Wednesday 31 October 2018

More Konect Cuts Proposed

Konectbus have revealed their proposals for the January timetable review, and surprise surprise it's more cuts. Among other selected journeys going by the wayside the 5 is being scrapped between Queens Hill and Norwich, and the 87 Monday - Saturday except evening journeys being scrapped too. This means that Upper Stoke and Broome will lose their service completely, and Poringland, Brooke and Bungay will be down to a basic hourly service, with the last bus to Halesworth from Norwich leaving earlier at 1745. There is also a two hour gap in the afternoon from Southwold between 1453 and the LAST BUS at 1658. Here is a full list of the changes, taken from Konect's website.

Route 3, 6 & 6A
Thetford - Watton
Toftwood - Shipdham - Watton
Watton - Hingham - N&NU Hospital (3) / Wymondham (6/6A) - Norwich

Summary; please note: 
  • The 0700 and 0745 6 departures from Watton have been advanced 5 minutes and will now depart at 0655 and 0740 respectively. 
  • The 0745 3 from Thetford has been advanced 5 minutes and will now depart at 0740. 
  • The 1645 3 from Norwich will now leave 5 minutes later at 1650 to ensure a prompt departure in the evening peak. 
  • The 0815 6 from Norwich will depart at 0810 on schooldays and 0820 on non-schooldays and Saturdays. 
  • The 0840 from Watton to Great Hockham, and the 0857 Great Hockham to Watton have been withdrawn due to low usage
  • The 1044/1444 from Thetford to Watton, and the 1124/1324 from Watton to Thetford, will omit East Wretham Camp due to low usage. 
  • Journeys arriving into Watton High Street from Norwich will continue to Swaffham Road roundabout bus stop opposite the petrol station. 
  • Journeys starting and finishing in Shipdham will be extending from/to Toftwood, Shipdham Road, Westfield Road. 
  • The change to the 6A only affects the 1910 departure from Norwich which has revised times. This journey will connect with a new journey from Watton to Toftwood via Shipdham. 

Route 5
Queen's Hills - Dereham Road - Norwich - Yarmouth Road - Postwick P&R
Route 5 will be withdrawn between Queen's Hills, Dereham Road and Norwich. This difficult decision has been made due to unsustainable losses on this corridor. Route 5 between Postwick Park & Ride and Norwich will still operate and operate to a revised timetable. We would like to thank our customers who have used Konectbus route 5 since it started in 2007 and advise there is an alternative with First's route 24/24A .
We welcome your comments on the above proposed changes so please get in touch via email (

Route 5B
Stalham - Wroxham - Norwich
Revised Sunday timetable including revised times from and to Stalham. Route 5B on Sundays will connect with route 8 to Dereham.
Route straight8
Toftwood - Dereham - Norwich
Revised Sunday & bank holiday timetable with better train connections at Norwich Rail Station for trains to/from London. We have allowed more time to help improve punctuality.

Route 9
Attleborough - Wymondham - N&NU Hospital
The 0655 9 from Wymondham to the N&NU Hospital will be advanced 5 minutes to give it more running time with increased traffic in the Wymondham/Hethersett area and condition of the highway between Hethersett and Lt Melton.

Route 11
Dereham - Watton - Swaffham
The 0710 departure from Dereham to Watton has been advanced 5 minutes and will depart at 0705. There are also minor revised times on Sundays & bank holidays to improve punctuality. 

Route 37A
Mulbarton - Norwich
Revised timetable on Sundays & bank holidays to improve punctuality.

