Good News! If you live in Harrogate as Transdev have this week launched their new fleet of fully electric buses. 8 Volvo electric buses have been acquired for the town, and, as this picture posted on Twitter by Transdev CEO Alex Hornby shows, they look pretty decent.
|One of Harrogate Bus' new Volvo Electric buses|
|One of the new Glider vehicles in Belfast. pic (c) Roger French|
|The 100th new decker for Liverpool|
Good News! If you live in the North East. Martijn Gilbert has taken up his new post as MD of Go North East. Covering a large part of the North East, reaching as far South as Hull, GNE also includes East Yorkshire Motor Services, and it must be said Go Ahead handle things a whole lot better up there than they do here. With Martijn at the helm things will only get better and better up there, a real bus man and enthusiast who puts passengers and staff first. I wish him well.
So what's been going on in East Anglia? Well two 13yo ex First Scotland B7tl Geminis have transferred from Great Yarmouth to Essex, allowing 2 other 13yo B7tl's, these ones ALX400's to move to Ipswich. A 16yo B7tl President is getting a lilac front, and there was much hoo-ha on Facebook (apparently) as to where a 6yo ex Leeds Volvo B9 Gemini2 was going to be allocated. If you can contain your excitement I'll tell you it turned out to be Lowestoft.
And so to my friends at Borderbus, who are still waiting for the last of their 4 ex London Scania Omni City deckers to be returned. You may recall these Scanias arrived before last year's Lattitude so Scania haven't been exactly frantic to get them done. So while they wait Ensignbus have loaned them this ex Metrobus Scania Omnidecker. I know this fleet fairly well from my journeys in and around East Grinstead, I have been on RYB more than once, and I have to say, beyond doubt, they are the worst fleet of Scanias I've ever travelled on - real spine jolters! So I was relieved to be told it's only here as a loan!
|Ex Metrobus Scania YN53 RYB on loan to Borderbus|
And that's it. You can now, I hope, see why bus posts are few and far between. At least when Anglian was at their prime, or the Ollies still around there was always something to be written. Now I have to travel further and further outside the area to find anything, and that is a luxury I can't do that often. As and when anything happens (keeping an ear on the Galloway situation, plus other possible developments) I will, of course report it. Cheers.
Well, all I can say Steve is that (hopefully?) when First Essex go belly up - which surely can't be long-off with, if some reports are to be believed, a quarter or more of their drivers at some depots already resigned and more continuing to do so, and many of those remaining saying that depot management have "lost the plot" and "are at sixes and sevens"; and passengers in open mutiny . . . I know, it's a normal state of affairs in this region! Both Arriva and Stagecoach have their south-east problems too.ReplyDelete
It isn't as though we don't have decent operators: Ensign, Stephensons (at least in Essex) and even, probably Arriva, looking at their neighbouring Herts (and Kent?) operations, or even Southend and Colchester. I'm not sure even the much-maligned local Go-Ahead could do worse, though maybe we'll find out in Clacton!
It does though illustrate a practical problem. We often complain about ridiculous timetables, but is it better to have a timetable, even impractical, that an operator adheres to; or a timetable, good on paper, which is observed more in the breach with buses (one never knows what) turning up in some unpredictable fashion, when they do at all? I suspect the enthusiasts and the poor neglected travelling public probably each take a different view! At least FEC do get some newer buses, whilst all we seem to get in Essex are breakdowns; and on a lucky day buses without drivers, or drivers without buses! You wouldn't know it from the ever-changing (improved, allegedly) timetables, though. At least when Yarmouth get buses transferred from Essex, they do get a good seeing-to. They need it!
Not that I am complaining. It's the economic facts of life that you need to make profits to get investment; and always have, nationalised or not. Essex don't; they collect a good whack of income from the long-suffering passengers but where it goes is anyone's guess . . . not, we can say into First's profits.
Should I report it as Good News! When it happens?......Delete
And yes, Ensign are brilliant. You only need to follow them on Twitter to know that.
