Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Crazy Conflict on Coronation Street (2) ...

 Intruder Revealed.
South West Coaches [SWC] was formed in 2000 incorporating Wakes Coaches of Sparkford ...
... and A G Hulbert and Son. Later acquisitions were Safeway of South Petherton and ...
... Sureline from Portland near Weymouth.
The company still runs the modern equivalent of the Wakes main road route ...
... but the Portland services, competing with First, are largely gone. One of its higher profile operations is the 68 in Yeovil, providing a link between Junction station, town centre and Pen Mill station.
Also operated is Yeovil town service 11 somewhat changed since the 11A variant existed.
So from 24th August, SWC has started a new competitive route, cross town but numbered 10 and 12. When fbb first started looking into this development a couple pf days ago, there was no mention of these new services on the SWC web site.
They have since appeared - nearly two weeks after start date.
Now the easiest way to see how the 10 competes with the 3 on Gloucester Avenue is to draw in the 10 route on top of First's 2 and 3 map.
Both 3 and 10 serve "Wessex Road Shops" although the stop is on Greenwood Road.
At least that is what Traveline's map implies.
But after much angst, fbb realised that, surprise, surprise, Traveline is wrong. Because ...

... elsewhere on Wessex Road itself is another lavishly equipped shelter. It is on the "top" bit, according to traveline, only served by First. (Where the "3" is on Firsts's map, roughly.)
But in the shelter is this.
... and their timetable frame is, indeed now installed on the lamp post opposite.
Traveline's map is wrong TWICE. Service 10 travels anti clockwise round its loop, not clockwise AND it uses the full length of Wessex Road, stopping opposite First's shelter as above.
Well done SWC for doing your best with timetables and frames and badly done Traveline for getting the map completely wrong. And just for comparison, here's a very rare First Bus timetable from the Wessex Road shelter ...
... a bit tired and bedraggled, like the whole First Bus operation!

Clearly SWC's aim is to cream off enough of First's route 2 and route 3 traffic to make a profit. Is this likely? Is there enough business from these estates to justify two operations? Of course there isn't. Peter, our Yeovil correspondent (to whom much thanks for backgound and photos) reports that loadings were never great when First had exclusivity; now these barely adequate passenger numbers appear to be shared between the two.

Here is First's 3 ...
... with two passengers en route for Yeovil town centre. And here is SEC's 10 ...
... similarly packed! According to Peter the buses he saw on Saturday last contained between 0 and 5 passengers; with a crudely estimated average of less than 1. Obviously this is not a statistically accurate assessment but we can get the idea. Competition is simply not sustainable.

Overall SWC vehicles are somewhat newer than First and look in better condition.

Neither company has much to say about fares. First rabbits on, unhelpfully, about single fares being dependent on distance, about child fares being two thirds of adult; but doesn't say what the fares are. There is selection of Yeovil "rover/season" tickets which look quite pricey for the limited "network" on offer.
SWC's only on-line "Smart" fares snippet comes with the 10/12 timetable and ...
... seems to offer a discount of "up to 20%" but fails to explain the basis on which this can be obtained.

Will First put up a few timetables at the stops? Will there be a fares war - or even a minor financial skirmish? The general view from the mean streets of Yeovil is that this is daft and there is a strong possibility SWC will soon capitulate.
On the other hand, Yeovil is a bit of a First backwater. Might another Northampton be on the cards?

Another "watch this space" item.

 Next bus blog : Wednesday 17th September 


  1. Not sure that I understand the above comment.

  2. It is/was an irrelevant advert, Anon. Robot software adds such to blogs. Which is why I have deleted it!

  3. Hmm, the thought occured to me that Traveline might not have the route displayed correctly, because South West Coaches have created stops that didn't exist before.

    Indeed, it would be interesting to learn whether SWC has the permission of the highway authority - Somerset County Council - to put up flags and timetable cases on its property i.e. lamp posts. If it does, then it is entirely possible that this is dealt with by a different bit of SCC to the public transport team - or whatever trendy title it goes by these days - which is responsible for dealing with bus service registrations, and in turn, requesting Traveline to create new stops.

    Of course, SWC may not have sought any permission to do this - or from the shelter owner, which is more likely to be the district council. And while Traveline's timetable may not be perfect, the absence of timely information on the operator's own website is simply unforgiveable. Do they deserve to succeed?

    1. It is generally considered by both parties that unless explicit instruction to the contrary is stated that bus operators have permission to attached flags/cases to lampposts & shelters for the purposes of providing stops & information for bus operators. In many cases this is considered preferable by the council as if they install stops themselves it requires a site visit involving police & local officials & notifications before it can proceed whilst the operator just sends out their bus stop man to bung up a case. This all presupposes that the operator hasn't just registered the section as hail & ride in which case no bus stops are required and the cases are just liberally spread around to act as info & focal points for the route. The issue for Traveline is they rely on the national NapTan database which needs someone, generally at the local authority, to identify & properly locate the stop in the system which can take some time for their procedures to complete whilst the operator can just go out and designate a stop within minutes if they need to. If the Traveline system has been designed properly (and this was the case when I was working for an operator under the South West Traveline area) then the person setting up the data for Traveline can themselves set up Hail & Ride stops to attach the route to, and can manually alter the roads the service goes down so it can be forced to follow the correct route even if no stops are shown at the time so it should be possible to get the route right as long as they have understood the registration submitted.

  4. Presumably SWC are working on the premise that since First have been trying to sell Yeovil for some time without any takers and they have reportedly moved all the work they could out of the depot they are quite likely to fold under a little pressure. Whether or not it will actually work of course can only be tested by doing but Yeovil is the sort of town that suits a smaller regional operator like SWC if they can get a big enough network to get some stability.

    1. Yeovil is the 2nd largest town in Somerset, but you would not think so by the bus service provided.
      No evening or Sunday services etc. Even places like Somerton has an hourly Sunday service.

  5. No flags from SWC, just timetable frames. First Bus, tatty flags and very few timetable frames. QED?