Wednesday 29 June 2011

Peace in Our Time

 Hugs and Kisses in Sheffield? 

Yesterday's Sheffield daily, "The Star", carried news of co-operation rather than competition between First Bus and Stagecoach. But fbb is able to "scoop" a picture of the announcement actually being made.
 Giles Fearnley, Director of First's UK bus operations
breaking the news to a group of his staff.

First, some quotes from the newspaper and comments from fbb.  
BUS wars between rival operators in Sheffield are over; meaning passengers will soon be able to use any service with the same ticket. First and Stagecoach have agreed to scrap their head-to-head policy by which each company tries to out-do the other with cheaper fares and extra frequency; while less profitable routes have seen services cut.  

Not quite! Just one corridor from July. More to follow? We shall see; this one needs to work first! Local papers are not renowned for letting the facts get in the way of a good story. The on-line article was illustrated by competing service 40 and 120 buses "on High Street" in Sheffield.
 Nope; they are at the Church Street stop, just opposite the cathedral. 

The arrangement will start on services between Halfway and Fulwood, but is set to be expanded across the city.

And, what is the response of the travelling public?

Bus passengers have welcomed the changes. Student Michaela Petrosjamova, 16, of Lodge Moor, added: “It’s a good idea because you won’t have to wait for the right company’s bus to turn up for your ticket.”

In a similar scheme for Liverpool's service 14 group ...
... inter-availability of tickets only applies to common sections of route. Once past Croxteth it's every operator for himself (itself?)
So it might not be so easy, Michaela, to swap to another operator to other parts of the city.

And Tegann Richardson, 16, also a student, of Crosspool, said: “It’ll save people having to hang around at the bus stop and will be an improvement.”

The new services don't go via Crosspool, so thanks and no thanks, Tegann! "The Star" doesn't seem to understand where the buses actually go.

The new arrangement, called "Optio Orange" and initially involving only the routes between Halfway and Fulwood, starts from Sunday, July 24.

Optio? Or do you say it "op-show"? Will the buses be orange? fbb waits with bated breath to see how Travel South Yorkshire explains and publicises this. Should be really fun! Blogging in profusion would seem likely.

The change is being trialled as an alternative to proposals for a Bus Quality Contracts scheme in Sheffield, under which SYPTE would take control of routes, timetables and fares, and invite private firms to bid to run them.

This is the politics bit. South Yorkshire wants to rule the buses like Boris the Blue does in London.
Oh, golly gosh, I do run the buses, don't I? 

But the operators want to keep control for themselves. Presumably this is a political move by First and Stagecoach to stave off "Quality Contract" legislation?

Dave Alexander, regional managing director for First, said: “We are delighted to have worked with SYPTE to develop this new and innovative arrangement.” Paul Lynch, managing director of Stagecoach Yorkshire, added: “This new partnership will deliver improvements for customers including increased frequencies, more choice and better co-ordination of timetables.”

Well, they would say that, wouldn't they?
a Stagecoach service 120 before extension via Redmires Road,
at Barncliffe Road : will the 120 be back here? See below

Increased frequencies? The Stagecoach 120 and the First 40 to Fulwood already run about every 4 minutes (each service with 8 buses an hour, so slightly less than every 3.8 minutes: clever maths, eh?), and they are already, well, empty, for most of the day at the extremities of the route.
a Stagecoach 120-branded bus at the Halfway terminus, Streetfields

Three e-mailed comments by Joe Public on "The Star" web site were less enthusiastic!   

Isn't this called a cartel? SYPTE trying to justify its existence again. Director of Customer Experience [who released the news], I ask you!! 

Yes a cartel by another name, get ready for fare hikes, less frequent buses, and loads of confusion over what tickets are valid and what are not. Staff training WILL be poor, that is a given, and the public (who still think Sheffield Transport exists) will struggle to come to terms with the new scheme. 

So the fares will be going up again then? 

News of what is actually happening has not yet been released but at least one possible change has met with public protest.
Someone's got wind of the withdrawal of the bit of the old 120 route via Redmires Road and the top bit of Crimicar Lane. This extra loop was introduced a couple of years ago by Stagecoach to offer a better service between this area and the hospital, and, presumably, to pinch a bit of Firsts' business.
The "Westminster" Estate : to lose a valuable link
under the proposed service "improvements"? 

This suspected withdrawal was reported in a recent edition of Sheffield's "Weekend Telepgraph".
So how did South Yorkshire PTE respond?
Their spokesman, the aforementioned Director of Customer Experience says "Nothing has been confirmed".

Porky Pies. The revised services have been registered with the Traffic Commissioners, details are due on the website any day now, and, presumably, publicity is being printed "as we speak". fbb is eagerly awaiting a huge public launch with scantily clad dancing girls, brass bands and the release of 120 doves of peace; followed by jingoistic speeches by Fearnley and Sir Brian of Busworld.

"Nothing has been confirmed!" Pull the other one, SYT.

Undoubtedly more to follow.

Next blog : due Thursday June 30th  

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