Sunday 13 April 2014

Steve's Sunday Soapbox

So it would appear First are going back to Kessingland and the 99 is coming back. Can anyone tell me why they left Kessingland in the first place as I don't know the history - were they pushed out by Anglian or did they abandon it as a loss making route and Anglian filled the gap?

Either way I seriously don't think Anglian have much to worry about, despite reports I have heard saying they are. Let's look at this logically. First have only registered the route from Lowestoft Bus Station to Kessingland - as yet we don't know if Kessingland Beach is going to be served. So anyone going further than Lowestoft - including many many students heading to Gorleston will remain. Those coming from Southwold and Rentham will remain. First already outnumber Anglian between Pakefield Tramway and Lowestoft yet without exception, in my experience anyway, Anglian always pick up passengers along that stretch.

And of course there are the fleets involved. According to NBP the 99 is going to be operated out of Lowestoft depot with 2 or 3 vehicles brought in. What vehicles and where from because they will be competing directly with a fleet of buses that are slowly but surely taking passengers from the X1 between Yarmouth and Norwich. Somehow I can't see the good people of Kessingland defecting to Jersey Darts on a permanent basis when they are used to gas buses now. The proof that if you have a good service people stick to it is evident in Ipswich, where the 13's operated by IB leave Tower Ramparts full, and the 53 operated by First leaves virtually empty despite it being cheaper. So it's probably only Pontins where the visitors won't know the local bus scene where First may take passengers off Anglian.

 I have already written to Anglian advising them to take on First on the 3 this year using heritage vehicles. I have not had so much as the courtesy of a reply. So let me amend it. Start a Yarmouth - Norwich via Caister and Hemsby service. At the moment the holidaymakers, not to mention local residents have to go in and out of Yarmouth if they want to go to Norwich. Now there isn't even the attraction of Routemasters to entice them to keep their cars at the caravan. Surely the potential is there and starting a new route for a new customer base makes more sense than trying to fleece a few passengers off existing routes. Where is the vision? I am available for employment btw!!

So in my opinion, and it is purely my opinion, will the 99 be a success? No it won't, unless Bentley have suddenly started building buses and you get a free Flake when you board!

And finally the most ironic advertising ever seen on a bus. I took this yesterday at Norwich Bus Station on maximum zoom so apologies for quality but I literally DID laugh out loud when I saw what was on the side of 33816. Good colour co-ordination though.

Nothing needs to be said!


  1. Giv'em a break! I know we live in a world where everyone can do everyone else's job better than they can, but they're trying. And probably doing what they can rather than what they should, but that's the name of the modern game. They might even get there . . . eventually. Even the Cambs populace are in open revolt over the busway - and not too many of us have £100mill or so (and counting) to spare!

  2. First Group profits in 6 months to September 2013 were up 43% to £28.3m. Go-Ahead;s 2014 first half expectations are for profits from the bus operations to rise 14.7% to £40m with the target to increase bus operating profit to £100m by 2016. Stagecoach profits in 2013 from UK bus operations were £186m. So yes. the money IS around.

  3. A few points:

    'Somehow I can't see the good people of Kessingland defecting to Jersey Darts'

    I can't either, unless they run after 6 o'clock. That is something First have over Anglian as things stand - they're (reasonably) willing to run buses after 6-7pm.

    That's why I've not defected to the 7 anyway. I mean; last 7 from Norwich - 6pm, last X1 from Norwich - 11.15pm (15 minutes earlier for both on Sundays). Yes, I accept there's probably a business case for that, but should I be in Norwich post 6pm then, to be quite honest, a business case isn't going to get me home.

    'the Cambs populace are in open revolt over the busway'

    So I hear.

    I have to say though that that brings to mind a commenter on another site - he lives up north somewhere, his local buses are provided by one of the Stagecoach companies, and he used to regularly slate them to the rafters over and over and over... Until he visited family/friends who lived in one of First's patches (one of the Yorkshire ones I believe) and was there for ~2 weeks. Upon his return his first post was "Stagecoach I'm sorry, I'll never slate you again". Make of that what you will.

    'Return of the First 99'

    AIUI it was a bit of both - First abandoned it, but Anglian (and the passengers) sensed the retreat beforehand.

    Goodness knows why, as it was a busy every 15 minute service at one point and seemed to be a license to print money. I mean, a friend lived on that route and would advise me to aim for the bus half an hour before the one I needed in case the buses were overcrowded, so... Yeah, really don't know what happened there.

    IIRC they abandoned the daytime 99s first, but continued to run the evening 99s for a while as they received subsidy from Suffolk County Council for doing so, but not long later the evening 99s stopped too.

  4. My friend your comment about evening buses is a valid one, and I couldn't agree more. I live between Saxmundham and Framlingham on an A road and my nearest bus routes are the 88 Norwich - Halesworth and 64 Ipsiwch - Saxmundham. The last 88 to Halesworth leaves Norwich at 1800, and the last 64 leaves Ipswich at 1815. The nearest to home I can get after that time is Beccles or Martlesham - either way over 15 miles. Even the last train on the East Suffolk Line leaves Ipswich at 2216 or Lowestoft at 2107. So it's not easy (or cheap) if you want an evening out and have no car.

