Thursday, 1 October 2015

Solent Blue Line's Southampton Surge

How Different from the Early Days
But first ...
Lyme Regis Shuttle Shambles In Pictures.
Shuttlebus X53 on Monday
Shuttebus X54 on Wednesday
Yes : Beyond belief - AGAIN.
It was about Easter in 1987 that fbb (less f then!) was driving down Park Road in Ryde when he spotted a row of Southern Vectis buses in a strange livery.
It turned out that this was the start of Solent Blue Line, a wholly owned Southern Vectis subsidiary. Three city routed began the service in May 1987, operating from a rudimentary yard near Ocean Village. Maintenance was by a two man team with van and spanner, usually by the roadside. One initial selling point (soon abandoned) was the use of conductors.
The incumbent Southampton City Bus was a non-change operator. One of the original three services (140) was extended cross city to Butts Road.

It became obvious, but never officially admitted by the Company, that the assault on Southampton was far from a financial success. But the company was saved in a very odd way.

Brian Souter, then, as now, King Stagecoach, was making his famous assault on privatised National Bus Company operations. Uncle Brian, then unadorned by his now-famous facial fungus, bought Hampshire Bus, the Southampton and Winchester area of the former Hants and Dorset.

Having purportedly made a stonking profit by selling a depot and a bus station in the city for development, he was left with buses and no base. So he offered this chunk of his new acquisition to Vectis. On the same day, Blue Line also bought the Eastleigh area operations of Basil Williams' Hants and Sussex company.
VLW 545 was an ex London Transport "Merlin" (aka Swift anywhere else in UK). 

Within months of the Hampshire Bus acquisition, all services in direct competition with The City company were abandoned, leaving Vectis with the former Hants and Dorset cross city route from Thornhill to Millbrook.

But what goes around, comes around. Back in 2012 BlueStar went back to Townhill Park one-time terminus of the original 1987 route 140!
Solent Blue Line had, in the interim, rebranded itself as "BlueStar" and been acquired by the GoAhead group..

Then, following a cut-back by First, BlueStar started route 7.
The route went via Sholing to Butts Road, the destination shown on the "Conductor Bus" pictured above.
First Bus, successors to City Bus, still run to Butts Road but by a more circuitous route.

But Barbie buses were to throw the next punch by returning competitively to Thornhill with a frequent (every 7/8 minutes) route 10 in direct competition with BlueStar 18.
There is no doubt that Red 10 will hurt Blue 18.
BlueStar 16 was rerouted on the same date to grab a bit of business from First's cancellation of their 12 in the east of the City.
But more was to come. The next Blue into Barbie territory is route 17.
This encroaches further into First territory ...
... nibbling away at bits of Red 3 ...
... and non-red 12.
It is all happening in Southampton. First produced a VERY boring "talking heads" video to announce its September changes. If you want four minutes and fourteen seconds of visual non-excitement, please search on YouTube.

Coincidentally EFE have just (re?)introduced a model of one of the first Blue Line buses on service 160.
Kids Say Such Funny Things
Substitute "Senior Bus Managers" for Kids and you get it about right for the disastrous cutback of popular First Bus X53 between (non)Lyme Regis, Seaton and Exeter. Reduced "for Winter" from every two hours to three useless trips, it has gone down like the proverbial lead balloon with the local yokels in East Devon.

When accosted by the press, boss Marc Reddy ...
... is reported as saying that the three remaining trips "would be adequate for our customers' needs." Marc is based in Southampton, thus at the very heart of an operation 88 miles away in East Devon!

Stand by for a "vigorous" response in the local press letters columns.
Yep, readers of this blog over the last few weeks will agree with that.
It is indeed a difficult mental exercise to understand how removing a fixed interval service every two hours and replacing it with operationally convenient but passenger VERY inconvenient sporadic trips is in ANYBODY's interests.
Of course, Seaton residents have the slower hourly 52A which doesn't serve the Exeter hospital.
Presumably the letter writer has not yet been made aware that she cannot even get to Lyme Regis on any X53 and must use the equally inconvenient 899 which does NOT run on Saturdays and Sundays.
Too true. This is all about shareholders needs. This is fair enough, First Bus is in business to make a profit BUT ...

This decision has, very effectively, destroyed this service which will soon, fbb expects, be withdrawn entirely west of Axminster because it has so not met the needs of its customers ...


And from the esteemed personage of the Mayor of Colyford, a note that he has distributed to his loyal subjects.

Having now scrutinised the bus timetable, I would suggest that you do not bother to catch the X53 at all. Park your car in Harepath Road near Lyme Bay Auctions and catch the 52A bus to Exeter from there.

The first bus using a free bus pass is at 1009 and gets to Exeter at 1129.

The 52A runs all day and also on Saturdays and Sundays. (I have not checked if the timings are exactly the same).

The X53 is a completely different matter. The following buses run Monday to Saturdays. There are no buses on a Sunday.

There are now only 3 buses a day to and from The Elms Bus Stop to Exeter. 0711 1131 1536

Return buses from Exeter Bus Station are at 0930 1343 1750

If you catch the 1131 from The Elms it gets to Exeter at 1257 and the next one back is at 1343 which gives you approximately 3/4 hour in Exeter!! Or you wait until 1750.

If you want to go East then you can also catch the 885 bus to Axminster Station and then change to the X51 and X53 to Lyme Regis and Bridport. If you want Dorchester, Poole etc there are not so many buses.
 Next bus blog : Friday 2nd October 

1 comment:

  1. The sale of Southampton by Stagecoach wasn't down to not having a depot, they still had the Eastleigh site that Bluestar currently run from. The reason I had heard when I worked there was that the Union at Southampton refused to do some coaching work which was happily taken up by staff at Winchester & Basingstoke. This refusal angered Brian Souter at being dictated to by his Union and so sold the site to remove the troublemakers.