Norfolk and Suffolk don't deserve new buses. Stop complaining.ReplyDelete
Who are you to say that!? The area has been neglected for years by big groups and local authorities, it's time it all had a shake up if you ask me.Delete
You have to laugh. That's how bad bus companies are at Customer ServiceReplyDelete
Some one contacted First Essex asking what the adult single and return fare was on rout 37 from Brentwood to Bishops Hall Park
Now don't laugh at this point. There answer as we do not have this information you will have to ask the driver
When the poster went back to them they then suggested ask Traveline . They do not hold fares information in fact they tell you to contact the operator
This shows though what a shambolic mess bus companies are
It gets even worse when multiple operator operate the same route om different days or in the evening
It seems bus companies want to drive passengers away
The Good News is I think Ensign are introducing the 31 which runs over a duplicate route and at the same timetabled frequency. How long will First's "service" survive? Everyone has said for ages they need some competition. At last they have, a bit, and we can see what happens! Every little helps, as they say!Delete
Yes, I think that was Roger too, wasn't it? I know whenever I mention social media to one First manager (not his department), his eyes roll so far to the back of his head he could examine his own brain. It's known, but no one seems to have the power, or inclination to do anything about it.ReplyDelete
In fairness I suspect we could take any of the major bus companies and find plenty of examples of the same sort of nonsense. They are not the only business to have been enslaved by the PR gods.Delete
I always laugh (a little) at Steve's good news, as they are all keen to give out good publicity, but ignore the crap that might be going on elsewhere. A good recent example is First Manchester, who can justifiably claim to be worse than First Essex, apparently. They are to be "saved" by an application for small grant aid for 12 new electric buses to partially serve one route though the rest of the network is falling apart. They fail to acknowledge that the scheme is several times oversubscribed. Still it's happening isn't it? Not sure how long they'll be milking it for though, as I gather Leeds are just taking delivery of buses for which grant aid was awarded in 2016! I can't see our local authorities or the Government doling out the cash in East Anglia though. We'll have to bask in the reflected glory of the Cambridge metro - another wait . . . But again it depends whether you look at the busway and the odd Citi route, or the rest of Cambridgeshire's buses?
They make things so complicated that I defy anyone to understand it - especially the bus operators. My favourite is the same journey where the fares are different one way to the return! Poor souls; if they don't understand any of it, how can we expect them to do anything about it? As for the fare tables, ask any bus commercial manager and they'll tell you they are a state secret. Don't ask them why though; because it won't be just their eyes but their tongue too that'll roll to the back of their head.
They did dole it out in East Anglia, to the tune of 13 gas buses which Go Ahead wrecked to such an extent they were relocated to Plymouth. So there is a precedent.Delete
True; they doled it out too for those wretched Volvo Hybrids on the 100 route too didn't they? The DTp playing fairy godmother again ... I wouldn't exactly call bingo an investment strategy though, but then I'm not quite an OAP yet!Delete
One thing you could ask your First manager contact though, Steve. Why don't his managers/supervisors make it a priority to respond to attempted contact from the Twitter team? Or isn't that "his department" either?Delete
Yes we all know that depots now have to do everything with less staff than ever. They're very busy all the time, rushed off their feet. Aren't we all? But the passengers matter too, and given that the bus companies make Twitter/Facebook the only means of contact, isn't the least they can do is make it effective? Example: major RTC yesterday, diversion in operation - good; but don't tell the passengers! The Twitter team had to try desperately to make enquiries and wait, and it took them (and the passengers) eight hours to find what was going on. Have you banned them from telling the Twitter team (and the passengers) anything on their own initiative? Keep the passengers in the dark and feed them bullsh1t, hey? That's how it looks. We've all come across plenty of managers with that attitude, unfortunately. The Twitter team are doing the best they can, but what about your depot staff? The passengers seem to be a very low priority. Why? If we don't know, we'll assume the worst. Is that what you want? Why?
It isn't impossible; other bus companies manage it better. Perhaps retrieve the eyes from the back of the head, and look up and around for a change?
Other operators, and First OCs, post details of cancelled services/diversions on Facebook direct from the depots. FEC and First Essex don't. Why?Delete
(They did once, in the snows earlier this year, but then forgot to update the information! So it isn't they can't, or don't know how to).
Ipswich Buses appear to be quite good at this - of course, they're a small company which helps. But their website highlights service disruptions on the home page (not buried several layers down), and same info. is given via a dedicated live Twitter feed. Not sure if it works at evenings or weekends though. Can anyone comment on how well this works?Delete
Simple answer, Smurf. The Twitter team for First Essex AND FEC is based at Chelmsford. My man isn't. So you have the Twitter team ringing depots about things they probably know nothing about.Delete
I was stuck waiting for a bus at Saxmundham one day, no one at Twitter had a clue, then a bloke in a car stopped to say he'd passed a broken down bus in Leiston. I promptly let the Twitter team know where their missing bus was.......
