Monday 28 January 2013

First's Fantastic Free Fares Facility [1]

Xpansion of a Bristol Bus Route
Not that far away actually, but in Bristol!

Not quite so long ago there was a route 18 between Shirehampton, Westbury, Frenchay, Kingswood and Hanham ...
... a sort of North Bristol outer half-circle. Tendered (non-commercial) journeys were numbered 518. But by last Summer even its curtailed replacement was under threat.

First Bus is withdrawing from the only bus service linking parts of South Gloucestershire with Frenchay and Southmead hospitals, despite passenger numbers almost doubling in the short time the service has been running.

The bus company currently has a contract with South Gloucestershire Council for the 18 service which runs from Emersons Green to Southmead Hospital via Downend, Frenchay Hospital, UWE’s Frenchay campus, Parkway station and Little Stoke.

A spokesperson for First Bus said: "We can confirm that we have given the Council notice of our intention to withdraw from operating Service 18. We began operating this service in September 2011 and have done everything we can to make it financially viable since then, for instance altering the timetable a number of times to make it more punctual and reliable and therefore more attractive to customers. Problems still remain though and while passenger numbers have increased since we've had the contract, they are still short of what we had hoped, making the service financially unsustainable for us."

But that was then and now is now (as they say?) and deals have been struck to ensure the continuation of the service; and in January came an enhancement.

A brand new, express bus service linking Aztec West and Emersons Green running around the northern fringe of Bristol began on Wednesday 2 January.

Serving the Emersons Green Science Park, UWEs Frenchay Campus, the MOD Abbey Wood site, Filton Abbey Wood Railway Station and Aztec West, with some journeys extending to and from Kingswood (Kings Chase Centre), the new Service X18 complements the existing Service 18 (Emersons Green - Southmead), which First operates under contract to South Gloucestershire Council as part of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund initiative.
click to enlarge timetable

First incorporates the X18 with the 18 on its publicity leaflet ...

... which is a little strange as the services only have two time points in common. And the accompanying  but otherwise excellent map also shows the two services together and in the same colour which could be confusing to an outsider ...
click on the map to enlarge

... which is why fbb has extracted a simplified version.
UWE is the University of the West of England, as attended by fbb's No. 1 son ...

... MOD is the monstrous Ministry of Defence Office complex at Abbey Wood ...

... "station" is Filton Abbey Wood (with just a small chunk of the MOD offices in the background) ...

... and Aztec West is a vast "business park".

So there are plenty of potential commuting customers to crowd on to the X18!

Now in "the good old days" a bus company might put out a pile of leaflets for a new route and hope for the best. Indeed (as we have seen recently for new service 21 in Northampton), sometimes information is simply not available at all.

Which reminds the old fellow. Uno (operator of the new 21which started on Monday 21st January) still hadn't admitted to it on-line by late afternoon yesterday (Sunday 27th):-

But both Northamptonshire County Council and the University thereof have managed to get hold of a leaflet and add it to their timetable pages.

Now here's the "something strange" from our "Star Wars" type caption above: taking a tip from the retail selling industry, First in Bristol have done much better than merely printing a few leaflets for its innovative X18; as we shall see tomorrow.
Premiere Buses of Nottingham ceased trading at 1700 on Friday 25th January after unsuccessful attempts to find a buyer.

Premiere's web site earlier this morning

The general opinion is that the company had grown too big too fast and was unwise to attempt to compete with ,long-established quality operator Trent Barton who have stepped in to cover some services and accept outstanding tickets. A commercially sensible move from Trent as they quietly snigger in the back office!
Premiere in happier times
 Next Bus Blog : Tuesday 30th January 


  1. Nice start to an interesting set of posts, fbb.
    One piece of information that you haven't seen, not visible to the naked eye, is that there *could* be another timing point common to both routes, at Filton Church. The timetable shows it as a timing point on the X18. What the timetable doesn't show, though, is that every journey on the 18 calls there, between Little Stoke and Southmead Hospital. It just isn't a timing point on the 18!

    I have some other bits you might be interested in, but I'll leave those until you've posted tomorrow...

  2. Thanks Colly405 : I hadn't spotted that. Since No 1 son and family moved to Wantage, my links with Bristol have been severed and I have lost touch with the area. Of course the 18 is travelling in the opposite direction to the X18 at that point. Another good reason for showing the services separately?