Wednesday 19 June 2019

Austerity Strikes Again

Our beloved Government tell us austerity is over, and we have repaired the damage a few careless bankers caused us. Well I have news for the Government - it bloody isn't over, not in anyway, shape or form. Yesterday Suffolk County Council announced subsidies for 23 bus routes was ending. The small print has to be finalised, but these are the routes affected.

Service 90   Ipswich - Hadleigh - Mon - Sat evening and Sunday journeys

Service 796  Hadleigh to Manningtree Station  Mon - Fri 2 journeys each way

Service 98  Ipswich - Shotley Gate  Mon - Sat  1 journey each way

Service 202  Ipswich - Shotley  No current timetable found

Services M33/M44  Bury Town Circulars  Mon - Sat 1st journey of day and all Sunday journeys

Service 108  Lowestoft - James Paget Hospital  Mon - Fri 3 journeys each way

Services 377/386 Rattlesden/Stowmarket - Bury Mon - Sat 4 journeys each way

Services 387/456 Stowupland/Eye - Stowmarket  Mon - Sat 7 journeys each way overall

Service 62  Blaxhall - Wickham Market  Weds only 1 journey each way

Service 71  Sudbourne - Woodbridge  Mon - Sat 1 journey each way

Service 112  Hadleigh - Sudbury Tu/Thur One journey each way

Service 532  Laxfield - Beccles  Weds only  2 journeys each way

Service 94A  Hadleigh - Ipswich  Mon - Sat  1 journey each way

Service 87  Stowmarket - Ipswich  Sunday service

Service 120 Whatfield - Ipswich  Thurs only  one journey each way

Service 375 Alpheton - Bury   Mon - Sat  1 - 3 journeys each way

Services 461/2 Whatfield - Stowmarket  One journey each way various days

Service 482  Diss - Framlingham   Mon - Fri 3 journeys each way

Now there's nothing huge, nothing major in all that, unless, and it's a big unless, you are one of the people affected. I've travelled on a few of those routes, and they are a social event. It can be the only time people in isolated communities see anyone else, and they arrange their lives around that one day a week the bus runs. When I, and indeed Roger French, one of the most respected chaps in the industry travelled on the 532 it was full. There is no alternative for those people, and yes they were nearly all elderly, using passes, but isn't that the point? To maintain vital links for those who have no alternative. If it hasn't happened already there will be deaths on the roads through people driving when they shouldn't be purely because they have no alternative.

I understand Community Transport schemes are not going to be allowed to bid for these routes, and pending new Laws affecting volunteer drivers are also going to muddy the waters. As I have previously reported, SCC have already penalised those without a timetabled bus service by withdrawing by stealth the use of bus passes on Connecting Community buses, because they can be pre-booked. That rule exists to protect coach services, not to squeeze a fiver out of 85yo's going to the doctor. It is utterly reprehensible what SCC have done to the most vulnerable and isolated in our communities. Those so called consultations they held to hear public views and ideas on the future of rural transport were a total charade. No definitive report on them, and no new initiatives announced, despite ideas flowing from the floor.

So next time you hear a politician say austerity is over, invite him/her to visit the communities about to be unceremoniously cut off, so the Council can save a few quid. It leaves a nasty tasdte in the mouth, or at least should do.

So it was even more mind boggling when this tweet appeared from the Go Ahead Group yesterday.

I'm sorry - run that past me again! "The only links for people who would otherwise be isolated". Really? It isn't April 1st again is ir? Just to remind everyone, this is a list of routes abandoned by Go Ahead in Suffolk and Norfolk over the last 6 years, and I bet I've forgotten a few. With pending cuts to the 84, leaving the folks of Denton and Alburgh without a bus service, its still ongoing. But those folks will be reassured that Go Ahead appreciate what a vital link they supply.

1, 2, 2A, 5, 7, 7A, 22, 37B, 52A, 53, 53A, 53B, 57, 60, 60A, 60B, 60C, 60H, 60S, 61, 61A, 62, 63, 68, 69, 71A, 72A, 80, 81, 82, 82A, 83, 85, 86, 87, 88, 88A, 88B, 89, 90, 92 95, 164, 165

I will, of course, report on any of the routes that manage to be saved, as I suspect some will by various means. I hope for the sake of those affected I have plenty to report.