Ah. My info must be wrong, I thought the Twitter team were now in Leeds, nationall;, and formerly at Norwich for the South. But that's academic.Delete
The sad thing is Twitter so often end up advising customers to use the complaints procedure to get info as the only way they can, which must cause horrific bureaucracy and time-wasting for the depots, and a living nightmare for the drivers. It was terrible when the GPS wasn't working, but now is much better as they have access to GPS and the depot maintenance logs.
I agree though, many members of the public are extraordinarily helpful.
Arriva and Stagecoach have the same arrangement, but just seem to get information out better. Though in fairness, they don't have to deal with a fleet and staff shortages as bad as First's!
All of First's social media and customer service functions are now based in a 'shared service centre' in Leeds.Delete
Oh that will improve things then! Thanks for updating me. Why isn't each depot responsible for getting info out? How can Leeds know what's going on in Penzance, Norwich, or Aberdeen?Delete
Try GPS and the digitised logs.Delete
Haven't the depots got enough on their plate? But if there is significant disruption who stops them from making a post? That's certainly how Arriva locally seem to manage it (and some First depots elsewhere, too).
When buses are so infrequent getting proper timely and accurate information to the passengers is critical and should be up their as a very high priority but it is not. It is yet another of the many reasons as to why bus companies are failing to attract customers and in fact it is far worse they are driver customers away from their servicesDelete
WHAT??? and let everyone know how bad things really are.Delete
Please download the East Anglia Buses app and tell me what you think. You can see every bus on the network, and how late it is running. No way they can hide how bad things really are.Delete
Yes I'm aware of it! Stephensons do it too, and I too find it the most useful. Arriva and Herts County's Intalink app used to do it too, but have stopped!Delete
There's an old saying that where Stagecoach lead, everyone else follows; and they give only the ETA. It's fine perhaps for a trouble free-service. (Is there such a thing? Not with First.)
The trouble with the ETA is the default is to show just the timetabled time if there are any issues with the predictions, which can be caused by traffic congestion, breakdowns or regulation, and just plain old non-running - exactly the circumstances which passengers want to know about. Instead the ETA just disappears from the app, most noticeably in the case of late running! I've even seen the predictions not available for one stop, but available for the next one!
It's the usual story: a location plan showing the buses are they travel along their route is simple; rely on predicted arrivals and it gets more complicated with more to go wrong! Google as usual understands, their data apps give you the option of keeping it simple or making it complicated!
I don't think I can get too excited about the arrival of a new ADL E400MMC - they are not my favourite bus, by a long chalk!ReplyDelete
I take your point, but at least they're not Streetdecks!Delete
I have no experience of them, as it happens.Delete
Rolls Royce are looking to convert existing diesel trains to electric hybrids. They say the technology is ready to go into production and has been trialled in Ireland , Germany and UK. They are in discussions with Porterbrook with regard to converting a 182 Turbostar trains to electric hybridsReplyDelete
A class example of the FEC feeds was the time it appeared "there is an accident on the A47 X1 services effected ". At the time both sections were numbered X1 with that sort of incompetent posting they only make themselves look even more incapable of running a bath .ReplyDelete
Even without that what use is it. It tells people nothing useful other than their bus may or may not turn up and if it does when it will turn who knowsDelete
That's the condundrum: depots are operational people, not trained in customer service and use their own shorthand jargon - "we know what we mean". So you employ "experts" in customer service, centrally, and they don't know what is going on in the depots; and the depots (as Steve so well illustrated above) have little time for the "idiots". Nothing is ever going to work with those attitudes, I'm afraid. Though it's nothing new; it was the same before the customer service concept was imported from the US. GPS (when it is working) helps because it gives both access to the same source information.Delete
Why incidentally do you think the public GPS gives us an ETA, which might be right or wrong, but doesn't allow us to see the raw info of where the buses are. "We don't need to know", someone else thinks. "The passengers can't" [insert whatever you like]. It's British.
But you need to have someone in the depot who is interested in customer service and has the time and inclination - and perhaps most importantly of all, is allowed to, give out the information. Think, how many drivers are communicative? Very few, in my experience (though a few are really excellent). The same is true of all of us; we get bored too easily, or are just too busy.
I suspect the problem with First Bus is that, in the interest of "efficiency", there is too much bossiness: "that's not your job, it's someone else's", and consequently too little responsibility. They have to rediscover common sense. It's messy on the beloved spreadsheets, but it works. Though I'm not hopeful. Like a fish, they rot from the head. (The same seems to be true, incidentally, of the DTp's governance of the rail network, apparently).