Route 87/88
Southwold - Halesworth - Bungay
Bungay - Poringland - Norwich
Due to continuing unsustainable losses we have made the difficult decision to withdraw route 87 (Bungay - Poringland - Upper Stoke - Stoke Holy Cross - Caistor St Edmund - Trowse - Norwich), except in the evenings and on Sundays & bank holidays. Stoke Holy Cross and Caistor St Edmund will be served by Konectbus route 84. Upper Stoke will no longer be served by Konectbus.
An hourly timetable (route 88) will operate between Southwold and Bungay via Halesworth, and Bungay and Norwich via Poringland with through connections (no change of bus required) in Bungay. The train connections at Halesworth Rail Station for trains from/to Ipswich are maintained.
Due to very low usage and to improve punctuality Broome will no longer be served. Simonds route 581 links Broome with Bungay five times a day .
To improve punctuality Norwich's St Stephens Street will no longer be served on journeys heading into the city; it will still be served after Norwich Bus Station.
From 19 December 2018 we will no longer be operating the Norwich to Framingham Earl High School contract to Norfolk County Council. We will update this page when the new operator is announced.
We welcome your comments on the above proposed changes so please get in touch via email ( . Alternatively you can contact Norfolk County Council by emailing

Anyone get a feeling of deja vu here? Obviously three years of Anglian cuts that did nothing to improve things, in fact drove customers away has gone completely unnoticed. A few months ago there were 4 buses an hour between Norwich and Poringland. That will be down to 1, and how long before the 8 gets scrapped completely. Certainly Saturday when I was on it there weren't many passengers, but worth noting that everyone going into Norwich on Saturday got off at St Stephen's St, the precise stop Konect will no longer be serving....... obviously much data analysis there!

I'm not going to go on as you've heard it all before, but sure "Phil" you come on and say how this is going to benefit anyone. A spokesperson for First, when I told them about these changes, simply said "wow"!

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Comment: When Will They Learn?

How often do you get unwanted phone calls asking you about PPI, offering you a phone or Sky upgrade, or a myriad of other things. How often do you get stopped in the street by market researchers wanting to know your opinion on everything from deodorant to the price of onions. Bloody annoying, but obviously gets results or they wouldn't do it. Now how many times have you been rung up, or stopped in the street, and asked about your local bus service, and what would encourage you to use it more/at all? No, me neither.

I saw a Twitter poll over the weekend that was asking what was the most important aspect of bus travel. The options were reliability, punctuality, price of fares or leather seats/WiFi. Well hang on just a moment, but the most important aspect of a bus service is actually having a bus in the first place. You can have an interior to rival Buckingham Palace but if it doesn't run where you want, when you want it's as good as useless. This is the lesson that the vast majority of operators still have to learn. In this day and age, when people have a choice, you simply can't sit back, set up a route and expect the public to come to you. You've got to be different, think outside the box - take the service to them rather than assume they'll come to the service.

So how DO you attract new custom to fill those empty seats? Bus operators seem to think in completely different ways to most businesses. If I'm going to open, say, a fish and chip shop, then where do I want to open it. Right next door to an already successful chippy might not be the best place. You might get a few folks try you out of interest, but on the whole people will stay with what they are familiar with - it's the nature of the beast. Yet how many operators set up a route in direct competition to another operator assuming that everyone will immediately jump ship, well bus, and desert the operator that has been serving them for years. It seldom works. Unless the new operator undercuts your fares by 60% and you don't match them, of course, thus becoming a laughing stock and driving your operation over a cliff.

Why do they do that? Why are the only seemingly viable new routes those already with bus services when we have lost in excess of 3,500 bus routes in the last 8 years. The population is growing, not shrinking. The answer, as alluded to above is because no one bothers to ask the public where and when they want a bus service. Every year we get operators proudly boasting customer satisfaction figures as published by Passenger Focus, who survey thousands of bus passengers to get their opinion on everything from the standard of the seat to if the driver's tie was straight. But hang on a sec - these folk are ALREADY ON THE BUS! They have already decided that the bus is the most convenient way for them to get around - hooray! So this annual love in doesn't do anything to fill the empty seats, it just says that 93% of the 6 passengers on that double decker were happy. Line up those bonuses!

Why aren't Passenger Focus stopping thousands of people on the street, calling up random people, in other words making a bloody nuisance of themselves finding out why people DON'T get the bus, and what would entice them on. I can guarantee "because the bus doesn't have WiFi" wouldn't enter the equation because neither has their car you're trying to get them out of. It's damn useful once you're on the bus, but that's not going to be a reason people switch modes. Having a bus go where they want, when they want, at a cost effective price will, but how do you know where these people are and where they want to go if no one asks them?