  1. 971 is missing from the list

    The 112 is interesting as a cancellation notice had been issued but when people contacted the council they denied it was being cancelled and said it was a mistake

    I am sure these routes could be operated more efficiently and cost effectively

    Additional info

    Service 90 - Ipswich-Hadleigh
    Average single tickets per day - 19
    Subsidy per single ticket - £6.62

    Service 796 - Hadleigh-Manningtree Station
    Average single tickets per day - 7
    Subsidy per single ticket - £12.64

    Service 202 - Ipswich-Shotley
    Average single tickets per day - 39
    Subsidy per single ticket - £5.06

    Services M33 and M44 - Bury St Edmunds town circulars
    Average single tickets per day - 8
    Subsidy per single ticket - £7.43

    Service 108 - Lowestoft-James Paget Hospital
    Average single tickets per day - 18
    Subsidy per single ticket - £5.93

    Services 377 and 386 - Rattlesden-Bury St Edmunds (377) and Stowmarket-Bury St Edmunds (386)
    Average single tickets per day - 54
    Subsidy per single ticket - £5.20

    Services 387 and 456 - Stowupland-Stowmarket (387) and Eye-Stowmarket (456)
    Average single tickets per day - 24
    Subsidy per single ticket - £8.79

    Services 62 and 71 - Blaxhall-Wickham Market (62) and Sudbourne-Woodbridge (71)
    Average single tickets per day - 18
    Subsidy per single ticket - £14.82

    Service 112 - Hadleigh-Sudbury
    Average single tickets per day - 8
    Subsidy per single ticket - £4.07

    Service 532 - Laxfield-Beccles
    Average single tickets per day - 39
    Subsidy per single ticket - £5.19

    Service 971 - Hadleigh-Colchester schools
    Average single ticket per day - 50
    Subsidy per single ticket - £1.27

    Service 94A - Hadleigh-Ipswich
    Average single tickets per day - 26
    Subsidy per single ticket - £12.11

    Service 87 - Stowmarket-Ipswich
    Average single tickets per day - 66
    Subsidy per single ticket - £2.06

    Service 98 - Shotley Gate-Ipswich
    Average single tickets per day - 22
    Subsidy per single ticket - £6.99

    Service 120 - Whatfield-Ipswich
    Average single tickets per day - 20
    Subsidy per single ticket - £2.69

    Service 375 - Alpheton-Bury St Edmunds
    Average single tickets per day - 50
    Subsidy per single ticket - £7.74

    Services 461 and 462 - Whatfield-Stowmarket
    Average single tickets per day - 40
    Subsidy per single ticket - £3.40

    Service 482 - Diss-Framlingham
    Average single tickets per journey - 33
    Subsidy per single ticket - £5.45

  2. Hampshire County Council stopped supporting any evening or Sunday journeys around 8 years ago. Suffolk seems quite lucky to have survived so far!

    1. Hello mate!! The very first evening and Sunday service axed by SCC in 2010 was the one I used at least once a week and every Sunday!! There aren't many left!

    2. I too made use of the services that HCC axed - I used to frequently commute using the evening services in Winchester which were cut by HCC but then rescued by the local town forum.

      Quite why Stagecoach chose not to run these journeys commercially, like they do now, I do not know.

      My main point was that Hampshire axed funding for EVERY evening (post 7pm), Sunday and bank holiday service - including in medium-sized cities. They've also slashed funding for other routes in recent years.

      Despite all of this, bus usage has actually risen in Hampshire. Though that'll mostly be down to increases on the commercial networks in the larger towns and cities.

  3. Hi Steve just left galloways after a days work. there was a letter informing the drivers that gallowaya may pull out of the services it provides if it loses it subsidys for the services involved

    1. Would think it's almost certain they will pull out. Did the same with the 456 etc a year or two back. Just intrigued to see what they do with the 87. It was cut from 5 journeys e/w to 4 not so long ago.

    2. Stowmarket is a large town, why is the Sunday service so poor?

    3. Perhaps a crude attempt at playing hardball (far from unknown with Councils). It has the best patronage, and smallest shortfall so they hope the operator (or another - the weekday operator perhaps) can be "persuaded". The trouble is that we can only stretch anything so far before it snaps; not that it's a concept understood by undomesticated politicians.

      Stowmarket to Ipswich is far from the worst, but the settlement profile of the Shires is often a lack of natural growth ribbon development (due to planning policy) which makes an efficient use of transport resources a near impossibility. Transport seems to be the pariah of planning, an afterthought if anything at all.

  4. Two things strike me (and a third comment):
    1. There seems a striking disparity in subsidy per journey, which is a criteria that many Councils use, understandably. To my suspicious mind it raises a concern that naked politics may be at play.
    2. Disproportionately, the journeys affected seem to be shopper type services. Sadly they don't fit in well with the inflexible procedures of bureaucratic Councils. But one thing I've never got is that East Anglia (and Suffolk in particular) isn't short of rich landowners, who have made a mint out of Government policies over the last 50 years. They often sit (word used deliberately) on the Councils. But when it comes to their cash piles they seem remarkedly reluctant to be prepared to use a small part of it for the benefit of their communities, who gave them their riches in the first place. Elsewhere there are community trusts (some longstanding) who have taken on the funding of these sort of small local community services that Councils have increasingly abandoned, sometimes out of necessity. Whitbread Wanderbus around the Bedfordshire villages comes to mind, more or less locally. A few are commuter rail connections. What is GA's community fund for? And please don't give me the old "we can't do anything that is someone else's statutory responsibility". Nonsense. Common humanity.
    3. It might help if Suffolk didn't waste so much money on planning for no-hoper aborted road schemes. Ego trips are expensive. Life isn't a lottery unless you make it one.