I'm not sticking up for Konect here, but look at their East Anglia Buses app. It shows you every bus on the network on a map, and even tells you the bus fleet number! I live a 5 minute walk from Earlham Road, so when I see the 3/4 entering the hospital, I leave for the bus. Yes they are sometimes delayed (due to works at Colney), but it's great to be able to see where your delayed bus is, instead of not knowing if it will turn up in 1 minute or 20 minutes. This is something all major operators should have, unless they have something to hide.Delete
With modern technology there could easily be someone sat in a regional centre who could celate the information and feed it out to the public and staff . Ticket machines can now locate the bus and message staff , so some of the concept is there already . Perhaps the painting of buses different colours in First's case is more important and then running them on any route .ReplyDelete
I have never been impressed by these route branding. It adds to cost and restricts the use of buses to a particular route. There is no real evidence that it attracts more passengers. Yes in some cases there are increase but that's more to o with them spending money on the route than the brandingDelete
All that passengers want is bus that turns up and on time and that that the bus is clean and reasonably comfortable
The passengers also want clear information with regard to timetables and even on the bus route display,. How often does a bus turn up with the wrong information on the display or nothing at all or with a scruffy indecipherable scrap of paper in the windscreen It just indicates the bus company does not care and that anything is good enough. There is no excuse at all for this scraps of paper in the windscreen , How often do the drivers look like scruffy tramps? It does not give a good impression and does not help them attract Would the average Hight Street shop tolerate such low standard from its staff? Passengers
How did bus companies get to this stage of such low standards?
How did bus companies get to this stage of such low standards?Delete
Talk to any manager of the large "nationals" and they'll tell you it's competition.
The trouble is that when I look at the local competition: Ensign, Stephensons, Panther, Swallow, NIBS, Arrow; or a bit further afield Ipswich Buses, Galleon, UNO, CentreBus, RedLine; what I actually see in them is higher standards not lower ones. Taking other posters' points, the buses might not win any beauty competition (though Ensign Stephensons, even UNO with their new Dragonfly service, don't do bad; and often First aren't that good either), but they are acceptable if not comfortable, and reliable with good customer service. And not poor on fares and frequencies either. Heck, their drivers even take a pride in the job.
It doesn't stop the managers of the big boys running them down at every opportunity, though. I don't know why. But they obviously feel a desperate need to do so. The cowboys, formerly a problem, have largely been driven out of the business. Too often, though, it looks like managers of the big boys see them as some sort of role model.
There is a lot of talk, even from Goldman Sachs' partners and former politicians, about how capitalism needs to start looking at sustainable profit, not just hogging cash and bonuses; and has a responsibility to share the benefit with the community and staff. The big boys of the transport industry have a lot of catching up to do, evidently.
I don't object to a paint job, it's even a good thing. But it's never the be-all-and-end-all. The icing doesn't make the cake.
Those tracking systems DO exist at First, for managers at least. Perhaps including the social media teams in that system would help, but then the operators would need to know something about how buses operate, which would mean paying them more.Delete
It look s as if First Essex has lost its crown of being the worst bus company. They have lost out to a small South Wales Council owned company who appear to be in total chaosReplyDelete
I suspect every bus company in the country could say the same thing as Newport!Delete
Most of them don't, and that's the problem. They won't admit anything, perhaps even to themselves. (Cynically, then of course they don't have to try to do anything about it).
The last First Essex Managing Director tried to make staff smarten up. He didn't last long.
It's ironic. A decade ago we thought Eastern Counties were finished, decrepid and losing territory to the likes of Anglian, Konnect and everyone else hand over fist. Ten years on, perhaps not least thanks to Alan Pilbeam and David Squires and, as things go these days, they're thriving on the back of the X1 and the Norwich Network. Slimmer and fitter across the remaining network; as a lot of us aspire to though with no-where near the same success, unfortunately. A lot of nostalgia was jettisoned, not popular with the enthusiasts, but necessary none the less.ReplyDelete
It seems First Essex have done exactly what the enthusiasts want, clung on to their traditional routes and most of the territory, and expanded where they can, and are now the basket case as a consequence. Aided by an ex-London MD who never saw the benefit of economy, but perhaps working in London never had to.
Sadly ten years ago there were the resources for a reinvention; now barely surviving on one man-and-his-dog, there aren't.
