbus plans to introduce a new Fakenham-Norwich bus route during April ‘18. Details are to be confirmed, but it will operate at least Mon to Sat on an hourly basis. More information will be posted on our website and s/media in due course."

Quick off the mark there. Lynx weren't far behind, releasing a press statement yesterday which reads:


Stagecoach in Norfolk King’s Lynn potential depot closure
Following the announcement yesterday (30th January 2018) that Stagecoach in Norfolk are likely to close their King’s Lynn based bus operation, Lynx are now looking into the viability of providing replacement bus services.
Julian Patterson, Director at Lynx said “We don’t envisage that any locations that are currently served by Stagecoach in Norfolk will be left without a bus service from 30th April 2018. However, due to the relatively short timescales involved it’s possible that any replacement bus services that we introduce may not initially operate quite as frequently as they do at the moment.”
Additionally, Lynx are now working closely with Norfolk County Council regarding the existing Stagecoach bus network, including those services which are subsidised by the County Council.
Julian Patterson also stated that “As a result of the likely expansion of our business in the near future we will welcome job applications from those with the PCV (bus) driving entitlement on their licence including those that currently work for Stagecoach, providing that they can demonstrate high standards of customer care and driving abilities.” There are also likely to be a small number of engineering and cleaning positions. You can find more information relating to careers at Lynx here.
Lynx, still a relatively new bus operator in West Norfolk & King’s Lynn commenced its first bus service in January 2015 operating hourly between King’s Lynn and Hunstanton on route 35. Since starting the frequency of Lynx buses on this particular route has increased to three buses per hour in each direction as a result of increased demand for high quality bus services in the area. Additionally Lynx have been successful in winning tendered bus routes such as Service 37 (King’s Lynn to Downham Market) and Service 48 (King’s Lynn to Gayton & Grimston) from Stagecoach.
More information regarding any replacement bus services will be made public once plans are finalised in the coming months.

I was aware that Lynx had already applied for an increase in their number of "O" licences, which again indicates that the closure is far more likely to happen than not. Of course it won't have gone unnoticed that there is likely to be quite some competition between Lynx, run by Julian Patterson, and Konect, formerly run by Julian Patterson! It is expected Sanders will vie for some of the North Norfolk Coasthopper runs, but Lynx already have the Hunstanton corridor well and truly sewn up. I will keep everyone fully updated with news as and when I hear it. But it seems another of the big boys has failed to make a success of this region. Sooner or later the lesson that local bus services need to be run locally might get through.

In the meantime, though, it looks like long established routes will once again be split up between different operators and again the question arises of why is there not a day ticket, issued and accepted by all operators? This Summer those holidaymakers used to travelling on Coasthopper between Kings Lynn and Cromer on one ticket may now need 2 tickets, at double the cost, and that is so unfair on them. I suggest Norfolk County Council must take the lead in this, and be strong - operators who refuse to sign up to the ticket will not be considered for Council tenders - that should sort it out! It is grossly wrong that Concessionary pass holders can jump from operator to operator but fare payers can't. Then we hear operators whinge that not enough fare payers get on the bus but no one does anything about it. Well enough's enough and East Anglia needs the Explorer ticket Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire has had since the 1960's.

Speaking of NCC I'm delighted to report that all proposed cuts to bus subsidies have been scrapped due to the rise in Council Tax. That is a start. I look forward to the gradual return of those routes lost over the last 7 years. It will take vision, dynamism and determination, but where there's a will there's a way. We just need someone with the will....

On a similar theme it is expected Suffolk Council will abandon their plans to alter School travel arrangements at a meeting tonight, after some number crunching discovered they won't save nearly as much as first thought. Let's hope common sense prevails.

