Friday, 14 June 2019

First Kernow Publicity

fbb has recently received the summer edition of the timetable for First's operation in Cornwall.
It is a high quality product and, of course, FREE.

The Cornwall business has picked up remarkably in recent years. First came the purchase of Truronian, arguably for too much money, then came the collapse of Western Greyhound. This gave the "traditional" Cornwall operator its near monopoly back and, obviously, removed competition. Some astute management led to additional college business and a good relationship with the County.

Sadly, for the visitor, the booklet does not cover the few remaining "other operators' services", but these are minor and very local.

Details of what used to be called season tickets are given ...
... with the now inevitable discount for the slower and, according to some, less reliable App technology. What remains astounding is the high price for a day rover (£13/£15) and the oddly cheap price for a week's ticket (£26/£28) at approx £4 a day. Some would class the one day price as one huge rip-off, discouraging to occasional visitors to the area.

It would be interesting to know how sales of the day ticket have grown/fallen over the last few years.

Some of the actual timetables are an interpretative challenge. Here is service 55 ...
... where only one journey runs without notes. Part of the problem is caused by merging Monday to Friday and Saturday timetables - understandable to save space - but less helpful because of potential confusion. There is room in the book to split the worst offenders, and with clear dayset heading this would help.

Silly things can also confuse. Here the blue shaded journey offers an arrival at Seven stars (Helston) ...
... but no departure time. Does that mean you cannot use it to get from town to Tesco? Unlikely.

Back to the 55 timetable above and one of fbb's on-going beefs about this book. There are SIX stops called "Bodmin". Which is the main town centre stop? fbb would prefer ...
Maybe even better would be "Bodmin Heritage Railway" for "General"? That might drum up a bit of extra business for the preserved line. (Whoops, fbb mistryped "Morrisons"!!).

Maps are generally excellent as ever and are a credit to the operator and the cartographer. The network maps now covers three double page spreads and it is easy to follow across joints and page turns.

Each town has a block of blobs showing routes that serve that community.
Seasonal is not the best word to add to the A4 - surely "summer season only" is more helpful.

There is more "encouragement" to go Ape (sorry, to go App) with some full page spreads ...
... using space that could be better employed unravelling the more complex tables.

But, minor niggles aside, this is an excellent production and must surely have made a significant contribution to the company's improved financial performance over the past few years. Well done First. 

Other bus companies should note, admire and emulate.

One page was new ...
... and the leaflet also popped through fbb's letterbox. It was, horror of horrors, printed on a sheet of paper! How quaint!
This document explained the fares offers in much more detail, adding to that included in the timetable.

There is no guide (however minimalist) to single cash fares. Surely a few scary examples might encourage non-cash bulk payment still further?

One "product" was "bundles" - a name borrowed from some Wifi and Mobile Phone adverts. In London such were called a "carnet", itself a term borrowed from French practice. [carnet - French for a small booklet].

Here you buy a package of separate one-day tickets which can be used for odd day's travel, not necessary a full 7 days worth running together. A good idea for non tourist use. Buy in bulk and get a discount.

A completely new product is also featured in the fares leaflet.
Called "town zone" it is a weekly or monthly ticket valid only within the boundary of a designated "town area" available at a standard price for each of the towns.
In Hayle, for example, it is effectively a weekly/monthly season on Tinner T1 and T2 with the less frequent A4 thrown in.

In Penzance, you would appear to get much more for your pounds.
But wherever they are on offer they do bring significant savings if you are travelling every day. £2 return into town and back is reasonable by today's standard even if there isn't so much opportunity to use the ticket on Sundays!

Good idea. In due course, fbb will ask what the take-up was. It will need to sell more seats than "normal" fares or it will lose money for First.

fbb was less than excited by the double page spread explaining how the phone App works.
OK, of course, for the shining young things (an example illustrated) but for the likes of fbb (and worse) a total turn-off. We crusties are still likely to want to hand over money (as illustrated) ...
"That'll be four pound five and thrupnce ape knee, sir" - we could cope with that!

