Since the majority of this week has been devoted to dealing with disruption caused by the caring souls at the Department of Work & Pensions I've been unable to do any serious material gathering for a post so thought I'd go through some of the stories circulating this week, with some comment hopefully leading to discussion.
Obviously we have to start with Anglian. If you look in the comments section of the previous post you will see that all of Go Ahead's East Anglia operators made substantial losses in the financial year 2014-15, with Anglian eclipsing them all at over £1.1m despite a healthy tax rebate that would certainly fill my freezer a few times over. Lord only knows what the next figures will show but clearly Go Ahead can't carry on as they are. So Hedingham's Tollesbury depot has been closed, Rackheath has been re-opened to reduce the cost of dead mileage to and from Dereham (and to encourage drivers based in Norwich to work for Konect), and Anglian is being stripped back to the bare bones.
It is all but definite the gas buses are going to Plymouth, and this week Anglian announced that on top of 2 Versas transferring to Konect another 6 buses were being withdrawn, including 2 of the 11 reg Scania Omnilinks. Yes 2 of Konect's B7tl deckers have gone the other way, and Solo 959 has been reinstated, presumably to operate the 85's when the new tender starts at the end of the month, but that still means a net loss of 17 buses. This will mean only 18 buses left (less than Borderbus) - and the question is will that be enough? Well let's try and work that one out. 6 buses on X88/88/88A, 2 on the 87, 6 on the 61, 1 on 60H/60S, 1 on the 81, 1 on the 85 and 3 on the 83/84. There is also the one each way 7A to consider. That makes a minimum of 20 buses, and that's not taking into account maintenance and spares. Therefore one of 3 things could be happening.
Firstly more buses cascaded from Konect, but why give them the Versas if that was the case. They are not on loan as they have disappeared from the fleet list. Secondly some services such as the 83/84/87 transferred to Rackheath and Konect - if there is room there which I have heard there might not be. Thirdly Anglian have not had it confirmed that the gas buses are going and all of a sudden the buses withdrawn this week will be hurriedly pressed back into service, and more - even the 05 reg Scanias could make a surprise come back.
However, this doesn't answer the question of why the gas buses are going in the first place. Plymouth are currently installing the required gas pumps but why are Go Ahead prepared to spend considerable money when Beccles already has them? Two theories are emerging as the most likely - firstly Anglian is on the point of closure. It's been on the cards for a long time now with operations and services getting smaller and smaller which means the gas buses would require a new home. Or, and I'm inclined to believe this more, Go Ahead now regard the Ellough site as too big and costly now, and are looking to relocate Anglian to smaller premises, that of course wouldn't have gas pumps. It's utterly pointless asking Anglian anything as they appear to be the last to be told what's happening, but I hope, for the sake of the loyal drivers remaining with Anglian, that the future is revealed sooner rather than later. It's the least those drivers, and the passengers deserve.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of being invited to lunch with a rather special club. When Anglian operated the 165 between Aldeburgh and Ipswich a few of the regular passengers and drivers became good friends. When the route was abruptly scrapped by Phil Eden to the dismay of the users of that service the 165 Club stayed in touch, and yesterday was one of their regular get togethers. If ever there was evidence to back up my assertion that on rural routes regular passengers like regular drivers they can rely on this is it. This bus was part of the community, not just a mere means of getting into town, and if rural services are to be maintained this sense of trust, friendship and loyalty needs to be rediscovered and grown. Buses in the country need to be part of the community they serve, not just another vehicle passing through at roughly the same times every day. My thanks to Jane ( a truly dedicated reader) and John for making me feel so welcome and putting on a great lunch (those profiteroles were incredible), and to the 165 Club including Lena, Robin, Mike and Peter it was great to chat to you all and hope it's not the last time.
Moving onto the rails and the industry and passengers alike are still waiting for the Anglian franchise winner to be announced. This uncertainty is not good for anyone, and no one can blame Abellio for not spending any money when they don't know if they are soon to be sacked. Therefore short formed and overcrowded trains are becoming more common, including a single coach train operating between Norwich and Yarmouth on a Summer Saturday in August. Bet that was pleasant. Freight trains seem to be failing left right and centre and there needs to be greater financial penalties for freight operators who delay passenger trains. That together with dedicated freight lines, of course, to give passenger trains clearer lines opening up more slots. Wonder if the Chinese want to help us do that too.
Some good news this week, thanks to David Green for this, is that Soames of Otley will now no longer be closing. The business has been bought by an as yet unnamed individual and will carry on trading as usual. This is good news as far too many of our small independent operators are disappearing. More info as I receive it.
Finally whispers are reaching me that First could be about to concede the biggest own goal in recent history. If it happens I'll report it, but I gather a lot of people are praying for a John Terry type last gasp clearance. Could be a fascinating week.
Take care all.