Thursday, 22 June 2017

Querying Queensferry

Playing Pass The (Bus) Parcel?
The ferry has been there a long, long time; as hinted in a brief on-line history of the town.

By the early 14th century the town had become a Burgh of Regality along with Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy and Musselburgh, owing duties to the convent of Dunfermline, which also controlled the ferry passage. A charter issued by David II, King Robert Bruce’s son, in 1364, which confirmed the Burgh’s rights and liberties, is held in Queensferry museum. With the privilege of a weekly market and an annual Fair, the town’s trading activities increased.

But it is older than that.

The queen referred to is Saint Margaret of Scotland who is believed to have established a ferry at this point for pilgrims on their way north to St Andrews. She died in 1093 and made her final journey by ferry to Dunfermline Abbey. Her son, David I of Scotland, awarded the ferry rights to the abbey.

But indirect international fame came with the opening of the Forth Rail ridge in 1888.
Car and passenger ferries remained until the new Forth Road Bridge arrived in 1964.
fbb still have examples of stamps in his possession in one of the many unopened boxes that came with the move to Seaton four years ago!

Your author guesses that buses to the town were largely in the hands of Easter Scottish for many years, but waits to be corrected by more knowledgeable readers.
Successors to Easter Scottish were First Bus whose service 43 ran every 20 minutes towards their demise.
Latterly, double deck buses were used ...
... with some journeys continuing to Bo'ness.
In common with many Edinburgh services, X43s ran at peak.
Then in early 2014, news broke that First Bus had given up on Queensferry and Stagecoach would take over with routes 40 and 40A. Basically these ran alternate ways round a lollipop version of the former 43.
The combined frequency was upped to every 30 minutes each way round, effectively a bus every 15 minutes to the town.
There was a launch, complete with a piper, which fbb mentioned in a blog a couple of years ago. It all seemed to be going jolly well.

Why? Stagecoach said that the route was "not sustainable"; but what does that mean? Was it not making enough money? Or was it just a pain in the neck to operate. Uncle Brian's presence in Edinburgh is the highly successful network of services across the Forth Bridge to the Kingdom of Fife.
The 747 runs from the Dunfermline Park and Ride sites to Edinburgh Airport and the X51 exits the map bottom left on its way to Livingstone. Stagecoach has no "ordinary" buses running out of Edinburgh, just posh branded semi coaches.
The express vehicle are specific to these services ...
... which would make operating one "normal" bus service based in Edinburgh something of a pain in some tender part of the Stagecoach corporate anatomy.

But here's the thing; a statement from Lothian within days of the Stagecoach announcement.

A statement from Lothian Buses
We are unable to comment on other operators business decisions with regard to the operation of their bus services either current or future, however it has been highlighted to us today by concerned customers of Stagecoach’s decision to consult on the withdrawal of services from South Queensferry. We will,  as always,  listen to our customers comments and will in due course investigate any potential opportunities that may arise.

So along comes the ever expanding Lothian Buses (corporation transport as was) and sets up a new company specifically to take over this service.
"Country" buses are green, double deck and numbered 43 and X43.
Thought. Is this the same picture used to promote Lothian's recent take-over of First's services to the east, but doctored just a little bit?

At first glance, fares look cheaper than those offered by the withdrawing lot.
Route 43 looks like a direct copy of First's "hook shape" route.
And back comes the X43.

Lothian's frequency is back to First's as well, at every 20 minutes ...
... with the X43s running limited stop in Edinburgh itself at peak.
The timetable leaflet even explains the limited stop-ness very clearly.
There was good local publicity for the launch ...
... combined with some intriguing and thought provoking press-bites.

In a statement, Lothian said: “Historically two major transport providers First and Stagecoach have been unable to operate commercially viable services within this area with low patronage and increasing levels of traffic congestion contributing to their withdrawal. The successful continuation of bus services is wholly dependent on customer usage levels – it’s important that the community embrace our new venture to ensure its ongoing success."

So, use it or lose it - AGAIN? But, suddenly, now that the Council's company is on the job, this comment appears:-

Some of the measures whchh have now been agreed for implementation include traffic signal prioritisation at Princes Street/Queensferry Street junction ...
... and Queensferry Street/Melville Street ...
... a commitment that the existing citybound bus lane is not compromised on approach to Dean Bridge and a review of parking restrictions on key arterial city routes to allow for passing places for buses.

You have to wonder why these measures were not implements for Stagecoach. Such are the benefits of being a Council owned company negotiating, effectively, with itself!

Final question. How long will it be until the 43 is taken over by Horsburgh's of Livingston?

 Next Dorset blog (possibly!) : Friday 23rd June 


  1. A lot of this is wrong.

  2. Easter Scottish?

  3. Please tell, Alan

  4. As around half the route is within the city, many passengers will not use a non-Lothian bus for local travel. So whoever operates it will always be at a disadvantage - except Lothian itself. It's probably the last of the short distance routes that have not gradually been taken over by Lothian (especially to the south of the city) which were once the province of Eastern Scottish.