Which it hasn't in Melton. First have bewilderingly diverted the 800 away from Melton village centre, and re-routed it along the main road, forcing passengers, many of them elderly to cross a busy road if they want to catch the fast bus to Ipswich or Woodbridge. I have spoken to First about this and the reasons cited are timekeeping in Ipswich and low passenger numbers using the service - around 5  10 a day. Stop choking Jane! I drove past Melton Chapel at 9am Tuesday morning, before passes are valid and there were 10 waiting for the bus then! I will do my research and report back, but this daft change, which saves probably all of 30 seconds needs to be reversed forthwith! First have done a lot to improve their reputation and standing in that area over recent years. Taking services away from the client base is foolhardy, and will set that reputation back, leaving the door open for other operators to step in. It has happened before when operators take their passengers for granted.

Staying with first a few items of fleet news - 3 ex Slough E200's are heading to Lowestoft to replace the baby E200's, and 8 more ex Leeds B9 Gemini 2's are heading for Norwich, which will signal the end of 8 more Trident presidents! There are also some new arrivals expected at Konect, but no one seems to know what they are yet!

I'll leave you with LT50. I was in London yesterday and chased this bus from Piccadilly Circus to Clapham Common to get a picture in daylight! Sounds dramatic - I just caught the 88 behind! Anyway it was worth it. Report on London trip at the weekend, including a new bus I liked! I know - well it was a blue moon yesterday!

LT 50 - looks superb or what!



42 comments:

  1. One has to wonder how long the Go Ahead group will remain in East Anglia

    Norfolk in particular had a number of small local operators that had built a quality network of services up only to be taken over by the big players who promptly started their constant cost cutting and changes and drove passengers away

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  2. First are off to Fakenham from April

    https://www.firstgroup.com/norfolk-suffolk/news-and-service-updates/news/new-network-norwich-bus-route-links-fakenham-city

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    1. And so the battle begins!

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    2. Unfortunately the withdrawal of Stagecoach will result in reduced replacement services many running indirect routes and many based further away resulting in poorer timekeeping and higher levels of cancellations plus of course multiple operators which will drive fare paying passengers away

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    3. Let's see now . . . .

      FirstBus give up the Kings Lynn town services, that are taken on by Norfolk Green.
      However, FirstBus retain a depot in Kings Lynn for Route X1.
      Norfok Green is sold to Stagecoach upon the retirement of the founder.
      Stagecoach eventually rebrand NG to normal Stagecoach livery.
      Lynx sees a gap in the market and decides to have a pop at Stagecoach.
      Stagecoach and Lynx battle it out on the Hunstanton corridor with over-bussing and fares reductions.
      Stagecoach lose some rural routes to Lynx upon re-tendering, which sees Lynx grow.
      Stagecoach are unable to sustain the challenge from Lynx, and threaten to pull out of Kings Lynn.
      The vultures circle the carcass (which is still twitching).
      First Bus attack Stagecoach from Norwich, whilst Lynx sniff over the remains.
      Konect also decide to have a pop at the Fakenham route.
      {AND - - - remember FirstBus in Kings Lynn . . . Route X1? Part of that allocation is moved to Norwich (in a prelude to closing KL depot?)}.

      Anyone care to predict who will be running buses in Kings Lynn by the summer?
      And anyone care to predict just how many operators will be running on Fakenham-Norwich during April and May?

      I'll just refer readers to the Transport Act 1985 . . . . this is EXACTLY what Nicholas Ridley wanted to happen, but in conurbations, not (very) rural Norfolk . . . there's barely enough passengers to sustain one bus per hour from Fakenham to Norwich!!

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    4. Hi Greenline - hope you're well! I read your comment with the theme tune to "Soap" running through my head. Just needs the word "confused" at the end!

      In my not so humble opinion whoever is brave enough to continue the extension to kL from Fakenham so fare payers won't have to pay twice will win the day. If no one does then I have fears for the entire route. Of course if we had our integrated day ticket.....

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    5. Personally I hope First do well with the X29 (I assume the ex Leeds B9’s will be used on this).

