Friday, 27 April 2018
From First, A Voyage Of Discovery
Not many years ago, if fbb had shown his readers this graphic, the last bus operator that readers would have expected to read about would be First. For the Aberdeen-based group, everything was corporate without exception. Even after Fearnley's arrival, Barbie became new Barbie, but still applied universally.
Slowly, but effectively, branding of services and specific route marketing began to creep into some parts of First Group's local management.
At the end of this month, something dramatic happens in Bath.
Three inter-urban routes get a stunning make-over. The leaflets are particularly attractive ...
... with information panels to encourage passengers to, well, discover.
The D1 (Bath to Warminster and Salisbury) is the only one of three to be largely unchanged from its predecessor 265.
As you can see, it runs every 30 minutes to Warminster with a continuation to Salisbuty every two hours. In Trowbridge, alternate journeys run via the "new" A363 and the well-landscaped White Horse Business Park (with pond) ...
... whereas the other half stick to the old main road through North Bradley.
But the D2 and D3 are a real step forward.
The 267 ran hourly to Frome with some journeys looping via Rode.
At Frome, all journeys served the newer estates north of the town centre via the delightfully named Clink, not shown on the map above. South of the town, buses performed a one way loop via Gibbet Hill and Critchill (more lovely names) and back via Sainsburys and the main road.
The D2 becomes every 30 minutes!
The loop, now incorporates a bit of everything, ...
... with buses running via Clink, Frome Centre, direct to Sainsburys, then via Gibbet Hill, Frome Centre and straight back along the main road. But, because the frequency is doubled, buses now run alternate ways round this mega-blob thus giving all bits of the town at least an hourly "direct" ride to everywhere.
Rode now gets a bus every hour.
Very well thought-out, First Bus!
Likewise the old hourly 272 ...
...becomes the half hourly D3.
All journeys run via Batheaston, rather than some using the snazzy A4 by-pass road.
First does have competition on the D2 and D3 corridors from, for example, Faresavers X72 (via the Batheaston by-pass) ...
... nibbling away at the contents of First's piggy bank; likewise an X67 to Frome.
Both these only run on Mondays to Fridays. Not knowing the fares structures at the moment, fbb can only hops that those from First are attractive enough to make the increased frequency a commercial success.
Unfortunately, First's leaflets only quote their "M-ticket" prices ...
... with the ominous warning "Tickets on bus may cost more" - off-putting to the casual user and first time user intent on "Discovering". fbb did go to "firstgroup.com/discover" but there was nothing about "ordinary" fares at all.
What developments like this really need is something like a "May Madness" special offer of a day return for £3 (???!!!) to "get the punters in".
But overall this is a superb example of how to make bus travel attractive. Compare it with fbb's examination of just one bus stop in Leicester or, even more depressingly, with a total lack of any meaningful publicity in Sheffield, and you quickly realise that bus companies still have a lot to learn!
And, in a month's time we have M3, T1, and T2 arriving in Bristol. fbb can't wait - but will have to, with a visit planned after the late May Bank Holiday. What excitement!
Next Bourrnemouth Bits blog : Saturday 28th April