The successful operators are the ones who listen to their market, realise that some people get held up at work, or like to stay to socialise, so making the last bus at 1730 is of no use to them. Chances ae the cost of the taxi home is more than their weekly bus ticket so may as well use the car. It's pointless encouraging passengers to use a half hourly double decker service to get into town if you then expect them to use an hourly single decker service on the way home as the deckers are tied up with school work. If you have two operators on a route passing a holiday camp which one is going to attract the custom - the one making the effort to go into the camp, or the one forcing the unhappy campers to cross one of the busiest roads in the county in order to reach the bus stop?  Are passengers more likely to catch the bus to the train station if the buses connect with the trains or if they miss each other by 5 mins? As for DRT it's utterly useless if you have to rely on it. Impossible for commuting, and not knowing if you'll get a journey when you want it is an awful way of operating. Pot luck doesn't work in transport.

It's no use bleating, as one operator does frequently, about the small remuneration on Concessionary passes when you charge fare paying passengers the earth to make up the shortfall without making an effort to encourage more on. When did you last get a flyer through your letterbox with a 50% off voucher for a bus journey? How many other industries do you see having exclusive offers for "new customers"? Not buses that's forsure.

So that's the rant - so what are the solutions. Well there are many, but I'm blowed if I'm going to give them away here just for operators to nick them and use them as if they had thought the idea up. That's already happened more than once. I don't get paid for this blog so my ideas don't come free as well, but believe me they would bring results if, and only if the majority of operators change their way of thinking. If they don't then the bus industry outside major towns and cities is dead in the water, and will probably never resurface. I am available for consultation. Nothing to lose as more and more buses are running around with fewer and fewer passengers on them and businesses are going to fall.

But I will give you this for free - if customers are already using your business regularly then they are happy. It's not them you have to ask what's important, but those people NOT using your business, as it's those people who will increase your income. If you are an operator using Twitter it's unlikely any of your followers are non bus users! Numerous other industries recognise that, hence the annoying texts and phone calls, so why not the transport industry? Lethargy, pure lethargy.

Sunday 14 October 2018

A Southeastern Super Saturday Part 2

"And I would ride 500 miles, and I would ride, erm actually 80 more"! Doesn't quite scan I know but not bad just riding around one county all day. Part one finished with me having returned from Kent's answer to Love Island, otherwise known as Sheppey, to a very wet Sittingbourne, where I was roughly two thirds of my way through a marathon journey round the Southeastern
network, thanks to their £20 all you can ride Super Saturday ticket. Next on the list was Victoria, so I thankfully left the rain and boarded my 375/6 to the Capital.

375603 at a very wet Sitt8ngbourne
A quick pit stop at Victoria and it was time for the bonus train. During the week it had been decided that the Catford Loop wasn't on the official list of routes to do as Southeastern don't actually stop anywhere between Ravensbourne and Nunhead on a Saturday. However, as the 1842 to Dover Priory was sitting on platform 4, going to Bromley South via the loop it seemed rude not to, particularly as it was a 465/9, an upgraded 465/2 to include 1st class and universal loo.

465903 at Bromley South
Have I mentioned I like the 465's? Just a shame it wasn't a 365 with original interior, just about my all time favourite train interior (Yes, Matt, I know the TC coach on VEP 3582 was better). Anyway we were soon at Bromey South and I waited for the Ashford via Maidstone East service, which turned out to be an imposter. Southeastern have recently acquired some 377 units that were on loan from Southern to Thameslink, but were displaced due to the 700's introduction. So Southeastern have now got them, and seem to be using them exclusively on the Maidstone East line, only this one was still in full Southern livery. Sorry for the blurred pic - it was dark again!

The Southern 377, now with Southeastern
I confess I don't remember much of that trip - we were delayed at Swanley due to a passenger alarm being activated in one of the loos - and then I fell asleep, and woke up somewhat disorientated at Ashford, realised my next connection was on the adjacent platform, which was just as well as the doors closed as I boarded. This was another 375/9, ghastly seats, but I have to admit the interior to the universal toilet was very attractive.