      Will be interesting to see how Konectbus hold up this year. And now it’s being run by Jeremy Cooper anything could happen - look how Ipswich entered a downward spiral when he took charge there!

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    6. Ipswich bus are still in big trouble if you read their annual report. They seemed to have some kind of special deal with Concessionary passes which is coming to an end. They are having to buy a lot of new buses and the loss of the P&R services and the halving of the Free bus services has not fully hit their books yet. They have as well given up a number of routes and evening and Sunday services. Whilst these may have been loss making it will reduce Ipswich buses workload as well as driving more passengers away particularly if the contract does not require ticket interchangeability

      The problem is the big players are all about cutting cost and services and constantly messing around with services as well as excessive fares increase in fact it is pretty much only in the bus industry where the passengers get charged more for a reduced service

      Unless the industry changes its attitude to one of growing the customer base it is going to continue to decline

      Small local operator have proved that understanding the local market and providing a good service works and that it grows the customer base. It seem to be a lesson the larger players are unable to learn. Small local operators also have a slim local management and do not have to contribute to corporate overheads

      Rural area are in my view best suited to small local operators. The one issue with this that needs to be resolved is ticket interchangeability. Possibly looking at sharing garages where appropriate whilst taking in to account buses need to be as close to the operating area as possible to ensure good timekeeping and reliability

      Currently across the board timekeeping and reliability is unacceptably low typically its in the low 80% region. Whilst they may get away with it with high frequency bus service it will not be in any way acceptable with low frequencies services which is most of them in the East

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    7. Culdn't agree more with most of that. However, IB have my utmost sympathy at having to tolerate the endless roadworks and congestion in Ipswich, which of course is going to affect reliability and timekeeping. Until the Borough Council and County Council stop arguing like young siblings and start working together to tackle the problem nothing is going to improve.

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    8. Speaking of Ipswich Buses they’ve now announced they will not have any of their new timetables available (both in print or online) until the 9th February for a change on the 18th February!! They really don’t help themselves do they... with cuts and Sunday/evening services reduced how do they expect the customers they have left to plan ahead at all? And they wonder why people stop using their services. Is it really that difficult to put a PDF or something on their website? Or is it a case of them trying to hide and cover these cuts for as long as possible? When first announced back in December they promised timetables by end of January and meet the customer events throughout the new year until the changes commenced. What an absolute joke they have become.

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    9. Some timetables - 4/11A/16/93/94/95 are on the Suffolk on Board website https://www.suffolkonboard.com/buses/bus-timetable-updates/february-2018/

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    10. There's a bit of a fine line between early availability and sufficient notice.

      A few years ago I worked for a small bus operator that introduced a Saturday service on a route. The guv'nor said "it's registered, so why not tell the passengers"? Difficult to argue, really, so we told the passengers with about 6 weeks notice. On the first Saturday after releasing the timetables, we got a call from a passenger who said "I've been waiting for your b****y bus for two hours and it hasn't shown up!" He'd seen the timetable, but not noticed the big red "starts on ** September flash"!!
      I've always reckoned that passengers should know of changes about 3 weeks in advance, with printed timetables and web timetables about two weeks in advance. Ipswich are maybe a few days late by that timescale, but if times hit the streets during this week then that's about right.

      Remember that, once the timetables are registered, they have to be printed in nice interesting leaflets or a booklet, and that all takes time. Nothing is immediate, in spite of what we have now come to expect from life!!

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  3. Konect have received 4 Wright Eclipse Geminis from GA London 2005 reg.

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    1. What? To replace the single door Konect livery 05 reg Geminis they got rid of last year? Yes that makes perfect financial sense!

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  4. Any idea who will operate the 505 King's Lynn - Spalding route?

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    1. Not as yet, and that's the one I'm interested in most as quite a few vehicles will be needed to maintain the current frequency.

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    2. Rumours are circulating that it will still be Stagecoach from an outstation at Long Sutton.

