Wednesday 16 May 2018

New Ipswich Buses MD and Local Round Up

Ipswich Buses have announced the appointment of a new Managing Director. Heath Williams is taking over from interim MD Rob Bellamy, who succeeded Jeremy Cooper, who is of course now MD at Go East, of which more later.

Heath Williams is vastly experienced in the bus industry, having held director-level positions at Stagecoach and Arriva. He has worked in areas such as Wales, Lancashire, London and the Home Counties over a career spanning over 30 years, and is, according to a friend who has worked under him, a "top bloke". It also turns out Mr Williams grew up in the same area as yours truly, although we were blissfully unaware of each other! However, when I approach him for an interview once he's settled in we will have plenty of common things to talk about already, so I'm looking forward to meeting him and finding out his vision for Ipswich.

Good news!!! New buses are coming to Great Yarmouth. Well when I say "new" I mean new as in never been to Yarmouth before. They are in fact 5 17yo Volvo B7tl ALX400's from First Manchester. To give you an idea of how out of date they are they have Euro 2 engines, which will shortly be illegal in London, Southampton, Oxford, Cambridge, Leeds and York! Yet again Eastern Counties get the outcasts from other areas. Must be great to feel valued!

And so to Go Ahead. I'll start with the good news - if you live on Chambers routes 753 or 84 your service is going to see more journeys, with the 753 going half hourly between Colchester and Sudbury, and the 84 having 7 extra Saturday journeys. That is good to see and I really hope it works out. You can see all the details of changes to the Chambers network here.

However if you live in the areas served by Hedingham, Konect, and especially the former Anglian routes it's not so good news. Konect are revising their fares, which of course means increasing them. However, whereas all single and return fares are going up, the price of a day ranger is dropping from £9 to £8. Of course you can't go anywhere near as far as you could a couple of years ago when routes such as the 60, 61 and 2 were in full swing but it's something. And excitingly the cost of a Norwich Cityzone Day Ticket is being reduced from £5.50 to £4.50. Sounds good - except there's a catch - I quote from the Konect website;

"Please note the following places will no longer be in the Norwich cityZone ; Barford, Panxworth, South Walsham, Pilson Green, Shotesham, Saxlingham Nethergate, Hempnall, Hempnall Green, Topcroft, Topcroft Street, Rockland St Mary, Surlingham, Claxton and the whole of route 53C. This is not a decision that has been made lightly but will ensure the commercial viability of the Norwich network. Norwich cityZone weekly/10trip/monthly/annual/termly/3termly bus passes bought before 21 May for these places will still be accepted until the ticket expires"

So basically if you live in the sticks you get hammered again - so much for encouraging bus use. Speaking of which if you use the former Anglian 87 you're in for a shock too  If you live in Stoke Holy Cross your service is being more than halved, only being served now by the hourly Norwich - Bungay service which is being re-numbered 87, and there are some big PM gaps. If you live in Poringland Upgate you are losing your bus altogether so will have to use First's 40. Still no fast service from Halesworth/Bungay into Norwich and it can surely only be a matter of time before First extend the X41 to Halesworth and finish off the 88 once and for all. More details here.

Down in Essex Hedingham are taking over some routes in Clacton due to First's decision to close the town's depot, but at the same time are also planning service cuts in the same area. As I type Hedingham have launched a survey to determine the future of the Brightingsea - Colchester 87 (must be something about that number). You can see that survey by clicking here. You can also see details of the cuts to Hedingham services by clicking here.

First are making minor changes in the Yarmouth/Lowestoft areas but nothing dramatic - the open top Yarmouth Seafront service is returning this year, unlike the Ipswich Buses open top service which isn't!

And that's just about it.


  1. Moaning again because you don't understand operators need to make a profit.

    1. Look my old fruit, if I didn't express an opinion you wouldn't get the chance to moan about me moaning and I wouldn't get the readership figures! I moan - you moan - I get page views. Win/win!

      I'll also one day explain in words of one syllable why cutting journeys that don't make a profit have a negative impact on the journeys that do, meaning they too go into decline! Pip pip!

  2. In relation to Konect's new "city zone" area:

    The price has gone down to compete with First (theirs being £4.80).

    Many areas which were covered (which are losing coverage) are only operated by 1 operator. Konect have had to increase the fares on these journeys in order to make the routes financially viable.

    For instance Norwich - Surlingham return will be £5.60 instead of what it is now (just under the city zone price). If it were to be included in city zone, the adult return fare would need to be £4.50 or less. This is just not viable for this route.

    As stated elsewhere, other fares which were between £4.50 - £5.50 which were/ are still in the city zone will have a reduction in price I.e. Easton and Attleborough.