    1. Many of those services seem to have crazy cost probably because of the silly timetables the council has specified

      Take the 94A it is one return journey a fare with the single journey taking about 45 minutes and averages 26 single tickets a day lets say an average fare of £2.50 so that's £65 a day add on the subsidy of £314.86 a day a total of £379.86 a day. You could run an hourly service all day for a similar amount of money

      Councils simply do not understand bus services and most of the bus companies are no better. No real market research is done so they have not a clue as to what their customers need and expect

      Concessionary pass holders I think would pay a small fare to keep a service although the way SCC currently runs these services they are total basket cases so the routes would need a total rethink

    2. And then there is Councillor Mary Evans! Does anyone actually believe a word she says? "Committed to making sure people have access to public transport". Meaningless statement. A village could have a service once a month on a Friday - In her eyes,that would count as accessible public transport even though it would be of little or no use. Maybe she would like to enlighten us as to who these "operators" are who will come running to the rescue? Instead of relentless cuts (cheap and easy option), how about asking passengers? Oh wait, they did that with the response that 23 routes will lose their subsidy and probably the route. The ineptitude of SCC continues to amaze me and after all this time,it really shouldn't!

  5. Do we have any idea when these changes might be put into place?

    1. They have finally got around to putting information on Suffolk on board
      On there they talk about finishing discussions with operators and other organisations by the end of July. I would guess that any changes will then come in for the start of the September school term

      The !!" which SCC denied was being canceled still has a cancellation notice in place and that's due to be cancelled after the 27th June at present

    2. I'm assuming you mean 112!!

    3. Yes that should read 112

      According to the SCC information they subsidise 61 bus routes. I assume by that they mean route registered as Public Bus services of which they re looking at cancelling 23 so that's close on 40% of them they are proposing to cut. There is also the potential issue that it could impact the viability of other routes as it may push up costs to the operators

      It appear the council used a weighting system to score these routes but no real data is provided as to the weighting used. The criteria used was

      Subsidy per single ticket

      Average single tickets per day

      Percentage of those journeys by concessionary pass holders

      Number of eligible students using service

      Level of integration with commercially delivered services

      Service type (daily/evenings/Sundays etc)

      When applied, this methodology then results in a score that either increases or decreases the need for local bus service provision. It is important that we have a consistent method for evaluating these to ensure that decisions are made in a robust and transparent way. The maximum score is 65. The services at risk range in score from 8 to 26.

      The only thing it will do is further reduce the viability of bus services. For most people that work unless you say live in Ipswich bus services are simply not n option the services are just not there

      I suspect there ill also be cuts to the school services as well and Essex has not get announced their cuts

  6. I find it interesting that Suffolk is still doing austerity reductions, where as we in Somerset have topped up the capital reserve account and are looking at restarting bus subsidies. However subsidising what?

    Many councils that reduced bus subsidies in a controlled manner, discovered that many were no longer value for money, but also more subtly no longer socially necessary. Particularly as elderly women in rural areas now drive and continue to drive with a blue badge, long after they have found walking to the bus stop and carrying shopping far too arduous.

    Medical appointments are not arranged to suit buses - you go where and when they have time for you (by some sort of car).

    As for sociable village activities, the council's transport budget is not the correct place to pay for it. More appropriate is for the parish council to rent the village hall for regular events or fund a community mini-bus, excursion coach or what ever. Local activities paid for locally.

    The rural social exclusion is now more for under 18s who have to rely on parent's taxi to meet socially the friends they go to college with. That group are now the main bus users anyway.

  7. We need, I think, to change the whole framework of debate. Cutting subsidy to a declining passenger base is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It gets us nowhere, literally. Though if course it suits the current fashion that treats politics as some sort of cross between stand up and a beauty parade and does anything to avoid serious debate.

    The debate needs to be about how to get (and yes, I do mean coerce) people on to buses. The car is killing us, literally. Traffic is strangling our towns and, increasingly, the countryside too.

    Parking is too cheap, and there is too much of it. But, of course, in our crazy system, the County Councils are expected to pour (well, dribble) money into bus subsidies and pour money into road schemes to increase the amount of private traffic; whilst District and Parish Councils make their money out of providing cheap and the more parking the better. We couldn't devise a better system for making the situation worse. As for traffic regulation, it's a joke. Driving needs to be made as difficult as possible. The quality of much driving and the state of many vehicles on our roads is atrocious. Perhaps I should actually be honest and say, most of it. But we get away with it, with impunity. If it weren't so dreadful the state of the transport network would be a laughing stock.

