Friday, 4 March 2016

(Le) Crunch Part 2

A Sheffield correspondent attended the "Crunch" meeting to observe the bus operatprs' being "held to account". The blog below is based on his personal impressions with addition comment from fbb.

After the introductions and formalities the Chairman invited questions to the Operators and the PTE from members of the public. Some of these had been notified in advance. These were dealt with first then others could raise questions from the floor. All unsubmitted questions were asked and then the Operators would be able to respond. Several of the folk came  representing neighbourhood groups and TARAs, etc (Tenants' and Residents' Associations).

The questions were, as expected, all along the usual lines: unreliability, lost links, frequency reductions and about the usual services.

Most often mentioned was 24/25 which no longer runs via the the Railway Station/Interchange.
The "Partnership" concoction was a merger of route 53 (First Bus : to Lowedges, extended to Bradway evenings and Sundays) and 25/25A operated competitively by Stagecoach and First. The merger was a reasonably sensible move as far as Lowedges and Bradway were concerned, but it created one PR problem.
The old 53 entered the city via Queens Road and the Railway Station and the old 25/25A use the roads around The Moor. The new 24/25 followed the old 25/25A thus depriving passengers of any direct link to the trains.

The 24/25 stops on Arundel Gate opposite the former Howard Street, now a walkway through the Hallam University city campus (click on the map to enlarge it) ...
Agreed, this is a longer trek than from the 53 which used the stop just peeping into the map at the bottom. Tough if you have luggage but hardly a mega-disaster. It would be interesting to know how many folk have been thus deprived; a statistic that can never be reliably assessed.

As soon as the Partnership's initial proposals were published, it was obvious that Derbyshire Lane would be a hot potato. Rather than repeating the detail, this was fbb's conclusion.
If you are desperate to read the whole shebang it is (here). The current arrangements (revised from the original plans) are still wholly unacceptable to the local residents' association despite pleas from First Bus that services via Derbyshire Lane were totally uneconomi.
Service 35, running from city via various bits of Grimesthorpe, Standon Road, Firth Park and across to Hillsborough is the third or fourth attempt to provide a service which was, until November last year, every half an hour. In the early stages the service was appallingly unreliable. And here is why:-
Keeping to a round-trip time of two hours proved unworkable. A bit of jiggling and some re-linking in City has helped; but the service is a prey to roadworks and traffic delays. It can still be unreliable even after the changes. But an extra bus in the cycle would increase the costs. Such are the burdens of a bus operator trying to balance service against economics. From a users' point of view, the service cut is painful in the extreme, but worse if the bus doesn't turn up on time.

Then there were the complaints about the changed routing of  some well established services.

Also mentioned were the routes of 1/1A in Firth Park, 83/83A in Pitsmoor (they want them back via the pre-change routes) and the route of 10/10A in the City Centre (they want it back via Charter Row - ditto).

There seemed to be a reluctant acceptance of cuts in frequency but few could understand the need to make the changes to the routes. If the operators had kept the same routes the change would have gone down much better.
The operators' representatives then responded, with Mr Smooth (Stagecoach's Paul Lynch) first, not really answering many of the points, but with plenty of verbosity.
Kevin Belfield (First Bus) was next. He did not have much to say as Mr Smooth had really said it all already.
PTE Executive Director Stephen Edwards' response was next. It was in the form of a Powerpoint presentation, the content of which we know already, having been used in an earlier blog (read again), word for word. It was however accompanied by gee wizz graphs and diagrams which were unreadable except for those in the front row and in any case passed over the heads of most of the audience.

The Chairman then concluded the meeting at 1200 by saying that all the points raised had been carefully noted and would be considered and a further review meeting held in June or July.

As "The Star" reported, fbb has concluded that the meeting did not really convince the representatives of the bus-riding public of the benefits of the whole Partnership package. Yes, after multiple tweaks to the timetable and the reduction in City roadworks, reliability is now much much better. Yes, the new Multi-operator day ticket is selling well as, effectively, a day rover deal which can be used as a milti-operator return (ditto weekly).

Poor information, inconsistent and delivered late, is still a major moan.
... but no 81 & 82 timetables available!

Consistency? Partnership? What Partnership?

And the minority who have been seriously inconvenienced are still far from happy BUT ...

When, on Wednesday, fbb asked the First Bus people (privately) whether the changes had made the network profitable, he was told that such information was commercially confidential. But pre the November change words like "grim" and "dire" were being bandied around. This time there was a twinkly in the eye as the "no comment" was spoken on the lips.
If things are at least better business-wise, that is ultimately beneficial to the residents of the Steel City.

 Next blog (models and more) Saturday 5th March 


  1. "If things are at least better business-wise, that is ultimately beneficial to the residents of the Steel City." Really? What utter tosh! It's beneficial to the bottom line of First Bus, their shareholders and those sanctimonious idiots in the SYPTE who helped push this nonsense through. Unless public transport road or rail is operated for the benefit of the passenger and not the shareholder the average person in the street will have to compromise. So many good words, good intent and plans for no benefit whatsoever. Scrap the SYPTE now (they're doing it anyway through passing everything to the City Region - just speed it up) and have a democratic representative body created that actually cares.
    Oh...sorry....wake me up now... the reality is a Tory dominated agenda that cares nothing for ordinary people. Buses who needs them?

  2. Your "tosh" comment is, of course valid. But under the current system (however bad it may appear to be) a profitable bus company that invests in new vehicles etc. etc. is far better than one that goes bust; e.g. Stagecoach in Plymouth versus Tates of Barnsley!

    1. Well said buses should pay for themselves instead of lumbering the taxpayers.SYPTE may not be perfect but its public control.You cant win with buses.Everyone looks at London which costs over a billion in subsidy alone.