    I suppose we could keep the city zone the same...but then in 6 months the routes would be cut due to not being viable.

    - You also seemed to miss the part in your quote that it's the first rise in 2 1/2 years. (Unlike First, unlike Sanders...)

    "So much for encouraging bus useage" - sorry, but do you think a Council subsidised route is using routes like 85 as a cash cow as it's out in the sticks? Surely you realise it's because of lower usage, so cost per passenger is higher?

    1. Yes, and increasing the cost isn't going to encourage passenger growth is it? Can you demonstrate what you (I assume you work for Konect) have done to encourage increased use on those routes? What initiatives have I missed? I'll be happy to stand up and say "fair enough".

      But until I see less of the "raise fares/cut services/shrug shoulders attitude I'll continue to speak for passengers seeing their services decline.

      Oh - pretty sure Anglian routes have seen fare increases in last 2 1/2 years but again I'm prepared to be corrected on that.

    2. PS Why not have an Outer city zone so those living in those areas pay a bit more but still benefit from the positive attributes of the ticket, rather than cutting them off. Just a thought - no charge!

    3. What initiatives should they do, apart from reduce fares which wouldn't be viable? Should they spend £20,000 on installing Wi-Fi and plug sockets on each bus so the OAP's (over half of passengers on 85) can charge their smart phones?

      A 20p rise won't see growth, but I doubt it will lose passengers. At least this will keep it viable - ok...let's cut fares to half price. That's 50% less revenue. But let's say this doubles passenger numbers. No benefit.

      What initiate would you suggest to the bus type and demographics of most passengers on services like 85?

    4. Why not then have an inner city zone which is even cheaper for people who just want to hop around the city? Maybe £3.50? What about a Norwich-Extra ticket which covers Norwich plus a bit more... Let's have 173628 different ticket types for the different travel possibilities people may have...

    5. Why not? A zone system works in London, but I feel 15,000 ticket possibilities should be the limit.

      I asked you what initiatives I had missed, not what they should do. People are paid to come up with them. When I start getting paid I'll reveal my ideas, but just expecting pax to turn up at your bus stop regardless of the service you provide isn't one of them! So I repeat - what have Konect, or Anglian/Our bus before them done to try and increase patronage on routes such as the 85.

      Also, as subsidised routes do Konect keep the revenue or does it go back to NCC? If that is the case what incentive is there to increase patronage?

    6. Let's put it this way:

      85 is subsidised by NCC and it just about makes enough money to keep it running.

      Perhaps we could try doubling the frequency? - well we would need twice as many people on the second bus an hour to cover costs as the subsidy won't go up, so for this we'd need a 200% increase in patronage. - This (even beyond wildest dreams) wouldn't happen overnight, so for, at least the first 6 months, would be loss making. Let's say it did take off...we still aren't making profit so ends at a loss.

      Make sure every driver is friendly, all buses clean, hand sanitizer available (!). - the OAP'S would love this. Unfortunately doesn't help increase revenue much.

      Wi-Fi/ plug sockets. 85 demographic wouldn't appreciate this much. There are many city services around the country which don't have these as it wouldn't be viable/ worthwhile, so definitely wouldn't work on 85 or such services.

      Reduce prices? By how much? 10p? Might see an extra passenger. 50%? Might see more. - Simple supply and demand.

      I completely agree when it comes to city services etc and as you've shown in your blog, Reading are a good example of that. Unfortunately I can't see what a bus operator can do to both improve economic viability and patronage on country services.

    7. And to answer your question which I've missed again - No initiatives have been tried, based on the costs involved and the likelihood of seeing a return.

    8. You fill the current bus before running another one, or you ask the people on the route what it would take to get them out of their cars and onto the bus and when they want those buses - not the people already on the bus but those NOT getting it.

      All drivers should be friendly and all buses should be clean - I'm surprised you even consider that an optional extra! I'm not a fan of WiFi on buses except longer routes. Chargers certainly but again routes such as the 85 currently don't need them. Although it would certainly encourage younger users.

      Just glanced at the 85 timetable and that gap out of Norwich between 1425 and 1615 is going to have an impact on the whole day - especially on schooldays. Sadly that is indicative of many routes these days where PM journeys suffer because school buses take priority. Don't get me wrong i understand why, but it doesn't help encourage Joe Public to get the bus if they have to wait hours on a cold January afternoon.

    9. And if no initiatives have been tried then you can hardly blame me for commenting on it! Speculate to accumulate and all that! Either you want the business to expand and flourish, or, as Go Ahead have demonstrated over the last few years you haven't the foggiest how to drum up custom and cut everything to the bare bones. Half of the 1, 2, 7,7A 60, 61, 62, 63, 68, 80, 81 86 now most of the 87 (that's just off the top of my head) have all vanished in last 2 years. To lose one route is careless, to lose that many is downright bad business practice.

