Monday, 5 June 2017

Damory Doom in Dorset

On the way back back from his recent visit to Weymouth, fbb had time to stop and stare in Dorchester, As well as First Bus 10 ...
... and X51 (of which more later), there was plenty to see. Thanks to closing times at Thomas Hardye School, quite a lot runs at around 1600. Here is a "more" (GoAhead) bus on the 187 ...
... actually a Damory (GoAhead) route. This is a delightful run via various Piddles (the name of the river, a k a Puddles).
The blind is attempting unsuccessfully to show "Winterbourne Kingston" one of the many villages with that first name, several of which are in Dorset.
The 307 trundled by ...
... to Kings Stag.
Some journeys continue to Sturminster Newton or Stallbridge.

Add 4 and you get 311 (do the math!) ...
... to Milton Abbas with occasional extensions to Blandford Forum.
 Continuing the 11 theme, an X11 called in ( but not snapped) ...
... on the rural route to Yeovil.

Another X, the 12, followed on having come through from Weymouth ...
... but this time continuing to Blandford with connections to Salisbury.
Also from Damory is the 101 to Crossways ...
We know that schoolchildren on this route ave been moved to First's new service 5.

What is clear from this brief survey is that at about 1600 the "students" from Thomas Hardye School are carried by a whole series of buses run by Damory.

Which makes the recent news headlines very disturbing indeed.

Dorset County Council has agreed to drop 27 rural bus routes in a bid to slash half a million pounds from the rural bus budget.

But at a recent meeting councillors made impassioned pleas for alternative options to be considered further. Cllr Ros Kayes said she had 'very real concerns' about the way the county council's consultation was conducted whilst Cllr David Harris said using the bus was a 'community activity'. 

Cllr Peter Finney, cabinet member for highways, told councillors the current rural bus services weren't fit for purpose. 

The council says it needs to reduce the spend on public transport subsidy by £500,000 from services that run once or twice a week. All the routes are run by Damory, but are only feasible because of council subsidies.

Under the revised scheme, almost 100 villages and settlements will no longer have a bus service.

John, a correspondent to this blog, has compiled a list of services which Damory have cancelled as a result of Dorset's no subsidy policy. It is a long list!
It includes all the services that fbb spotted in Dorchester.

In fact only ONE Damory service will remain after the end of the school term.
Assuming John has done his sums correctly, we are seeing GoAhead subsidiary Damory saying to Dorset County Council,

"If you remove the subsidies, we are closing down, shutting the shop and leaving the mess for the County to sort out!"

Drastic brinkmanship by the GoAhead management and unhappy news for the Dorset residents who might enter a significant bus-less uncertainty.

If the Council does not back down, and when fbb next visits Dorchester, he will have far less to see. And the dear little kiddies at Thomas Hardye will have to walk!

Not likely.

The Dorchester town services 1, 2 and 6 are not under threat (yet!).
fbb did spot a bus on the 6 ...
... and just missed the interworking 1 and 2 whilst popping into his Co-op shop for a nibble and a swig. Return to Axminster was on the X51 but you would struggle to know it. The electronic sign gets you no further than Bridport ...
... whilst the bus hides its real destination in the small print.
The blatant lie "connection for Axminster" is simply unacceptable to the occasional passenger who doesn't know the truth. Bus operators have said that the daft lies are due to "advice" from DaFT! It really it time that the bus operators and local authorities simply told DaFT that their "advice" is twaddle and they are ignoring it. 

If the connection is "on the same bus with through fares" it is a through bus and NOT a connection.
If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck there is more than a fighting chance that it is a duck.

fbb looks forward to hearing of more developments from correspondent John whom he thanks for the information and hard work.

 Next bus blog (topless) : Tuesday 6th June 


  1. The 1, 2 and 6, Dorchester town services are now operated by Dorset CC as is the 20 (formerly part of X12) between Blandford and Salisbury. At the start of the contract 5 years ago Damory operated these as well.

