Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Excellent X53 (2)

Wanderings and Wonderings in Weymouth.
Mrs fbb had suggested (firmly) that hubby should take a mac last Thursday and, as forecast, precipitation precipitated in the early afternoon. But we are ahead of ourselves. This "jolly chappie" ...
... is Simon Newport, boss of First Bus in Weymouth and Yeovil. He had asked for a chat with your author and was prepared to come to Seaton. "Nay," quoth fbb, "It behoves me to travel by X53 to Weymouth and back. It will make a nice day out (and provide material for a blog or two)."

Mr Newport, fbb was informed by a hi-vis adorned First Bus person as he approached the King Street entrance (back gate) ...
... together with "the management" had moved out of the depot itself into palatial offices (NOT), obviously once residential property complete with shop fronts on the main road.
Was this, in times past, the Southern/Western National booking and enquiry office, well situated opposite the station? Wouldn't it be a jolly good ideas to open up the "shop" and make publicity readily available. Tourist Information is miles away at the old harbour, so where might a visitor go to collect the superb Weymouth timetable book?
Of course, in those long-lost days when everyone took a week's holiday at the seaside ...
... the station (here in 1926) was very busy indeed!

But boss Simon has a view of the smaller modern station building from his office window.
fbb mused idly, whilst waiting for his cuppa, about the so-called good old days ...
... and the not so good old days of the minibus revolution.
Now wasn't that, with the benefit of hindsight, a really daft idea. How to make money; pay four drivers to carry that same number of passengers as one single deck bus - a superb business model.

fbb also remembered when his ride from Axminster would have been via Dorchester and on a through service 31 from Weymouth to Taunton.
Now that would have been a ride and a half.
But awakened from his reverie, it was back to reality. What "goss" did fbb glean from young Simon. Actually nothing very surprising, but, nevertheless, indicative of the pressures of running (trying to run?) a profitable bus company at the seaside and dependent on the vagaries of British weather.

1. Cold Easter, April and May; visitors down; profits down?

Torrential rain and high winds have been a blow to Weymouth traders over Easter – but business owners remain positive ahead of summer. A sunny Good Friday gave way to a wet and windy Easter weekend as Storm Katie battered Dorset, turning the end of the Bank Holiday into a washout. And the weather has remained unsettled since then. The sudden switch from beach to brolly weather proved difficult for a number of local enterprises that rely on the tourist trade.
“Weather is massive factor for us,” said Daren Deadman, of The Boat cafe on the Esplanade. “The days that were nice, we were busy, so it was an average Easter for us.”

2. The hourly service between Weymouth and Axminster; and the half hourly frequency between Bridport and Axminster (X53 plus X51) seem to be working. fbb was, initially, doubtful; now he is not so sure.

3. The amount of money that Dorset pays to bus companies for each Old Bid journey is laughably inadequate. First Bus earned £1.60 for fbb's four hour return journey between Axminsterr and Weymouth.

4. (unsaid but obvious) Splitting the former X53 into three chunks will help that inadequate OAP scheme to deliver just a few more pennies.

5. Running buses at the seaside is a tough business.
fbb and Simon discussed the X52 Lyme Regis to Exeter via Seaton. Unsurprisingly it is not an instant success, partly following on from the cutbacks in October 2015 and now with Stagecoach buses running every hour from Lyme Regis to Exeter.

Bravely, fbb asked if the X52 would remain for the winter. The bus watchers rumour mill is adamant that it won't. The Weymouth Boss was not forthcoming at this stage but did proffer his desire to keep it going if possible.

Not possible thinks fbb; the damage done last October is terminal. But there was the smell of optimism in the air, so maybe something will emerge.

fbb left the office feeling the the Weymouth area was in good hands. Thanks for the opportunity for a chat.
Time for lunch in a lovely little caff opposite the station.
A modest all day breakfast with a potta ...
... supplemented by an almond slice for pud, all for about £6; eaten al fresco to watch the world and the buses go by. The tall (!) young gell (of oriental extraction) did offer fbb a "spreener" with his tea, which he dutifully and ignorantly declined. On the bus back, he worked out that he could have had a tea-strainer!

The original plan was take a trip or two on Weymouth local services ...
503 looked interesting ...
... as the bus runs into the private roads of the park.
But dark clouds were looming, so fbb cobbled together a plan B. 1336 service X53 ro Bridport, then a five minute connection onto the X52 to Seaton.

But ...

 Next X53 blog : Monday 23rd May 


  1. The reimbursement rate to operators is 'generally' just below 50% of the average adult fare paid on that service. The figures will vary but the mechanics of determining it are usually based on the guidance issued the DfT.

  2. Devon County Council would have reimbursed First for all or part of your outward journey from Axminster Railway Station, not Dorset County Council.

  3. Stephen Holman22 May 2016 at 19:48

    The Southern National enquiry office used to be at 5 Royal Terrace ie on the Esplanade near Kings Statue so in full view of the holiday makers and could display all the tours available rather than down the side street that is Edward Street and a not particularly interesting road.
    Just for comparision in summer 1965 Service 32 would offer 3 journeys between Weymouth and Bridport with an about hourly service from Bridport to Axminster. Additionately service 47 joint with Devon General provided 2 return journies with change of bus at Axminster.
    Summer service via Abbotsbury was 3 return journeys with some shorts between Bridport and Swyre and shorts between Abbotsbury and Weymouth.
    The service between Charmouth and Sidmouth via Seaton is too complicated and erratic to explain without a timetable.
    Perhaps we should be grateful for the increased service levels even if they are not perfect

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  5. Hello,
    Is Simon Newport still the manager at Weymouth please.. If so I need to talk to him