    In the countryside, how often does anyone know where and when the bus runs? Even often where the bus even stops?

    We know, I suspect, that Essex will concentrate their cuts on withdrawing late night (after 10pm) and after 7pm Sunday services. From experience, those services seem hardly used. Not surprising, been in the local town centres on a Sunday night? And Sunday and evening parking is often free. We couldn't do anything better to encourage people OFF the buses. Even the operators can't be bothered to run decent buses, or at all; subsidised or not. Bus travel is too often an experience we do not want to to repeat. It's unacceptable. I don't want to hear another excuse that there aren't the passengers; it's because you can't be bothered to go out and attract them. And if you timetable a bus, you run it. No excuses. Passengers need to feel valued, not an inconvenience.

    Climate change, sustainability (what the heck does that mean), customer service. They aren't just lip service. We've got up to our quota of buzz words, now we can go back to sleep. No.

    Gimmicks don't work. We are inundated with “offers” that aren't. The car has to be priced out, and the bus service made an attractive mode of travel, reliable and clean for a start. And regular, as something you can trust. Not “if we feel like it”.

    I could go on . . . but it needs a total change of attitude at all levels from the top downwards. More that that, commitment. Stop playing about. I see no evidence of it. The trouble is that no-one is the slightest bit interested. Not me, guv.

    Let's hope that once we all die off, a new generation can make a better job of it. They could hardly do any worse, frankly.

  8. Just perhaps, a few examples of the game-playing that all public services (not just transport) have descended into:
    bullying operators (not just Suffolk);
    Essex sunday inter urban services run to a two hourly frequency, so the Council can "stretch" the network, increasing unreliability. A two hour wait, can stretch into 3 or even 4 hours. Who is going to use the bus on that basis? Oh, but it looked good on paper.
    Even when their own operators make suggestions for improvement the Council listens with a deaf ear. What hope have the public got? Consultation, in name only. Tick the box! I wouldn't mind betting that these Suffolk services are the surviving bits of a 1960s (even 1950s) network. Nobody (at least in government in the Shires) has thought about public transport since. Just about "keeping in" with the "right" people, which got most of them where they are. Does your face fit? Let's face it, no change there then.

  9. So, fair question, how would Smurfy maintain, and enhance the rural bus network?

    Automatic cancellation of driving licences for all persons aged over 70 years with no ability to renew (in future this could be linked to the retirement age - currently or shortly to become 67?) It's unfair, they can still drive safely; so can people at 16 years, but we don't allow them to have driving licenses until they're 18. At the moment all we have to do is self-certify, and heck even 97 year old royals say they're fit to drive until the inevitable accident happens!

    It'd have to be combined with Government funding of no net-cost reimbursement of OAP passes (in lieu perhaps of tax cuts, though eligibility could be reviewed as it is for TV licenses), and a duty to secure a comprehensive bus network on Councils. If Cabinet Executives think they have a comprehensive network already then they can tell that one to the electorate and see what the voting booth has to say!

    Any better ideas?

    We can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. Doesn't a climate emergency demand more drastic action than putting our head in the metaphorical sand?

    1. Most towns in Suffolk should be able to support a town bus service of say a 20 to 30 minute frequency. The cost would not that high if run sensibly
      The current approach of simply running down services each year does not work. Services in most of Suffolk are so poor they are of no use to about 90% of the population hence they don't get many passengers

      Market research by bus companies and councils is about zero. Publicity of services is about zero and buses are about the only form of public transport that gets almost no subsidy, Cars and car parking is subsidised, Rail is subsidised , cycling is subsidized but buses get almost nothing. Only about 30 very limited routes get some support in Suffolk and what they subsidise seems very random and lacks any logic and are far to infrequent to be of any real use

      If a very modest levy was put on all public car spaces ie council run car parks and retail provided ones that would raise a lot of money to support bus services. Lets say £12 a year per parking place. Maybe a small levy on businesses as well. This would help to kick start the services from the run don state they are in The use of technology is crucial as well to attracting new passengers. Comprehensive Real time bus information that actually works reliably. It does not need to be at bus stop as that's expensive and would be subject to vandalism . Have it available to mobiles. It needs to be a standard system as well and not each bus company inventing its own system. All buses should be able to accept debit card payments as well

    2. Yes. This. You are welcome to join me by the brick wall I've been banging my head against for years now!!

    3. Hmm, by the time every middleman has taken their cut I'd like to see how much of that £12 gets to the buses? And, the exemptions: how does my local PC afford £1,000+ when it's just cut a couple of hundred by giving up grass cutting in the PCC's Churchyard? What other services do we think Councils should cut: elderly home care, education and children's services, mental health support? I'm alright Jack, I suppose. A previous poster made the point: you can subsidise the buses but the problem is who for? An empty bus is no use to anyone however much we've paid for it.

