Wednesday, 14 June 2017

48 Hours - London & Devon Part One

Boredom can be a problem. It can lead you to do things that seem a great idea at the time. Such an event happened over the Easter weekend, when I decided it was about time I caught up with the MAN Ecocity gas buses rudely snatched from Anglian and dispatched to Plymouth last October. Some perusing of the Megabus website and I came up with a package I couldn't really refuse. Travelling Norwich - Plymouth on the Sunday, arriving in Plymouth early Monday morning, all day there before catching the overnight coach back to London and on to Norwich to get back Tuesday teatime. All for £10.50. Yes Norwich to Plymouth return for £10.50. It seemed rude not to so I booked and thus Sunday afternoon saw me catching one of Anglian's long term loanee Mercedes Citaros to Norwich to begin my journey.

A routine trip to London on Freestones superb 14 plate Scania Izara tri-axle followed, getting in early as expected due to Sunday timings being the same as weekday. This allowed me time to do something I felt I had to do.

Freestones Scania YN14 FVR at Norwich Bus Station
I can't tell you how many times I have stood on London Bridge, driven over London Bridge, stopped on London Bridge or passed through London Bridge going over Borough Market on the train but it will be in the thousands. It was important to me that I went there again to pay my respects to those whose only offence was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. A chat to a friendly copper allowed me to place events, and in the middle of an incredible sunset I stood by the tributes with that iconic view of Tower Bridge and tried my best to imagine the horrors of 8 days previously, and it isn't easy to equate the images you see on TV with the spot you know so well.

The tributes at London Bridge
St Paul's from London Bridge
The trip to London Bridge allowed me to get a ride on one of the Wright bodied Hydrogen buses running on the RV1 Covent Garden - Tower Gateway route. A few interesting whines but they're not bad, certainly better than the BYD electric buses. However, a well respected source then informed me the hydrogen buses cost a million quid each and my estimations lowered a little. Yes they're ok but under no circumstances do they look, sound or feel a million quid. No wonder they haven't caught on. A million? Seriously?

One of the Hydrogen buses at Aldwych
A couple of Borismasters back to Victoria made me feel better and I joined the merry throng waiting for the 2330 to Falmouth & Newquay via most of the South West! A 66 plate Volvo B11R Plaxton Elite Interdeck duly arrived and duly filled up to the seams! It was heaving, which I wasn't expecting on a Sunday night. These are truly quality vehicles and I love traveling on them. Impossible to get a decent pic of it, either at London or Plymouth so apologies for that. We were a bit late arriving in Plymouth, which didn't matter as the City really hadn't woken up, and I decided to locate the Rail Station immediately as that would play a big part in the day. Naturally it was uphill, but a 15 min walk later and I was at Plymouth Station with something unexpected (mainly because I hadn't researched) at the platform. The Sleeper from Paddington to Penzance was on a scheduled stop, and I took advantage of the situation.

57602 from outside the station
57602 Powderham Castle fro inside the station
57603 Tintagel Castle at the other end
A good start to the day, but it was time to catch up with those gas buses, and as luck would have it one of their regular routes passes the station, so I waited and before long ex Anglian 109, now Plymouth Citibus 701 AU62 DWC arrived. A day ticket on Plymouth Citibus's extensive network is a mere £4 - something Go-Ahead in this region might like to contemplate. £9 for a much smaller network doesn't compare well.

Plymouth Citibus 701 (Anglian 109)
When they took them Plymouth Citibus intimated that the gas buses would get a decent overhaul - seats re-covered, panels tightened up etc. Well they've had a repaint. Nothing else has changed. Seats the same, rattles the same, door alarms going off when cornering right the same. I mean yes they are still brilliant and the best single deck bus ever built in my opinion, but there was no evidence of the extensive TLC I was led to believe they were getting. I took a pic of ex Anglian 110, now Plymouth 710 AU13 FBJ, and rode back to the station on ex Anglian 105, Plymouth 705 WX62 HFU but was left with a real sense of anticlimax. Let's see what they are like in another year.

Ex Anglian 110
Ex Anglian 105
The rest of the day was to be far from anti-climatic. One of the jewels in the railway crown is the Devon Day Ranger, which covers the Great Western Main Line from Tiverton Parkway to Plymouth, and all the branch lines - Exmouth, Barnstaple and my first port of call, Gunnislake, and all for £12. Better still, although not normally valid until after 9am, because the Gunnislake branch isn't that regular I was allowed to use it on the 0840 departure from Plymouth. Part two will be dedicated to my day on Devon's railways, and how I'm still suffering for my pleasure!


  1. Hi, I enjoy your blogs so keep up the good work.
    Just one point re this one - Plymouth Citibus is part of the Go-Ahead group so I guess they are aware of their day ticket.

    1. Hi Stephen

      In my experience very few above depot manager level within Go-Ahead know what day of the week it is, let alone other day ranger prices. Indeed the first Plymouth driver I asked didn't even know of the existence of the ticket..... Go_Ahead seems to be Go-Ahead countrywide!

  2. Plymouth Citybus may operate more routes but since your £4 ticket was for the City zones only it is not comparable to the Go-Ahead Anglian £9 Network ticket which covers much longer journeys (a comparison with the Norwich zone would be more accurate, Norwich still being slightly higher, but looking at the zone boundaries again this seems to cover a slightly larger equivalent area). The Plymouth Citybus equivalent is £8 but doesn't seem to cover their entire network and doesn't seem valid for the edges of the network (beyond Liskeard to Bodmin & Padstow wasn't included on the map & it is unclear about Bude as well) so again isn't fully comparable. The price of day tickets are less related to the size of the network as to the expected price of the journeys they are covering so a smaller geographical area will be cheaper as the length of journey & so average single/return ticket price will be lower. Day tickets will tend to priced on the assumption of normal multiple trip travel (either 3 singles or 2 returns) though some operators will use a day ticket as returns, largely in city zones with largely flat fare structures, so price it below two singles (this does have concessionary fare reimbursement implications as returns are averaged as 2 trips whereas days tickets are often averaged as 4 trips so pushing down your average fare dramatically). The only time when a smaller network may come into consideration when determining ticket prices is where there is a head-to-head competition element where the smaller operator may want to price slightly cheaper than their larger competitor to help their attractiveness against the dominant operator.

    There are always exceptions to this normal position, if the ticket is felt to be not useful to 'normal' day-to-day passengers (normally because it sits above a regular range of tickets that can cover most regular traffic flows) then it may be priced on a higher calculation as it is assumed to be used for daytrippers using multiple long distance bus trips. Stagecoach appear to do this with some of their network tickets as they often have more county led tickets below this for regular travel and then above have a wider ticket that effectively covers half the country that is likely to be used by non-regular passengers travelling very long distances for leisure purposes and so comes as a higher price.

  3. Have you seen the new Freestones interdecker? It's on driver training .

    1. No but I will investigate. Thanks for the info.