Monday 28 January 2019

Konect Abandon Suffolk Once And For All

It gives me no pleasure to say I really should be hanging out giant "I told you so" banners. In fact I'm angry, really angry. Angry at those prats who ridiculed me when I said Konect would be cutting more routes, and incandescent with fury with Go East, who have single handedly destroyed bus services in North and East Suffolk, and much of East Norfolk too. There cannot have been a similar example of such inept and uncaring management of a previously flourishing bus company in modern times. But the post mortum can wait - this is what Konect are getting rid of now.

The 88 will be scrapped between Norwich and Bungay from SATURDAY March 2nd. However, due to it being sponsored, the section between Bungay and Southwold will continue until March 31st. Passengers from Halesworth travelling to Norwich during March will need to change buses and pay again on First's X41. Konect have said they will be charging reduced fares so through passengers won't be penalised, which shows how much they charge now, and they wonder why patronage has fallen. After 1st April a new operator, I presume First, will take over the route. Also going are the 272 school service, and the 90, running between Halesworth/Southwold and Beccles, another sponsored service. My guess is Borderbus might be very interested in that one.

You can read the full announcement here, but I simply must reproduce the reasons Konect give for the pull out, blaming everyone, even the passengers, but themselves.

The reason that we are withdrawing these routes is that they continue to run at a loss. We have sustained losses of several million pounds in our Beccles based operation in the last few years. This has been because of the loss of contracts to other companies, the decline in the rural bus market and high operating costs and poor reliability which we have been unable to address at a small operation that is remote from our main business. We have also suffered from direct competition from First bus, whom most users now seem to prefer. We hope that First will have the good grace to step in and provide the extra facilities such as Sunday buses and the through route to Halesworth that we have hitherto provided, and not just focus on the profitable sections of route in Bungay and Poringland.

As yet First are to make official comment, although I know they have been looking for some time how they can source the extra resources needed to extend the X41 to fill the gap left by Konect.

I was reminded of the front cover of Buses Magazine a mere 4 years ago - how things have changed since then.

Go Ahead certainly did transform the independent. Into dust. Avada Kedavra, as Voldemort would have said.

I'll have more analysis of this announcement and possible repercussions for passengers in due course. Right now pity the customers on the 88, and especially those drivers at Beccles who have stuck it out until the bitter end. They deserved so much better, and I hope they find new jobs quickly.


  1. Go Ahead seem to be in a total mess. They only recently registered a new operating centre in Beccles foe 9 vehicles. I assume this will not now be used

    Bus services in Suffolk seem to be continuing on there terminal spiral of decline

    1. I'd imagine they wouldn't need 9 vehicles on the 84! The last remaining South Norfolk Anglian route. Never thought my local route would outlive the 88 :S Wonder how long until they abandon that

    2. Unless they start running the 83/84 from Rackheath (possibly even then) I can't imagine it'll take them long to abandon those too, with them being former Anglian routes.

    3. 83's already gone! Went in September to First.

    4. It has indeed, the 38A, how did I forget that?! Was going to have a run out on it following the changeover, before noticing how crowded it was, so it's just on the to-do list now.

  2. UK transport is sadly based around short term flings, not long-term commitment. It probably always has been - my father was a lorry driver in the 1950s.

    But, seriously, aren't Konnect just doing what First did in Clacton; and no howls of anguish there! As long as someone steps in.

    Yep, the extra buses can probably come from the spares yard that is Essex. All First's Norfolk and Suffolk management have to do is double the income from Norfolk and Suffolk, so they can afford to ditch the rest of orphaned albatross Essex! The Essex passengers can't wait either! I doubt there'll be any howls of anguish at their passing down this way. We'd welcome a carve up between Ensign (yum), Stephensons, Arrow, even Arriva and Go-Ahead (couldn't be worse!) and it'd give the useless County Council a real job for a change! Everyone's waiting . . .

    1. "But, seriously, aren't Konnect just doing what First did in Clacton; and no howls of anguish there! As long as someone steps in."

      Yes and no - the difference there (at least for me) is that Hedingham were already in Clacton, while FEC aren't in Halesworth (as of yet anyway).

      One thing about this that's raised my eyebrows - Konect's bemoaning of 'direct competition'. Guess they've forgotten all about the 37A...

