Tuesday 29 January 2013

First's Fantastic Free Fares Facility [2]

How to "sell" a bus service. First, First gave it a logo:-
Hmmm, that's different but not exceptional. Then their initial publicity showed a branded bus ...
... and that's not unusual these days. But this is!
Sadly free rides only on the X18 and the offer finished last Friday; so don't go rushing off to Aztec country ...
where's Aztec East?

... for a freebie, 'cos now you'll have to pay. [Unless, of curse, you are ancient like fbb; then the evening journeys are free; if you haven't lost your bus pass.] And there were stickers on the buses and posters for employers on the route.
But the stunner was a huge advert in the "Bristol Advertiser". The ad included this panel ...
... with its "X18 only" map. And Marc Reddy ...
... First's big boss in the area, has stated:-

As awareness of the new express service grows, its popularity amongst commuters who want to travel via the A4174 ring road to get to and from work destinations quickly, easily and without the hassle of driving themselves, is similarly expected to increase. Notably in order to appeal more to potential passengers, the vehicles being used on the service are also top notch, with seven modern buses being used to provide the service, each boasting leather seats and free onboard WiFi.

Seven buses, Mr Reddy? Looks like three on the X18. Maybe you have included the service 18 as well. Yes; looks like four on the 18. Three plus four equal about seven.

So what next, First?
First's partners, South Gloucestershire Council, announced another bus improvement back in September 2012.
A drive to improve bus services in South Gloucestershire stepped up a gear this week with the opening of a new route. The Cheswick Bus Link will provide bus passengers non-congested access through one of the busiest parts of the district with a 1km bus and cycle-only route. Opened today, it is operating between the University of the West of England (UWE) and Abbeywood in Stoke Gifford allowing buses to bypass traffic on the Avon Ring Road and Coldharbour Lane.The link will also connect residents of the new Cheswick Village development and it is hoped the route will improve journey times and reduce car usage.

Here is the symbolic cutting of the tape by a local dignitary with a service 19 of Wessex Bus in attendance ...

... but, of course, the X18 (also 18 and First's Bristol City service 70) also benefit.
Incidentally, Wessex Bus is part of the Rotala Group that has just bought the Redditch and Kidderminster depots from First. It's a small (blogging) world.

All in all, very good news for bus passengers and lets hope the spectacular promotion of the X18 produces an equally spectacular growth in passenger numbers. From the concept of the route and the excellent publicity it deserves to succeed.

Thanks to our Bristol correspondent for news of the "Cheswick Link"

 Next Bus Blog : Wednesday 30th January 


  1. I can't help but think, that one of its future aims will be to provide the bus link for the forthcoming park and ride site at Emersons Green/Science Park.

    It could also be argued, that in a small way, the service is testing the water/establishing itself prior to the rather more ambitious cross Bristol BRT projects (http://www.travelwest.info/node/527) one of which is to follow a fairly similar route.

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  3. The 7 buses do include the 18, which benefits from the same vehicle 'enhancements'.

    The definition of "top notch" buses is interesting - they are '05' plate. Yes, they have leather seats and free WiFi, and they are a step-change from the step-entrance buses often used on the 18 until now, but they are still 7-8 years old.

    Internally there are lots of X18-specific branding things, but there is no sign of the external route branding, although they are in the new First livery (only the second Bristol route to get the new livery).

    The next stop announcements need improving, having heard "Bristol Parkway Ess Tee Enn" instead of "... Station". Mind you, on two journeys yesterday on the 18, this had been switched off. I've not yet seen the BBC News broadcast either

    The link from UWE/MOD to Filton hasn't had a bus service for a few years, and it now gets not just this X18, but also Wessex Red's 13 which is extended north of UWE all day, 6 days a week. It doesn't go into the MOD, or into Abbey Wood Station like the X18, but sticks to the main road, on which it is common with the X18 from UWE north to Stoke Lodge (roughly where the railway crosses the N-S A38, south of Aztec West) where it dives east into Bradley Stoke.

    Problem is, neither the 13 nor the X18 yet appear to be actually carrying more than a single-hand full of passengers at best.