Monday 23 May 2011

Fearnley's first First Flogging

sounds very nasty!

In a post-appointment interview Giles Fearnley, big cheese of First's buses, stated that he would not rule out disposals and acquisitions where appropriate.  Almost immediately came the sale of the ragged remnants of First's former Kings Lynn network to Norfolk Green [NG].
Founded in 1996, NG has grown steadily under the leadership of Ben Colson, an ex Stagecoach manager.
The company has specialised in taking existing services, often on tender, and developing them with enhanced frequencies and improved vehicles into viable and successful commerecial routes. Its "star" project is the Norfolk "Coasthopper" running from Kings Lynn via the Norfolk coast to Cromer with occasional journeys extended to Norwich.
The peak summer service in June, July and August is every 30 minutes between Hunstanton and Cromer; this is a huge increase in a service which barely existed 20 years ago.
The sale was of First's "Lynn" operation was announced on Friday 15th April and less than a fortnight later the revised timetables were available on-line; nearly seven weeks before the changeover on 12th June.  A rather crude fbb diagram will help those unfamiliar with the area to follow what will happen.
Services to Fairstead and North Lynn are being merged under NG's names as "The Fairstead One" [every 10 mins]
 click on the image to enlarge

and "North Lynn Too" (every 30 mins).   First's Reffley and North Wootton route 43 becomes NG's "North Wootton Three" (every 20 mins) and incorporates the tendered evening journeys already operated by NG. These frequencies are very impressive for a small town.

Pandora Four is unchanged and the NG's hourly "Gaywood Five" will incorporate First's 55 to West Lynn under the revised name of "Crosstown Five"

Finally the existing 40/41 group of routes to Hunstanton become NG's 10 and 11 and retains a frequency of three buses an  hour.   Other rural NG services are unchanged.
The worthy residents of Kings Lynn will surely appreciate the improved quality and the friendly local service which First seemed unable to provide.
NG have promised printed material in good time and improvements to bus stop information; they will deliver! The sell-off perhaps recognises that a smaller locally owned company can, and does, do a better job than a huge national conglomerate.  Maybe a recipe to be adopted as part of First's more felicitous future?

One particular goody from Norfolk Green is their fares calculator.   Type in service number, journey and ticket type ...
... and instantly your fare appears.
Question.   Is this the ONLY bus company to publish all its fares on-line?  fbb thinks so, but someone may know better.  Either way this is surely a lesson, not just to the outgoing First, but to all bus companies.   Come clean, chaps, and tell us what readies you require for a ride.

Mind you, there's much for First to do elsewhere.   Its South Yorkshire web site omitted the revised Sheffield service 73 until a day or two before the change, despite the omission having been queried earlier by an fbb email; an email which never elicited a reply! The Travel South Yorkshire version appeared weeks previously. Norfolk Green would never have allowed that to happen.

Next blog : due Tuesday May 24th  


  1. You'd be suprised how many companies seem to be coming round to the idea of putting fares online. Norfolk Green seem to have implemented it best though.
    Examples which I can think of include other Norfolk operators such as Konectbus, Sanders (both sample fares - but a reasonable selection), Anglian (most routes) and Peelings (though only operating a couple of market day services must make it easier)
    Further afield, I've come across the following but I'm sure that there are others:
    Harrogate Coach Travel (fare table for each route), Velvet (5 page pdf covering all routes - not very user-friendly), Kinchbus (rather like NG's), Oxford Bus Company (fare table for each route), Bluestar (sample fares), Wilts & Dorset (sample fares), Brighton & Hove give reasonably comprehensive details (a mostly flat fare based system helps) as do Reading, Lothian and NX Coventry (mostly flat fares), South Lancs Transport (fare tables in a pdf) and Stagecoach Manchester (for commercial services - and not very easy to find).
    Others give a maximum (and sometimes a minimum) which helps when budgeting - but not for working out whether I'd be better off with a rover. The situation is better than it was a few years ago and given that this data is almost always created and stored digitally it shouldn't be too hard to either create a simple system like Norfolk Green's or to put up full fare tables. The problem with the latter can be that they are confusing or difficult to read - particularly if they've been designed for internal use and then shoved onto the web without much thought.

  2. Thanks, anonymous. A helpful list. Note that none of the big groups has a reveal all policy. NG is superior in that it can be used by an amateur. Reading fare tables is a bit of a skill. Do you remember when a huge fare table was posted on every London bus?

  3. Depends what you call a big group...

    Veolia's little subsidiary in Jersey (quaintly still branded as Connex, the last place in Europe to do so) has a complete table here.