Wednesday 29 August 2012

First Fights on Four Fronts [Part 2]

More Battles for First
See "First Fights on Four Fronts [Part 1]" (read again)

 Southampton  versus Bluestar
Pre-emptive Strike :  First launch a major new network in Southampton. In some areas this increases competition with Blue Star; e.g. the X2 to Millbrook.
Response (delayed) : Bluestar introduce a new service 16 on 30th September in competition with First and within the former Southampton City area.
But where to?

Three refurbished single deck Volvo buses, complete with WiFi, easy access for wheelchair and babybuggy users, and comfortable seating, will offer a 20 minute Monday to Saturday daytime and 30 minute evening and Sunday daytime service on the new Route 16 from Sunday 30 September. The new 16 will provide a direct service between Townhill Park, Portswood and the city centre. It will also provide Wakefield Road and Cobden Avenue with a new link to the city centre.

Townhill Park is a large estate of former Council properties ...
... to the north east of the City Centre, currently served by First Bus routes 2 (every 20 mins) and 7 (every 10 mins). Bluestar's new 16 is similar to First's 7 ...

... in some ways, but different in detail as Southampton experts will recognise.
It would appear to offer a simple "out-and-back" rather than the often-difficult mega-loops of First's routes. fbb is indebted to the "Sotonbus" blog for ferreting this out!

Needless to say this has not gone down too well with the incumbent operator.
Rethink : On 11th October First introduce a new service to Hythe in direct competition with Bluestar and well into the traditional Bluestar area.
No details yet available, although fellow blogger "Busing" suggests a 20 minute frequency is planned.

 fbb comment  : Previously "friendly understanding" is abandoned. battle lines are drawn. And when Southern Vectis attacked Southampton Corporation, wasn't "inner Southampton" one of the chosen battlegrounds with Solent Blue Line's copy-cat services competing directly with city routes? And. specifically wasn't there a service 140 which competed with the Corporation's 14 to ...
... Townhill Park?

Solent Blue Line begat Bluestar and so, what goes around comes around!

 Plymouh  versus Plymouth Citybus
Pre-emptive Strike :  Citybus start a new service to Ivybridge, well outside their traditional area and competing with First and Stagecoach.
Ivybridge? Once a small village on the road between Plymouth and Exeter ...
... now a significant "dormitory" town, by-passed by the much improved A38.
Tle Citybus initiative seems a jolly good idea as Ivybridge is currently not well served. There are two longer distance routes: approx two-hourly X38 from Stagecoach ...
... and an hourly X80 from First ...
... plus an occasional 180, also from First.

But  First don't like Citybus 45 one little bit.

Response : First start a new service to Ivybridge in direct competition with Plymouth Citybus 
 fbb comment   : four buses an hour to Ivybridge PLUS the existing longer distance routes? Unsustainable. And back in the "good old days" didn't Western National (pre "First") run every half hour to Ivybridge; then First backed out? Here's an extract from the 88 timetable from c1996 ...
... and the improved version from c1999.
What goes around, comes around.

And one final thought. Who will be paying for all this excess capacity during the aggressive competitive phase? Not just the residents of the Dearne Valley, Ipswich, Southampton and Plymouth, unfortunately. In the end we all dig into our not-very-full pockets with higher fares nationally as the various companies seek to balance their books and provide their shareholders with attractive dividends.

Is competition in public transport really a good idea?
fbb will keep an eye on these developments and report in more detail where appropriate.

 Next Blog : Thursday 30th August 


  1. Moor on Bluestar & First in Southampton on yesterday's Omnibuses blog post. Note the new First Hythe service is hourly.

    And on the Ivybridge Incursion here

  2. Some competition is good, if only to keep existing providers on their toes. In the case of Ivybridge, it would seem that the incumbent has failed to recognise the potential of the town. In the short term, there is over-bussing, but a town of 35,000 people (so says the Devon CC website) ought to be able to support a fast half hourly service to its large city neighbour.

    However, other sources give a figure of 12000-13000, at which level an extra half-hourly service might struggle. But fundamentally, Ivybridge appears to be under-bussed: without competition, how should this be rectified?

  3. Easy, Statistician. The London Model could do it with carefully drafted contracts. The French model of block contracts for individual towns would also deliver but (probably) at a greater obvious price to the community.
    The price we pay for "competition" is well hidden.

    1. (Cynical) Statistician29 August 2012 at 19:59

      Hmmm. Does the London Model work in London? A single flat fare for every journey? A subsidy of something like 25-30 pence for every passenger that gets on (and that's before payments for concessionary fares, return of fuel duty paid etc.)? No statutory need to adhere to a window of 1 min early - 5 min late? Just two all-day limited stop services in a city of 8 million people? I could go on...