    10. I agree there - I'm not saying the buses aren't clean or drivers aren't friendly, just that's something which deters people from buses (people's assumptions without trying).

      However, apart from filling the afternoon gap, and without enhancing frequency (as you say, fill what there is first), I personally can't see profits increasing from younger people.

      For instance - people living with their parents who get lifts from their parents will do that (and would do until they are 50 if they could).

      Young people without a car or no access to "lifts" will use the service regardless, unless they decide to shill out on a taxi.

      People with cars will not give it up for an hourly service. Being from the younger generation, if I had access to a car and a bus was hourly, I wouldn't care if the bus was free, I'd still use my car.

      The only other thing I can think of is students, but again, they would go for the cheapest I.e. bus or convenience car (if they had one), but again, an 18 year old has a car, unless they can't afford it, they aren't going to trade it in for a bus.

    11. I'm going to leave you with one last comment as I don't want to say anymore about my place of work (even though I've enjoyed the debate).

      I agree that more could have been done to save some of the routes you've mentioned above, and the fault there lays entirely with Go-Ahead. Having meetings about meetings whilst something should have been done regards to the failing business.

      Even so, in regards to routes 1 and 2, both were set up after go ahead took over. Not during any month did either service make a profit. Let's talk about Service 2. Even Sanders say that there is only space for 1 operator on the Norwich - Sheringham corridor, and Sanders receives a subsidy (and profits are fairly small there), so the 2 was destined for failure. - The only way they would have made it into a success (ethics behind us) is if they competed more fiercely, operated at a loss, and Sanders decided to pull out as the independent. Go-Ahead could have done this, as at the time, the 2 had a strong team of drivers (1 Being a runner up in the bus awards), a loyal customer base, and rebranded the old str8 E400s for the route.

      Anglian, when bought by go-ahead, were loss making. It made sense that cuts needed to be made, but obviously initiatives needed to be used in other instances. Anglian could have turned into a success, but in my honest opinion, when Philip Eden took over, that's when Anglian died. Staff morale down, obviously leads to many negative impacts including loyal passengers being lost. As soon as that loyalty was lost, and the "good morning [driver]" being lost as the customers didn't have their regular drivers anymore, that's when the downward spiral started.

      I know Julian Patterson pretty well, and above what others may say about him, he didn't sell Konect to make a fast buck and move on. He wanted to expand (slowly) and with the economy how it was back then, they needed more cash in the bank. They had offers from First, Stagecoach and Go Ahead. They accepted go ahead as they knew the brand identity would remain, and back in 2010, it wasn't meetings about meetings, but near enough business as usual, but with lower costs (back in the day where all their buses used to go to a family owned petrol station to fill up!). Then Anglian were sold to Go Ahead in 2012 and go aheads vision seemed to change, and their attitude towards building up the business changed. I do sometimes wonder if only Konect was bought (and not anglian/ hedingham/ chambers) whether things for Konect would have been different.

    12. Excellent comment, and I agree with nearly all you say, ecept the bit about Anglian not being in profit when Go Ahead bought them as they'd just bought a load of Scanias!

      I highlighted staff morale years ago, and the way Go Ahead tried to run Anglia like London, or indeed Newcastle, failing to listen to the people who had successfully built the two businesses up. That was fatal, and until they change i don't see much future either.

      Been a pleasure having a decent debate without insults or name calling. It was just the pint that was missing. Thank you.

    13. Just a note but the purchase of new vehicles is not a very good indicator of whether a bus company is making a profit. There are innumerable examples of businesses that went bust despite buying new buses up until the end (GHA just being the most recent), there are enough ways to finance buses that don't require you to pay up front if you are short of funds. It is also not uncommon for the purchase of a large number of new vehicles (particularly if it is a sizeable proportion of the total fleet) to cause financial problems for an otherwise stable business who now have to pay for the higher finance rates and/or extra depreciation costs leading the company/depot (for larger companies) into a loss. Getting out of the problem for a smaller business can be difficult as selling the buses can be fraught (negative-equity in the vehicles effectively) so you stuck with cutting costs which small business owners are often less keen to do so, disposing of the business often becomes the most sensible way to save the network and the staffs jobs (I don't know whether this applies to Anglian in specific but it does apply more generally to a number of businesses).

