Friday, 28 November 2014

Red Arrows Reach All-over [5]

 No 4 from December 1st
According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia ...

Services commenced at short notice on 9 October 2012 after Countryliner went into administration the day before and took over their West Sussex operations. The Directors of Sussex Bus also are directors of several other companies involved with public transportation, broadly under the banner "Heritage Coaches".

The history of Countryliner is tortuous in the extreme with a series of financial crises and hearings before the Traffic Commissioners ...
... but from the maelstrom emerged Sussex Bus. Its owners, in turn, faced a Traffic Commissioners' enquiry as reported in the local paper.

Issues were raised over the number 31 Sussex Bus route serving Bolnore, Haywards Heath, Uckfield and Heathfield, which was reported as running early, late or not at all on more than one occasion. There were also safety concerns over other buses. One had a cracked windscreen and a fuel tank leak, while another, believed to be a school bus operating in Burgess Hill, had been driven for about 200km with a faulty accelerator.

Reports also indicated that passengers were concerned about two frightening vehicle fires on buses in service, one near Pyecombe in March 2013 one on the A23 in September 2013. A third fire on a private hire vehicle occurred in October 2013.

Indaunted by these setbacks, the company started two Crawley Town services from 1st September this year under the branding "Crawley Reds".
These served estates to the west and south of the town centre, half hourly in each direction, in direct competition with Metrobus.
Metrobus service 1 runs from Bewbush and Gossops Green cross-town to Southgate and Broadfield.
Metrobus runs top quality vehicles on its Crawley locals ...
... whereas Crawley Reds bring the usual crop of second-hand darts to their intended passengers.
Y248 NLK (above), for example ...
... saw extensive service with Metroline before being sold to Ensign. It was bought by Countryliner and taken over by Sussex Bus before moving to Crawley.

Two changes to the Crawley Reds timetable happen from Monday December 1st. The CR1 and CR2 disappear and become absorbed into a new CR3 running every 15 minutes. Despite publicity which mentions CR4 it would appear that the route via Southgate and Broadfield is abandoned.

Also from that date a brand new route starts up.
Well there's a surprise. London's former Red Arrow 500 route is revived in Crawley!
Tilgate - Crawley - Three Bridges
Maidenbower - Crabbett Park
Manor Royal - Gatwick Airport
Poking its little rubicund nose into another Crawley Suburb, this competes with Metrobus route 2 to Tilgate ...
... and with Fastway 10 to Gatport Airwick.
Metrobus 20 (every 30 minutes) and 100 (every 30 minutes) also link Crawley with Gatwick; that totals 16 buses an hour. On frequency alone, it is hard to think that the Red Arrow will have much impact.
But how do fares compare?
Metrobus' fare on the 10, for example, is £2.20. Will Crawley folk be willing to sacrifice frequency for 20p? Doubtful. The 500 takes 31 minutes; the 10 a mere 19. Presumably the Arrow is excluded from the Fastway guided bus and bus priorities sections.
Hmmm, again.

In view of the chequered history of this operation, you have to wonder what its chances of survival are? Sussex bus watchers report that they are not hopeful of a long term future. As usual, fbb will keep a watching brief.
Western Greyhound Update
Route One, a trade rag, amplifies the current situation.
Staff and unions have been given 100 days’ notice that if a buyer for the business is not found, then it will be closed. A proposed sale of the business around 18 months ago to French group RATP was not progressed. It is understood that the high amount of fleet replacement to meet the January 2015 deadline for full DDA compliance by buses under 7.5-tonnes was the stumbling block. Western Greyhound runs 21 Mercedes-Benz Varios.

The decision comes after a period of poor operation over the summer, caused by severe staff shortages of drivers and fitters. Since then drivers have continued to leave, mainly for rival First Bus.

