Sunday 26 November 2017

Anglianbus 1981 - 2017

This is a post I always thought I'd have to write, but one I always prayed I'd never have to. It's one of the most difficult I've had to write, because I know so many of the people involved, and have been witness to a lot of pent up emotion, sadness and anger - not just over the last couple of weeks since the announcement of Anglian's absorption into Konect - but over the last 4 years. You may have read some of the comments in the post I published with the news. If you haven't please do - you can find the post here.

In 1981 Anglian Coaches was formed by David and Christine Pursey. A small, family concern, they ran coaches of weird and wonderful shapes and sizes out of a site in Loddon, and soon became a familiar sight in Suffolk and Norfolk. I'm grateful to Dave Marshall, engineering supremo at Anglian for over 25 years before joining Andrew Pursey to launch Borderbus, for sending me a great selection of pictures of some of the early coaches, including a magnificent early Setra. I won't go into details over them - anyone interested can do so at their leisure by Googling the registrations.

In 1999 the decision was made to expand the company into bus work. The contract to operate the Diss - Yarmouth 580 was won. Realising that expansion meant extra capacity was needed Anglian relocated to their purpose built depot at Ellough in 2000, complete with a shiny new pit I have a feeling the Chief Engineer at the time is still rather proud of..

The brand new pit at Anglian 2000
More contracts were won, and in 2003 the first Commercial route was launched, the 588 Halesworth - Norwich service. It proved to be a great success, eventually knocking First off the route. The bus side grew so quickly in 2004 another depot was opened at Rackheath to stable the Norwich City services, of which there were many. The coach side of the business gradually declined and was finally abandoned, with the bus side flourishing and continuing to expand. Here are some of the early vehicles.

By 2012 Anglianbus was so successful it was the largest independent in East Anglia, with some 90 buses and over 100 drivers. From Ipswich to Great Yarmouth to Diss to Norwich not much of the area was untouched by Anglian, with the huge majority of rural community routes operated by them. The company attracted interest from more than one of the big operators, but one showed more interest than most. Go Ahead tried twice, unsuccessfully, to buy Anglian but David Pursey refused. Then fate stepped in. David Pursey became seriously ill, and recognising he was unlikely to recover he accepted a third and much higher bid from Go Ahead, firstly to guarantee his family's financial future, and let's face it who wouldn't make the same decision, and secondly, because Go Ahead promised nothing would change, that it would be business as normal, all jobs protected, and that the company would continue to flourish and expand. On 20th April 2012 Anglian became part of Go Ahead, and here is Go Ahead's statement. The final paragraph is particularly poignant.

 One thing that should never be forgotten is that it was David Pursey who sold Anglian, not Andrew. David owned the company, he founded it, and it was his to do with as he pleased. Andrew played a massive part in Anglian's success, but his dad was the boss. I'm lucky to have been given a very rare picture of David Pursey standing by one of his buses. I never met him. I wish I had. I've never heard a negative word said against him.

David Pursey by one of his Beavers
So a new era dawned on Anglianbus. Andrew Pursey remained in charge with Dave Marshall as Chief Engineer. The most significant purchases arguably ever in East Anglia arrived in the form of 13 MAN Eco City gas buses and Anglian made national headlines. The gas buses were employed on the 146 between Norwich and Lowestoft, in competition with First's X2, but in a sign of things to come the route was short lived. Andrew and Dave may have been in charge, but as Dave quite astutely said to me the other day; "We were in charge of something we had no control over". Practices that had got Anglian where they were were suddenly abandoned, and it soon became clear that Go Ahead were intent on running Beccles like a London depot, not a country depot. There is a huge difference between the two. London passengers couldn't care less who are driving their buses. Country passengers like to know the name of the driver who'll be receiving the pot of jam every Autumn. As different as chalk and cheese, something Go Ahead refused to acknowledge despite many people advising them. Indeed I wrote this post over two years ago. Why didn't they just listen?

One of the gas buses at Kessingland Beach, no longer served by buses.
Andrew was getting increasingly frustrated. In the end seeing everything he had helped to build being eroded in front of his eyes proved too much and in 2013 he left, along with Dave Marshall, to form Borderbus. That left Anglian at the complete mercy of Go Ahead, and Konectbus. Much of Anglian's newer buses transferred to Dereham. The Rackheath routes were transferred to Konect with Rackheath eventually closing, only to be re-opened as a Part & Ride depot by Konect. A new manager with a brief to streamline Beccles was installed, and streamline he did. First the popular Ipswich routes 164/5 were summarily scrapped. The 165 club, formed by passengers and drivers of the route still endures to this day. Routes were merged, with another popular route, the A47 being scrapped leaving places like Blofeld and Brundall suddenly without a Yarmouth link. And the fleet was slashed. 90 became 50 almost overnight. This left too few spares resulting in maintenance standards dropping, despite the best efforts of the staff. Again Anglian were warned by many, and some started to predict the beginning of the end. Staff morale plummeted, and the turnover of drivers reached ludicrous standards. Routes and frequencies continued to be cut.