    2. Clacton is a town, not a County. I might also point out that both Hedingham and Chambers surrendered their operating licences last week. They now operate under the Konect licence. Good luck with that...

  3. Competition on the route isn't to blame of course .

    1. I only approved that to give everyone a laugh!!!

  4. You say they blame everyone but themselves, yet the quote directly under it says "The reason we are withdrawing these routes is becuase...poor reliability which we have been unable to address at a small operation that is remote from our main business". Many times the Southwald - Bungay part has been cancelled. This is because by the time a bus is sourced to get there, the next service would be operating. I think saying about poor reliability is vlamubg themselves, no?

    1. That is blaming the staff and vehicles, not management, with whom the buck should stop.

  5. Konectbus has a nerve in saying that First should 'not just focus on the profitable sections of route'

    The words pot, kettle and black come to mind - wasn't it they, under the guise of Anglianbus, intesify the 7/47 service and introduce the competing 61 route to cream off the passengers and try to make a fast buck.

    Management are to blame here not the staff - feel really sorry for the drivers

    1. Not to mention cutting the huge majority of Anglian routes to concentrate on the money routes. Oh, hang on , aren't Konect doing the same thing?? Pretty sure the X1 was running between Dereham and Norwich before the 8 was...

  6. Will the Bernard Matthews contracts link in with any new services like First's return to Fakenham one wonders .

    1. Doubt it as they carry passengers both ways to and from the Halesworth factory.

  7. More Bus Cuts

    Assume these are very minor services

    Litcham Garage to Norwich ()
    Litcham to Norwich (Wed)
    Sporle to East Dereham CL10
    Litcham to Fakenham
    Litcham East Dereham 398(22)
    Mileham to East Dereham (Tue) ()
    Beeston Post Office Litcham High School 4

  8. This may interest you Steve:

    1. Now isn't that soothing!!! Even if it never happens it's like a massage to the passenger side of me.

      Apologies to those operators quietly throwing up in the corner...

    2. Aye! Exactly what I was thinking!

  9. Oh dear Corbyn was travelling to a meeting about bus cuts and was intending to do the last part of the journey by but but the bus failed to turn up in spite of the Real timer bus information showing it on time., IT did the usual thin of bus due in 1 minute, bus due, bus 1 minute late and then it disappears. HE ended up having to go by car. What happened to him though is typical of how buses operate

  10. Bus co's get a lot of stick so it's good to find an exception. No surprise, I know, but felt I had to draw attention to these comments from last week. Heartily endorsed (from personal experience too, as it's not the only time!):

    Comment: Superb. Only operators such as @EnsignBusCo that truly look out for their local community would do this, and improve the industry’s image at the same time.

    Tweet from Ensignbus
    ‏ @EnsignBusCo

    ⚠️ We have noticed that the last @FirstEssex bus 100 from Lakeside to Basildon does not seem to be operating tonight so we are running a bus to Basildon along the 100 route to make sure that nobody is stranded and can get home safely - pls look out for our blue & silver bus

    1. Yet I get stick if I wax lyrical about the likes of Ensign and Reading too much!!!

  11. Non Local News

    Crisis-hit' Cardiff Bus in shock move to cut 12 bus routes as it faces huge losses

    Last Year Cardiff bus made a loss of almost £2M

    There is another operator in Cardiff so they may pick up some of the lost routes. So far Cardiff bus has not yet registered this changes with the traffic commissioners

    1. Andrew Kleissner6 February 2019 at 08:25

      According to our local councillors and MP, with whom I have been in contact, discussions and plans are still being finalised. The cynic or politician in me says that, if the "other operator" had not creamed off some of the traffic on two or three busy routes, Cardiff Bus might be in a better financial state. I presume that the Council can't subsidise the routes for social benefit as they wholly-own the bus company. As a general comment, last time CB made changes to routes, they only got registered with the Commissioners at the very last minute as "short notice" items. One of them was an extension of route X59 into a new housing development which has only run for a day or two because builders' lorries and debris are preventing the buses getting through.

    2. First Essex beat that, of course, swinging to a nigh on £3m loss! I'm still not sure how they managed that; it must have taken some doing as the dominant operator with a £53m income in decent bus territory. (Though perhaps, in defence, redundant property leases can skewer any accounts, a bit).

      Latest reported rumour though has it that First Manchester are being sold on a carve up at a knockdown price, when recent depot closures (which we've had in Essex too) didn't sort out their growing losses. Are our other operators locally licking their lips and readying their armoury? Surely no-one else could do any worse?

