Saturday, 28 June 2014

Dumping Dartmouth? Promoting Plymouth?

It was in October last year that Stagecoach announced their "Gold" service between Torquay and Plymouth or Dartmouth.
fbb was invited to a splendid launch event at Totnes complete with female gold statue man ...
... gold goodies ...
... and gold biscuits!
The service was hourly on each route thus providing and half hourly frequency between Torquay and Totnes.
It sought, originally, to compete with First's near-identical X80 etc ...
... but First simply rolled over and succumbed, withdrawing their services completely. His original launch blogs can be read (here) and (here).
Although Stagecoach have invited fbb to a couple of launches, he does not receive regular press releases, so was surprised to read in "another periodical" that the company had increased its Gold service from Torquay to "half hourly".

Just a casual remark in the article but one which needs a bit more investigation. In passing, the Plymothian Transit blog revealed a subtle change of livery ...
... to "English Riviera" without the route diagram as originally applied (see above). The revised timetable started a month ago (another happening missed by fbb!) on 19th May. Buses still run every 30 minutes between Torquay and Totnes but both schedules now continue to Plymouth, giving this two-hour long route a bus every 30 minutes all the way.
Assuming Stagecoach can make a success of the enhanced service, one has to wonder why First gave up, rumoured to be because they were losing significant money! What is the Stagecoach magic touch? Would First's service have been retained and developed had the decision been taken in today's more optimistic management environment. One this is certain; Stagecoach are delivering a bloodied nose to GoAhead's Plymouth business which had claimed victory in the battle of Ivybridge.

But what has happened to Dartmouth? Answer; it has become a shuttle from Totnes ...
.... where it serves a big loop to the east of the town as shown by the dotted gold line.
The half-hourly Plymouth to Torquay service is the solid gold line through the middle. The lack of route numbers means that the map in the Devon "South Hams" booklet is less than helpful with "gold" lines all over the place.
There is no indication here as to which particular nugget belongs to which route. Also worthy of a wonder is whether the Totnes Community Bus service (TS1) will have a future on this section.
T'would be a pity to see Bob the Bus obliterated by Brian the Bearded!
Bob also runs hourly (sort of) and makes it clear that the route is a loop. Stagecoach doesn't do the loop thing, so fbb's paste-up redresses the problem.
A further set of tables in the "gold" leaflet does show connections from Dartmouth to Torquay and vice versa.
A possibility unheard-of by Google Transit.
Gold to Totnes, train to Newton Abbott, train to Torquay. Or, alternatively ...
Gold to Totnes, bus 100 to Paignton then train to Torquay. Always remembering that Torquay station is not quite at Torquay.
Even choosing bus as the only option doesn't help for most of the day. And, very confusingly, Google seems to use a system for giving out bus times that, sort of, starts again at midday. fbb thought there were 24 hours in a day but Google uses two lots of 12 - very confusing!
fbb has used the 24 hour clock since 1966 and finds the alternative hard to cope with. Seriously, is the world domination urge of Google such that they want us all to go back to using "the old money"?

Funny dates as well?

 Next bus blog : Sunday 29th June 


  1. I think the root problem is the connection time in Totnes - at just three minutes, it is too short for Traveline (which requires 4 or 5 mins minimum, I recall).
    It works in the other direction, as the connection is 10 mins, but only if "least interchange" is selected - otherwise, the journey planner route is via the Kingswear ferry, as this knocks half-an-hour off the journey.
    Mind you, the Stagecoach journey planner thinks you don't need to change at all...

  2. Ivybridge is probably the crucial point here. First let Plymouth Citybus in there, and that was the beginning of the end for the X80. Now Stagecoach are offering very cheap fares from Ivybridge to Plymouth, and doubling the Gold service gives them parity with Citybus on the fast route (better, in fact, if you add the two-hourly X38 from Exeter).
    I am surprised - but impressed - that the Dartmouth service has not been "de-Golded" now that it is a separate service.

  3. The new version of Google Maps does show this as a possibility, see screenshot below:

  4. The English Riveria branding is carried by the two spare vehicles so that they can be used on the X46 Paignton - Exeter if not required for Gold duties.

  5. Regarding the 12/24hr clock business: I find that Google Maps on my android smartphone gives results in 24hr clock but my laptop gives the same answers in 12hr!