The 60 between Beccles/Bungay and Lowestoft/JPH which at its peak ran to a 20 minute frequency became virtually nothing overnight. The 62 between Lowestoft and Halesworth was scrapped, affecting many communities, and the 80/81 between Diss and Yarmouth trimmed to its bare bones. Yes, Council subsidy cuts played a part, but not all of it. There was no desire from Anglian management to save the routes. The public wasn't consulted, and Go Ahead continued to run Beccles as a London depot, wondering why it wasn't working yet still refusing to listen.

The very last 62, gas bus 100 operating
 Then just when you thought it couldn't get worse it did. The 7 was taken over by Konect, who cleverly extended journey times by incorporating the 7 into the Norwich P & R brand - that had them flocking on! It lasted 6 months before being scrapped. The gas buses were transferred to Plymouth, a move that many saw as the final nail in the coffin. The 61 changed routes more often than an indecisive rambler, pulled out of Southwold, now doesn't even serve Yarmouth and in January is being scrapped altogether, when 3 years ago it was one of the longest routes in the country, a successful 20 min frequency route running between Norwich (as the 7) and Southwold - a 2 and a half hour journey. Anglian gave up on the 80/81 Yarmouth to Diss in the face of fierce competition (2 buses) from Borderbus, and are now losing passengers hand over fist to First on the Bungay corridor. In January the PVR on ex Anglian routes will be 10. What a debacle. Konect haven't escaped unscathed either, with routes including the 2 between Norwich and Sheringham, and the 1 between Watton and Kings Lynn going along with the 71/72 Yarmouth services. Hedingham have closed Tollesbury depot and Chambers have reduced frequencies. Overall Go Ahead have murdered a huge number of bus services in East Anglia, and they don't appear to give a damn. I said three years ago that East Anglia needs Anglian, if only to keep First in check. But more importantly Anglian were part of the community, they were popular, successful, friendly, and reliable. That changed in 2012. Now they are consigned to history, except of course we'll have the reminder with Anglian lveried buses running around with Konectbus on the side, just to rub it in.

I visited Anglian's Beccles depot the other day to take a couple of final pictures. The only thing missing was the tumbleweed.

On 20th November 2017 all Anglian services became Konect. Anglianbus Co Ltd still exists so the drivers can continue to be paid at a lower rate than Konect drivers, but all services are now operated by Konect.

So thanks for the memories, Anglian. Thanks for buying (not leasing) the best single decker bus ever built then trashing them. Thanks to all the drivers who became mates, too many to individually name but a couple of them have become close friends. Thanks to everyone who has given me their memories and opened their hearts up over the last couple of weeks. Those hearts are broken at what Go Ahead has done. As Andrew Pursey said to me when I asked for his thoughts "It's like watching a family member die from cancer. You can't do anything about it, it's tortuous and upsetting when they die, but in a way almost a relief too".  This has,indeed been a tortuous death, but now maybe it has paved the way for something or someone new to succeed where Anglian self destructed. I hope so, or Suffolk will become a very barren patch for bus services. RIP Anglianbus

I'll leave the final words to Bernice Carver. An engineer at Anglian for many years (and my invaluable mole) she only left a few months ago, and was witness to the carnage around her. She has written a poem, which she has given permission to publish, as well as her name. I think it conveys perfectly the raw emotion evident in those who truly cared about Anglian. Bernice even had pet names for her buses, and this last pic of 452 is for her. The last bus with Anglian fleetnames I have taken. Yes on a Konect route but I guess that's appropriate. Thanks, Bernice and I hope your anger becomes calm soon.

Anglian 452 Scania Omnilink AU58 AUV in Norwich 17th November
Anglian Bus

Anglian Bus years ago in time,
was at it’s peak, and in it’s prime.
The staff were happy, the buses well kept,
more and more passengers, they did collect.
Yellow was the colour, with the bottom half blue,
always seen in villages, towns, and the city too.
Anglian ruled, for a while at least,
competitors realising, it was a defeat.
Passengers were happy, offering congrats,
to the Pursey family, we took off our hats.

Then one sad day,  Anglian was sold,
NOT due to debt, as we were all told.
Love and compassion, were the reasons it went,
words that Go Ahead, cannot comprehend.
In came the vultures, known as Konect,
management taking, all they could get.
Swapping the buses, from the new to the old,
the warmth in the depot, had suddenly gone cold.
Robbing Anglian, to pay Konect,
I’ve never seen, such a disrespect.
They sent in the bully, and the idiots too,
saying they could do, what we couldn't do.
Well, that they did, they left us in disgrace,
and now they only option, is to go and close the place.
So due to the management, at Go Ahead
they have killed Anglian, Anglian is dead.