Universal toilet interior on the 375/9
This train, from Ashford to Paddock Wood closed up all the mainline routes for me, just some suburban routes to do, but I had to get there. That meant repeating myself a bit, so a second trip up the Medway Valley Line, again on 375306 12 hours on from my first trip. Not much to see in the dark so not for the first time I was grateful for Southeastern's free WiFi. I was somewhat worried when I saw a 50MB limit, but needn't have. If you use it you just reconnect and carry on - some bus operators could learn from that!

375306 at Paddock Wood
One final Javelin from Strood to Gravesend, and then onto platform 0 for the trip to Lewisham via the Bexleyheath branch. Another 465, a bit chilly this one!

Final Javelin of the day at Strood
Now those of you who haven't yet lost the will to live will have noticed I still had one London terminus still to do. Cannon Street is far busier now than it was in my day, now used 7 days a week from start to end of service, and rightly so as it frees up capacity into Charing Cross. But Lordy it has changed. I barely recognised the place as I wandered around before boarding my penultimate train of the day, the 2332 to Dartford via Greenwich and Woolwich. Top bloke driving who put the heating on!

Cannon Street Station
It's the first time I have travelled through Abbey Wood station since it was totally redeveloped for Crossrail, and I'll have to make a separate journey to take a look in daylight as had I not known the old station well I'd have never believed what it used to be like! Next time I'm up that part of the world I'll take a detour.

465020 at Cannon Street
Arrival at Dartford signified the end of my mission, but not the end of my day. I still had to get back to Greenhithe, and it was either a 29 min wait for a Southeastern service, or jump on a Thameslink service sitting on the platform. Sorry guys, I cheated and caught the 700, and immediately sat on the worst seats of the day. Any lingering doubts I had of those seats being utterly heinous were dispelled. When you've sat on train seats for over 19 hours you know a hard seat when you get one and boy the 700 seats are hard! 6 minutes was 6 minutes too long!

70057 at Greenhithe
So how to sum up? 24 trains, all of which departed on time, 23 arriving on time, 23 connections made, total travelling time 19 hrs 9 mins (not including 4 hours driving), and, thanks to the brilliant Southeastern Twitter team for doing the maths, 160 stations and 580 miles covered. That works out at 3.45 pence per mile. If only all train fares were that low!

So, my personal journey excepted, was the Super Saturday a success? The weather didn't help matters, and it was difficult to judge who would have been on the trains anyway, or would they have been much quieter because of the weather without the Super Saturday ticket. I hope it was a success. It deserves to have been a success, and a venture that I hope will be repeated, and copied by other operators. There has been precious little to smile about on the railways recently, and I saw a lot of smiles on my travels, and some happy passengers as well as some very obvious enthusiasts! Anything that brings some positivity back to the railways has to be supported and applauded, which is why I made so much of an effort, and why I'm allowing Southeastern to use portions of this write up for their staff newsletter. There need to be more initiatives like this more regularly to get people back to thinking well of the railways, because as my stats show, when it all comes together it simply cannot be beaten. Thank you to all at Southeastern, from the organisers, to the wonderful CC and CH on the Twitter team, to the on board cleaners who make such a difference, and all others concerned. A great, if very long day, and one I'll remember for a considerable time. Now to convince Greater Anglia to do one....

Wednesday 10 October 2018

A Southeastern Super Saturday Part One

Those of you of a certain vintage will remember when the Network Southeast area was created in the late 80's, there were a number of Saturdays designated Network Days, where, for a fiver I think it was, you could ride unlimited in the NSE area all day. I remember walking up the entire length of a 12 car Waterloo - Portsmouth service, a 12 CIG, and there was not a single seat available. Those Network Days were hugely popular yet have never been repeated, mainly due to the splitting up of the network. Yes, various operators have rover tickets, but as a rule these have relatively small areas or a limited Network. A national rail rover does exist, but a 7 day rover will set you back £510, so in reality you're probably better off booking everything in advance if you know what you are doing.