You know, it really hacks me off when you blame enthusiasts for everything. It's no coincidence that the most successful operators have enthusiasts at the helm. Martijn Gilbert, Alex Hornby, Chris Speed, Ross Newman, Matthew Arnold, Peter Knight, John Bickerton, David Squire, Roger French to name but a few are ALL enthusiasts as well as top managers, and most own their own buses too. It's their enthusiasm for their industry, which is also their hobby, which sets them above the rest and makes them the best.Delete
So it's not doing what enthusiasts want or not that spells success or not, but how enthusiastic the management themselves are, and yes they mix and listen to enthusiasts as sometimes, just sometimes, enthusiasts know what they are talking about and plant an idea in a manager's head.
Go East have listened to no one, enthusiasts or otherwise and look what a bloody cock up they've made of everything. Maybe if they had we'd still have a thriving Anglian AND the gas buses.
Now off to dress my seriously touched nerves!
Bad wording on my part! I actually agree with everything you say in the post above.Delete
If there is a problem it's when the industry is run solely by the accountants. Not to say the industry doesn't need them, it does or it'd be broke: but it's like a toddler starting to walk, it's the beginning not the end; and it's what we do with that ability which requires imagination and enthusiasm, that matters. And that's what all of those you mention, and indeed your goodself, bring to the party. That's what saved Eastern Counties, and continues to make it thrive. And as you say the lack of it which killed off Anglian.
I am not sure Eastern Counties are saved. They have stabilised it at present but at the cost of axing a lot of service. This has made the companies service far less attract and whilst you will not see a big fall in passengers numbers they are likely over time to drift away and they certainly will not attract new customersDelete
Most bus companies are stuck in a time warp and think the business model of the 1950's will still work in fact many of the routes date back to the 1950's yet in many cases the reason for them has long since gone. Passengers may use them as that's where the buses go but it may not be where the passengers want to really go
How many bus companies really publicize their services ? Even getting hold of a printed timetable can be all but impossible and as for a timetable booklet forget it and they are very useful in tourist areas If you want to find out about fares well you need the patience of a saint and even then may not get the information. One exception is Go Ahead. It seems to be the one thing they are good at but it is only available on their Web Site and not in printed form
How many bus companies really understand their customs and what they expect and how many have ever carried out any real market research over their operating areas to understand their passengers travel needs ? Most have all but eliminate commuters because their service do not start early enough or late enough. How many provide a Sunday service? It is now a major shopping and leisure day yet there are almost no Sunday service and what little there are, are so infrequent they are not viable to use
How many areas have Real Time Bus Information which in my view is essential? It is almost zero and in the few limited areas that have it, it does not cover all services and tends to be not reliable or accurate
It is all very negative but in my view that is basically where bus service are. They have failed to modernise and have had to be kicked and prodded to even but stuff on the Internet
It is getting to the last chance salon for bus companies outside of the large towns an cities. They are going to have to significantly raise their game or go out of business. At the moment the later seems more likely . When bus companies cannot make places like Kings Lynn and Clacton work they are in serious trouble
Totally agree, and it's those operators embracing modern needs who are bucking the trend. None of them around here, sadly. Just look at all the new housing developments going up, and to my knowledge not one has had an existing bus route altered to serve it.Delete
I've been saying for years now that too many operators still sit back, expecting customers to come to them, then act all surprised, shrugging their shoulders when they don't.
It's the one thing First Essex seem good at. The new estates (and there are lots of them) around Chelmsford, all have frequent all day (and evening/Sunday) bus services by altered or new services, within six months of occupation. And I understand the new residents, as a result of planning obligations, receive timetables and entitlement to free/subsidised season tickets. Coming from London, often they are ready and willing to use the bus.Delete
The problem seems to be that the bus company have trouble in meeting the PVR, both in terms of drivers and reliable fleet; and it is the local commuter services which suffer most. Their passengers are getting very frustrated, especially when one bus after another doesn't run and they have trains to catch and work or appointments to get to, and the passengers have no idea when or why.
They have tried the traditional adding running time and tweaking timetables, but it hasn't alleviated the problem. Twitter can apologise and even offer an explanation, but it doesn't get you to work. Some passengers complain it's 50 times in a few months or a regular, even normal, occurrence; and both ways.
