Saturday, 6 March 2010

Oxford Oddity



Oxford has hitherto been upheld as the one place in GB where bus competition works. On the main corridors Oxford City bus and Stagecoach have slogged it out with competing services. The same aggressive approach applies to the companies' competing London express coach routes - both frequent and luxurious. A recent announcement, however, brings this all to an end; at least for services in Oxford city. It has been agreed that the two companies will, in future, "work together" with joint ticketing and non competing services. So competition in the bus industry obviously doesn't work!

On the ground, a recent visit shown a very different approach from the two operators. A run from Abingdon to Oxford with City Bus was impressive. Departure on time : waiting for correct time at intermediate points : warm comfortable and quiet bus : driven with consummate skill and care : courteous, friendly and helpful driver (explaining to me in some detail where to get off for Gloucester Green bus station) and excellent publicity. Stagecoach - far less so. The Stagecoach bus back to Wantage (the slow way - service 31) arrived late, was rattly and uncomfortable. The driver was uncommunicative and we were bounced about with apparently erratic applications of brake etc. Maybe it wasn't the drivers fault...

The sadness of Oxford remains the lack of obvious access to publicity for the visitor or newcomer. My hotel (in Abingdon) had leaflets for all local Oxford City bus routes. Nothing for Stagecoach or any of the other operators. There appeared to be no bus enquiry facility in Oxford bus station - I did spy a rack of Oxford City leaflets behind locked doors in an unlabelled office!

Why do bus operators like to keep their information secret? Would Tesco make it so difficult to find out what they sell? Stopping points in Oxford are well spread out and (to the outsider) illogical. Would (even) more people be persuaded to use the bus IF they were all like City Bus and IF the user could find out what was going on...

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  4. Back 7 years later and you could really switch the Stagecaoch and Oxford Bus Company Names! The Oxford Bus Company buses are constantly late, both am and pm whereas the Stagecoach ones are rarely delayed. On the 31 now are -66 plate Enviro 400 MMCs which are Stagecoach Gold, whilst OBC still have the same old Mercs!
    Me and my friends always say if you can see the Stagecoach, it will be faster. This is true most of the time.
    And a perspective on age: the oldest buses in regular use in the Stagecoach Oxford depot are -09 plate Enviro 400s. A majority of buses are less than 5 years old, which personally I think is very impressive. Stagecoach drivers always seem to be warmer and friendlier too!

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