So when Southeastern announced, with only 7 days notice, that they were doing their Supersaturday ticket, which gave unlimited travel on Southeastern services, including HS1 for £20 I started salivating at the prospect. Not only that but they set a challenge to see who could cover the entire network in a day. Red rag to a bull that. Hence most of the week was spent poring over timetables, getting frustrated with nonsensical connections, and a lot of shredded itineraries. The conclusion was finally reached that to cover everywhere in one day was impossible, so I dispensed with the Tonbridge - Hastings branch, which was the most time consuming, and concentrated on getting round everywhere else, which isn't as easy as it seems, as a fair bit of doubling back is required. So itinerary finally worked out, submitted to Southeastern, a reliable car borrowed, and at precisely 0307 I left my Suffolk village for Greenhithe in Kent, where I had decided to start and finish my day. Just a word about the disappointing quality of many of the photos. It was a miserable day weather wise, and my camera is not good at taking moving images in the dark, so apologies for the blurriness in some.

My Supersaturday ticket at Greenhithe

Having grown up on the Southeastern network it was like turning the clock back 40 odd years, except the trains were different. None of my beloved slam door trains now, but Networkers, Electrostars and Javelins covering areas some of which haven't changed in half a century, and others totally unrecognisible. Here is the network.

One thing you will notice about the network is, London terminals excepted, how few dead ends there are. Even Hastings can't really be regarded as a dead end, well not in railway terms anyway, as other services pass through it. So that leaves Bromley North, Hayes and Sheerness. When you think we have Sheringham, Great Yarmouth, Felixstowe, Harwich, Clacton, Walton, Sudbury and others up here it shows how comprehensively Kent is still connected.
465183 at Greenhithe
My first train of the day was the 0527 from Greenhithe to Hither Green. Also the first class 465 Networker of the day. When these trains were launched in 1992 I resented them as they were replacing the old slam door EPB's which I loved and had grown up with. Now, though, I appreciate what quite superb trains they are. The ride they give is, in my opinion, unparalleled. They accelerate fast and brake smoothly. Comfortable seats and good heating complete an all round decent experience, and they do not feel 26 years old. It is bordering on the criminal that there is an uncertain future for the class 365 Networker Expresses, as they are far superior to the 319's currently being given new leases of life elsewhere.
The uid 376 at Hither Green
At Hither Green I changed onto a Class 376 Electrostar for the one stop journey to Grove Park. I was hoping to travel on more of these as I've yet to give them a real workout, but alas it was not to be, and this was my only 376 of the day. But we got to Grove Park in time to make my very tight connection onto the Bromley North branch, my first new territory of the day. It only takes five minutes to travel the line, operated by a 2 car class 466, and I gave my sympathies to the driver who must have lost count of the number of times he had to change ends that morning!
466020 at a deserted Bromley North
A tactical cheat followed, as I caught a bus from Bromley North to Hayes, the other dead end in the area, and also the only other new territory for me. I'd been as far as Elmers End, which connects with the Croydon Tramlink, but not the section between Hayes and Elmers End. Another 8 car 465 took me to Charing Cross, where I had a 30 min stop for breakfast before hitting the mainline.
465244 at Hayes
The class 375 Electrostars replaced the mainline slam door stock, and I'm not sure I've forgiven them yet. Yes the ride is quiet and smooth, but the trains are just soulless moving metal tubes. I'm also not completely sure the seats haven't got harder since their recent mid life refresh. I do like the colour scheme now, but there just isn't the anticipation of a train journey there was with the slam doors - the air brake tests, the vacuum pumps doing their thing, even the sound of the doors slamming. It was an atmosphere we'll never get back, and that's a shame, if romantically nostalgic. Will these trains be as revered when they retire? I somewhat doubt it.
375616 at Charing Cross
Anyhow the 375 whisked me undramatically to Tonbridge, an old stamping ground where, as a sixth form student I spent many happy hours watching the old Hastings diesels, Uckfield thumpers, Class 101's on the Reading line, and boat trains from Dover and Folkestone hammering through. The station has barely changed since then, although the layout to the country end of the station certainly has. It was here I changed onto a 3 car 375 for my trip up the Medway Valley Line, a true homecoming as I lived on that line for the first 22 years of my life. Most of it still looks the same, although it was a real shock to see Aylesford paper mill flattened.
375306 at Tonbridge