    Not forgetting about a year ago that Dorset CC terminated all services that operated once or twice a week to markets etc in Salisbury and Dorchester.

    The 105 between Wool and Wareham is also a asualty, it was listed the next day.

    Let us hope that some sense prevails - it has been suggested in the Dorset Echo we might have an update after Thursday's General Election.

  2. There is a difference between Damory deregistering and the outright loss of services.

    Current understanding is that First have gained the X12 under tender, the 101 replaced by the 5, and BoS 59 replacing much of the western end of the X10. First have also won much of the schools work in the Bridport/Beaminster area.

    South West Coaches have been very successful in winning various routes that will effectively replace the 309, 59, X9, X11 and part of the X10. SWC have won schools work in Sherborne and Gillingham additionally.

    In addition, Go Ahead have retained many of the schools work in Blandford, Purbeck, Ferndown and most pertinently, Dorchester.

    There are a number of services that are still requiring confirmation of their future or the operator and this will be confirmed in due course. Some will undoubtedly not survive because of the need to trim budgets but believe that some will survive in a modified form and that negotiations are in progress.

    Given that FBB has made much of his relationship with the First management in Weymouth, I'm surprised that he hasn't sought to confirm the voracity of the story with them. Don't believe everything in the clickbait world of the Dorset Echo!!!

  3. Thanks Anon at 0804. It would appear that Damory's brinkmanship might have been self-destructive? The crunch question must be to ask the politicians how much they have actually saved by this process. There is a long history in the bus industry of "making savings" then having to put most (if not all) of the costs back!

    1. Perhaps a different way to look at it is that DCC have to make savings as their central grant is reduced and there are many statutory duties that they cannot shirk. Therefore, they've gone out to tender but not in the once size fits all style of the previous tender. Instead, seems to be more regionalised based on four distinct spheres of operation.

      They've now established the costs etc for the essential parts of the network but then have to work out what they can do with the budget available and the "lesser" services.

      I don't think it's brinkmanship from Damory either but that the world has moved on. They were the best price for one award; however, the suspicion is that individually or locally, there were cheaper options. That's always the gambit - do you tender in one block in the hope of economies of scale/purchasing leverage or are you missing out on opportunities locally through those with local/niche advantage on an area by area or route by route basis? Also, must consider that Go Ahead may well be looking for a higher margin than in the past (perhaps they were very keen before), and we have the resurgence of First who may be more realistic with their margin expectations. All things we just don't know!

      Fully agree with anon 09:23 - you can understand why some of the bigger groups now shy away from operating rural services in the current financial and recruitment environment

  4. I won't, for hopefully understandable reasons, mention the companies or locations, but in talks elsewhere a GoAhead subsidiary has indicated that if council funding was withdrawn it would shut up shop, including the services which are currently commercial, as with half the fleet gone the overheads cannot be shared by what is left.
    Just like another large group subsidiary told us "why should I run rural buses, miles from base, in X [county] when I can use those same vehicles, and more importantly scarce drivers, on my large city network where they are more easily managed, more easily recovered if they breakdown and bring in more revenue?"
    It's a tough world out there, one which the recent Bus Service Act totally ignores.

    As for changing the "...with connection for..." policy, upsetting the licensing authority isn't to be recommended.

  5. A better way of observing the "advice" from DfT is the use of the word "then". Buses on Transdev's 36 from Ripon to Leeds show "Harrogate then Leeds" with "Leeds" in larger letters. Alternatively use "for" as in Stagecoach's 42 from Lancaster to "Garstang for Blackpool". Neither implies a connection to worry the occasional passenger and the regulars just look for the service number anyway.

  6. TM travel use the word Then to show if it's bakewell or chatsworth first on the 218

  7. EU drivers hours regulations makes a difference between bus and coach operation. A bus has to be on routes of less than 50 km (31.1 miles) to apply. Britain gets around this by having connecting short routes. Most of Europe does not have long bus routes. Brexit may fix this.