The bus company are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea: the demands of the new residents and those people who want to preserve the traditional network on principle and do not want to see change, which is what I was trying to allude to earlier. The dictionary doesn't give me a word for it. I wasn't blaming Steve or anyone else, but an attitude. It's like any love, either it's like worshiping an idol and satisfying yourself, or it's about wanting the best for the thing or person you love. Same word, two different sides to the coin.
I just feel frustrated that the bus is failing to meet its potential and that we should do something about it, when the commuters can't get to work, the buses run empty for most of the day because it's quicker to walk for many local journeys and the wait is longer than the journey and much more than it should be, for example in my village I regularly see people waiting for an hour or so when 2 or 3 buses should have come in that time. It seems to happen throughout the town (sorry, city). If the traditional measures of timetable changes and regulation don't work, why is it so wrong to look at reconfiguring the network to lessen the impact of congestion, just because "that's how it's always been done" and the fear of resistance to change? Consult, genuinely, of course to fully explore and consider the impact, but be creative. So if an estate is served by three routes and we have insufficient resources and all of them delayed by congestion, then look at merging some of them and modifying the route (circular or frying-pan routes to garner the most passengers), perhaps? Buses shouldn't be a museum piece in my view (although there is a definite place for transport museums and rallies, of course) but need to adapt to make it a practical travel option. We can't afford to be wedded to anything "as is", seeking to preserve it in aspec, as tempting as it is for all of us. If we could make the urban network more efficient might it even release a few vehicles to improve the rural network? Though in Essex the County council does a pretty good job on that too, assuming the bus company has the resources, where it suffers too with regular delays, breakdowns and cancellations.
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[REVISED] In Clacton one operator (already in the town) has replaced the services of another, who has increased frequencies on their retained routes. What is so wrong with that?ReplyDelete
In KL one operator has been replaced by others. Maybe there are issues with the services, but that can happen whether or not the operator changes.
May be too the County Councils should get off their backsides and promote joint ticketing schemes. Maybe they are?
In the real world managing bus services is usually a job of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Someone is always going to be upset.
Interesting the mention about timetable booklets in tourist areas. The " Coastal Clipper" as the service 1,99 and variations ( and possibly the 3?) is now supposed to be is another marketing joke by FEC . A few leaflet racks have the publicity then that is it , no adverts on buses etc to tempt people to a day out by bus . To get the word around takes effort not the lazy approach that seems to take place .ReplyDelete
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The bus companies cannot win, can they?ReplyDelete
They are stuck in a time warp with outdated services, but if they abandon territory they are failing too. They aren't charities. Nobody donates them money to keep them in business (though First shareholders have come pretty close to it!) They have to make their own living. If they can't, then there is usually someone else who can. And why not?
The task for management is to find and concentrate on what they do best, and then to make the very best job they can of it. If we can help them, so much the better. We know their problem is they don't have the resources they'd like, but who does; and so too, as for so many of us and fellow posters keep pointing out, is the plain old-fashioned laziness, doing half the job - although in their defence they have a lot on their plate - and that we can so easily become distracted, chasing the elusive butterflies. That is why clarity of vision is so essential. And to keep it simple.
As a poster previously pointed out - the places with successful bus operations: Reading, Bristol, Leicester, York, Nottingham, amongst others - are unitary authorities, who restrict the use of the car, forcing people on to the buses. That is what works, as Oxford too discovered, long ago. Our local Counties can't. The local District Councils would be bankrupt without their car parking income. The same is true in Cambridge, where transport is a mess (and probably Greater Manchester similarly too) although it will be interesting to see what the Regional Mayors (of differing political persuasions) make of it when they try to sort it out. Council tax income is almost frozen and Government grants have all but disappeared. Where is the local industry, though even business rates disappear into a pool. Shops are suffering from on-line trading. Yet many, perhaps even most, people's income in this area depend on local government expenditure somewhere along the line. Who gets along without local government services, if not social services then leisure and recreation? And without income how will any of us afford bus fares?ReplyDelete
The resource issue cannot be ignored. It casts a deepening shadow over everything. And however good the manager, they don't have a magic money tree. Neither does HM Government, of whatever persuasion. Sorry. We all have to try and make the most of too little. Bus company managers are no exception. Of course that doesn't mean they can't do anything. They have to try harder. But let's not fall into the trap of comparing chalk and cheese.