    We shall see what haopens in Kessingland - and I've also heard that First are considering going against Anglian on the Norwich - Bungay route (alas not to Halesworth) so the next few months could be interesting.

  5. Does anywhere in the UK now have evening buses in rural areas? As far as I know Cambs have the busway but are withdrawing all subsidies, for replacement day time dial-a-ride voluntary minibuses; and Suffolk's version which used to operate in the evenings are now daytime only. Why is that? Essex seem to subsidise both rural (but daytime) and urban/commuter routes evening services - almost all of them - but it costs them £7million and cuts are in the offing. Herts similarly. With a stagnant council tax is it any surprise? I agree that First commercial seem to manage to struggle on into the early/mid-evening, and later for some inter-urban services, which seems to be about as good as it gets. £43m profit is what, a 4.3% return or so - it wouldn't pay our pensions I suspect! The trouble is we abandoned overall network planning (which cost too much) for this free-for-all and cross-subsidy disappeared. But was this "cross-subsidy" ever worth the candle? We don't have London's population. The trouble is that the routes seem to either come all together, that's the god of competition; or are on the dwindling life-support of public subsidy, and ne'er the twain shall meet. Perhaps the newbies like Borderbus, and even the oldies like First stirring into life, can start to bridge the divide, but it'll be a slow and faltering process; and I don't expect any miracles. It's going to get worse.

  6. I think the main problem is that the operating companies have yet to fully grasp the concept that these days you have to entice people onto the buses. When I was a kid very few mums drove,for example, so on market day relief services were needed. Now very few mums don't drive. Not nearly as many factories remain as there were 40 years ago. Industry has changed and so have working practices. Therefore the companies need to sell their products more, and all are guilty of underselling.

    The biggest gap I have found is the lack of an integrated ticket. In the South East where I originate from the Explorer ticket still exists,and is available for travel on all buses of all companies in kent,Susex, Surrey and Hampshire excluding any TfL routes. No such ticket exists here,so say, for example,you wanted to get from my village to Bury St Edmunds. First of all it would be Suffolk Links to saxmundham (no point using the 196 as you'd never get back). The First to Ipswich, Beestons to Sudbury and finally Chambers to Bury. 4 buses, 4 separate fares unless you have a free pass. No wonder there aren't enough bums on seats. All companies in the South East sell the Explorer ticket but all charge slightly different prices so no accusations of cartels etc can be made. All accept each other's Explorer tickets too. This area is crying out for such a ticket with so many operators. Buses need bums on seats to survive, and every avenue should be looked down to get those bums on seats.

  7. I agree. Since I've retired I'm surprised at how the bus industry seems always to fail to see things from the customer point of view. Even their information can always be improved if they bothered to think about it, to inform rather than patronise. Too often, whether on ticketing, reliability (my bugbear) or convenience and comfort the passenger seems to be an accidental afterthought fitted in between everything else. Like Government they have some good initiatives, but they never join up the dots. I found your comment on when you were growing up interesting, I too last used buses as a juvenile, and what strikes me is how little in attitude and problems (two sides of the same coin perhaps?) the industry has changed. New ownership but same old problems. It's as if each area is trapped in its own little time warp. I suspect that in Suffolk (as in Herts and Essex which I know more about) a 1960s traveller returning today would on the bus industry find themselves too often in familiar territory.

  8. Except before 7am and after 6pm when in most likelihood they would be stranded up the creek without a bus pass! I remember when I was working at Boro'line's Crayford depot in theearly 90's we had a new Operations Manager arrive who had come straight from W H Smith and had no bus experience whatsoever. He didn't last long as it was the wrong time and area for him. But now maybe isthe time for someone with more retail experience to help out. I mean when was the last time you sawany of the big companies have a January Sale!

    To be fair Ipswich Buses have more promotions than most, but most of them involve evening group travel. I agree with you about attitude - bus companies still seem to think that they are doing the passenger a favour just by providing a service. If Tesco did that they'd be dead in a year.Oh - and promotions don't mean discount on multiple tickets - the occasional traveller needs incentives too.

  9. Think yourself lucky. In Essex they do the passengers this favour by not providing a service. I can't quite work out whether the buses or the drivers suffer more breakdowns? I have a theory that they're a real life TOWIE: the conversations in the depots must go something along the lines of "not now, dahling, I've got a headache" and "I'm not going out with you in that state/mood"; or perhaps they hide crying in the bottom of the lockers for fear of the beastly passengers? Sorry for the cynicism, but it helps pass the time whilst waiting.

  10. Seems like the driver I had this morning came from that mould! Turned up laste despite going paast me the other way early, then drove straight past me (and I'm not a small bloke), got upset when I asked what the delay was and proceded to drive like a tit braking as sharply as possible and finding numerous kerbs and verges to clip. Drove past two other stops en route where there were people waiting, having to screech to a halt. Really professional.

  11. On the enviro 400 debate how come Konect 400 on the 3 and 6 route seem to running well on there day trips from Watton to Norwich on the 1108 which is not exactly bump free.

  12. I haven't been on either of those routes, but I'll be at a loose end Saturday so will rectify that and go compare!!

  13. I remember when they used K62KEX and J623BVG on the route. It was at one point a thriving route, but then I believe holiday makers stopped using it.
    K62KEX is now being preserved