Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Bracknell's Bus Back-Down

First Succumbs to Courtney?
But first, here is the "Catch the Bus Week" launch picture which did not appear in time for yesterday's blog. Click on the picture to play "spot the bus executive"
You've got to hand it to them ...
Bracknell was designated a new town in 1949, in the aftermath of the Second World War. The site was originally a village cum small town in the civil parish of Warfield in the Easthampstead Rural District.
Very little of the original Bracknell is left. The location was preferred to White Waltham, which was also considered, because the Bracknell site avoided encroaching on good quality agricultural land. It also had the additional advantage of being on a railway line. The new town was planned for 25,000 people; it was intended to occupy over 1,000 hectares (about 6 square miles) of land in and around 'Old Bracknell' in the area now occupied by Priestwood, Easthampstead, Bullbrook and Harmans Water.
However, the town has since expanded far beyond its intended size into farmland to the south, with the most recent expansion being Jennett's Park to the west of the town at Peacock Farm and The Parks on the site of the former RAF Staff College.

Omnibologically, the area was served by the Thames Valley company.
Then came the merger with Aldershot and District to create the geographically non-existent Alder Valley. Then, for privatisation, the Thames Valley bit was hived off to recreate a "northen" company branded as Beeline. Beeline was bought by Q Drive ...
... subsequently merging with CentreWest (London) which was eventually bought by First.

Isn't privatisation wonderful?

Then, in Bracknell, First branded their buses as ...
... Beeline!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a small coach company was entering the bus market by winning a few tendered services in and around Berkshire.
The company was formed in 1973 as a taxi hire firm in Bracknell by Bill Courtney-Smith, who still manages the company, and moved into coach hire in the 1980s. In 2000 Courtney Coaches commenced its first local route, 53 (Wexham Park Hospital - Maidenhead - Bracknell). This was taken over by First Berkshire & The Thames Valley in 2003. The company expanded dramatically in January 2004 when all seven local routes in Maidenhead were taken over from First Berkshire.

Spookily, and in an earlier life, fbb bought a second hand coach from Courtney to operate on the Isle of Wight. This one:-
It ran, for a while, in the livery of Wight Line Cruises.
The upstart newcomer (Courtney, not Westbrook Travel!!) has been nibbling away at First's Berkshire empire which has declined progressively. In Bracknell there are just three local "Beelines" ...
... but look at Courtney's 171, for example. This runs as a "South Bracknell Circular" and, effectively, merges Firsts B1 and both ways round B2/B3.
It also links the B2/B3 estates with Great Hollands shopping centre (centre left) ...
... a very useful local facility. Running every 20 minutes Monday to Friday and every 40 on Saturday ...
... it must eat into First's profitability.
First's web site doesn't help. It offers an "interactive" route map (click thereupon to enlarge) ...
... showing the old pre"B" network. Not that this now superseded scheme included route 171 South Bracknell Circular now operated by Courtney! A correct network map is also, confusingly, on offer.

You wonder whether First has ceased to care about Bracknell.

Meanwhile Courtney continues to grow, to experiment with "green" fuels and provide colourful route branded vehicles.
BUSES NAMED: Imperial & Humbug
ROUTE: 126/8/9
    Wokingham Reading via Twyford, Sonning & Woodley
ROUTE: 127/8
    Reading to Wokingham/Maidenhead (Sat Only) via Twyford

BUSES NAMED: Pinocchio & Bramble
ROUTE: 194
    Bracknell Station – Great Hollands – Crowthorne
    Sandhurst – Camberley

BUSES NAMED: Woodie, Sherwood & Bracken
ROUTE: 171/172
   Bracknell Station – Crown Wood – Birch Hill – Hanworth
   Great Hollands – Easthampstead

Which of the two operators has the measure of running local bus routes? It is very likely that Courtney will become the dominant (only?) operator of Bracknell town services from the end of August.

It is also likely that Bracknellians will not shed too many tears for the change, although those who lose their jobs may be less enthusiastic.

"Catch the Bus Week" ...

... but soon not a First bus in Bracknell.

 Thanks  to our senior Isle of Wight correspondent for retrieving the coach pictures from his extensive archives. The coach was named "Hiram of Tyre" by Westbrook Travel Ltd.

 Next bus blog : Thursday 2nd July 


  1. Intriguing, I hope Courtney get out of the habit of sticking vinyl all over the windows though...

  2. I would add that in fairness First invented the 171 & 172 routes and Courtney duplicated them thereby halving the revenue.