PS The Planning Inspectorate checklist contains bus or train provision as an essential requirement for the new planned housing development which every Council has to make provision for to meet a Government quota. Three local major "Garden Communities" have recently been declared unsound by Local Plan Inspectors for lack of such provision; two in Colchester/Tendring and one at Gilson, on the East Herts/Harlow boundary. Unless remedied the effect would be a developer free-for-all beyond the Met. Green Belt (so North Essex and all of East Anglia), and mutinous communities for the Councils, rather than garden communities.ReplyDelete
It all boils down to the type of people you employ to guide the ship away from the rocks . Seeing other operators around the country we are decades behind .ReplyDelete
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We're a small island, and in this country it's Councils and local politics that drive change. Or not.Delete
Read First's investment strategy.
Locally, I'm afraid our Councils are dodos, lead by donkeys. Decades behind, as you say.
As I was told as a child, growing up, it's who-you-know not what you know.
What type of people have we got then? I'm intrigued.Delete
Eastern Counties and Essex (40:60 breakdown roughly) seemed to have income, almost all from passengers around £90M pa (before recent fare increases). To me, that's a fair old whack. How many of our locally based companies manage anything like that?
Their profit on their operations (without any funny business like pensions or other accounting "adjustments") was £4m almost all from Eastern Counties. For comparison Stagecoach East seem to make about £10M profit on £60M turnover (which excluded their former Norfolk operations), and Stephensons £2M on £10M.
Where does the rest of it go? They seem to have made it a very expensive business. Does it have the feel of a luxury operation? Not sadly when I've travelled on it.
First Essex Bus on their last accounts made an operating loss of £340,000 after other costs etc it was a loss of about £4.5MDelete
First Eastern Counties made an Operating profit of £221,000 but after other costs it made a loss of about £5.8 Million so the bus services show a health profit but it is being sunk by high other costs
In next years account it make take a hit from closing its Clacton operations and whether they can operate the Clacton to Frinton route profitably from Colchester remains to be seen. They are making changes to it in October. I can see it being cut back to every 30 minutes next year
Thanks for correcting my mistaken recollection. Though, given the income aren't operating profit levels, quite frankly, dismal; and how would they ever justify investment, with any operator?Delete
I can perhaps understand the financial adjustments, if they take account of historic pension liabilities, and the accruing ones for the aging workforce. Which is why I think the base operating profit (direct income less the cost of acquiring that income) is a better measure.
Could the high frequencies be with an eye to scaring off potential competition? Though if so does it actually work? My worry is that it's just like pouring money down the drain if you don't attract the passenger numbers to match. I'm not sure if it is just a matter of timetable the buses, publicise them enough, and the passengers will come, rather as day follows night; as we keep on saying. Clearly good publicity must help (at least I hope so) but I'm not sure it's the panacea to sort out everything.
With the levels of congestion in our major towns can 3/4/6 buses an hour ever operate reliably, won't they always bunch up and then regulation (which gets messier the more buses on the network) means buses missing out waiting passengers; before we even get to vehicle and driver shortages? Aren't the depot staff going to get very fed up? The constant cycle of driver replacements also means drivers who don't know the routes, which I gather is already a problem for the retained Clacton services. I worry that the drivers are already too often treated like disposable nappies.
I'm not sure that we can make a profitable living just with people who don't yet travel at all. Don't we also have to attract people from their cars? What, locally, is the incentive to do so? Is the bus quicker, cheaper, more reliable, more comfortable or more convenient? Or what? Given the profusion of "offers" I already receive, (and refuse), I'm not sure that the prospect of more of them would persuade me to use the bus more, and spend more time waiting at a dismal bus stop for a bus that may or may not arrive, which seems currently to be the case?
By the way First in the East seem to have three Commercial Managers - Steve Wickers (now MD), Chris Speed and Julian Elliot. On the other hand who locally has the overall responsibility for customer service? I've often wondered. Or are depots left to their own devices, along with all their other responsibilities?
I would like to know if the X2/22 actually makes any money . Having carried out loading surveys the passenger numbers hardly seem to justify a 15 minute between peaks frequency .ReplyDelete
If it's any consolation, as maybe it's getting the newest Leeds cascades, it must be more viable than Essex' interurban routes (which aren't). Though by that measure, Colchester-Clacton is one of Essex' best performing routes too.Delete
Perhaps they should give up on Chelmsford-Witham-Colchester, Basildon-Southend and Chelmsford-Braintree-Colchester,as well as Chelmsford-Brentwood and the 37, as failing routes? Though the passengers might suggest Canvey too! It would certainly allow them to improve the age profile, and probably reliability, of the fleet at a stroke. The only way I can see to improve income (and hopefully profit, without any more depots to cut) is another price rise, but there must come a point of customer resistance with increasing fares and declining quality of service, surely?
