Sunday 13 March 2016

Sunday Post

Only good news in today's post, which makes a pleasant change. Unsurprisingly we start in Beccles with Borderbus, who have revealed the latest expansion of the 146, which comes into effect on March 29th.

The first journey of the day, the 0705 from Carlton Colville will now start from Kessingland at 0655. There will also be a new journey leaving Southwold at 0642. Both journeys will serve City College in Norwich. In a slight re-organising the 0837 from Worlingham will no longer start from Carlton Colville non schooldays, and the 0845 departure from Southwold will now start at Kessingland at 0908. However the 0927 from Wangford is extended to start at Southwold at 0915. The 1152 departure from Worlingham will now start at Southwold at 1105, giving a half hourly service along the whole route between 0915 and 1135, and from then a half hourly service between Kessingland and Norwich. The biggest improvement is the reduction in non school day only journeys, with only the 1428 from Kessingland falling into that category. This means the 1545 from Southwold to Norwich now runs school days too.

Towards Southwold the 0833 from Beccles will now start from Wrentham at 0914. There is an additional departure to Southwold from Norwich at 0950, and the 1050, 1140, 1240 and 1340 departures from Norwich are extended to Kessingland. The 1510 to Southwold now runs on school days too, with only two journeys differing on school days - the 1430 will terminate at Beccles instead of Kessingland, and the 1540 to Kessingland will only operate non school days. These changes mean a regular service throughout the day with no big gaps on school days. This was much needed and will only enhance the ever more popular route. You can view the full timetable by clicking here.

The 146 expanding again
And on the ever more popular note Andrew Pursey contacted me last night to tell me how the 146 has hit new record figures. When I asked if I could publish the figures he replied with the following email, which I reproduce in full...

OK for you to quote those figures, as the BB Team are all very pleased with them.
The figures in question are as follows. 
 Feb 2016 compared to Feb 2015: Pax +101%  On Bus Revenue +132%
Jan 2016 compared to Jun 2015: Pax +20% On Bus Revenue +53%
I would suggest many operators would quite like increases in productivity such as those. To get 20% more passengers in January when Pontins is shut compared to June when it is bursting shows how much more of the local market has been attracted by the service Borderbus provide on the 146. I really like the way Andrew emphasises the fact it's a team effort, and he is right. Without the drivers welcoming everyone on board, giving everyone time to sit down and driving to a timetable that allows for those courtesies, to the engineering team that achieve miracles in making E200's a pleasure to travel on, to the fact there are ALWAYS timetables available (acknowledging that a lot of the older generation are not gadget mad and still prefer paper timetables) then you could be the best MD in the world yet would achieve nothing. With Robin and Lee joining the team in the next couple of weeks things will only get better and better. I still think the Border Bendis will be needed come high season! It shows it CAN be done with the right attitudes from top to bottom, and by everyone feeling needed and appreciated. Other operators take note.

Now a few weeks ago I mentioned I was going to be involved in something quite exciting at Stagecoach South East. I was sent a picture on Friday of one of the first deliveries on what on the outside is a brand new E400MMC, and indeed it is.

New Stagecoach South East E400MMC

However it's what's under the bonnet that makes this batch of MMC's a world first, and I will be revealing all soon. I'm meeting with the Business Development Manager at Stagecoach South East next week and I'm hoping to persuade him to show me round one of these impressive vehicles! Watch this space.

Finally another preview of an upcoming post. Robert Appleton has sent me pictures he took of the Yarmouth Olympians in their days at Yorkshire Coastliner, and my word they looked good. A full post coming up in due course but here is a taster with a pic of 436, later to become 34109 in her Yorkshire Coastliner glory. Many thanks, Robert.

W436 CWX later 34109 in her Yorkshire days in August 2004


  1. Whilst not denigrating the efforts of Border Bus, it is interesting to note that this timetable majors on providing the service 0900-1500, with a very limited AM peak service and only an hourly PM peak service.
    I assume that, with the service breaking down to hourly at around 1430, some of the buses cover school services and then finish.
    Could this overall level of service survive without the support of school buses? This does seem to be the way of the world now . . . . peak hour buses simply aren't important any more, and we now see that the only real numbers of passengers are in the off-peak times on weekdays (not necessarily on Saturdays). And no Sunday/BH service either.
    As I've said for some time now . . . . without OAP free passes (and the ever reducing reimbursement), there simply won't be buses outside urban areas . . . rural buses cannot survive much longer unless there's a good sized town at both ends (and preferably something in the middle) which can support a service at least hourly. Good drivers and team spirit can only work magic with the right timetable!!

    1. You are totally correct. Borderbus have been allowed to give the 146 time to develop because of their successful school work - which in the main comes direct from the school not the council. It isn't the buses that are required for school work but the drivers, who swap vehicles for school deckers.

      However this is to my memory the fourth expansion of the 146 which originally ran 0930 - 1500 and was deliberately targeted at the concession pass holders. Success in that mission allowed probes into the peak market which have slowly but surely seen gradual increases, with this time gaps in the afternoon plugged and new early morning journeys. There is still room for further expansion, and who knows a Summer Sunday service at least might be worth a try.