      As for technology, all of it depends on two systems: the tracking system, and the timetable system, operated nationally by Traveline; however it's marketed. When one or the other, or the interface goes down, or has wrong or incomplete info, you've had it. The IT system without a bug hasn't been invented. Even the manufacturers system, provided by Ticketer, own app went down for months. If even the manufacturer can't sort it out . . .

      There are already apps that provide location info, but often it's guesswork. I regularly use a map tracking app, but it shows no bus when there is one, about 20% of the time. Try it with your phone and see if you have a consistent data signal, moving about. I bet you don't, even in built up areas. And no one has yet sorted out how to deal with late buses, and they can be hugely late, which usually just "disappear" at their allocated time.

    4. We constantly say what bus companies need to do to attract passengers is provide a greater frequency of buses, working real time info, contactless payment and more rural buses. Right.

      What we are actually describing is First Bus, surely? As far as I can tell they provide up to at least double the frequency of the rest, in similar locations elsewhere; have contactless and real time across the network in a good single app; and win much more than their fair share of tenders, both in urban and rural locations.

      But despite First saying they are at last "moving in the right direction" they have still decided that it is necessary to separate First Bus from the Group. Surely you want to keep a successful enterprise that is doing what its customers want? It's something most businesses would give their right arm for.

      So help me please. What has gone wrong?

    5. That's the one I've been waiting for! Just surprised it took you so long!!

      All those services you mention Have been cut too, so it's not a case of either or, but a drawing of the line as the horse has been bled dry.

      Every sector that has suffered cuts should be standing up and saying enough. That will includes buses, that provide social links just as important as day care centres.

      No point having mental health services if they are impossible to get to due to no public transport.

      Eventually there will be nothing left to cut. Anywhere. Then what do we do? We need to stem the flow before it's too late, and that doesn't mean repeating the same old ways of the past, but fresh outlooks, positive thinking and engagement with communities and consumers, and a 'yes we can and somehow we will' attitude rather than a 'we can't afford that anymore' attitude.

      Back to my padded cell....

    6. No padded cell. We can't consider buses in isolation, however much our Lords and Masters want us to.

      But it was our choice, the move from social expenditure which benefits us all to private expenditure which (principally) benefits house prices and to build our whole economy around that over the last 40 years or longer. We were warned enough of the consequences, and knew exactly what we were doing.

      There are no scapegoats, whether a few bankers, the EU, or American Presidents.

      And, like infants, until we learn to take responsibility I fear there can be no improvement. Austerity is the culmination of the process, not the start.

      And if you and others are in any doubt on the matter, let me put my view simply (for a change). It's wrong. The victims of our recklessness are future generations. WE have robbed them of everything that makes a decent society. Nobody else.

      So perhaps like a brain damaged adult we have to learn to walk again. If we want to.

      If First made a mistake it was perhaps to think you could give people the bus network which they wanted and at the same time strangle it within a rigidly enforced cash limit. You will just run out of money. So things will get worse. As in so much of life they have to before they can get better. The big bus companies will look after themselves. They have to, in order to survive. The important thing is that in doing so they look after the passengers too; and perhaps even more importantly, they allow and encourage their smaller brethren to thrive, to do what they can't.

      But no one is listening, or in the slightest bit interested. Back into my padded cell, too.

  10. Go Eastern Counties is a bus operator in norwich It is a subsidiary of go East Anglia & TheGoAheadGroup which commenced operating on 1 September 2019 after it took over First Eastern Counties Roundtree way & Vulcan Rd & Ipswich & Great Yarmouth & Lowestoft depot with 342 buses

    1. Had to publish this to give everyone a laugh, or their worst nightmare......

    2. Maybe not so far-fetched?

      We know First Group want to get rid of First Bus, one way or another. They've told us so. They just haven't worked out how, yet. (Fairly typical, though I'm not talking about the individual OpCos who do the best job they can with the constant shuffling of the inadequate resources they are provided with; but HQ). They want to get the best deal for shareholders - that one'a a laugh too, they've had no returns for over 5 years). Before we scoff, try living on no income for 5 years; and it's our pension investments we are talking about. Who is going to fill First's own pensions black hole?

      Will the competition just sit on their hands and wait for First to decide what they want to do? The Manchester Mayor has decided to pre-empt them. First are running away as fast as their dodgy wheels will allow them.

      Stephensons and Ensign at least might be consolidating to put the squeeze on First Essex. So let's stick me neck out, again in Smurfy's summer of madness:
      Who'd buy FirstBus as a unit? Fist couldn't make a go of it for decades. Is anyone else that mad? Rotala? I suspect Berkshire is more their style. Transdev and ComfortDelGro - they aren't mad. And Private Equity we know had a different solution, twice. They want a viable business, or one they can flog quickly.

      So, I suspect like any end of life vehicle,it's for the breakers, depot by depot:

      Chelmsford to Stephensons, who are squeezing them north, and now south too. Though something needs to be done with the P&R. Perhaps Arriva or Go-Ahead, from Harlow or Colchester?