We seem to have some of the highest bus fares (and rail ) in the country here in East Anglia already .ReplyDelete
Yes. The East Suffolk Line is ridiculously expensive, which is why they can run one coach 153's comfortably during the off peak. Those high fares, in turn, mean the bus companies can charge what they like as they'll always be cheaper than the train. A lose/lose situation for fare payers.Delete
We'll never know unless we try, will we? Mr. Chris Speed: since no-one else appears willing to ask, an immediate cut of 50% in fares on FEC and FEx across the board as a trial for 12 months please. With proper publicity. The benefits are obvious; lower fares, more passengers, more income, more profits!ReplyDelete
The problem with the 50% cut in fares is that it needs a lot longer than a year to become self financing because you can't change peoples habits overnight. First Group doesn't have the financial resources to do such a trial over the whole of one subsidiary. The other issue is concessionary fares, the payment to operators is generally based on the average single fare for a route. Therefore companies tend to set those high but then give high discounts for network tickets etc. This does make the adult single fare look high.Delete
The other problem being Chris would probably give it a go if he could. But the decision would have to come from Aberdeen, who would undoubtedly say 'nay, laddie', and that would be that!Delete
After all with all your delays, breakdowns and cancellations, and the state of the fleet, the passengers are only getting half the service you promise, so why should they be expected to pay more!?ReplyDelete
Now here is a conundrum. Two bus routes, both take about an hour end to end. Both start in a medium size town, travel along a rural "A" road, small town half way along is a small town, and both terminate at major regional centres. Populations of the towns for each route are comparable.ReplyDelete
Route A has a 30 minute frequency, every 15 minutes at peak periods plus hourly short working. Sunday service is hourly (commercially operated).
Route B has a 90 minute frequency. Sunday has four subsidised round trips over part of the route operated by community transport but under threat.
Explain the discrepancy in service level and see any if anybody can guess the identity of the two routes!
Route B I'm guessing is the 91 Ipswich to Sudbury. Route A has me stumped. I'm guessing Route A has competition and/or a major shareholder on the route and Route B doesn't. Or Route A is operated by a company with vision and a determination to make a success of things.Delete
Route A can only be the 13 Haverhill to Cambridge, operated by Stagecoach. But even their vision and determination to make a success of things has its limits.Delete
May be the 236 and 91 could be made one route with it saying have long journeys from Clare to Ipswich but missing out the Hadleigh detour and have additional short journeys between Hadleigh & IpswichDelete
Not sure if the timings would work out , The downside is that Hadleigh would loose the direct service to Sudbury
I'm not sure that would work, as Clare's size and location suggest it should be on a direct and regular route from Haverhill to Sudbury, which itself would probably work best as an extension of the Cambridge to Haverhill service. The Ipswich/Sudbury route should be retained as is but improved, but your suggested additional Ipswich/Hadleigh short journeys could operate direct via the Hadleigh detour, and possibly be extended via Lavenham to Bury St Edmunds.Delete
Route B is indeed Beeston's 91.Delete
Service 13 from Haverhill to Cambridge is a good suggestion for route A but I was thinking of a service further afield.
It was inaugurated in 1923 by Thomas Arthur Smith and right from the beginning, the rear of his buses carried his fleetname in a very distinctive style. The rear of his grandson's shiny new "68" registered bus has the same name in the same style.
I think part of the answer to my question is that the operator of route A only runs bus services so all their management time is devoted to their promotion. Beestons probably spend most of their time on the the complexities of their coach operations.
Not much forward thinking hereReplyDelete
A lot of towns don't have Bus stations they are things of the past says Councillor Barratt
Not much forward thinking then. It has been consistently found that if bus stations are removed passenger numbers fall
Perhaps it's only forward thinking when they can be sold off to be redeveloped? - in this case, with Sudbury bus station set to be replaced with two new bus lay-bys within the town. https://www.suffolkfreepress.co.uk/news/sudbury-council-reveals-ambitious-plans-to-ignite-towns-prosperity-9045531/Delete
Interesting to see the Great Yarmouth Air Festival made a very large lose .ReplyDelete
Not suprising considering the amount of buses being provided for the ill fated park and ride services . I know the management of one local bus operator commented while we were sat waiting for passengers at the park and ride the local First passengers had to travel on rammed Streetlites.ReplyDelete