Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Fat Bus Bloke Blog Felicitations

March 6th 2010

It is exactly two years since fbb wrote his first blog. It was sons numbers 1 and 3 who persuaded him to start. "But no-one will read it," complained "Pops", "and how will anyone know it's there?" Two years later, with hundreds of readers every day and over 450 blogs to his name, fbb never ceases to marvel at the miracle of the internet.

The first blog was a pretty feeble affair but did broach the challenging subject of public transport standards and the benefits (or otherwise) of competition.

For nostalgia's sake, the blog is quoted in full below.

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 showed 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...
Since this blog, there was been an "agreement" between the two companies which has led to joint operation on some corridors and, helpfully, a joint "season ticket" called the Oxford SmartZone.
Despite the happy "joint" offer, each company still promotes its own ticket schemes, arguably giving their own product more prominence than the combined version.
"The Key" is a Smart Card product being progressively rolled out over all the GoAhead bus and rail companies. It figures significantly on the Oxford Bus web site; with no obvious mention of the SmartZone.
Stagecoach, however, does include the multi operator scheme in its list, but, understandably, its own products are featured first.

Sadly, timetable information is still virtually unobtainable away from Oxford and hard to find even in the "big city".
Fierce competition is still the order of the day on the high profile London routes; as above showing multiple rear ends at the Gloucester Green terminal. The Oxford Bus version, formerly branded as ...
... was relaunched, yesterday, as the X90.
It's good to see that GoAhead's design and marketing people have given up the losing battle of trying to spell "express" correctly and have reverted to an easy to remember route number. What a stunningly simple and effective idea.

Meanwhile, Stagecoach remains labelled as the "Oxford Tube". Indeed, as far as fbb can remember, the Stagecoach service has never had a public route number.
Jointly the two competitors offer roughly eight buses an hour for most of the day, Monday to Saturday. That's more frequent than many urban bus services! Do both services make money; or is a bit of commercial pride part of the "philosophy"? Might we see joint operation here at some time in the future? There's a huge amount of empty space racing up and down the M40.

How will things have changed in the next few years? Hopefully fbb will be around to keep an interested eye on things.

In the meantime, whilst in Oxford, fbb wonders how technology is performing. A fellow blogger has written enthusiastically (link available tomorrow) about better web sites, better real time information and information easily available on our Smart Phones.
With a high student population, we can expect loads of jolly good stuff in Oxford, then?

Hmmm ...

More to come, no doubt.
 Next Blog : due Wednesday March 7th 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Above comment added by Mrs fbb NOT fbb. She didn't quite grasp the protocol! Never mind, that's what comes of being old! (and long-suffering)

  3. Mrs fbb's comment re-published!

    Congratulations on two years of wear and tear on the wife's laptop! Contributions also have appeared from number two son. No chance of not getting involved, all the family are conscripted! But well done!

  4. wow - 2 years already - its gone quick. Keep up the excellent work!
    all the best

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  6. Think when the Tube started it was numbered 100, and the CityLink was 190.

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  8. Still a pretty feeble affair.

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