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    3. Interesting but not surprising. Of course it will lose money as fare payers won't be able to use area tickets on it anymore. Damn it we need an integrated day ticket more than ever.

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    4. Cracking, thanks, Steve!
      Just wondering . . . . could Stagecoach run the profitable bits of KL Town routes from Long Sutton? It's only a dead run twice a day, and plenty of London routes run with 30 minute dead runs at start and end of day, with relief breaks somewhere on the route. If the premises are cheaper, then perhaps we're all adding two and two and totalling anything between 3 and 5!!
      After all, CoastHopper may be award-winning, but if Stagecoach have already tried to convert the loss-making bits into contracts and failed . . . . maybe OAP reimbursements aren't enough (are they ever anywhere nowadays?) so they will now simply withdraw and leave it to someone else?
      Now where did I leave that crystal ball . . . . . .

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    5. If they ran from Long Sutton I'd guess they would run some early 505 services into King's Lynn in the morning and some later 505 services back to Long Sutton in the evenings.
      I'd guess Coasthopper will be left to Lynx as they have Hunstanton services pretty much covered.
      As for other services, I think that some services are also rumoured to run out of Wisbech. This does seem slightly less plausible than Long Sutton.
      I doubt that they will continue running any town services, and if they do I guess they may do it temporarily to cover for Lynx as they won't be able to get masses of buses quickly?

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    6. The Long Sutton outstation still run by Stagecoach on the 505 sounds interesting. In NBC days this route was operated by Lincolnshire Roadcar, which of course became Stagecoach Lincolnshire. Could really be a case of back to the future!

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  5. the main problem i see is how are we going to keep encouraging people to use public transport if services keep getting cut! ive noticed that there has been alot less fleet investments in recent years aswell. the X1 Enviros are aperently not going to be replaced this year. and the first Norwich fleet needs upgrading. i do hope that stagecoach dosn't drop the Norfolk services but we will see.

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    1. A lot of operators are still recovering from having to replace non DDA compliant fleet over the last few years so investment in new vehicles won't reach that level again anytime soon.

      I have been following closely the X1 situation, and quite siply there is not a suitable vehicle on the market to handle the job. Well there is, the BCI Enterprise would be ideal but First seem reluctant to take the plunge there. We'll see what happens but as usual East Anglia is getting left behind - still not a single hybrid North of Chelmsford!

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  6. 505 and 55 to be retained by Stagecoach and operated from Long Sutton outstation under King's Lynn. The 4 arrivals at Konectbus are not to replace buses that left the fleet a year ago. They are to replace the last bendybus and bolster the service on the Costessey P&R, for which they will retain dual-door layout.

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    1. Yesterday you told me they were to replace the Anglian Scania deckers! My point is, had they not got rid of the 05 reg Geminis last year they would still be here and available to use. So yes - effectively they got rid of 4 05 plate Geminis last year and got 4 05 plate Geminis this year. Doesn't matter how you dress it up!

      Until Stagecoach officially say what is happening to the 505/55 I won't believe a thing. Either way it will still lose money if current customers transferring from SG town services have to pay twice.

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    2. I said 550/1/2 will be replaced as soon as possible - which is true - but as far as I understand, 515/6/8/9 are not their direct replacements. They are retaining dual door layout for Costessey P&R - the previous batch wouldn't have been suitable for this use, as they only had a single door. Stagecoach are to operate the 505/55 from Long Sutton outstation. This is confirmed but has not yet been reported in an official press release.

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    3. Are you sure they were 05 plate Gemni and not 02 reg ones

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    4. A year ago GA didn't know that a costessey bendy would soon be in an accident resulting in only 1 being left (No point having just 1 of a type of bus in a fleet costs etc). A year ago Konect hadn't had a meeting with UEA/Hospital to discuss adding more departures onto the park and ride due to high usage.

      Hindsight is a wonderful thing as they say.

