Wednesday 24 September 2014

Bus Passengers On Increase

Over the last 2 or 3 weeks I've been on some pretty busy buses. There has been overcrowding on the 88 between Halesworth and Norwich, the 64 between Saxmundham and Ipswich, the 118/9 between Framlingham and Ipswich, and I have noticed other routes with more passengers on them than usual. It seems it is not my imagination as today's Ipswich Star reports a 4% increase in bus travel in the year 2013-14, and I don't think all of them were mine!

This is good news and could be a stepping stone to increased and better services - for example I have heard reports that Anglian are considering running later services again on some of its routes. This is a sensible idea, as after 4ish buses running into town are virtually empty because people just can't get home again. Just remember that it is pointless running evening services if they don't run late enough for people to get home from an evening at the cinema/theatre etc. Co-ordinating with trains would also be advantageous. I would also suggest operating companies take steps to accommodate the increase in passengers by providing the appropriate seating capacity on the routes where overcrowding is an issue, or those passengers will very quickly go again.

However, the article warns that rural areas aren't so lucky, and to be honest the comment from SCC is laughable. I see an opportunity to rebuild the bus network, incorporating less populated areas with more profitable routes but that will need enterprise from the operating companies, and support from local authorities. It can work if people want it to work, but is there the desire to make it work around here, or will the cash cows be milked to exhaustion. We shall see.

Anyway you can view the full report in the Ipswich Star by clicking here.


Since posting the above I have received an email from Malcolm Robson, Managing Director of Ipswich Buses, who says the following regarding passenger numbers:

Our passenger numbers are up on last year, although as I stated I feel that most of this is coming from growth in customers traveling to out of town stores such as John Lewis at Home and Waitrose at Futura Park in S E Ipswich and our new service 4 to M & S Food and Next at Martlesham.

In the last three weeks our passenger numbers are up on the corresponding week last year by 5.8%, 6.3% and 5.2% respectively, so we are seeing an upturn which is good after a few years of recessionary decline.

Many thanks for the email, Malcolm, and for permission to reproduce it on here.


  1. Yep, round here on the Essex Blackwater services, which seems the only bit for which we get data because they have an active BUGS group, First have doubled daytime frequencies (after being nagged for years, now they say they can because of "increasing patronage"), and more interestingly they've extended, commercially, an ECC supported service, out to Burnham on Crouch at post 10pm. It doesn't serve much else though, but seems half of what you're looking for. From past experience, I'm not optimistic. (They do a local commercial weekday late evening run to this village too, but cut it on Saturdays only, for some strange reason. I thought it was a mistake, but apparently not).

    Wouldn't it have helped if Government didn't under-refund concessionary fares so much and cut fuel tax rebates year on year? I expect politicians' promises and new-found interests will be out in force with an election looming. Pity they're all so disingenuous. And it'll be interesting to see what happens in my original home county of Herts if they go ahead, as seems likely, with their proposed withdrawal of all subsidies for all post 6.30pm evening and Sunday services, which are currently almost all subsidised. A bit off-topic for Suffolk and Norfolk, but never mind, we should learn from everything. On topic, I see another driver getting his kicks on route 66 this morning. But seriously, East Anglian towns must be a nightmare for bus driving, especially double deckers. The only surprise to me is it doesn't happen more often, and of course, broken down van man is involved (again).

    1. Being a regular around the particular junction concerned today I'm just surprised a decker hasn't taken the side of that building out before. And yes, vans are a bloody nightmare at that location.

      I still say the concessionary passes shouldn't be free but are charged at say £30 a year and the revenue raised should go directly to sponsoring new services, That would create jobs, allow more people to get out more often and generate growth in the economy as pointed out a couple of weeks ago.

    2. Sadly, the way we are I suspect any charge for concessions would see take up drop like a stone. It's not economics, it's "principles". Rich Cantabrigians went to war over a £1 P&R parking charge recently. Cheekily, couldn't you and other like minded people pay a fare for the odd journey to reward the virtuous, perhaps the prize for the awards (except the booby prize, obviously)? Whilst on that subject I suspect a 4-5% increase palls before the 10%+ that even First claimed across their northern operations, so I suspect I know where any investment will be going! I know that for quite a few years Suffolk Links in the Shotley Peninsula did do late weekend night services, but they too seem to have stopped, may be with cuts in the Countryside national grant funding. It's all a mess.

