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Monday, 9 July 2018

New Bus Journey Site

I received the following email from Ian Burke, telling me about his new website, which is a bit like Michael Portillo's Great British Railway Journeys, except by bus. And not on TV! It could turn out to be a pretty good resource for the most interesting routes in the country, and I wish Ian the best of luck with it. You can find the link in the sidebar.

Hiya Steve,

How's it going? I've just started up a new bus trip blog over at slowertravel.co.uk, which may well be up your street and that of your readers.

It's not about buses, per se, rather it's more about getting out and about on a local bus and writing about the ephemera that I come across along the way.

I'm based in Manchester, so I expect that the routes I cover will primarily be in the north west, although I will be exploring further afield when the opportunity arises.

To be honest, the site is very much cobbled together at the moment, but I'm sure that I'll eventually figure out what I'm doing!

I'm also on Twitter as @slower_travel.

All the best, and keep up the good work


29 comments:

  1. Latest Bus Cuts

    Beeston's are cutting back the 236 from Haverhill to Clare and axing the Saturday service totally

    It looks as if Beeston's will be out of bus work before long

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    1. Looking at this there were school contract journeys to SAMUEL WARD ACADEMY HaverHill and STOUR VALLEY SCHOOl Cavendish. These were operated as a part of the public bus services. The contract does not expire to next year. I assume they have handed back the contract

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    2. As far as I recall it's effectively a "main" road with no real settlements between Clare and Haverhill, so I'm surprised the route has survived so long. It is an "historic" route though, but nostagia doesn't pay the (hefty) bills. The settlements are all the other way, towards Sudbury. And Haverhill is, regrettably, a dump (not least due to neglect by Suffolk and St. Edmundsbury councils - they don't know what a New Town was [supposed to be]). Though Stagecoach do a good job transporting people out to Cambridge! (And Clare/Cavendish/Long Melford aren't exactly the poorest parts of Suffolk, just trying buying or renting a property there. The bus may be big but I'm not sure it's a substitute for the 4x4, even for an irresistible temptation to have a half day out to see how the other half live!).

      That's the problem. Who pays the (hefty) bills for an empty bus nobody wants? Town Services don't make profits either at least in the Shires, not when pension contributions are taken into account. So should we stop paying occupational pensions to transport workers in the interests of the passengers? I haven't heard that one yet.

      Whilst (vaguely) on the subject First Essex have started to publish their changes. Looks like they've boosted services to the "richer" bits of Clacton and abandoned the "poorer" end. A bit late to the commercial party perhaps, but whether it impresses the locals enough is yet to be seen! I can give the benefit of the doubt to their good intentions, but I'm still not sure of the attractiveness of their proposition to the car user, left standing at the roadside when the bus goes a different route/the timetable is a work of fiction/the bus goes flying past the signalling passengers when the driver (or manager, perhaps more like) has a better idea than to pick up the passengers/some of the fleet is such a heap of junk where one is unsure if it will reach its destination. That being said it all looks good on paper so perhaps we can all rest happily in front of our computer screens!

      I do find it slightly amusing that First have made their drivers an offer so they can continue running the 70 service in its present long format, which I thought was created to help make Braintree depot (now closed) viable, which apparently it didn't! The passengers will pay no doubt, if not in fares then in waiting times whilst the bus is held up along the other part of the route!

      It's interesting to compare the Norfolk/Suffolk coast with Tendring. I'll risk your wrath by suggesting they may have certain similarities in terms of poor accessibility and demographics. I still favour the view that in the First v Go Ahead trench warfare, First had the advantage in Norfolk over Anglian in terms of route viability (population and its paying punters), and that was as influential as poor management, may be more so. Maybe with the aggregation, the roles will be reversed in Tendring? May be not though with a combination of wiliness on the part of First (they're trying), and not-so-hot management on the part of Hedingham unless they get their act together. Or passengers vote with their feet?

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  2. Winter Rail Timetable Changes have been Postponed

    Timetable changes for eight franchises, including Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern, whose operations descended into chaos in May, have been postponed. Other franchises will introduce only minor timetable changes in December.

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  3. Clacton Bus Changes


    74,74B Clacton to Colchester replaced by new service 98 Walton on the Naze to Colchester, Evening journeys will still be operated as 74 & 74B. Daytime service will operate every hour


    76,76A Clacton to Colchester replaced by new service 97 Walton on the Naze to Clacton. Sunder service will continue to operate as 76 The 97 will operate every 1/2 hour


    Services 7 & 8 Clacton to Walton on the Naze Withdrawn





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    1. Hmm. At the moment it looks to me like First may have moved resources from the rest of the network into some sort of battle with Go Ahead. Short-sighted? Certainly the effects are being felt elsewhere, with both passengers and drivers deserting in droves, it seems. A strange sort of way to run a business? Perhaps Tendring and rural Norfolk are more viable than the Essex inter-urban services. Nothing would surprise me with First's muddle. Or is it the traditional, egos getting in the way of business?

