Wednesday, 20 May 2015

GoodBye GardBus

Nice when you don't have to invent an alliterative headline!
Getting from Southampton to Ringwood used to be simple. In 2000, for example, here was a roughly hourly service operated by Wilts and Dorset and Solent Blue Line consisting of stopping service X34 and X35 ...
... and an express X33 through to Poole.
Slowly the link fizzled and, although various operators have tried to revive it, none has succeeded.
If yo want to get from Southampton to Ringwood you now have to go by train to Bournemouth and back-track by bus!
A wise traveller might not need to take the 2A between the Station (1044) and Lansdowne (1044) but, well, it is Traveline! You can also make the leap to Ringwood using National Express!

Gardbus, based in Ringwood, tried a Sunday 139, hoping to encourage New Forest "tourist" passengers and trips to Paultons Park.
But Gardbus is no more.

The signs were there for all to see. Their service 132 ...
... was withdrawn at short notice.
There was a bit of a deal with Ringwood Taxis ...
... as recently as 27th April but then end came soon enough.

The demise is sad because the company did everything they could to run a professional and well publicised outfit. As recently as September 2014 they issued a excellent timetable leaflet.
Their vehicles (presumed leased?) came for a variety of previous owners but always appeared to be in good condition.
This Optare, for example, was originally with  Tyrer Tours from oop north.
A new service 126 was started as recently as ... 
... April 2015. This was a Saturday version of the Monday to Friday 125 ...
... but running only between Ringwood and Bransgore.

But in the end the sums simply didn't add up. Over the years there has been an interesting variety of vehicles ...
... from a wide-ranging set of original owners ...
... but, ultimately, rural bus services are hardly ever likely to be profitable, however hard you try. Without the backing of a big business, one major breakdown (engine seized, gearbox crunched) can destroy tenuous finances at a stroke. We don't know what killed Gardbus, but, RIP, the beast is now dead.

fbb wonders how long it will be before another keen entrepreneur will try a service between Southampton and Ringwood?

Thanks, blog reader John, for the links which inspred this blog.

To complete the tale, Hampshire County have arranged for MoreBus (Wilts and Dorset) to run a replacement service on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for two months while the situation is reviewed.
travel updates
new service 125 - Christchurch - Bransgore - Ringwood
published: 18 May 2015We are happy to announce that we will be running the 125 from Christchurch to Ringwood from Monday 18 May 2015, due to Gardbus no longer trading.
Well done all concerned for setting something up in double-quick time.

Tomorrow, we return to Cornwall, where timetables can be much less straightforward.

 Next bus blog : Thursday 21st May 


  1. Thanks for this FBB. Because Service X6 to Ringwood does not serve the Interchange, the nearest stops are at Unysis on Holdenhurst Road and the journey planner will try to find a connecting bus service between the two. I have edited the data this morning to add the Unisys stops to the walk links from Bournemouth Station, so after the next available data build this should suggest walking directly to those stops.
    Ken - Traveline Dorset

  2. Yet again Ken shows how Traveline should be done across the rest of the country. Well done Ken. Whilst we all can find fault with its often appalling offerings, it's good to know Dorset is in good hands and that each time anything is found you fix it really quickly. You are to be commended.

  3. >>Their vehicles (presumed leased?)<< No, Gardbus vehicles were bought. He attempted to sell them, when not required on Ebay. Servicing was by Solent Coaches of Ringwood.

  4. I find it hard to comprehend that the newer fleet members were owned. Much hype locally was made of his £40k investment in a modern bus when he commenced the 132.

    I suspect that the older members of the fleet were owned, as their book value is lower, and that'd be a typical type of purchase, but the newer ones would certainly have had finance involved. The taxi's were financed.

    Mr Gard's departure from the local bus market comes as not much of a surprise - there tends to be a reason why gaps exist in the market in that they are seldom remunerative.

    To enter on a commercial basis using modern financed vehicles is nothing short of commercial suicide, and anyone with a brain would have concluded it simply wasn't worth doing and would end in the way that it has.

    Perhaps if he had used another old low floor Dart for the 132 then he'd still be plying the route, with a lower cost base than one needing sufficient payments coming in to finance the expensive modern bus.

    Don't forget the 132 was stopped 4 weeks before the full 56 days, so saving him a lot of operating costs for those 4 weeks, with the bus punted on ebay at the same time.

    Operating registered services in such a manner only
    serves to highlight the 'law doesn't apply to me' mindset he practices, so I am shedding few tears for an operator picking and choosing what he operates, with the consequential disruption that is caused when established local authority supported contracts have to be terminated through his commercial presence.

    I think a more apt euphemism for Gardbus' demise can be found in one of his more, what we'd term, direct, comments directed to a customer who he told to go away on his facebook page, but using more choice language.