      Just, perhaps, we might not have so long to wait for the next headline.

    3. Andrew Kleissner6 February 2019 at 16:48

      More Cardiff news: Amazingly there are no electric buses in Wales nor, to my knowledge, any hybrids (though I may well be wrong on that).

    4. The competitor in Cardiff NAT buses is now owned by Comfortdelgro so it has the resource to expand services in Cardiff

  12. Beestons 236 btw Sudbury and Clare scrapped from early April,which I guess was inevitable after they withdrew from Haverhill several months ago. The last day will be Friday April 5th.

    1. I agree, withdrawal was a foregone conclusion. If loadings are really that bad then logically Felix should extend their midibus operated Sudbury - Long Melford service though to Clare and Haverhill. If usage is too high for midibuses then perhaps Chambers should extend the Colchester - Sudbury short workings on the Bury service through to Clare / Haverhill. Chambers do of course already have dead workings to Clare for their Bury service.

    2. Not forgetting when they switched to double decker operation which thoroughly annoyed the residents of Glensford at the time as it meant they got chopped off the route. Not sure how that issue resolved itself (if it ever did)

    3. The more sensible option would be to extend the 374 to Sudbury. It would need an additional bus to provide a reasonable service though

  13. Presumably this was the 2315 ex Lakeside. First Essex stop replying to tweets at 1900 so passengers wouldn't have got very far by asking them where their bus was.

  14. Good news for some places, not East Anglia though:

  15. Could making bus travel free help cut car emissions and reduce air pollution?

    The proposal comes as figures show transport was the biggest contributor to the UK’s carbon pollution problem in 2017.

    Bus travel should become free to help people out of their cars and drive down greenhouse gas emissions, environmental campaigners have urged.
    According to data from the Business Department (Beis), transport emissions - excluding international flights and shipping - have fallen just 2% since 1990 and now account for more than a quarter (27%) of the total greenhouse gas output of 460 million tonnes - a bigger share than energy supplies, businesses, homes or agriculture.

    I don't think making it free is the way to go but we do need much lower fares and much simpler ticketing, Some of the current fares schemes are incomprehensible and make no sense. Perhaps a simple flat fair scheme in most towns . Buses also need to be a Network and not a collection of individual competing routes

    Buses also need a fair share of financial support. More people travel by bus then any other form of public transport but financial support for them is all but non existent so we are left with a run down very infrequent and very unreliable bus network which charges very high fare for a very poor service. That is simply not going to attract people to bus services , It is not even going to retain their current passengers.

    In places like Norfolk & Suffolk it should not be difficult to provided a 20 minute frequency service in the towns. It would only require 3 or 4 buses in most cases. Bus companies also need to use smaller buses. Having huge double deck buses running around almost empty is not sensible or cost effective

    From the run down state bus services are at present probably to start with fares might only cover 50% of the costs

    Buses need to be of a much better standard as well rather than the average basic interiors and the normal rattles and vibration and they need dramatically better management and marketing as well as the use of technology being the nor rather than the exception and the technology needs to work and not as at present be broken most of the time. Real Tim bus information is a huge benefit when it works but is just a disincentive when as now in the few places it is available it is not reliable

    Another disincentive to use a bus is shopping so bus companies and High Street retailers and councils need to look at addressing this problem

    If you can go by a frequent and reliable and low cost bus service to town and do you shopping and have it delivered in one delivery to your home it makes buses a much more attractive option it would also be another revenue stream for bus companies who could do the deliveries in the evening and at weekends when they have spares buses available. another option would be for the Royal Mail to do the deliveries, They face falling mail volumes so it would be useful extra work for them

    1. Its easy to moan at bus companies about fares.Look at the cost of a new bus even a used one.NBC got buses so cheaply .These days you pay market value unless you buy hundreds a year .

  16. Andrew Kleissner8 February 2019 at 17:31

    In other news: Gosh, and how lucky they were!

  17. I keep banging on about it, but I just don't get First's game with Essex. What are they playing at? Anyone got any idea?