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  4. I hear of mass driver resignations, first at Basildon now at Chelmsford, presumably as a consequence of shift changes. I suppose it's another way of reducing costs which should keep the boss happy, if not the passengers!

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  5. What does everybody think of Konect's new livery?!


    Check out @steveroscoe99’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/steveroscoe99/status/1017343376021180419?s=09

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    1. Probably the least inspiring livery I've ever seen. Would suit a hearse, but then thinking of the number of routes and services Go Ahead have killed over the last few years perhaps that's appropriate.

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  6. Changes have been made to how operators have to notify changes to bus services


    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/notifying-a-local-authority-of-abus-registration

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  7. Opposition councillors at SCC are "demanding" that 5% of the transport budget is spent improving cycle routes. Right, so that would be the same SCC that have spent years slashing funding for bus routes and from 2019, will be cutting transport for thousands of school children.

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    1. "Integrated" transport, hey? We'd have more chance with the men (or women) with rabbits and hats. Any offers to the politicians' HQ.

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    2. They are not cutting transport for children It will still be provided but if they don't live over the statutory distance from the nearest school it will no longer be free or they choose to send there children to another school it will no longer be free. The changes will be phased in so if a child is already receiving free travel it will remain free until they leave that school

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  8. Car Parking Levy to Support Bus Services

    Should there be a small levy on all off road car parks say £12 a year per parking bay. This would apply to Council run car parks , Privately run car parks and those provided by businesses and the NHS etc

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    1. Most of them would argue there already is a levy, business rates. The trouble of course is that it disappears into that great black hole where no-one knows exactly what happens to it, Government coffers.

      At least though there is a simple collection mechanism which is the trouble with many money-raising ideas. Though the Council I once worked for had a brilliant idea, no marked parking bays.

      The Treasury though has always been opposed to hypothicated taxes. Where would it end up?

      When we already have the NHS and just about everything else provided by government in a funding crisis can we afford to make it all any more of a mess? (Yes I know the answer to that one, it's never stopped us yet). Robbing Peter to pay Paul is a politicians' addiction, but they want someone else to do the dirty work (see broadband). That being said transport (all of it) in the UK is a bloody mess (but in fairness it always has been).

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  9. Just adding to my commment, I agree that certainly in the past a car park has been seen as an easy way to make money or add value, and arguably therefore has been under-taxed. I'm not sure the extent to which that is being changed by internet shopping and working from home but traditional town centres, and perhaps traditional jobs, are under threat.

    But I still think there is a bigger threat to buses, and that is the bus companies themselves. No, not profiteering. Quite the reverse, in fact. Their service provision is such a mess that they "drive" passengers away from the bus and into the car. They need to stop blaming everything else, and start by sorting themselves out. They need to run services to cope with today's world, not as some legacy from the past. Less emphasis on (cheap) gimmicks and more on reliability, for a start. But as important as anything, think outside the box. Now there's a thought!

    We're almost back to the Franchising debate. Sorry, but anyone who thinks that innovation comes from Councils or that politicians "know" better how to run buses is, I think, sadly deluded.

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    1. The days when bus companies had pretty much a monopoly have long gone. They face completion from cars and the internet and taxis


      The average bus company provides a very poor and infrequent service with very high fares with poor timekeeping and cancelations being the norm

      The average bus company carries out no market research and does no advertising. Even providing notifications of changes to services seems to something they think is not required

      Personally I do not see it changes. It is made worse by local councils who come up with some really silly services when they step in with supported services. They are generally unadvertised and they then wonder why no one uses them

      It is crazy that in many cases if there are two of you it is cheaper and more convenient to go by taxi


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    2. In my experience I actually disagree with your thesis. I think the companies do care and "know" what the issues are. The problem is with their response. They seems to have a tickbox mentality: passengers have an issue with reliability, we'll create a reliability plan. Done the job, next! It's so 1970s.

      Whereas it's actually about understanding your passengers (and drivers for that matter) and dialogue. We want to be listened to, not "told". They do try to communicate, but it's like daleks. What are they on about? Different planets.

      It's a bit like cooking: it's the result that matters not the process, which is why robots can't cook. And bus managers too often don't produce results either. They make the problem fit the solution, rather than the other way around. It's the lazy man's solution.