No real surprises; the article merely confirms he current position in a little more detail.
Sadly, Seaton
Sometimes Suffers
Seafront Sunlessness
But not often : the view on fbb's "constitutional" yesterday at 0945. 
 Next bus blog : Saturday 29th November 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Red Arrows Reach All-over [4]

First Bus Responds (a little late maybe?)
A dramatic (?) response in Halifax to on-going competition from T J Walsh.
First formally launched the Red Arrows a week ago. Here is Oliver Howarth, First's Halifax boss with local MP Linda Riordan doing their PR best.
And they are clutching a wodge of new leaflets. We'll check out 12 buses an hour later; because you don't get any timetables on this promotional flyer. Odd, really, considering that the service is so complicated. Free WiFi is only on the 522 and 523 buses; but the fares deal looks good.
A initial reaction might be to wonder why anyone would want a £2.30 return when a single is only £1. But in bus speak, singles are FROM £1, so why not show ALL fares? The picture of a Red Arrow bus in the current "Buses" magazine ...
... shows £1.50 single. A rethink? A bludner? Or a tougher challenge to T J Walsh?

There may be no timetables but here is an adequate explanatory route diagram ...
... and a repeat of the fares offers.

First Bus routes terminate in King Edward Street, whereas T J Walsh stop just across the junction in Albion Street.
Do Haligonians** lurk at the crossroads and rush eagerly to the next bus that is loading? At least, with reference to Metro West Yorkshire's timetable library we can "contrast and compare".

 Red Arrows to UIllingworth 

 521  via Ovenden Way
Every 7/8 minutes Monday to Saturday daytime
Every 12 to 15 minutes Sunday daytime
Every 30 minutes all evenings.

 522  via Ovenden Road
Every 15 minutes Monday to Saturday daytime
One journey an hour via Highmoor Park Road
   at Illingworth as  523 

NO evening and Sunday service

 T J Walsh   no evening or Sunday service on any of these.

 525  via Ovenden Way to Ovenden
Every 7 mins Monday to Friday morning (to 1215)
Every 8 mins Saturday morning (to 1215)

 600  loop via Ovenden Way and Ovenden Road
Every 10 mins Monday to Saturday daytime
also to/from Halifax Station every 20 mins

 700  via Ovenden Road to Illingworth
Every 10 mins Monday to Saturday daytime

Oddly the last two T J Walsh routes are not numbered "correctly" to match the West Yorkshire scheme. 600s are Bradford routes; 700s are used in the Keighley area.

A couple of niggles arise with the Red Arrows. Look at the timetable for the 522 and 523. Note that the Illingworth time point for the 523 is Tewit Lane Top; whereas, by contrast and on a separate line, the time point for the 522 is ...
... Tewit Lane Top. What a clever way to differentiate the services and their two different routes!

But worse is to come. There are 8 journeys an hour on the 521, four an hour on the 522/523, adding up to 12 journeys an hour between Halifax and Illingworth. An impressive frequency. Go to First Bus web site for West Yorkshire and the new network is highlighted on the home page.
"Buses every 12 minutes ..."


That is a modest 5 buses an hour, not 12.

Questions to Ponder
  1. Does the web designer know the difference?
  2. Do First Bus management know the difference?
  3. Will anyone notice?
  4. How long will it take to get it changed?
Answers, please, on a postcard to the usual address.
**Haligonian means "resident of Halifax"; or does it?
The name is first recorded in about 1091 in the form Halyfax, possibly from the Old English halh-gefeaxe, meaning "area of coarse grass in the nook of land". This explanation is now preferred to derivations from the Old English halig (holy), for example hālig feax (holy hair), first proposed by 16th century antiquarians. The erroneous derivation from halig has also given rise to the adjective Haligonian, which is of recent origin and not in universal use.
 Yet another Red Arrow blog : Friday 28th November 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Red Arrows Reach All-over [3]

What's the Connection ...
... between these two and Red Arrows? Or has fbb finally flipped after battling with ticket splitting rail fare sites? Perhaps not, but here's an old gaol ...
... and a slightly less old tram.
The answer is Halifax.