    We have nothing of Eastern Counties' efforts at improving the appearance and condition of their buses and providing an efficient and competitive network. Timetables are a complete shambles, the network a spiders web of ad hoc routes which often make no sense. When buses are swopped in from Eastern Counties occasionally we are eternally grateful; when swopped out they seem like engineering A&E jobs in desperate need of the loving attention of EC engineers and the bodyshop! Nobody cares. Why not? Every other operator (except a few First culprits in the North, it seems) is at least making some obvious effort. Often, quite obviously, and with at least a bit of apparent success.

    Drivers are often in despair at what is asked of them and deserting in droves (allegedly some depots seem to be up to 40%+ down on their establishment). They can resign in weeks - once their training bond expires, and do; whilst it takes months to train their replacements; and the cycle starts over, as it has for years. Management seem to have all but given up and effectively disappeared. OK, we get timetable tweaking from some temp (I surmise) with a PC at their desk; but it's another work of fiction as far as staff and passengers are concerned. It looks like even the national Twitter team have taken to reading the riot act to them at the lack of any response!

    Yet the punters are paying something like £53m pa for this shambles. Not peanuts. They're costing First too, hemorrhaging losses that FirstBus can ill-afford with shareholders on their back out of sheer frustration as they too have been bled dry. A big business, locally. I gather Ensign are thoroughly fed up in the south. Quite understandably. They've already started a bit of growing competition, but no-one else seems to be bothering.

    I gather Arriva (the obvious candidate, already in Southend, Colchester and Harlow) may themselves be rather a bit fed up with the UK bus industry, and disinclined to expand. I hesitate to mention Go-Ahead East, who don't it seems have a good track record at least locally, but they are already around Colchester and Clacton, and perhaps with a bigger operation could attract a better class of management too, if that is what is required. Stagecoach??? OK they aren't popular locally, but they aren't a disaster either. One commentator has suggested that First have another OpCo "done deal" apart from Manchester, which we know about. So far I've thought First wouldn't be able to sell at a price anyone would be prepared to pay, because of the level of investment required to bring things up to a reasonable standard. First Manchester has perhaps put the kibosh on that theory. If that is going to be a fire sale of a basket case, then why not Essex? Just wondering??

    Though the latest figures are to April 2018, there seems to be no sign the operational performance of Essex is improving, nor that anything is being done about it, or that anyone is bothered; maybe it's even getting worse. Surely there are a few more punters for a viable bus network in the conurbations of mid and south Essex than in the rural villages and small towns of West Suffolk? Apparently not though, if First are to be believed!

  18. DRT Services

    The DRT buses provide a very limited service at a very high cost and dont seem to offer value for money

    Demand Led Transport - Babergh M-S 535.00 per day
    Demand Led Transport - Forest M-S 361.00
    Demand Led Transport - St Edmundsbury M-S 361.00
    Demand Led Transport - Mid Suffolk M-S 740.00
    Demand Led Transport - Waveney M-S 440.00

  19. OK, let me be the dog playing in it's own **** (as usual) and throw out a revolutionary idea.

    The irony in what many of us say, is that First Essex do what we say and "provide" a timetabled 10/15/20 minute frequency in the towns, and 15/30 minute inter urbans (as least daytime); often "better" than their peers. Except, of course, they don't; because they are stretching their resources to, and beyond, breaking point. (To the "magic" 100 routes, perhaps? It's no magic.)

    If Konnect's Anglian too can't (or won't) provide the right quality of service, why shouldn't they get out and let someone else try? I don't have an answer to that question either.

    Yes of course, in both cases they shouldn't have made the past mistakes in the first place. Even if they should have been (and even more so, were) obvious at the time. But none of us can turn back the clock, sorry. Don't we all have to learn the often painful lesson to live within our means, sooner or later?

    I suspect that First's "mistake" is apparent in the first sentence of their Corporate publicity, "About First". It boasts of the number of buses and routes they operate. Is running buses really just about the number of your buses, or should it be more about the passenger experience? Sorry friends, I'm with Ensign (and perhaps even Reading, though I have no experience of them) and think it's about the latter. Just perhaps, though, Eastern Counties might be lucky enough to have someone who agrees?

  20. Warning over cuts to lifeline rural bus routes in Suffolk
    A warning is going out that threatened cuts to rural bus services in Suffolk could leave some elderly and disabled people stranded.

    The proposed county council budget, to be discussed on February 14, includes a reduction of £340,000 in funding for subsidised bus services - this amounts to a cut of around 20% in the £1.7million local bus services budget. The total passenger transport budget is £11.3m.
    It is also proposed to save another £100,000 by axing provision of roadside bus timetables.