  1. That's a very poignant piece of writing. I knew them when they were at Loddon and as an enthusiast (and ex haulage driver/manager) nothing prepares you for that kind of asset stripping and complete disregard for what has been achieved before and everything worked for will be lost forever.

  2. Is the beccles depot closing

    1. Yes. the yard is reportedly sold, and Konect are looking for a small out station for buses on ex Anglian routes.

  3. Thanks Steve. Funnily enough I saw Auville today. Like the others, she has that filthy 'K' word on her. Sorry but the colours still says Anglian. So does 455's reg AN61LAN. Go Ahead are too tight to change that. So they can both stick it in their pipe and smoke it.

  4. A great tribute Steve which summed up the Pursey family feelings very well.

    Like you, I am sad to see them go and will never forgive Go Ahead for the part they played in its demise. The poem says it all!

    RIP Anglian

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks guys - when other bloggers take time to comment favourably it means a lot.

  6. Suffolks Changes to School Routes has gone out to Consolation again. This time with 3 options

    Option One is as before with a wholesale change in September 2019 to Suffolk only offering the services required by law, which would lead to 1,050 pupils losing entitlement to free transport and 1,950 losing it to their current school but being able to get free travel to their nearest school. Option Two would see children who currently get free transport keeping it, but new starters facing the same journey would not, so it would take until 2025 for Suffolk to only be offering the legal minimum, costing an extra £8.8 million.Option

    Three is to do nothing, but this would involve making savings in other areas.

    1. So why, in a country which still allegedly is one of the richest in the world, are these constant cutbacks (of which buses are one tiny part) necessary?

    2. Because it's clearly easier to cut buses affecting thousands of vulnerable and poor people than it is to chase up celebrities and bankers avoiding their tax. I wouldn't get so cynical but the solutions are so easy;

      Firstly charge £20 a year for Concessionary passes, with that money ring fenced through legislation for paying for loss making bus routes.

      Secondly invite big business to sponsor services in return for tax breaks.

      Thirdly total re-regulation so profit making routes cross subsidise loss making routes.

      Have we got any politician with the balls to make any of those happen? I very much doubt it.

    3. Um . . . . sorry, Steve, but I can't let that go!

      Point 1 . . . fully agree, but it'll never happen; the OAP vote would kybosh that.

      Point 2 . . . an interesting idea, but we already have that through Section 106 (where developers HAVE to put money aside for public transport improvements). Unfortunately the money is passed to local authorities, who would rather sit on it than actually spend it. After 5 years, if not spent, it can be used for other purposes . . . . guess what happens?!

      Point 3 . . . actually, the industry, as set up by Transport Act 1985 and as subsequently amended, worked pretty well in many cases. Operators were free to implement new and imaginative ideas where they were commercially viable, which meant new and improved bus services where passengers would actually use them. We still see that today in many areas . . . Oxfordshire is a good example, where Stagecoach and Go-Ahead do innovate and expand in a county where the LA have walked away from all responsibilities.

      If there weren't enough passengers to make a service viable, then it was up to local authorities to determine if (a) they were socially necessary and if so (b) pay for them via competitive tendering.

      In the 1990's and 2000's there was money available (Rural Bus Grant and Local Sustainable Transport Fund) to assist operators and LA's to kick-start new and improved services with a view to seeing if there was actually any demand for them. In some cases these services have been able to continue; in many more cases, the demand simply wasn't there. ISTR that Suffolk, as a rural county, embraced RBG greatly and commenced many new services that, frankly, weren't necessary for more than a few passengers (and yes, Steve, I am aware that you were one for whom they WERE necessary) and therefore probably didn't deserve to survive.

      In fact, the problem of rural bus services being under-used and therefore requiring subsidy goes back to the 1960's; in the 1970's many of the National Bus Company subsidiaries, including Eastern Counties, nearly failed financially because of their inability to recognise that many rural routes simply didn't carry enough passengers. There's only so far that cross-subsidisation can go before the losers drag down the winners.

      Ultimately, any bus service should need to pass a simple test:
      Do enough passengers travel to make it commercially viable?
      If yes, then the service continues.
      If no, then do enough passengers travel to make it socially valuable?
      If yes, then the LA pays for the difference between cost and revenue.
      If no, then the service fails.

      The question then is what is the definition of "enough" passengers? In Dorset, the criteria was at least 10 passengers per hour, so if a trip was 60 minutes long, then at least 10 passengers needed to travel. In many cases, that wasn't reached, so the service finished.