Strood is one of the coldest stations I know. It has its own microclimate, which is roughly 30 degrees colder than it is outside the station. It has always been like that, and I have spent more hours shivering there than I care to think of. In recent years, though, Strood has had a change of identity. Whereas it used to be where the fast trains to Victoria branched off, leaving Strood passengers to catch the slow trains to Charing Cross, now the High Speed trains stop there, and have halved the journey time to London. The class 395 Hitachi Javelin rolled in, and off to St Pancras I whizzed.
395002 Seb Coe at Strood
No time to linger there, not even to get a decent picture, as I literally jumped off one Javelin onto another, which was going to be my home for the next 140 minutes. Southeastern High Speed operate circular journeys from St Pancras, via Ashford, Dover, Ramsgate, Faversham, Gravesend and reverse. I was travelling to Faversham via Ashford, and the train was packed. I was quite surprised Southeastern hadn't lengthened more trains in anticipation of the extra passenger numbers and this was the biggest argument as to why they should have. 6 coaches was just not enough, and I was forced to sit on a pulldown seat in the wheelchair area which was devoid of any padding whatsoever! It did have a plug though, which was invaluable.
Quick change at St Pancras International

The Javelins look good, go like stink, and do a job. But the seats are hard, don't give good back support, and the interiors are devoid of any character whatsoever. I found over 2 hours on one tough going, whilst appreciating very few people actually spend that long on them. I was grateful for my recharged phone battery when I got off at Faversham, but equally grateful to just get off it!
395028 at Faversham
This is where it got interesting. To do all the routes around East Kent takes some planning. It's impossible to do without some doubling back, and some of the connections are frankly hopeless. During the week there are a couple of trains from Ramsgate to Sandwich, for example, that stop at Minster and reverse. However, on a Saturday if you want to travel from Minster to Sandwich you have to travel via Ramsgate, and endure a 58 minute wait as the train to Sandwich leaves 2 minutes before the train from Minster arrives. Therefore you can't do the Canterbury West branch, changing at Ramsgate onto the Dover branch. It is not the only example. If you do Ramsgate to Ashford via Canterbury West, hoping to change onto the Dover line there forget it - it's a 50 minute wait there too, so you will see why many different routes had to be attempted before I finally worked it out.
375827 at Faversham
A swift journey from Faversham to Dover on another 375 and I was back on a Javelin returning to Ashford.
3 375's and a Javelin at Dover Priory
There was only a 20 minute wait for the Canterbury West branch, but a shock was in store. The 375/9's are a high density seating version of the Electrostar, which replaced the VEPS, and it's fair to say were not popular with passengers or staff alike when they entered service. They were the first to have "ironing board" seats, and so when an 8 car 375/9 came rolling into Ashford I clenched in anticipation. They may have had a bit more padding put in during the refresh but if so it's not that noticeable. I would truly hate to commute on these trains.
375920 at Ashford International
But it got me to Ramsgate, another old stamping ground, just in time to cross over and get the train back to Faversham, my 3rd Javelin, and on to Sittingbourne, to do the third and final dead end.

395013 at Ramsgate
The Isle of Sheppey has never been a favourite place of mine. I'm told whenever we went there when I was young I would sprout horns and turn into the devil child, which I didn't do anywhere else, and I've never really felt comfortable when there, for reasons I'll probably never know. It's not what you'd call exotic either, making Lowestoft look like Monte Carlo, but had to be done, so now with the weather really closing in my little 466 took me on a rather uninspiring trip to Sheerness and back, including a Conductor who seemed as enthusiastic to be there as I was.
466003 at Sittingbourne
Now I should point out that despite the criticisms of the trains, and dislike for Sheerness, I was really enjoying myself. Everything was on time, the Twitter banter with the guys at Southeastern was good, as was watching other people's progress round the network. It was so good seeing old places and areas from my past again, and it was only 1710. I'd been on trains nearly 12 hours but still had another 7 1/2 hours to go! Part Two coming soon.