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  7. Turners of Essex

    It appears that Turners of Essex have ceased trading

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    1. I can confirm that Anonymous is correct, Turners have ceased trading, they lost almost all their school contracts and then had an enforced change of ownership. The vehicles are currently parked up at the depot.

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  8. Some interesting historic photos of Buses in the Colchester area

    http://www.old-bus-photos.co.uk/wp-content/themes/Old-Bus-Photos/galleries/essex_suffolk_border/essex_suffolk_border.php

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  9. Surely apart from coaches (twirlys don’t seem to mind on Stagecoach East’s X5 with their free passes) the X1 would be best with Scania Enviro 400 MMCs which Stagecoach prefer for their longer Interurban routes.

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    1. They tried one and were appalled by the body noise. However I have a feeling that is what the route will end up with.

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    2. Obviously not an option as they aren't considering coaches, but perhaps Astromegas such as those on the Oxford Tube could be used??

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    3. Lovely idea, with you all the way on that but there is no way First will pay out for that type of vehicle. If they were then we'd have a fleet of Enterprises by now!

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  10. looks like the current fleet of enviro 400s are going to stay on the route then unless they bite the bullet or get the Scanias most of the new stagecoach scnia n250uds delivered this year seem pretty rattle free. how much longer do u think the Enviros can hold up till they are completly buggered lol ? sorry for my poor spelling and grammar

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  11. I thought they were completely buggered at least 3 years ago.....

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  12. Norfolk Green was a wonderful bus company founded by Tony Haynes in 1990 they gave a great service but with the takeover by USELESS STAGECOACH this is gone forever! We don't want useless Sanders on this route it can be either Lynx or Eastern Counties as its vital the Coasthopper continues once Stagecoach is gone!!

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    1. Be happy if anyone takes over the routes. Here in East Suffolk many of the routes built up by Anglian and wrecked by Go Ahead just died, with no one taking them on.

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  13. I find it difficult to make sense of this.

    I appreciate Stagecoach didn't get where they are by throwing good money after bad, so they will give up rather than struggle (and can afford to, unlike First, perhaps). But I thought they paid good money for Norfolk Green - double what First offered? Would they just write it off - they usually come out of it with something (witness East and West Coast rail)? Stagecoach East, I think, took over (or were lumbered with) its management late in the day, and it always looked to me like the albatross around Andy Campbell's neck. Often things come round eventually, we just have to be patient.

    So this is probably a wild flight of fancy; but I'm left wondering if perhaps there is a chance that Andy Campbell might swop his albatross for mid and south Essex which looks to me like the albatross around their new boss Steve Wickes' neck at First? Certainly their current Service Changes look more like a book keeping exercise than anything done for operational reasons, and not something I'm not sure any new boss with his wits about him would want to be associated with an eye on making his reputation. And an equality payment could come in very handy, I'm sure. It always seemed to me to be an area too in which Stagecoach would be happier and the allegedly lax depots might do with a bit of the firm handling for which Stagecoach is renowned (as local management have conveniently moved into Norfolk it seems). They also seem to have the knack of escaping the attention of the Competition Commission. Any word on the grapevine? We have the usual oblique statements as always. Colchester and Clacton for their part seem to sit much more happily alongside Ipswich as part of the Eastern Counties family, and uniting Norfolk again is neat, too. The latest Essex accounts were dire, though just how dire between the depots can only be guessed at. But as costs rather than income seems the main bugbear, the London effect can't help. Their Berkshire ops look to be in a mess for perhaps the same reason. It certainly doesn't look as though First have yet got any grip on the costs! OK West Norfolk isn't a honeypot either, but then do First have any honeypots? - although Eastern Counties don't seem to be doing so badly amongst the rest, even the big conurbations! It'd help the ticketing conundrum which seems to vex everybody, even in local places like Herts and Essex which have a nominal multi-operator ticket its acceptance seems to increasingly become the exception rather than the rule.

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