      That seemed reasonable to me; in my experience, on a service with around 40% OAP's and 60% fare payers, an average adult fare of around £2.60 and OAP reimbursement of around £1.10, around 25 passengers per hour across the day is commercial, but less than that would not be commercially viable without (say) a school contract into the pot as extra income. I'd just say that these figures are from when I was managing a small commercial bus network in the Home Counties in 2009-2013, and are possibly a little out of date now, but not that far away from the truth.

      So, Steve . . . apologies for the long post, but on the matter of re-regulation, I'm agin you. I guess that, if we do ever meet for a pint, it'll be a loud meeting!!

    4. Loud - probably. Protracted - definitely. But bet my life we come out of there best of friends and planning next drink, because we both want the same thing.

      Btw pretty sure OAP vote would be ok as there is naff all point having a bus pass if there are next to no buses to use them on! That is why that money would have to be ring fenced by legislation so Councils couldn't sit on it and use it for other things.

    5. Yup - I'd go with that!

      In re OAP vote . . . . in most towns of a fair size there's a decent enough network for shopping trips; hospital trips and the occasional outing. That's probably enough for most OAP's needs, and they don't pay anything now. They're the ones that would vote against it - no-one will vote for more taxes!

      It might be worth a test case, though - if an operator AND local council agree to charge a fee to save a town network from oblivion AND go up against DaFT to get the law adjusted . . . after all, that's how our democracy works, isn't it?

      I'll not hold my breath, though . . . .

    6. I have great memories of Anglian under the Pursey family control, it was my school bus, followed by using when it run services around Norwich, was a great service back in the day.

      It good statement above, are buses here to provide public/social service? If they are, are private (shareholder) companies best to do that. At then end of the day a private company main obligation is to make money for it shareholders.

      I've been banished to other side of the world (NZ), and were recently change our model here, it gives local authorities much greater control over buses. Much to the annoyance of private business. But it still being early days, Public transport is starting to improve here. Interestingly the government has set local authorities a 50% fair box recovery target, most sit around 40-45% paid by passenger remainder paid by local authorities. The new system here is much better for tax payers and for public/social bus users

  7. A great well written piece steve, I like the original snaps of the buses!

  8. It's an interesting question as to why Go-Ahead bought the East Anglian companies. My assumption is that they had seen the continuing retraction of Eastern Counties and, to some extent, First Essex. They assumed that this would continue and that it was therefore worth investing in the smaller companies so they would be on the spot if First pulled out. In the event, First hit rock bottom and are probably now on the way up.

    Not that obvious to find unless you know it's there, Go-Ahead have published a Go-East Anglia Sustainability Report on their website which is relatively honest about some aspects of the operation such as staff morale.

    I can't comment on the other companies, but at Hedingham ,although staff might moan about things, they always knew the man at the top had dedicated himself to the business for half a century and was prepared to show it by painting the legend D.R.MacGregor MBE BSc(Econ) on his buses just by the passenger door.

    1. Unless that report says "We have made a complete dogs dinner of this" then it's not honest at all.

      I think I can shed some light on why go Ahead bought the 4 companies - they were after the rail franchise. I have been told at least one Anglian route post buy out was set up purely to provide links to the East Suffolk Line to impress those who decide who runs the railways. It was the first route to go after Andrew Pursey left.

    2. I'll try and link to the report

    3. I have just read the report - which has Great Yarmouth on their map - no longer served by go Ahead. It is the biggest load of pig swill I have read for many a long year! An insult to the employees, passengers, observers and the truth.

  9. Whether this is new or will just be a renouncement of lines already planned to reopen I do not know. We may find out tomorrow

    Some railway lines closed in the 1960s could be reopened if they boost the economy, the government has said.
    Some 4,000 miles of rail routes were closed and became known as the Beeching cuts - after Dr Richard Beeching who was then chairman of British Rail.
    It is part of the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling's rail strategy which will be unveiled on Wednesday.

    1. Trouble is fewer people will be able to access the re-opened lines if all the buses have been cut! We need integrated transport not isolated.

    2. Some of the smaller branch lines if they reopened would be better being operated by guided hybrid trolley buses. It would dramatically reduce costs and enable them to directly serve most of the towns and villages rather than a station a mile away

    3. The report has now been realised not a lot of detail.

      They plan to move track and stations under the rail operating companies. Quite how that will work with the track in many cases shared by multiple operators I don't know

      There are few suggestions of lines that could reopen

      The report can be found here

    4. Actions speak louder than words, and I'll be interested to see just how much of that report actually happens. not one single word on how all this is going to be funded, or how much it will cost.

      It also leaves a nasty taste in the mouth to see talk of re-opening old rail lines in the same week hundreds of bus routes have been put at risk due to lack of funding.

  10. Thomas Browne) Really Good post steve & the poem couldn't be more true. although as you pointed out wouldn't be surprised if hedingham and chambers go the same way as things aren't looking good there either.