    1. Spot on . . . . EC drivers' hours was intended to prevent a coach driver in France driving without a break on motorways to Germany. Jolly good idea . . . ever driven from London to Glasgow without a break? I have (in a car) and I probably wasn't that safe north of Carlisle!!

      Bus routes, by their very nature, are stop-start services. Even sitting at a bus stop waiting time for a minute or two allows the driver to stretch, maybe even leave the seat and properly relax before carrying on. The 50km rule was ill-applied to the UK, and we should have properly derogated it instead of trying to wriggle round the rule by split-registrations.
      The "it's a duck" rule should also be applied, and sod the DfT - they have enough to do with screwing up the raliways, and never leave London or travel by bus anyway . . . . .

    2. Ive always thought the two sets of drivers' hours regs were illogical. After all, what is more tiring: driving along a motorway at a steady 60moh or stopping and starting at every lamp post in heavy traffic for 4 or 5 hours at a stretch. And drivers can "properly relax" at stops only if they don't have to collect any fares.

    3. Having done both - sitting at 62.5 MPH on a motorway for hours on end is hellish - no steering, no gear-changing - just plain boring; and maintaining concentration under those circumstances is really challenging.
      Give me bus work any day (although not in heavy traffic!!); a nice interurban route with plenty of passengers and some open roads in between the villages will do me nicely.

  8. This exercise (and the previous exercises) at Dorset CC shows how much politicians should butt out when it comes to local bus services.

    There was the "big bang" exercise, when everything was given to Damory in the hope of economies of scale saving money. Quite how a bus operator can save money with services to a school when the routes serve all points of the compass was never clear . . . . you can't combine 4 routes from North; East; South and West of the school . . . an understanding of local geography should have made that clear.
    It also forced out many of the local operators (such as Shaftesbury and District) from operating any contracted services, where they were able to cross-support between schools and shoppers in their own little patch of the County.

    Then there was the "cancel everything with less than 10 pax per trip" debacle, when many of the market-day services bit the dust, even though they were costed marginally in between school runs.

    Then there was the "why not use buses in between school runs to operate shoppers services" fiasco, when operators were encouraged to commercially operate the very services that Dorset CC had just withdrawn the subsidy from . . . . . surprisingly there were few takers, as (a) the services had gone because Mrs Scroggins had either died or got a lift and (b) the school runs themselves were now under threat.

    Now we're seeing Dorset CC wriggling and blaming the operators for not simply thanking them for (a) lower subsidies per route and (b) lower OAP reimbursement.

    I have great sympathies with many of the comments above . . . . . the Transport Act 1985 forbade cross-subsidy between routes (not that many operators paid more than lip-service to it, and effectively tried to maintain networks where possible), and instructed operators only to run routes that MAKE A PROFIT, leaving Councils to buy in the socially-necessary services.

    Local councils have now mucked up the RTPI screens (fbb passim); mucked up printed and roadside publicity (statutory duty ignored?) and are intent on removing any semblance of a supported network of socially-desirable services. Can anyone blame Damory (or anyone else) for walking away from the whole sorry mess? What about the drivers? Yes, TUPE will apply, but how many bus drivers in Pimperne will transfer with the X9; X10; X11 to work from Wincanton?

    Will the Buses Act 2017 make any difference? Of course not - franchising (if it ever happens) is aimed at the big cities, where, quite frankly, the population get a pretty good service already. Rural bus services? Dead in the water unless LTA's step up and fulfill their obligations.

    And so the whole sorry circle goes round, and round, and round . . . . . .

  9. We now know that Dorset CC have just tendered for seven interurban routes and six clusters of schools. This afternoon the first award has been listed by First Wessex for the 12 from Weymouth to Blandford via Dorchester on the Vehicle Operating Listing website from 24 July 2017. It is all the villagers who are not on an interurban route who will suffer.

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  11. See comment yesterday at 0804 - South West Coaches have been awarded various contracts to replace those routes.

    1. And Go South Coast (Damory) have the Wimborne cluster schools contract - so Yellow Buses have lost out here - currently they share this area.