      I don't know what the cause is. When I started work (in the 1970s) , I was told that management was about promoting people to their level of incompetence, where they posed no threat to anyone above them. It too often looks as though when bus companies choose their managers, they choose to promote the bus drivers who are no good at dealing with the public, their job; out of the way, presumably. And they don't get any better. ?????

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    3. Well we are going to disagree on this. I see no attempt with them engaging with their customers it is more a case of them ignoring them. When do they ever engage with their customers when planning t change timetables or axe services? They simply do not listen. They might as well be deaf

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    4. Well, to answer my own question. We know the problem.

      When Head Office controls everything, local OC managers become mere cyphers.

      Where have all the good staff gone?
      They've left; every one.

      They just couldn't take it anymore. Head Offices never listen, and never learn. Sadly, I agree with SWB. It'll never change.

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  10. Just wondering . . . outside the Mets, will Uber destroy the big bus companies the way that Amazon is destroying the High Streets? One thing is certain, their business model won't stand still.

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    1. I think it will. It will take time but I can see Uber setting up flexible on demand bus services. When bus fares are so high it is cheaper for two people to use a taxi then the marketing opportunity is there. Uber has the technology and marketing skills to make it work. They are already trialling such services

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. I suspect you've hit the nail on the head. Bus company managers know they are uncompetitive and are scared of competition which they strive to avoid at all costs. This accounts for their absurd behaviour and is why they are deaf to reason. The passengers are often just collateral damage in their struggle.

      When the managers have no faith in their business then how do they expect passengers to have any trust either? Pity the poor drivers, and depot staff.

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  11. Unbelievable. A report today that a First Essex driver, on duty, when an elderly gentleman tried to photograph his bus threatened to "knock his block off". ???? Where do they get this scum?

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  12. Coo . . . . lots of points above!!

    I must disagree that the "average" bus company doesn't consult, research, publicise or listen. The average bus company WILL actually do that, and will also look at the journeys passengers currently make and try very hard not to disrupt those.

    However, bus services are "transport for the many" and not for just a few. Very often, passengers (and prospective passengers) will want the bus timed to their personal requirements, but how do you time a bus journey into town when passengers want to arrive at 5-minute intervals between 0800 and 0900, and there are two trips available? Someone will be disappointed!!

    Another point (and this answers smurfuk's comment) is that bus garage managers have to do many things now - service planning, oversee maintenance, HR queries, hire and fire drivers (without infringing HR requirements!), complete P&L spreadsheets for Head Office . . . . it's no wonder that some things don't get done.
    In my young days as a Garage Manager (1980's under NBC), every garage had two managers, one of which would also undertake some clerical duties. This meant that there was time available to undertake little "projects" and to visit WI meetings and so on. Expensive, yes, but we did know our patch.
    Stagecoach stripped out that layer of management on privatisation, and the other big groups followed. Then (20 years ago) the old gits like me started to retire, so a level of local knowledge was lost, and replaced by kids straight from University who didn't travel by bus, and certainly couldn't drive a bus!!
    What's the answer? Replace that lost layer, give managers time to talk to staff and passengers and properly explain the rationale behind service changes. That'll cost money, and the bean counters (with short-term vision) will simply prevent it.

    Will franchising be better? Can anyone actually say that their local council is effectively managed and efficiently run?

    No, thought not. And we want these lunatics to get the keys to the asylum?

    And finally . . . . . ah, a version of the Harlow Wave (the two fingered variety). No response necessary other than to sack him for gross misconduct (but remember to follow the HR guidelines, otherwise he'll scream discrimination).

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    1. I'd agree with all that except . . . the small operators manage it, with less management; and so do the big groups, sometimes. In every line of business, management layers have been stripped out. But, except in poorly run businesses, quality hasn't suffered, it's even improved.

      Yes I agree we can't have tailored services (though perhaps Uber will sort that one out). In my experience the traveling public are actually extraordinarily patient. Though perhaps that patience is being tested a bit when out of the six buses scheduled between 8am and 9am regularly only two turn up? And to help the public they take different routes. I admit I've met a few people who like playing guess the bus and even are good at it. A very few.

      I agree though depots have always been patchy. As a general rule (not inevitably, see BHS) anything the politicians get their hands on, is poorly run (see the NHS). I suspect even Reading Buses, for example has a good reputation and is much favoured on these forums, because the politicians have the sense to keep their hands off; or a fearsome manager. I suspect even the big bus companies can't serve two masters, the politicians and the public.

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  13. Superb debate, chaps - many thanks.

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