Friday, 13 May 2016

Good News for Fearnley's First

Another Bus Company Dies ....
Webber have been competing aggressively with First Bus (buses of Somerset) for many years. Recent incursions have been a series of Taunton town services. Bus watchers have always been mystified as to the Webber's financial business model.
Their fleet was all modern, reportedly leased, vehicles, maintained at en equally modern depot.
Observations at and near Taunton have suggested that, in head-to-head competition, the two operators have generally split the market, taking about half the business each. It would appear that neither has been earning  money which sufficient money to generate a "profit"

Whilst it is sad to see a company fold ...
... yesterday's on-line headlines did, indeed, proffer "financial reasons" for the collapse. The last buses ran yesterday evening. First Bus (aka Buses of Somerset) ...
... has, as yet, made no comment.
What may make First even happier is that the company has picked up most of the Webberbus services that were not in direct competition with the Fearnley business. Somerset Council have announced arrangements for replacement services which would appear to be in the hands of a certain Taunton based company called First. Now would that be different from Buses of Somerset? This represents a marvellous response which was only set in motion on Wednesday evening. An extra 20 vehicles are required at peak.

Well done First.

10 Minehead – Porlock
First are providing a replacement service.

12/15 Wellington – Taunton – Bridgwater
Use First services 21/21A/22/22A,
extra capacity will be provided where necessary

16/24 Minehead – Bridgwater
Please see First service 15 for Minehead/Carhampton
Williton/Watchet/Nether Stowey to Bridgwater College
First service 14 and X14
operates between Bridgwater and Cannington

18 Minehead – Taunton
Use First service 28,
extra capacity will be provided where necessary

19 Bridgwater – Street
First will replace journeys previously operated by WebberBus

26 Wells – Weston-super-Mare
Use First service 126,
additional capacity will be provided
for Easton to Wells Blue School journeys

27 Creech – Taunton
Use First service 29

34 Yeovil – Bridgwater
Hatch Green service 16 is available

37 / 375 Bridgwater – Street – Wells
First will reinstate service 375
and provide additional capacity where necessary

38 Taunton – Street – Wells
Use First service 55

62/66 Weston/Axbridge – Bridgwater College
First will provide these services

67 Wells – Burnham-on-Sea
First will provide replacement service

75 Weston – Burnham – Bridgwater
Use First routes 20/21/21A,
additional capacity provided where necessary

76 Weston – Burnham
Use First service 20

101 Minehead Town Service
First will provide this service

623 Wellington – Bridgwater College
First will provide replacement service

Bridgwater Town Services
First will provide replacement services

Some school runs are provided by smaller operators. fbb gathers that First have, very quickly, assembles an enlarged fleet from various other bits of the empire. The public does get some advantage from the bigguns!

Independence Dies a Little More
In researching this piece, fbb notices that the independent web sites for Cornwall and Somerset have all but disappeared being sucked back into corporate First-world .They are both now just an "area" on First's "global" web site.
Will the Kernow livery ever appear?
How long will it be before Taunton's apples revert to the bland corporate style?

Another (Trolley)Bus Plan Dies 
The plan to spend millions on one single trolleybus route in Leeds has always been controversial. See "Green with envy" (read again). First Bus, major operator in the city even ran a green Borismaster to show how improvements in ordinary bus services would be better value for money. And, of course, better for First's profits!
Anyway, news broke yesterday that the plan has been scrapped by the Department for Transport. It has cost £65 million so far. fbb was in Sheffield yesterday to follow the local news.
The Government Inspector rejected the plan on various grounds.
BBC Look North carefully explained what a trolleybus was (it takes power from wires above the bus but doesn't run on tracks) and interviewed Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew ...
... who is also an under deputy to the deputy assistant to the Minster of Transport. He explained (again) that the project was not good value for money but Leeds City could keep the Government's money (£172 million) and spend it on something else. Free chip butties for all council tax payers? Maybe not.

Also interviewed was Judith Blake, the leader of Leeds City Council ...
... whose comments sounded very much like, "What a pity, but we were expecting it. We must think of something else to do."

First Bus will doubtless be pleased, but had made no comment as this blog was literally put to bed last night.

 Next bus blog : Saturday 14th May 


  1. The planned new livery for Cornwall is still on the cards and I believe the new DDs due this year will be in the new livery. It wont be the scheme shown above - but it sounds like it will be green based

  2. A little irony here.

    "37 / 375 Bridgwater – Street – Wells
    First will reinstate service 375
    and provide additional capacity where necessary"

    To quote from the Webberbus website
    "Due to First Group’s announcement that they will no longer serve the Polden villages, WebberBus are delighted to announce that we will be taking over this route.

    From May 9th to May 28th we will run a temporary service (375) to help those in the Polden villages travel between Wells and Bridgwater. The good news continues as between these dates it will be a FREE service. (Please note the free service ends on May 28th).

    From May 31st 2016 our 37 service will take over."

    A week later First are reinstating their service.

    1. No they're not. They're taking over the contract that Somerset County Council awarded to Webberbus.

  3. Had a gander at the 2014 and 2015 balance sheets of Webberbus. I'm not any sort of accountnat, but from what is revealed there I am not surprised at its failure.

    During the company’s 2014-15 year the accounts show these interesting changes between balance sheet dates.
    Bank loan and other long term finance increase £528K (45%)
    Profit and Loss reserve ` -£256K (-65%)

  4. You would never know Webberbus have ceased operations from t'interwebby-thing. As of 9pm on Friday their website still active with times and fares! A sad end to a great attempt to run competitively . . .

    1. Not if you lived locally. More like a great end to a sad attempt to run competitively. No innovation, copycat routes, bewildering fares, no timetable information, early running to get in front of the competition, drivers unable to communicate in English, regularly missing buses, chucked of the North Somerset Contracts, chucked off the Taunton Park and Ride, no evening or Sunday services. Clearly a belief that First would roll over and walk away leaving them with a monopoly of the above. There's no other explanation for the business model. Oh yes, but they did have lots of shiny rental buses - big deal!

  5. As well as the Webberbus and Leeds NGT news, First were also granted the rights yesterday (12/05/16) to run open-access train services between Kings X and Edinburgh. Three pieces of good news on one day for First - has this ever happened before ? A first for First ? (Sorry about that)

  6. Judith Blake went on on Look North about the need to 'reduce congestion and emissions'... conveniently overlooking the fact that, as stated in the promoters' own case, the trolleybus would have increased congestion and increased emissions! One of the many reasons it was the wrong scheme. In the end though, the destruction of the business case (dodgy modelling, shaky predictions etc) at the public inquiry is what did for it.
    At least they didn't pay consultants millions to come up with all the plans. Oh no, wait, they did...!