Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Crewkerne Community Cut-back Concerns (2)

It was almost two years ago (October 2014) when fbb reported that South West Coaches were doing battle with First Bus in Yeovil. SWC's route 10 ...
... was intended to nibble away at First's half hearted timetable frame-less local routes 2 and 3. The result, according to local Yeovilite Peter, was that First's buses were even emptier and SWC's carried very few.
It didn't come as a very great surprise to read that SWC had de-registered their two-bus service 10 and 12 ...
... although the pull-back could easily have come from Goliath rather than David! There is no mention of this withdrawal on SWC's web site. Peter wrote thus:-
The next clue came from Simon Newport, boss of First in Weymouth (and Yeovil) ...
... when fbb visited a week or so back. fbb was told that Stagecoach had lost the tender for the 99 and SWC would be taking over. 

Then came another e-mail from correspondent Peter (SCC being Somerset County Council).
So it seems likely that South West Coaches (SWC) decided that trying to make money in Yeovil was a failure and it would be better to deploy vehicles on the new tender.

A couple of points to note. Trains depart Crewkerne Station at xx19 (TO London) ...
... and xx49 (FROM London) as shown on the excellent GoTimetable Seaton app (!).
Currently, Stagecoach 99/99A arrive at the station from Crewkerne at xx00 OR xx50; they return from the station at xx03 OR xx53. Connections are far from ideal, but usable for journey to and from the London direction but less so for journeys way out west.

It should also be noted that the 99/99A run every 90 minutes past the station on Saturdays and it is this poorer frequency which is being delivered by SWC on Mondays to Fridays from 13th June.
The new Saturday service is even more parlous!
Yep, that's it. Five return journeys.

It seems inevitable, as night follows day, that this poorer service will bring about a further reduction of passengers and ultimately the need for higher subsidies; a crazy result of Somerset Council's desire to save money. Continuing the process of decline, next the whole service will go; more cars will use the roads and the total cost to the community purse will increase again.

Good long-term planning, eh?
The SCC scissors have chopped the route from Chard to Yeovil; so what is to happen to the Taunton to Chard leg?

fbb has seen nothing so far. Will Stagecoach hang on to a smaller working unit well away from its Exeter operating base? The 99/99A has already been banished from their network map.
Presumably this bit of the 99 comes under Somerset County Council and they may have different ideas. Buses of Somerset route 99, perhaps? Clearly there are other changes in the offing as South West Coaches will be using number 96 which is currently used for a Stagecoach school journey ...
... which runs direct via the A358 between Taunton and Chard.
They Just Don't Understand
Yet again, the local press gets it wrong. This headline appeared in the prestigious Exmouth Journal.
The site, leased from Devon County Council, is to be sold to Marks and Spencer for yet another retail outlet. It is good to see that provision for public transport comes a far-off second compared with making loadsa money!

The article continues at length about consequent hardship, omitting to explain that very few buses use the bus station; indeed very few passengers use the buys station. It fulfils an operational convenience as it is part of the Exmouth bus depot.

What the article should have headlined is that a site for a new BUS DEPOT cannot be found; operations will transfer to Exeter with extra inconvenience for staff.

There is a similar comprehension problem here in Seaton. Local historian Ted Gosling consistently refers to Axe Valley Travel's BUS DEPOT as Seaton's BUS STATION in his published works. It isn't and it never was.
Despite this hiccup, his books are excellent!

Back in Exmouth, however, Stagecoach have explained that the loss of the bus park will not lead to any changes in timetable; the public will not notice the difference.

Not so good, however, for the staff.
 Next tram blog - Thursday 2nd June 


  1. You do not highlight the loss of all through buses between Crewkerne and Taunton, apart from one schoolday journey in each direction, and that the journey time between Chard and Yeovil (a distance of just seventeen miles) increases from sixty-three minutes to eighty-seven minutes as buses are diverted via Drimpton - this particular diversion was abandoned in 2012 for a total lack of passengers!