    3. Ah my dear boy but I do!! I quite often get my first Suffolk Links of the day before 0930 thus having to pay a fare! I have not suggested the £30 a year annual fee without my own research, and no pass holder I have surveyed has said anything but yes, happy to pay as long as the money is ring fenced to support and pay for existing services and create new ones.

      Interestingly though when I spoke to Malcom Robson of Ipswich Buses about that idea, he told me that to get revenue for Concessionary journeys back to the 2008 level an annual fee of around £50 would be needed. Having said that with all the increased passenger journeys announced today and thus revenue he won't need that now will you Malcolm!!!

    4. I recall you saying that too. But our favourite (sic) politicians worry less about the minority of bus users than the majority of voting non-bus users who are "entitled" to what they've paid for (or their spouses)! Still the great benefit of this financial mess is that it keeps us (almost) with a gold-plated economic rating. And that's all that matters, isn't it? But, I better agree with you too hadn't I . . . [wink].

    5. As the great Brian Clough once said - "If someone disagrees with me we go to my office, talk about it for 30 mins and decide I'm right". I liked that man!!!!!

  2. "I have heard reports that Anglian are considering running later services again on some of its routes"

    Again? As far as post 7PM services go, of the top of my head the only ones they've run for some time are on the 88 (previously 588) route, and they haven't stopped on there, although they have degraded from what they used to be. Oh, and the 60 does a 1910 journey Lowestoft to Beccles. If memory serves, anything else (if there is anything else!) is strictly council tenders only. They did do a 7PM Norwich to Yarmouth run when the 7 started, but that'd gone within a couple of months.

    However, mini rant aside, that news is good to hear - for all the reasons you've given. It would also (hopefully) stop First being as complacent as they have been if they know that people have a choice 'after hours'.

    Personally, I'm hoping that rumour I heard about Konect comes true - will be a bit of an eyebrow raiser if it does.

    1. I've heard nothing about Konect although I'm all ears!! There's nothing definite at Anglian, just musings I believe at the moment, but I'd guess it would probably involve Kessingland, Lowestoft, Yarmouth, and with speculation rife about competition on the 88's next year maybe even extending evening services to Halesworth again. Personally I'd like to see Suffolk Links hours extended into the evening and Sundays but that won't happen all the time politicians have an ego.

    2. As it's you I'll send a quick email rather than plastering it on here - just in case I'm spectacularly wrong.

      As for Anglian, you're probably right - with First going after them on that corridor (Kessingland, Lowestoft, Yarmouth... Norwich?) someone's got to blink at some point. Any speculation on the 88s will probably solidify further by the end of the year, whatever N&P it is that will be covering service amendments starting January 5 2015 will probably be the thing to read.

      Suffolk Links - I agree, that would be forward thinking, though you're right and it's very unlikely to happen. There is previous for it though - if memory serves, the Wymondham Area Flexibus used to do late runs a couple of nights a week at one point. It doesn't now, but it used to.

  3. Steve,

    First visit to your blog, following like from Fat Bus Bloke.

    Unlikely to come back, as your choice of font and colours makes my eyes hurt.

    Suggest you change the black/dark blue background to light grey or fawn. In that way you can have more legible print in a dark colour. It would be much easier on the eye. Take a look at other blogs to see what I mean, e.g

    1. Mate I suffer from eye problems, which is why I have so much time to kill riding on buses. I chose thiese colours because they are easy on MY eyes, and I had no intention of copying an yother blog, or even getting close as I wanted this one to be different. I'm sorry you doon't like my choice of colours but close to 85,000 pageviews and first negative comment, so i think I'll stick with it. indeed one other local blog has adopted my background colour! In fact I find typing in these white windows damn nigh impossible and it take ages proof reading them to correct the typos!