But as fbb was leafing through the excellent timetable book he came across an oddity.
What was service 11A from Plymouth to Padstow?

There is no 11A in the timetable book. But go to Traveline and you get this.
11A Padstow and Bodmin Parkway? A quick check of brain, memory and tiny print on the traveline timetable page reveals that it is operated by GoAhead's Plymouth City Bus.
The little arrows at the base of each column show that the 11 from Plymouth to Parkway continues as an 11A to Padstow.

Has First Bus negotiated a takeover of the 11A or/and the 11?

Or is it a cartographic error?

It was First's 55 that, in the fairly recent past, provided a good connection between Parkway, Bodmin and beyond but, as we saw above, the 55 is now very sparce indeed. So ...

Are First helpfully guiding their customers to a useful link?

Or is it a mistake?

fbb knows not; but suspects a bludner.

First's Future?
This is from the local press in Aberdeen.
The return of Aberdeen corporation transport? (Renamed "Grampia pre-sale to what became First Bus).
It is a "brave" idea and would, you assume, cost the Council considerable Scottish pounds which they probably do not have in the piggy bank.
Isn't that what First Bus is aiming to do at the moment? And there is a snag.
Maybe Nicola will legislate. Certainly Jezza would be dead keen in he wins the next UK election.

Meanwhile in Bristol, James Freeman writes in his weekly staff newsletter.
A management buy-out? Well now; there's a novel idea - NOT.

And fbb also understands there are similar rumblings in Swansea.

So we could have lots of smaller regional and urban companies hived off from First Bus, then, in a couple of years some entrepreneur or investment bank could start buying them up to form a large national group ...

... called Second First Bus. Himself is probably too old for Fearnley's First Bus!!

What goes around, comes around.

 Next mixed bag blog - Saturday 15th June 


  1. No, you cannot use the blue journey to travel from Seven Stars to Tesco as you would be travelling back in time.
    Aside from Doctor Who travel, it's a logical way of presenting this particular journey, especially as FBB doesn't approve of duplicated timing points.

  2. Re independent operators, remember that Cornwall CC produces a timetable book that includes everything except First and Plymouth Citybus- at least did so up to 2018. It's also available as a download.

  3. From First Kernow's Facebook page the timetable book is downloadable on:

    1. Thry finally fixed the link allowing it to be downloaded then as it was broken for the first few days of the new timetable.

  4. First's Kernow and Somerset fare policy seems to be to charge high single fares to get higher remuneration from bus passes and casual cash passengers, whilst giving regulars and users of the app more normal fares. Also how to get holiday makers to pay into Cornwall and Somerset's economy, both being otherwise poor areas. It also reflects the geography of towns and long inter-urban runs.

  5. re: Bodmin. FBB may prefer it, but it isn't really helpful to the customer. Bodmin is the location and everything else is subordinate to that... putting the stop first reverses the usual order of precedence. What's more, there may be other branches of Morrisons on route (as there are on the 11A).
    Perhaps a better use would be to use "ditto marks" until the change of location (or Bodmin in bold, with subsequent stops indented slightly?

    Likewise Heritage Railway: this is incorrect, the station is called Bodmin General and that is how the railway and all maps advertise it. is the main stop in Seaton called "heritage tramway"? If people are incapable of referring to a map they really shouldn't be allowed out by themselves.

    It's also not strictly true to say that only one journey on the 55 runs without notes: the small circles at the bottom merely say the journey continued as service 95 without the need to change buses - it doesn't actually have any effect on the 55 timings, and most people would ignore that as soon as they realised it didn't affect them.

  6. I've certainly given Cornwall a miss in the last few years due to the astronomical day ticket fares. There are plenty of other places to visit where day ticket fares are much more sensibly priced.

  7. The "crusties" won't generally handover money in any format for bus travel, being in receipt of passes for extensive free travel within their home nation. The rest of us spend less and less actual cash every year, according to all the statistics.

  8. The 11 and 11a also appear on First network maps too