  2. The new SWC 96 looks more like a traditional Crewkerne area service and the Taunton college run will be the 96C (see South West Coaches pdf). As per tradition it will interwork on the Yeovil to Crewkerne section with today’s Damory route 40 to Bridport which also serves the station, but in a different order. Historically from Yeovil it was Southern National 61 to Chard all on the A30 and the 47 to Bridport. Crewkerne station was covered by Safeway services’ 682 and Winsham by Stennings. All the timetables were irregular and sparse.
    The 99 route from Taunton to Chard is a modern route (2000-ish) created by Somerset County Council to serve part of the Blackdown Hills and offered for tender at about 3 hourly. It was won by Cooks Coaches who prospered on it and it increased to every 90 mins and had the Chard - Winsham - Crewkerne and Crewkerne – Illminster contracts bolted on to it. Stagecoach took over Cook’s who were struggling to run the Exeter Park and Ride services and created a network around Chard and Crewkerne of which only the 99/A and 96 remain. The Taunton to Chard section is now commercial.

  3. The council has been trying to sell the Exmouth bus station site for years. Eight years ago it was due to become an ASDA store but it all fell through due to the economic downturn and ADSA's reluctance to accede to the council's demands for it to provide a sports centre and various other things in return for planning permission.

    Stagecoach has had ten years to find a new depot site - how hard they've been looking in that time though, who knows?

  4. Surely the fact is that the new depot is on the south side of Exeter and and so they can consolidate all the operations on the one site? The current site, whilst only marginally further away, is more time consuming to get to. Also, having read the article on-line, FBB seems to have missed a rather crucial element of the story (shurely shome mishtake - as they'd say in Private Eye) as it clearly mentions " Stagecoach says it has tried to find a new location, but has been unsuccessful, so buses will be split between its Exeter depot and an ‘out-station’ in Exmouth" AND "we now have to split our Exmouth bus parking across two locations, with around half of the buses running out of our Exeter depot and the remainder from a smaller out-station in Exmouth." So only half the drivers will be affected." I'm sure that's merely an oversight from our esteemed blogger.... With an allocation of c.25, I can appreciate that finding open air storage for that number is not easy. Most agents with a site that large prefer to build on it to get a better return!

    As for the 99, the above poster is correct in that it is commercial between Chard and Taunton with a small outbase at Chard based in a truck dealership. They may retain or dispose but speculation is hardly helpful. Whilst the drop in frequency is sad, it is reflection on the constraints with local authorities and it does at least retain a 6 day service and you wonder how many passengers even used it "Trans Chard"

  5. UK traffic data for the average daily flow of cars on the A30 east of Chard is at least 4,400. Compared with similarly busy roads in parts of the south-east, the Chard-Yeovil corridor should be able to support a half-hourly commercial service. Presumably anything less frequent than that would not attract enough passengers to be commercially viable?

    1. The A30 is a regional road with more than local traffic. Crewkerne only has a population of 8000 and looks to Yeovil for shopping. Chard is 12,000 pop and looks towards the county town of Taunton. It has 2 bus routes 99 and 30. Looking at Chard college buses there are 3 to Taunton, 1 to Bridgwater and 1 to Yeovil.
      Chard to Crewkerne section has little demand and Crewkerne is too small and with a reasonable town centre does not generate traffic for more than a combined hourly-ish service of new 96 and 40.

  6. You need to look at the human factor here. Exmouth bus drivers want to be at Exmouth. If they didn't they would have gone elsewhere ages ago.I put a pound to a pinch of human waste that Stagecoach end up with an initial shortage of drivers. I have no idea of the wages factor but an increase in motion lotion cost to get to and from work needs compensation. It could become too expensive to go to work.

  7. You need to look at the human factor here. Exmouth bus drivers want to be at Exmouth. If they didn't they would have gone elsewhere ages ago.I put a pound to a pinch of human waste that Stagecoach end up with an initial shortage of drivers. I have no idea of the wages factor but an increase in motion lotion cost to get to and from work needs compensation. It could become too expensive to go to work.