      I have also said for ages that "dead end" routes are no longer sustainable and routes now need to go A to C via B, with A and C being major towns. It's only common sense after all. Unfortunately daft regulations have seen it more difficult to operate longer distance routes which has see those routes split up.

    2. Interesting that the school work is in the gift of the school . . . are they required to openly tender for suppliers? That might be a real danger to Route 146 if the school runs are lost to another operator.
      Concerning those "daft" regulations . . . whilst they do exist, it is very possible to circumvent them if tried . . . check out the Stagecoach network of routes in NE Scotland, where through routes are split into four or more chunks with the same route number. X29 Fakenham for Norwich is quite acceptable for the passenger to see; the alternative is X29 Norwich via Fakenham . . . not much different!
      I believe that, given time (and the will of the industry to argue for it), that we will see through routes (say Norwich - Diss - Bury - Ipswich) operated by two or three operators with a common registration, farescale and timetable; thereby providing lots of journey opportunities both short and long distance. The Competition Commission and its predecessors have a lot to answer for, but perhaps the industry didn't protest enough?!
      Hopefully I'll still be around to see it . . . .

    3. Demand is a fickle thing though. Look at the decline of the original Green Line! Cross Suffolk services have been tried and as far as I know, fizzled out. Now the remnants are subsidised. Co-ordination, yes; but still few people want to spend all day on a bus.

      I wonder too how far you can generalise? To me there seem to be some areas with significant off-peak usage, and some where the use is almost all peak, even both in the same commuting area. Borderbus have clearly paid great attention to detail in tailoring their services to the local market. I suppose the easy explanation is that it's easier (perhaps only possible) for a small operator, though I think middling size firms like Stephensons also seem to manage it to some extent.

      I was going to do a mock-Steve report after the first 6 months of First's new "commercial" 72 service in Essex, along the lines of this one on the 146. But it was just too damn depressing. I put "commercial" in inverted commas since I'm not sure that's the right word for regularly a single passenger (or less) on the daytime half-hourly service (never any more than half a dozen), before as an afterthought they introduced a couple of short run peak services which, at least, doubled the number of passengers per bus! Gives the spare buses and drivers something to do during the day, I suppose. All I can say is that the drivers and passengers seem about as confused as each other! I'm not sure that taking the OAP's to the school (and making them change for the shops) during the day helps. Do the kids get taken to the shops?

      As an afterthought Steve, perhaps you could encourage Chris to go down and nick a few, as they seem to have these spares? Judging by the regular trespass cases reported, they seem to let them out with anybody! Restore your local cuts, after all even the 64/5 couldn't manage to do any worse, could it?

    4. First of all to answer Greenline's question about BB's school work - it is a privaet arrangement between the school and BB. The school approached Andrew Pursey to design a network of school buses as demand for places at the school was growing rapidly - it's a very popular school. If you go onto Borderbus's website you'll see from an initial 2 buses thee are now 8. Originally these were paid for by the school, however so popular were they that they became a victim of their own success, and so last year parents were told they would have to contribute to the cost of the buses. The doom mongers forecast that would be it but no. An outstanding school and reliable, safe transport to and from is every parent's dream. The council are not involved as BB bring kids to the school from areas the council wouldn't as tere are more local schools the kids could attend.

      Also I'm well aware of route splitting - the X1 and indeed 146 already to it but it confuses passengers who generally read the main destination and not the small print. If you are a stranger to the area, and let's face it East Anglia is tourist reliant, then confusing destinations and "guaranteed connection - stay on the bus" isn't going to be conducive to a relaxing holiday!

      Now Smurf you are free to write a guest report for me on the 72 - you know I've wanted an Essex correspondent for ages. Next time I see Chris I'll put your suggestion to him. I like it very much....

    5. Point taken about the original Green Line network . . . . been there, done that!! What really killed Green Line was the unpredictable traffic delays through Central London that made timetable adherence impossible; although lengthening the running time made journey times unpopular as well.

      I've many stories of being over an hour late due to traffic chaos in the 1980's . . . . my worst was to arrive at Luton Airport over 2 hours late to find my four colleagues (on an hourly service) also there (the worst one was over 5 hours late!). No mobile phones then, so we worked out what to do between ourselves and set off for home with 15 minutes between us (Reigate Garage was over 50 miles away, so we had to keep going!). Mind you . . . the overtime was fabulous!!

    6. Yep I fondly remember the 727; and commuting when I was studying, on the 707/717, when they all made some desperate attempts to be competitive, against all the odds. Some fantastic driving feats in the 70s/early 80s! Vitually the last one, the 724 struggles on as a glorified bus service, with I think First's 701/2 , Arriva's 738?, and the ghostly remnant of the 797. The ancient 714 which I grew up on is resurrected as a plain old bus service, steering well clear of London, let alone anything south of the Thames. A far cry from its Reigate days. The old Eastern Counties tried to extend the model into East Anglia, in its dying days. It never took off. I think they had another attempt in the Labour days, with the same result. Like in the LT days of the old green County buses, it had absolutely nothing to entice the punters!!