      Hadleigh, and perhaps Basildon, to Ensign. First could get a few bob from flogging vacated garages, perhaps, to help plug the pensions gap.

      Colchester, Ipswich, and Lowestoft/Yarmouth to Go-Ahead, if they can dance around the Competition Commission. Yes, the ultimate irony, but . . . things change. It's about viability. Anglian wasn't viable on its own. Married to First ops? Could it be different. They've managed it elsewhere.

      I suspect Go-Ahead are ruled out in Greater Norwich because of competition. They'd have virtually a monopoly. So what about Stagecoach - reuniting the two halves of the old Eastern Counties, again. I know they gave up on Norwich (the County) but . . . things change.

      Would it be better? Who knows? I'm tempted to say it could hardly be worse.

      And yep I know removing licences was daft. Many people work into their seventies in all walks of life. But the trouble is that we are so addicted to our cars, we'd pay anything to keep them. I don't think we can be priced out of them. Full stop. So buses will carry on struggling, but if the industry can sort itself out. Without First. It should make the job a bit easier.

    3. I did forget (though how?) about NatEx who could swallow the lot. If only their Board hadn't moved quickly to put the kibosh on the wilder fantasies of their Chief Executive, as an ex-First man.

      As for the rest there are a fair number of ex-First senior staff around (not least I think an ex-MD who now runs Stephensons, and invests in a fair bit else, around the place). Time, methinks, to settle a few old scores!

    4. A further rumour is that Go East are considering changing their name to Go By Car. This has yet to be officially confirmed....

    5. How many other local operators have introduced Sunday services in recent years like Go Ahead have ?

  11. I'm a bit late to this debate however there are a few points I would like to make.

    With regard to the Stowmarket - Ipswich Sunday service I would agree that the number of journeys is the bare minimum at four round trips. It used to be five but I understand that this was extremely tight for drivers hours. The matter is complicated by the parallel rail service.

    The new owner of Galloway can be quite ruthless in cutting unprofitable services however he will nurture a service if he can see a long term future for it. An example of the latter is Stephenson's 90, Maldon - Witham, which has been built up to half hourly.

    It is an interesting philosophical question as to whether SCC should subsidise Mulleys' early morning service on the Bury town routes given that it is commercial for the rest of the day.

    Smurfuk suggests that drivers over seventy should have to give up their licences. He may not be aware that certain major UK operators with local subsidiaries employ people in their mid-seventies as drivers.

  12. More cut coming in Chambers are pretty much halving service 84 except during the morning and late afternoon when they have school runs. In the middle of the day I think there is a gap of over 3 hours hardy likely to attract new passengers or even retain existing ones.

    minor routes below are being cut but the cumulative affect is significant and there are more cuts to come

    The following routes are also being cut

    191 Diss – Thetford – West Suffolk College Simonds 1-8-2019

    107 Lowestoft – Gunton St Peter – Lowestoft Suffolk Norse 6-8-2019 (Sat service only withdrawn)

    512 Felixstowe – Nacton – Newbourne – Waldringfield - Kesgrave M & A Dabbs 312-8-2019

  13. New regional body to look at cutting transport CO2 emissions across East Anglia

    Another quango springing up. From past experience it will generate a lot of hot air and spend a lot of money on itself and deliver nothing. It is the same with the LTP's (Local Transport Plan) They are required by law to produce then so they do. They put in all sorts of vague things but nothing you can pin them down to. The SCC one is for 15 years and as far as I know has never been updated. They should be reviewed every 122 months in view and have as budget and proper deliverables and timescales . No hope of that though

    The article can b e found here

  14. Although it is disappointing that Chambers 84 is being reduced, it may be an unintended consequence of the parallel service via Bures being doubled to every 30 minutes in 2018. As this is unchanged, I assume that it has been more successful.

    It also has to be borne in mind that even the reduced 84 service is vastly better over the northern half of the route than it was forty years ago.

  15. Rail News

    The new depot which was originally going to be at Brantham will now be in Harwich

    Tendring council has allowed it to build the new depot beside the track mid-way between Dovercourt and Harwich International (Parkeston Quay) stations.

    The new Mainline trains are expected to come into service at the end of the year but I would not count on it. There is still no sign of the bi-mode trains going into service

  16. We can carry on baying at the moon for ever, for all the fat lot of good it does . . .

    Where there is a way the local operators will find it as they do, and are doing. Where rural services lapse they are often replaced. Maybe not like for like, but that is life. We could try to help them though by some creative thinking, like perhaps using school transport resources for public needs too, which I thought was something Suffolk were looking at? It isn't simple or easy and our bureaucracy makes it harder, and it depends on operators' goodwill. They way we treat them I suspect that will be in extremely short supply. If there isn't the demand then they can't, and no one else can either.

