Friday, 23 February 2018

Another Stagecoach Closure?

The Shape of Things To Come?
The local press in Fort William has broken the news of another Kings Lynn-type total pull out. Of course it is "one option being considered" but Stagecoach has to use such woolly wily words due to its legal responsibility to have "full staff consultation".

But we know what it really means!
The following extracts are distilled from the recent article.

The potential closure of its Fort William bus depot is one of the options being considered by transport giant, Stagecoach, in a review of its operations in Lochaber. Employees of the company are now being consulted on future options for the business and Stagecoach says it is working closely with trade unions to minimise the potential impact on staff.

In a shock statement issued by Stagecoach today (Wednesday February 21) the company revealed that, since April last year, the company had been unable to cover the cost of running its local network due to a combination of tender losses, reduced passenger demand and higher costs, and the situation is no longer sustainable.

The operator – which runs eight vehicles and employs 16 staff in Fort William – has had recent discussion with Highland Council about the future of some services in Lochaber.

The article revels that local service 45 will cease after business on March 17th.
Caol is a pleasant community developed in the 1930s to provide housing for the growing industries in the area.
It is also the location of the Stagecoach depot.
Nothing is said in the article about other routes, notably the evening 47 which continues from Caol to Corpach ...
... and provides a chunk of the Forth William town service. Needless to say the Stagecoach map, copied above, does not match the timetables. It shows the local stuff as being a service 45/46! But see below.

It is reasonable to assume that the trunk route 19 to Inverness can be operated from its northern end ...
... but again, no clear announcement about service 41.
... where the Saturday service is the same as the Monday to Friday school holiday offering. Service 42 on the Stagecoach local map currently runs on schooldays only.

Stagecoach says its Scottish Citylink services to Glasgow, Inverness, Oban and Skye will continue to operate.
The other uncertainty is route 44 which operates south to Kinlochleven every hour.
This offers a gorgeous run down the lochside ...
... and a possible connection with the Corran Ferry.
Sadly you won't find much public transport on the peninsula ...
... but the scenery is delicious throughout Àird nam Murchan!
It is hard to see how the 44 could operate without a deport at Fort William.
Reacting to the news, local MP Ian Blackford told us: ‘I am saddened to hear that Stagecoach is currently reviewing the future of its operation in Fort William and hope that this will not result in closure.’

Nice soundbite, Ian, BUT ...

Stagecoach says it is now "also" considering further options, including what is termed the ‘closure of the business’, but will continue discussing its proposals with Highland Council and other operators to protect as much of the local network as possible.
The most likely beneficiary from the "possible" closure will be Shiel Buses. Back in the days of the Great Britain Bus Timetable (c. year 2000), this company was a small operator of rural routes in Ardnamurchan.
It has expanded greatly and now runs on some former town routes in Fort William. Here is an extract from their service 46/47 to Corpach ...
... and their 42 to Glen Nevis.
Operating a fleet of 35 vehicles ranging in size from 16 seater luxury mini–coaches to 49 seater luxury coaches, the majority of which are DDA Compliant and wheelchair accessible.
The business operation provides school and service contracts operating between Fort William and the Mallaig, Morvern and Ardnamurchan Peninsulas. Private Coach Hire and individual coach and bus tours are also undertaken with a wealth of experience.

Shiel has also been involved in operating contractually for Citylink.
So farewell to Stagecoach in Fort William, almost certainly.

Where next?

Bus watchers and rumour-mongers report that Uncle Brian is still losing money in Sheffield ... so ...

Today's planned technology blog is postponed until ...

 Next technology query blog : Saturday 24th February 


  1. Does Bryan blame his axe on his EastCoast rail venture with Richard that has gone £wrong?

    1. And once again in English....?

  2. At the last Highalnd Council retendering 1. In 2016 Stagecoach lost many of their tenders in Fort William, including a lot of school work, to Shiel Buses. The future of the operation has always looked wobbly since then.
    2. Services in Ardnamurchan are thin,but so is the population! There is a daily (well, M-S) Kilchoan-Fort William return service(a descendant of MacBraynes route), a daily Acharacle-Glenfinnan Fort Bill return and one from Lochaline to Fort Bill, twice a week in School Hols and daily in term time. This is as good, or better. than anything that operated 'back in the day'.
    3. Shiel's website shows that they plan to run the Glen Nevis service this summer (it has not, as a rule, run in winter).
    4. The 19/919 to Inverness is 65 miles long- I don't think it could be run just from the Inverness end. In fact most of the service is a Citylink operation so will presumably be subcontracted to Shiel, or someone else.Historically Highland, and then Stagecoach, ran some journeys in their own right, but with interavailable tickets. BUT the latest Citylink timetable shows Shiel as already running a couple of journeys- with no mention of Stagecoach.

  3. Quite why they haven't uploaded the standalone map I don't know (perhaps they forgot?), but there is an updated map in the back of the timetable booklet:

    I would presume there is nothing clear on the other services because no decision has been taken yet. I understand from other forums it is a very large depot with very few vehicles allocated.

  4. The 19/919 was a good service with ticket interavailability as Stagecoach had the Citylink contract. The council paid for a couple of 19C trips. There was a run at 0530 from Inverness to 'The Fort'. The last journey from Inverness was 2015 with a 2040 Fort William to Inverness. I have used both the early and late trips ... there were other passengers! Changes to the Citylink contracts and yet another tendering process has resulted in the fragmentation of this route. Shiel Buses run the 919 from FTW so the last northbound is 1645. Bus operations in the Highlands are not a coveted profit centre but can carry a respectable number of passengers if the people can rely on stability. Much money is spent by local entities on studies e.g 'what do people want from rural transport?'. By the time the obvious results are analysed, it's all a bit late.