Thursday 17 April 2014

Improve the Service : Make it More Complex [2]

 Stagecoach Coaster 700 runs from Brighton to Portsmouth.
The fbb diagram of the route shows three chunks of service each running every 30 minutes. The through run from end to end takes about four hours and 15 minutes. fbb has done the whole route, but with breaks in Bognor (morning coffee and bun) ...
... and Shoreham-by-Sea (fish and chip lunch, Blundens).
This made the journey manageable. But if your bladder and backside can bear the burden of bumpiness, the whole run is possible end to end.

But Stagecoach did a survey.

fbb does not know what the survey questions were, but there is always a suspicion that Stagecoach, having surveyed, will do what it wants anyway. The revised network, with all the "improvements", has recently been announced.
And it looks good, but read on ...

We plan to improve punctuality by dividing the original route route into three distinct sections

Brighton to Littlehampton : buses will run up to every 10 minutes (
no change) with onward travel to Arundel every 20 minutes (improvement)

Littlehampton and Bognor Regis to Chichester : buses will run up to every 20 minutes from Littlehampton (
reduction from every 15) with a bus between Bognor Regis and Chichester every 10 minutes (improvement).

Bognor Regis to Chichester and Portsmouth : buses will run up to every 10 minutes between Bognor Regis and Chichester (
improvement) continuing to Havant and Portsmouth every 20 minutes (improvement).

Confused? Here is an fbb diagram to compare the new pattern with the plan for the current service:-
Each line represents a 20 minute service. And the Stagecoach blurb reveals the snag with these stunning improvements:-
No longer can the brave explorer buy their Explorer and travel from Portsmouth to Brighton (or vice versa) in one go. "A change" means TWO changes. And all four legs are numbered 700.

And there's more. Traditionally the service has always run through Portsmouth to the South Parade Pier at Southsea, calling at The Hard (Portsmouth Harbour) on the way. From May ...
... to go to or from the seaside bits of Portsmouth you need, not only to change buses but, presumably, pay another fare.
And that makes THREE changes for the full through omnibological trek. The blurb assumes that passengers will understand that eastbound journeys will start from The Hard, not Southsea.

Although the blurb says that the new package will "reduce waiting time", many more passengers will have to change with some sort of time penalty, possibly extra fares to pay and, worryingly, an increased risk penalty. Here are extracts from the two new timetable sets.

Portsmouth to Bognor : Chichester to Littlehampton
Arundel and Littlehampton to Brighton.
Thus a through passenger from Havant to Rustington will have a 10 minute wait Chichester and a five minute wait in Littlehampton. Under the current arrangements the journey takes 52 minutes; the improved service from May takes 65 minutes; a 13 minute increase.

Is this a wise plan?
 6 of 9 Easter Oddities 
The "Last Supper", sometimes called the Passover Meal, took place the evening of (Maunday) Thursday which seems odd to some as the passover "eve" was on Friday. BUT in Jewish culture "tomorrow" begins, not at midnight, but when the sun sets today. So Friday starts on Thursday evening. One oddity explained.

Most arty images of the supper have the meal guests oddly arranged along one side of a long table.
Silly. Ignoring the spotlight on Jesus as an artistic fiction, the image below is more realistic.
Yet again we seem to be in the presence of some pre-ordained plan; not a horrific and tragic coincidence.

Then Jesus sent two of them with these instructions: “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house he enters, and say to the owner of the house: ‘The Teacher says, Where is the room where my disciples and I will eat the Passover meal?’ Then he will show you a large upstairs room, fixed up and furnished, where you will get everything ready for us.

Jesus took the symbols (bread and wine) of the ancient Jewish ceremony and game them a powerful new meaning. "This is my body. This is my blood." After the meal the disciples wended their way home and Jesus walked to his pre-planned death.
Oddly powerful.
 Next bus blog : Friday 18th April 


  1. Although not from this particular subsidiary I have seen some excellent consultation work from Stagecoach. A few years ago there was a consultation on services to the west of Oxford. When the results were published they described the new network, explaining why the changes were happening. They also went through the things that people had asked for but weren't getting and why.

    In the case of the 700 the number of passengers travelling across Littlehampton and Bognor are obviously insufficient to justify a through service. When I travelled the route, as part of a day's journey from Hastings to Bournemouth, I remember how there were points where the bus was quite full but would then empty out and later fill up again. The passenger flows are quite discrete and there is no constant demand. This happened at Worthing, Littlehampton. Bognor, Chichester and Havant as well as smaller points in between.

    As with all changes there may be inconvenience to some passengers but doubtless Stagecoach would calculate that the benefits to, and thus revenue from, a greater number of passengers would outweigh that.

    You have to remember that the 700 has, for sometime, been a series of connecting services under EU rules. The main change now is that buses are not going to be making the trek from Brighton to Portsmouth when they don't need to.

  2. From my experience, timekeeping on the 700 has been difficult at times, with a delay in (say) Chichester wrecking the service at the Brighton end. There isn't a nice big Bus Station at Pool Valley in Brighton for buses to park in for recovery time purposes - buses have to share limited stand space at Old Steine / Churchill Square.
    It does seem to me that the overall improvements should outweigh the need to connect at some points, and I suspect that through passengers are quite limited - after all, fbb broke his trip twice for buns and chips!!
    And let's not forget, with the general screwing down of OAP reimbursement rates, a through passenger flashing the pass three times equals more dosh for the operator!!

  3. The changes aren't so dramatic that the Havant-Rustington journey takes an hour less than at present! And all of the extra running time (as opposed to the 10 min connection) is between Littlehampton and Rustington. The layovers in the three main towns are identical to that on the current service.
    Like others, I also found that the bus emptied out at some locations, especially Chichester. On-time performance is patchy; that scheduled 1h52 from Havant to Rustington may, in practice, be nearer 2h00. And anyway, if you wanted to make the journey in a hurry, there's a big green train that runs at fairly frequent intervals.

  4. Presumably a fair proportion of off peak travellers in this area are bus pass holders? This was an area where Stagecoach historically commented about the high proportion of such travel.

    The reimbursement for this is usually based on average fares which I presume won't alter by much.

    But every time a pass holder has to change and board another bus Stagecoach will presumably now get an extra payment?

  5. Bring back the 31!

  6. How long before someone over at First thanks similarly about Poole- Exeter X53?

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. As a lifelong bus enthusiast, approaching my 70th birthday and now living in North Carolina, I really enjoy your blog fbb. Not only does it keep me up-to-date with the industry in the UK, but I really enjoy and appreciate the Biblical snippets.
    Easter Blessings.
    Durham, NC

  9. Interesting to see how Southsea has declined as a bus terminus, while The Hard has become the main focus for local and country services. When I was a lad, practically all the Southdown services coming into Portsmouth terminated at South Parade Pier, while The Hard (or "Dockyard") had only Corporation services. Even before the latest changes, the 700 had given up South Parade Pier, although it still served Palmerston Road and Clarence Pier.

  10. sorry about the maths error! I was writing this on holiday in North Wales. Two grandsons, two sons, daughter-in-law and their ebullience made concentration difficult. Add one hour to my quoted figures! It also shows how easily mega-bludners can be made when lengthy services are advertised with a "repeat pattern"!!!!
    Also - thanks Norfolk Boy for your kind comments.

  11. I very much doubt that one of the survey questions would have been "Would you rather stay on one bus or change buses during your journey?"!