Saturday, 14 March 2015

Old One, New One and Red One [One]

Stop Press : What a Surprise

More on this in due course! Later yesterday, Cornwall Council published the following arrangements on-line. The aim is to have as much as possible running by Monday.
First Bus were available at WG's Summercourt depot yesterday recruiting drivers.

First Bus notice : 16:45 Friday 13 March 2015

Replacement buses for Western Greyhound routes from Monday 16 March.

This afternoon, following agreement with Cornwall Council to step in, we can confirm we anticipate well run some form of replacement bus service from Monday, following the cessation of Western Greyhounds services today.

Cornwall reports that Western Greyhound buses will be on the road but not operated by WG. According to an "honest" letter from their boss, Michael Bishop ...
... the crunch came when their insurers wanted the year's premium "up front" and refused to offer installment options. WG just didn't have the cash.

Do the cynics amongst us think that these plans were already formulated to be ready for the inevitable?

Back. for the time being, to today's planned blog.
What Goes Around Comes Around
In the 40 plus years that fbb has been visiting / residing on the Isle of Wight buses between Newport and Cowes have had a varied history. Traditionally service 1 and 1A (sometimes with 1B) have plied the road between Ryde, Newport and Cowes
The long-standing terminus was West Hill Road.
Then services moved to their present terminus outside the Co-op (Terminus Road, site of former Cowes railway station, top left on map), more centrally placed for shops and, a short walk away, the Red Funnel terminal, known for countless generations as Cowes Pontoon.
An additional bus service (historically numbered 2) ran to the Pontoon to meet the ferries from Southampton. The car ferry sevice eventually settled at East Cowes and West became the landing point for fast hydrofoil craft. As part of the "minibus revolution" this became service 91, Hydrobus.
Why 91? Clever Stuart Linn copied the headcode from the fast trains from Southampton to Waterloo. Another 91 bus linked the Southampton terminal with the station offering a through service all numbered 91. Semi-fasts shwed a headcode "92".
In the early stages the Island driver would sell you a rail ticket! With the demise of the minibus dream a variety of smaller buses was used and an equally bewildering set of route numbers, [91, 92, 93, 2, 3]. Access to the ferry was (and is) via a narrow archway as part of a row of shops called "The Arcade".
This means that small buses were always essential.
One piece of trivia is that the now-closed pub at the end of the Arcade was run by the father of  Gary Batchelor, ex GM of Southern Vectis and leader of the 1986 management buy-out. These Wikipedia pictures show the problem!
And you can see the scrapes on the walls of the entrance arch in the uncluttered view above.

In yet another reorganisation of routes undertaken a few years ago, the Ryde to Newport services became 9 whilst the Cowes routes retained number 1.
The "split eveything at Newport" policy meant that the Cowes service could be developed without the constraint of its other Ryde-bound half. Thus ALL buses went to the Pontoon, calling at the Co-op on the way back to Newport. In many ways this was silly. The "Red Jet" fast ferry was never more frequent than every half hour but buses called every ten minutes! This was later increased to eight buses an hour.
Frankly, the number of passengers transferring from boat to bus was paltry except at commuter times and cur-backs mean that the fast boat only tuns hourly in the winter. So what happens when the small buses are nearing the end of their useful life.

One obvious answer would be to pull out of the Pontoon completely and turn everything at the Co-op.
About 12 months ago, one of fbb's usually reliable contacts on the Island reported that this is what would happen.

Farewell Pontoon as a destination. (Snivel snivel) The two or three minute walk from Co-op to Red Jet would hardly be deleterious for the modest few who made the connection, surely?

What actually happened, happens tomorrow, 15th March.

 Next one : Sunday 15th March 


  1. I don't think that running all buses via the Pontoon was silly at all - the whole point of the April 2006 network change was to simplify things, and all buses going to the same place follows that logic.
    Furthermore, the Pontoon stop is closer to a lot of the High Street shops than the Co-op.
    Also, it's closer to a lot of the houses up the High Street and towards Bath Road and beyond, who use the Pontoon stop.
    Furthermore, with the alternate routeings via the Round House and Park and Ride, you couldn't really just have buses going in at ferry times, you need two - one for each routeing - to go in. By the time you've done that, they may as well all go in.
    It also provides an element of resilience to the service, when the boat is delayed, you don't arrive at Cowes to find the bus has gone, or more often (when Newport or the Cowes - Newport Road is solid and the buses go out of sync), you know all buses go down to the Pontoon.
    It also means less of a gap in service at the Pontoon every time they run out of small buses and have to put a double decker out.

    I am surprised fbb, 'criticism king of all things poor interchange', brushes off the walk from the Pontoon to the Co-op as deleterious. It's a good couple of minutes, and uphill, and no cover when it's raining. And with the possibility of luggage.

    I am opposed to what's happening to the route from 15th March, seeing it as a return to the bad old days - and basically, I just don't think it will work - but I shall wait for tomorrow's post before the full rant!

  2. One of the benefits of having a monopoly is the ability to abuse it, something GSC does exceptionally well on the Island and in Salisbury.
    Remember, your sky high fares and generally pants service benefits the residents of Bournemouth, Poole and Southampton who enjoy a better frequency of service, at lovely low fares using a comparable standard of vehicle, whilst making a loss due to the over bussing that occurs!

    1. It's Anon 1021 here. Despite my criticisms of the changes to the 1, I cannot agree with your post here. Yes, SV is expensive, but "generally pants service"? No way - the service levels on the Isle of Wight are absolutely amazing compared to other rural areas in the country. Where else do you have buses running evenings and Sundays - and with night buses at weekends - in such places?

      I also highly doubt W&D are loss making in Bournemouth and Poole.

      The changes to the 1 involve putting extra resource in (one more bus is required), which hardly fits with your mantra the service is pants and they're out to exploit.
      My opinion is that they've just made a bad judgement on the changes they're bringing in.