    I'm actually more worried about the fate of the big boys who have been put up for sale, like First and Arriva. The snowball may yet turn into an avalanche. For all their faults they "save" our public transport networks, especially in the East. Where do we think the profits the new owners will demand are going to come from? Those networks are under threat. And there is nobody to save them. No Magic Mayors with access to the pixies' money pot at the end of the rainbow, to come to the rescue in this region. And whilst everyone carries on putting our ideology ahead of any sense of practicality, no chance of it either.

    1. I disagree that they "Save" the networks. Konect operated 87/88. First saw an opportunity and came in. Konect lost patronage and profits sloped. Fakenham- Norwich. Konect was going to do the route. First then said they were, and Konect knew there wouldn't be enough demand for both operators. Konect route 5 to queens hills. Stopped as couldn't compete with first (mainly due to frequency down Dereham road). Dereham - Norwich. The Str8 is successful, but again First competed with their XL by slashing prices (used to need network ticket then added to norwich network). Same happened with Attleborough when Konect came in. They don't save them on these instances, it's just that with the current state of Konect, they lose to First. If First pulled out, I'm sure go ahead would happily take over their routes and be just as successful.


    2. Just wondering. From observation (and repute)I wonder if Stagecoach and Go-Ahead operate their commercial services to more rigid commercial criteria than First and Arriva; and may be that partially accounts for why they survive whereas it looks like First and Arriva, as presently constituted, won't? Those swings and roundabouts again!

      All I can say on the rest is that for areas of housing growth we have new and improved services to major new edge of town housing developments; with new bus investment, enhanced frequencies (including evening and weekend services) and Travel Packs for the new residents with timetables and free season tickets, and of course with contactless and real time (including at bus stops); all temporarily funded by the estate Developers. We're talking £millions! If that doesn't get 'em on the buses, and create commercially viable services for when the subsidy runs out, then what will? The roads are still congested, and the buses still look often empty, though! It doesn't help rural areas, but what ever has? Their services have been in decline for the nigh on 60 years I can remember. The pot can be replenished, and is from time to time, but it seems the money always runs out. That being said I can think of one local company (happily featured recently on Bus and Train User) that have used their school bus to successfully collect and ferry shoppers to town fortnightly around the deep rural villages over the vicissitudes of the last 50 years without subsidy. Just showing it can be done! It's actually a popular bus, if usage is anything to go by, more than many "commercial" services. The queue to get home looks like quite a party atmosphere!

  17. Saving Rural Bus Service

    Below is more braintorming than anything but should be viable for semi rural areas but need the government to impose a legal requirement to provide bus services. Deep Rural is probably Demand Responsive territory. Semi Rural will probably depend on the area

    The Office of National Statistics recognizes three different type of rural areas, these three groups seem reasonably sensible to me. So, we have Semi Rural, Rural & Deep Rural.

    Bus Users UK have come up with a 10-point plan to try to save rural bus services such as cutting out all regulations for community bus service except safety regulations


    I would say bus companies should have to consult with the users of the route if any significant change is proposed to the timetable or withdrawal of the route. This should include a public meeting. To enable the people that use the route to get to the meeting a bus that covers the route should be run at a suitable time to take to them to the meeting and to get them home
    Many rural routes even in the semi-rural areas will not be commercially viable so ways need to be found to fund the financial cap. Town services may be more viable run by community bus services using small single deck buses. The government should look at giving extra tax breaks for bus services in rural areas. Council should be able to levy a small charge for all public car park spaces including council run ones, retail ones and retail ones. Possibly look at seeing if local charities for the disabled and elderly will be willing to come up with a small amount of funding, they could perhaps get free advertising on the bus in return. The Concessionary pass scheme could be changed in rural areas so that a loss-making route could be saved by charging pass holders a small fare. If the route later become profitable the fare is removed. The only issue I can see is it could cause issues with pass holders who may not be aware they have to pay a fare. Good signage on the buses could largely overcome this Prefix the number with say a letter could help as well and could be used to identify them on the web sites and publicity material
    Town bus service as well should be run as a network with tickets interchangeable between operators

    There should be a requirement for the NHS to provide a regular bus service to Hospitals and Health Centers etc. Councils should also be required to provide a bus service to council office and contact points A similar requirement could be put on out of town shopping centers and business parks . Councils should also have a legal requirement to provide a bus service to major new housing developments It should be at minimum every hour from about 6pm to 7pm Monday to Saturday

    1. As soon as I posted, I knew "save" was the wrong word! Perhaps better would have been be "underwrite".

      In the ideal world of the Regulators every bus route would be self-sufficient, and the Councils would gap fund anything that wasn't. There isn't the resources. The problem of life.