    14. nearly all bus companies are in my view totally useless at marketing and market research

      Most routes have either been shortened or detour into every village which means people that would pay fares don't used them

      Tale say the Beeston's Ipswich to Sudbury it takes so many detours and is so infrequent it has lost nearly all its fare paying passengers. Even dafter is SCC has given out a contract for a Schools route between Sudbury and Great Cornard. That's £60 a day. That could have been used to restore the old Beestons service 5 and to speed up the Ipswich service

  3. You state [buses with these emissions] "will shortly be illegal in London, Southampton, Oxford, Cambridge, Leeds and York! Yet again Eastern Counties get the outcasts from other areas". Surely if you had a bus company which spanned across the UK, you too would then move these buses out of these areas to somewhere else? Either that or 1) keep them where they are and operate illegally or 2) scrap them and buy brand new buses for the area which would not be financially viable.

    Isn't this out of the bus operators hands? Shouldn't you vent this anger against NCC? If they made it illegal too then they wouldn't be coming here. They seem to just be doing anyone with 2 brain cells would do, no?

    And yes, I believe it's right that bigger cities should have the newer buses. Should off casts go to London and Manchester, and routes like the 3 to Hemsby get the new Streetdecks?

    1. Are passengers in Hemsby not as valuable as those in Manchester or London? Are they a lower class of human being? Are Moss Side or Brixton classier areas than Gorleston?

      You assume I'm blaming First, although they should shoulder some of the blame for instances such as STILL not sorting the fuel lane roof out at Ipswich thus allowing higher deckers to be used, but yes NCC which has quite a Green influence, although not as much as it did, might have got n on the low emissions bandwagon, particularly with Norwich, but I can't see anyone ever making Great Yarmouth a zero emissions zone!

    2. Entirety of Coast from Kessingland to Hemsby is scum.

  4. In short, passengers in Hemsby are not as valuable as those in Manchester or London - because there are much less of them! The 51 plate ALX400's are replacing W reg examples so are a marginal improvement. Gt Yarmouth is not worth the investment of new buses, because neither the depot nor the passengers look after them (from a trusty source within First).

    1. Actually they are replacing 52 plate B7tl Presidents, which are going to Norwich (see East Norfolk Bus Blog)

    2. I don't think you can say that the reason we don't get investment is because we don't look after them. I doubt when you go to London or Manchester you see customers taking more care of the buses! Definitely not with the slashed seats last time I visited Manchester...

    3. Manchester ain't seeing new buses either, they just cut back services which release vehicles to comply with TfGM 15 year age limit.

  5. Konectbus, Anglian, Hedingham and Chambers were generally all profitable as independents, there may have been odd years of loss but it's difficult to make a profit every year. I think that Konect initially was OK after the takeover but things seem to go down hill after the other companies were acquired. A lot of this was due to the alienation of the previous owners but I think Go-Ahead also under estimated the amount of extra documentation and regulation (and therefore extra costs) that would be required as a subsidiary of a plc. I can only speak for Hedingham, but if you wanted to do something you asked the man whose name appeared in the legal lettering on the buses. If he said yes, you did it, if not, you didn't. It didn't go to a committee and it certainly didn't go to HR.

    It has undoubtedly got harder to run a profitable bus business (See East Yorkshire's latest accounts for some interesting reading) but it's not impossible. Stephensons of Essex have just reported on an excellent year for 2017. While accounts can sometimes be misleading, it's difficult to misreport the "cash at bank" figure. In the case of Stephensons, this was £3.8 million.

    1. Yes most bus companies are struggling mind you their poor customer service and marketing does not help

      Much of the East of England is particularly hard hit as rail services have very limited coverage and whilst the government is prepared to invest in rail it is not prepared to invest in buses

  6. Rail Timetable Changes

    It is not looking good for Monday, The first day of the new timetables was to day and most of the lines have gone into melt down with Great Northern have to switch to a temporary emergency timetable

    This in my view can only be down to poor planning and incompetence. You would expect some teething problems but not on the scale they have had. If they are unable to operate the new timetable on a Sunday what chance is there of it running properly on a Monday. GNR are currently hiding the real reason and are just saying it is down to operation problems but have refused to say what these operation problems are.

    1. I'll admit I'm fearing the worst too. Hoping against hope I'm wrong but I agree with you - if they can't do a Sunday I see no way they can do Monday. I'll be monitoring as much as I can and I'll be in London next week to see things for myself. Expecting a Twitter meltdown tomorrow!

  7. Regal Busways

    Regal Busways have given up their operating licence. I don't thing they had any routes left to give up so seems to be just a formality

  8. I live in a village on routes where bus frequencies have doubled and bus reliability has improved significantly; whilst bus patronage has reduced significantly.

    But never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

  9. Heddingham Are introducing a new route 1. It is a seasonal service running from the 26May to the 28th of September. It will run between Clacton and St Osyth's Beach. It replaces the First Bus 19 which presumably First Bus will not run this year