    Current Subsidized Public Bu services are as below , The list does not include services that are basically school services but are also registered as a public bus services. In addition to the below there are also proposed cuts and changes to School bus services

    DRT 001
    DRT 002
    DRT 005
    DRT 006
    DRT 007

    1. Sorry - made latest post before I saw this!! There are many other routes where some journeys are sponsored, and all Sunday services

    2. What jumps out at me at those stats is £1.7m subsidy to public bus services, and £9.6m on personal transport. That's no different to what I've seen elsewhere. It's nice to have our own personal chauffeur, of course . . . I know why, of course; and it's a legal right, which a public bus service isn't.

      It doesn't make it the right balance, though. It's just the way it's panned out ... from our politicians' constant legislative diarrhea. And never look a gift horse in the mouth. Why not?

      As for the Councils too often they're run by bankers, and like banks. The budget is a necessity, not an end in itself. Maybe it suits HM Treasury. I'm not sure about the rest of us, though.

      Though if we all don't want or can't afford the taxes, perhaps we could help our less fortunate fellow citizens a bit more, which the politicians seem so incapable of doing.

      As always, the devil is in the detail. I'm just waiting to see how the local subsidised services fare now under the care of Ensign, compared to their fate under the local Worst lottery.

      You'll know better than me but I thought most First Sunday services in Suffolk aren't Council subsidised (unlike in lazy Essex where it's the other way around).

  21. Funding gap for concessionary bus pass scheme reaches £652m

    The funding gap is putting nearly half of all bus routes at risk, according to a report by the Local Government Association
    The Local Government Association (LGA), a membership organisation that includes 349 English councils and works on behalf of councils to ensure local government has a voice with national government, has issued a stark warning that nearly half of all bus services in England are now at risk.
    First implemented as a statutory duty on 1 April 2008, the National Concessionary Travel Scheme (NCTS) is administered by councils and offers free off-peak travel for residents who have reached retirement age.
    No time restrictions apply at weekends. Eligible disabled people are also able to obtain the pass.
    The warning from the LGA comes as a spending review by the Government is currently being decided.
    Further cuts in funding could result in bus services being withdrawn, particularly in rural areas. The LGA said towns and cities could also see increased traffic congestion, leading to poor air quality for those living on main arterial routes.

  22. It just shows! I had to have a smile reading Go-Ahead's press release on their acquisition of First's Queens Road depot in Manchester:

    "Go-Ahead’s regional bus services have a customer satisfaction score of 91%, the highest in the industry, according to an independent study by Transport Focus.

    While the initial focus will be on ensuring a smooth transition to maintain services from day one of the new operation, Go-Ahead will invest in the people, vehicles and systems to improve the local bus services to customers. . .

    David Brown, Chief Executive of Go-Ahead, said: “We look forward to contributing to Manchester’s community and transport. Buses are an essential public service that help passengers get to work, access education and healthcare, for leisure and visits to relatives. We aim to deliver a comfortable, reliable service while investing to improve air quality...

    As a business that prides itself on looking after our colleagues, we hope to reinvigorate the Queen’s Road depot. We also look forward to engaging in open conversations with TfGM, stakeholders and customers in the Manchester area to better understand how we can create a sustainable and thriving service. . .

    Perhaps Anglian (and East Anglia) slipped his mind . . . Or (with the benefit of the doubt) the road to hell is, at least sometimes, paved with good intentions? Didn't they say something similar on the Anglian acquisition (and the rest)?

    Watch this space, perhaps?

  23. Just a thought though, perhaps Konnect's problems could also have something to do with the successful hatchet job that EC have been doing on them? Though thanks to Norfolk CC it seems they are going to rescue the limited Sunday Bungay/Norwich service so not out of Suffolk all together after all! I'm just a bit old-fashioned enough to believe that a bit of co-operation can sometimes be better than this in-yer-face confrontation all the time!

    And EC can turn to First Essex for the victim of their next hatchet job! If not from the sell-off of Manchester ops then the money for the replacement Excel fleet needs to come from somewhere! Though I suspect there won't be much money left after making good the pension deficits and paying the wages (and the management bonuses, of course!), even if they manage to flog it! Trouble is . . . it's a buyers (or buyer, perhaps) market, so how desperate are we?