      So we end up with the "Tesco problem". Stagecoach, Arriva and First ruthlessly exploit their market where they can. It is hard to directly compete and play "second fiddle" without the same economies of scale. Do consumers benefit: from more local shops, longer opening hours and cheaper prices in the Tesco case; and from more routes, longer running hours and greater frequencies in the case of the buses? We can argue that one until the proverbial cows come home.

      Go-Ahead in the East are certainly arguing that Stagecoach (and probably First) horns need to be trimmed. (Though not their own elsewhere when the positions are reversed).

      If First withdrew from Norwich leaving a Go-Ahead takeover, would they maintain the same network/frequencies/prices, or improve things? Similarly if First had no competition would they, either?

      I suspect much of the bus industry in the Shires is actually balanced on a knife edge. What it does seem is that no-one is making a decent commercial return. May be therefore something has to give. In any commercial business that can't be the shareholders, or owners, for ever; and it looks like it can't be the Councils either, at least without access to the magic money tree. Who else is there to pay the price, apart from the passengers?

      With First and Arriva trying to sell their businesses, it just seems to have brought the problem into immediate and sharp relief, so we can't just carry on kicking the can down the road. We're asking investors to put money (and significant amounts) into the buses. For what? With the best will in the world, they aren't a charity. (They're our pensions, for a start).

      Throughout NBC's life the Government of the day decided they couldn't afford it, either. Even today in Metopolitan Manchester the Mayor is trying to work out how to pay for it, London faces a financial crisis; and our "local" Cambridge Mayor bewails his lack of a magic wand.

    2. Tesco's etc at least understand the customers needs and open for extended hours and provide free parking etc and do a lot of marketing and find out what their customers want bus companies on the other hand do almost zero marketing have not a clue about their customers and don't even care about them. Can you imagine a shop that decide to open for only a few hours a day? It would not be in business long

      The current bus company approach of zero publicity and zero advertising and constantly cutting services is just causing a never ending spiral of cuts to services. They will have nothing much left in Suffolk before long other than in Ipswich. Essex fares a bit better but even there quite large towns are seeing their services cut. Most services are now barely vible

      Bus services need to be seen as a network and not as a random collection of routes with pretend competition as no real competition exists. Services are so run down they need real investment and real marketing and publicity. In the more rural areas including the semi rural areas they will need some financial support. WE need a better balance between bus services and cars. Cars get a lot more financial support

      In the semi rural areas the big bus companies costs and overheads are to high and they use buses far larger than needed which considerably adds to costs. The semi Rural & Rural areas are best served by community bus services.

      The deep rural areas by DRM services that could feed into hubs in the towns. Bus services as well need to be integrated with rail and taxis so interchange is easy

      You need proper bus hubs as well all to often councils do away with the bus stations and have buses stop at random stops around the towns. It is confusing for passengers and adds to congestion

      In the semi rural and rural areas need to provide some extra tax breaks for bus services. There need to be an acceptance that not all service and journeys will be profitable. Constantly cutting out loss making routes and journey just ends up with service that are of little use to anyone

      At the moment most services are so limited and so unreliable that they are pretty much only used by pensioners and schoolchildren and even there the numbers are falling as the service are so bad. The bus companies are totally ignoring about 70% of the potential market as well which is simply crazy

      The standard of the buses used is also far to low as is the standard of maintenance and cleaning which is why they get constant breakdowns

      Yes another moan over. Bus companies. council and government are not listening so nothing changes

      Kings Lynn seems to be the best example of community bus services. It is reasonably size town but not huge but has a very comprehensive bus services including Sunday service. It seems to be working perhaps Suffolk should look at this model

  18. Is this new? Seems like an online replacement for the cuts to printed info at bus stops.

  19. Essex Cuts to Supported Service

    Now updated. This looks to be the final version . It is to be ratified at the July Cabinet meeting


    1. As if we didn't know already... it demonstrates (again)

      The best (and perhaps only) way to realistically save threatened services is for operators to support the creation of and then work with passenger user groups to encourage patronage. Nothing will save an empty bus. Why should it?

  20. Is it any coincidence that the Essex 31X survives with a frequent service daytimes and into the late night in the least populous part of the county, when other routes serving more populous parts don't? Of course not. It is supported by a well established bus users group, that scares both the operator and the Council. I've often wondered, why can't the rest of us be bothered then? The story of British public service: you have to scare the sh1t out of them to get anywhere, frankly.

    It's a serious question. I'd like an answer.

    1. The answer is what you have identified. It is frequent once you go down to hourly service of less it simply drives people away and that exactly what is happening a spiral of terminal decline. Beestons have done it with all there services. They only have one real bus route left the 91. It used to be busy but they cut it to every hour and half and from September it goes down to every two hours. It will not survive for long probably by next year it will be gone

      I have doubts over the future of Go Aheads operations in the East. None of them have ever made a profit and most have been contracting their operations and they have little hope of expanding so their cost are increasing

      No info yet on Suffolks cut other than the 971