Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Surprise and No Surprise (2)

Good News or Bad News?
A few weeks ago, fbb reported on a survey being undertaken as a result of changes to the Sheffield Supertram network. In a piece of particularly potty PR, Stagecoach announced that the service was being "improved" by reducing the frequency from every ten minutes to every 12!

Despite the extra trams that have arrived for the Tram Train silliness AND "to enhance existing services", the "excuse" for the reduction is to overcome delays caused by traffic congestion particularly at Hillsborough corner ...
... where trams have to squeeze through a junction busy with buses, lorries and cars. It is the route from east to west through the crossroads that cannot easily be avoided. It is the through route from points north to get to the A57 (Snake) Road.
The "survey" was to canvass opinions on the best way to handle the bus link between the Middlewood tram terminus and Stocksbridge.
Currently link buses run every 20 minutes clockwise via the Stockbridge Estates and every 20 minutes widdershins, connecting with the 10 minute tram frequency. But that won't work with an every 12 minutes tram timetable.
The "survey" was to get people to "vote" for one of three options for the bus timetable. See the appropriate blog (here).

With the tram change looming at the end of this month the chappies at Stagecoach Yorkshire have produced a little booklet.
It is worth remembering that this publication is "selling" a significant  REDUCTION in service.

So we get a reporting-back on the survey.
Couldn't be more positive. Mind you, nobody asked if the public wanted to keep the ten minute frequency on tram and bus! "You said keep it at ten minutes AND WE DID" does NOT feature!

And options for the evening service were considered.
The current evening service runs further into Sheffield to the Hillsborough interchange.
This gave the passenger a wider choice of tram and bus services into the city when frequencies are reduced.
This (above) is SL1a; the SL1 only goes to Moorland Drive and NOT Unsliven Bridge.
The two locations are towards the outer end of Stocksbridge.
But the timings were obviously a bit tight on both routes, hence the survey suggestion of running to Unsliven Bridge OR Moorland Drive on the SL1a, but not both. What the blue panel above does NOT say, however, is that from the end of January ...
... the evening service will have two cuts. Firstly buses no longer run through to Hillsborough; but secondly the evening service is drastically reduced to just three SL1 journeys serving both the "survey" estate options. There will be no evening journeys at all on the SL1a although Moorland Drive and Unsliven Bridge will be served on Sunday daytime when there are no 57s.

NINE evening journeys are reduced to THREE!

It is all very confusing for the poor residents of Stocksbridge.

It is amazing how PR folk can make a drastic cut-back appear to be a positive survey result.
Actually ...
More on the tram and bus link tomorrow.

A Christmas Snippet
About now, two of the model railway manufacturers, Bachmann and Hornby, publish their 2018 catalogue.  Each has items of interest, not just to the dyed-in-the wool enthusiast, but also for the general reader. For example, Hornby is already prepared for Christmas 2018.
Your seasonal "toy" is announced for pre-order at a modest (?) £14. How clever of Hornby to get their customers to pay to advertise their own products!

But you could have bought a 2017 truck ...
... or a 2016 truck.
Availability goes back many many years. Here is 2008 ...
... and 2005.
Presumably there must be avid collectors who seek to obtain one every year and then fill in their gaps by paying high prices. This 2012 "offer" is on EBay.
£50 for a "toy" truck, a totally unrealistic model and a "manufactured" collectors craze.


Over the next few days some more examples of how much you can spend on a "simple " model; the reason why fbb tries to buy second-hand.

 Next surprise/no surprise blog : Wednesday 10th January 


  1. Maybe it is marketing spin at Stagecoach, but I think FBB is yet again merely looking from his ivory tower.
    Times are hard out there in the real world of buses, and the passengers realise that too. Part of my job involves talking to bus passengers and whilst no one wants a reduced service, many understand that a quiet bus can't survive. They probably have no idea about "commercial" and "subsidised" but they are switched on enough to look at the empty seats around them and realise things can't go unchanged.
    Now, I'll be the first to say that I have no idea how the SL1 loads, but Stagecoach are usually pretty switched on, their marketing is generally good (even if they then get accused of telling porkies), and passengers have more intelligence than some credit them with.

    1. Andrew Kleissner9 January 2018 at 16:51

      I have to say that a lot of older folk have - not surprisingly - no understanding of how bus economics work and still think that "the Council ought to do something about it". Mind you, sometimes they do: https://tinyurl.com/y8ru6llm. I'm actually quite surprised that this is a possibility, as Ipswich Borough Council have previously said that competition rules prevent them from subsidising a company they own and only Suffolk County Council can do that. Has something changed or have they decided to alter the way they apply the rules? (As an aside, surely Council-owned bus companies should be able to run more remunerative routes than First etc., as they only need to balance the books rather than making a profit for their shareholders? But it doesn't seem to work like that in practice).

    2. Andrew Kleissner9 January 2018 at 16:53

      Whoops - that should have read " more UNremunerative routes"!

    3. District councils may use the powers in the Transport Act 1985 to subsidise services, though they must follow the same processes as a county council/transport authority. Generally this means tendering, but the de minimis rules - by which a contract can be awarded without a tender - are remarkably generous these days. Up to £25,000 per service, up to £150,000 in total per annum (there's a Statutory Instrument governing the values allowed: The Service Subsidy Agreements (Tendering) (England) Regulations 2002). If IBC intends asking SCC to do it, it will no doubt also have to pay fees to SCC for their time.

  2. Seaford & District have decided to withdraw from operating all day bus services but will still keep operating schools services and their other work.

    Two of the four services have, since yesterday, been operated under hire by Compass. Changes likely subject to KCC/ESCC review and tendering. For more details see their websites.

  3. If traffic congestion etc is making it difficult to keep to the timetable, more running time needs to be provided.

    Sufficient turn round time also needs to be given.

    In most cases like this the current frequency can only be maintained by the provision of an additional bus.

    The improved reliability may help to retain customers but there is no new revenue towards the cost of the addional resources.

    1. But more running time generates its own problems, the buses become slower and less attractive and people start drifting away to other modes, whilst the operator needs to add (at great cost) additional buses into the timetable just to keep the same frequency. From Brighton Area Buswatch newsletter Nov 17:
      "Brighton & Hove routes 5/5A/5B now take 65 minutes between Hangleton and Patcham/Hollingbury compared with 56
      minutes ten years ago, a decline of 16%. B&H says this requires four extra
      buses at a cost approaching £1 million p.a. just to keep the same daytime

  4. BUT a reduction of tram from every ten to every 12 is off peak only Monday to Friday and all day Saturday, so presumably extra trams have been found to maintain the more difficult peak time headway. Whilst congestion can be a problem all day (and unpredictably so) it is near certain that the reduction in frequency will bring a reduction in passengers - it usually does. The gamble is whether the loss of revenue is better or worse than the savings.

    We shall never know.

    The SL1/1A reductions are consequent upon the tram frequency reduction - BUT the cut is much more ferocious in the evenings - so not JUST tram related.