Let fbb explain.
First Bus services

Illingworth (i.e. Ray Illingworth, cricketer) is a suburb of Halifax with a very old gaol. Ovenden (i.e. Julian Ovenden, actor) is ditto that was once served by trams. They are linked by bus services provided by First Bus with significant competition from independent T J Walsh. Looking at a chunk of Metro West Yorkshire's network map shows the problem.
On Ovenden Way Walsh's 525 and 600 compete with First's 521. On Ovenden Road, the 600 is joined by the 700 in attacking First's 522 and 523.

Further out at Illingworth itself, the 700 ...
... is eating away at all three First's services as they toddle round different bits of Illingworth's housing development. The frequent 521 loops via School Lane ...
... the 522 via Keighley Road ...
... and the 523 via Heathmoor Park Road, a more recent development.
All three join up on Illingworth Road to run back to town.
Here they are joined by the competitive 700 which effectively terminates at the common point. So from here into Halifax there are substantial numbers of buses; far too many for either operator to be profitable, one suspects.

Tomorrow we will look at frequencies, timetables and, at last, at the third Red Arrow!
Meanwhile a bit of background from the T J Walsh web site:-
30th June 1994 – The first public bus route for TJ Walsh was started, the 525 service which runs from Halifax to Ovenden Way. The first bus operated was ‘TJI 9147’. 
19th September 1994 – A second bus service was started, the 555 service from Halifax to Siddal. This route ran in the afternoons and used the same bus as the 525 service which ran in the morning.

9th September 1995 – An additional 16 seater Transit was purchased. This ran the 600 service, the Nursery Lane circular. The 525 and 600 services ran every 10 minutes, 08:30 to 14:25 Monday to Friday and 08:30 to 13:00 on a Saturday.

13th April 1999 –The 700 service was started.

 Next Red Arrow blog : Thursday 27th November 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Red Arrows Reach All-over [2]

And Then There Was Trent.
Traditionally Barton Transport ran services 5, 5A, 5B and 5X between Norttingham and Derby. An X42 was later added.
Trent ran via the "main road" whilst Barton served Chilwell, Beeston and Long Eaton. Then, privatised Trent absorbed the ailing Barton and began what they have become famous for. Brian King, their former Managing Director, certainly had drive and vision.
Their first network-wide foray into individual route branding was with "Rainbow" routes, as here in the R2 via Sandiacre.
The former Barton routes were left untouched for a while retaining traditional numbers.
Also, a non-stop half hourly service running between he two towns ... 
... was extended to Chesterfield and labelled Red Arrow.
This replaced he tediously slow 244 between Derby and Chesterfield, although on Sundays, when the Red Arrow did not fly, Stagecoach operated an hourly tendered service 244 between Chesterfield and Ripley.

From the start the Arrow was operated by coaches, not buses and the livery was very noticeable indeed.
On the Focus Transport pages there is (a) a summary of he early days of the route (here)  and (b) a pictorial review of the latest vehicles  (here). As well as very posh coaches ...
... the service now runs every TEN minutes between Nottingham and Derby and every half hour on the Chesterfield.
On Sundays it is every 20 minutes extended every hour to home of the twisted spire.
As well as timetables, Trent's web site includes a simplified but easy-to-understand route map ...
... and a hint as to the facilities available on the swish coaches.
For those who are party animals, the Nottingham to Derby bit runs all night.

Whilst the other two non-Arrow routes referred to above still operate between he two cities every 20 minutes, there are loads of extra buses at the Nottingham end.
The former Barton 5 (etc.) is now branded as "indigo" ...
... and runs every 5 minutes between Nottingham and Beeston, every 10 between Nottingham and Long Eaton.
Indigo runs 24/7 to Long Eaton. The previous R2 ...
... is now the i4.
... with a doubled frequency over part of he route, picking up a local loop at Sandiacre.
All very impressive.

You really do have to admire the management at TrentBarton for their perspicacity and skill in developing these services. We do know that this has been at the expense of abandoning some of their "backstreet wiggles" but, as thy say, that's the bus business.

Tomorrow, our third and newest Red Arrow is fired.

 Next bus blog : Wednesday 26th November