Thursday, 6 August 2015

From Donkey to Mule [2]

A Struggle to Make Money
When fbb ran open top buses on the Isle of Wight, his worst day's takings totalled 20p for three round trips over the downs. The weather was cold, the service was properly registered with the Traffic Commissioners and had to operate. The second worst day was when the engine of the above steed partially seized and the repair cost £2,500. Hyper ouch!

What looks a good idea on paper and through those rose tinted spectacles of idealism and enthusiasm can so easily become a great lump of rock thrown to the drowning owner.

Mr Mule wears his heart on his sleeve in this message on his Facebook page.


I never expected an instant hit with this project, but I am a little concerned that numbers seem to be fading, as the weather improves, rather than increasing. There appears lots of interest, lots of talk, lots of photos being taken, but precious few 'bums on seats'. I don't want to horrify you, but (excluding the first free day) there has only been one day that has exceeded 10 passengers (that is daily total, not per trip). 

Similarly it was only that one day (Sat 25/7) that covered the basic fuel costs. No day has come anywhere close to paying me any form of salary, let alone a contribution to the huge insurance costs, or maintenance, or my investment or opening capital. This is despite having £1,700 worth of publicity produced, much of it spread around the surviving TICs, plus very obvious pavement boards at the main stops.

So fbb went to have have a look at the "Seaton Circular" on Monday 3rd August.
First, a call at Seaton Tourist Information cabin ...
... temporary while the prestigious "Seaton Jurassic" is built. This huge and expensive white elephant enterprise will have a shop and a cafe (Seaton really needs those) and, we are assured, some sort of Dinosaur exhibition. The new TiC will be contained therein and will be significantly smaller than the old TiC ...
... indeed, rumour has it that the new TiC will be much smaller even than the current temporary hut! If so, it shows a really well thought-out plan to inform and attract visitors. Well done all of you!

But there were plenty of leaflets for the Mule in the portakabin and a helpful young lass was more than anxious to ensure that fbb had eveything he needed.
There were general leaflets in glorious technicolor and a Seaton and Sidmouth specific timetable.

Just after 1000, chief driver Derek arrived with his clean and shiny VR.
And there was a small clutch of passengers waiting. Derek was ebullient and seemed happier than his facebook post; 13 passengers boarded. fbb also took a look at the 1145 departure as it passed near fbb towers, 10 minutes late.
It was all happening at Trevelyan Road. After the mule passed by, Stagecoach's 52A turned left for Exeter ...
... followed by the 1204 Axe Valley from Axmouth itself.
Ironically all buses carried passengers in single figures; likewise the 1345 ...
... and the 1515! Whether these loadings were enough to bring an even greater smile to boss Derek's usual sunny disposition, fbb cannot say. 

But his latest facebook page was a more cheerful place.

What a difference a day makes? Very odd after my "Doom Saturday", but I am pleased to report that today was by far the busiest day so far. A totally different feel. People hopping on and hopping off all day. Some 60% up in pax carried and revenue on the previous best day. We even hit the daily budgetary target! Could do with being twice as much, but heyho, quite encouraging. Plus everybody seemed to love it (even the commentary?).

Sadly a word from the wise (fbb, wise?); the switchback ride that Derek describes is the most endearing feature of open top bus operation. There is no recognisable pattern! But if your bank balance is enough to hang on in there, the second year will be better. fbb's best day had a take of £550 with a two-bus service. If every day was like that, fbb could have bought Southern Vectis!

Perhaps not.

But, as they say in the quiz programmes, what is even more exciting is that the real live Mule will be operating the tour  TOMORROW . Converted from a Vectis Bristol RE ...
... fbb has spent many a happy hour riding this beauty back on the IoW.

So expect a full round trip report over the weekend -  WEATHER PERMITTING . See you at 1015 on Friday, Derek.
If you are in the area (there are three to choose from; see yesterday's blog here) have a splendid ride with the Mule or "its big sister".  STRONGLY RECOMMENDED. 
Life in all its tragedic magnificence is teported here at Seaton. Blog readers are invited to be bowled over by the front page headline in yesterday's local Seaton paper.
You can only marvel at the stunning journalism that reveals the whole truth and nothing but the truth from this community-shattering story.
On page 5 we also read:-
 Man Seen Eating Chips 
 in Colyford 
 Next lavatorial blog : Friday 7th August 


  1. Perhaps if Mendip Mule did not have such a cavalier attitude toward registered bus service operation (its raining today, so we're not running, or I have no relief driver and I need some time off, so I'm not running this afternoon) then the takings might be higher. I know of people put off by such spasmodic operation of services, because they do not wish to be left out of pocket and disappointed that an opportunity to ride on a Bristol open topper will be missed.
    Everything the operator says on facebook reinforces the sad disaster area that enthusiast run outfits can be. Its completely uncalled for as there are some excellent ones.
    MM ought to consider restricting itself to more lucrative hire work and tapering back its service commitments to a more realistic level.

  2. In other news, this appeared on VOSA today:


    Registration Accepted
    Starting Point: Bridport Coach Station
    Finish Point: Seaton Sea Front
    Via: Lyme Regis, Axminster
    Service Number: X51
    Service Type: Normal Stopping
    Effective Date: 27-SEP-2015
    Other Details: Daily service

    1. Two days earlier the X53 registration between Bridport and Seaton was cancelled. Also in yesterdays list were changes for the X31 and remaining sections of X53. Time will tell - but does this mean that Poole to Exeter buses will now go via Axminster or !!!!
      FBB's Bournemouth correspoder.