Tuesday 26 February 2013

Worrying Wobbles in Weston [3]

We wonder about Webberbus.
On their web site, the company tells us of its ancient heritage in the motor garage business, but the present operation dates only from 1999. Mind you, that's quite long-lasting for a post deregulation start-up bus business!

Over 50 years ago F.Webber & Son expanded their haulage business into passenger transport, taking children from all over Exmoor to school with a simple network of contracted services. Today the family still offer similar services, which are now operated by WebberBus which was formed in 1999 when a second depot was opened in Bridgwater ...

... and we became a Limited company in 2004.

Their portfolio is a mixture of competitive commercial services and a substantial batch of tendered routes. Their website lists oprations in Bridgwater, Taunton, Minehead and Weston-super-Mare. Their vehciles are of high quality and presented extremely well. fbb met them a couple of years ago in Taunton and they looked so much better than those of the incumbent, First.
Their web site lists four services in the Weston-super-Mare area ...
... of which the 4/4A, 83 and 85 are tendered. 

The ever reliable (!) Traveline also shows a service 77 ...
... which, according to a nice Webberbus lady who replied to an fbb email, was cancelled four months ago. Well done traveline.

Service 4 runs every 30 minutes ...
... service 83 is hourly ...
... as also is route 85.
It looks like a four-bus operation, presumably staffed and run from the new Bridgwater depot which is a significant 22 miles from Weston.

On the surface, the company looks efficient, neat and tidy; a tight ship. They even have an 0800 number (freecall) for enquiries which is just how is should be. BUT ...
... the Council is not at all happy! This from the local paper:-
North Somerset Council says it is axing a bus company from operating in the Weston area following ‘persistent complaints of poor service’. The council says it is looking for another company to operate the 4, 83 and 85 services because of what it describes as an absence of supervision that Webberbus has over its drivers. The authority’s deputy leader Elfan Ap Rees says the company has been given notice of the termination of its contract with effect from July.

wouldn't like to meet HIM down a dark alley!

Cllr Ap Rees told the Mercury on Friday: “I can confirm that we have given notice on the those three services. This follows persistent complaints of poor service. They include buses not running to schedule and in some cases not even turning up at all. The main cause appears to be a total absence of supervision in Weston in the afternoons, allowing drivers to do as they please. Officers have had a number of meetings with the company in an effort to improve the management and reliability, but without success. I therefore had no choice but to ask officers to terminate the contract with effect from the end of July. This was done last week and we will now re-tender these routes to begin new services when the Webberbus contract expires."

Councillor Ap Rees sounds Welsh, and not from Zummerset; but the problem with Webberbus seems serious. Is it possible that the Company has over-reached itself (cf Premiere?) and really is failing on the supervision front? Are the schedules simply too tight to allow a reliable service? And is that the Council's fault? From the outside and at a distance, it seems odd that such a good-looking company should arouse the ire of North Somerset Council so spectacularly.

Will other councils wiggle out of their bureaucratic worm-holes and find the same in their areas?

Will Fearnley's First win back the dregs of their erstwhile network come June?

See also yesterday's "Omnibuses" blog (read here)
You wait for one centenary and two come along at  once (well, nearly).

Our Northampton correspondent is poised to report and snap away with his Box Brownie. Incidentally, two of the bus routes on the advert above (402 and 404) provided a service to teenage (f)bb from home on Orchard Hill, Little Billing to the delights of Derngate Bus Station, Northampton. 
 Next Bus Blog : Wednesday 27th February 


  1. Time machine needed for the Wellingborough event, or better proof checking?
    And it may be unfair to blame Traveline for the continued appearance of Webberbus 77. The fault may lie with the operator (for not sending it to North Somerset Council) with the Traffic Commissioner (for failing to check the previous action) or with the council for failing to advise their Traveline contractor. All of these things have been known to happen....

  2. But if Traveline were locally based and not in remote regional bunkers, their staff would KNOW that the 77 was withdrawn and that it was a mistake. The problem with reliance on modern "technology" is that the personal "checks and balances" are not there; to the detriment of a reliable facility. Bring back "Jim" (or "Muriel") in the Weston-super-Mare enquiry office. Cheaper in the long run.
    It's Traveline's name on the tin, so Traveline must shoulder the blame. Less buck-passing needed.

  3. Re : checks and balances! I had not noticed 2012 in the advert, but at least Anonymous (top) did!

  4. Hmm, better forget Xephos as a reliable challenger to Traveline then as I understand it was run by Muriel and Jim (and fbb) from a bunker on a far far away island!

  5. The aim of a xephos based system was that it would be delivered locally with local phone numbers and local knowledgeable staff. The proposal agreed (and then ignored) by the CPT was just this. Then someone (the grey suits of the Department for Transport) told them they would have to have large regions. The (few) remaining xephs systems do just this and very successfully.

  6. Something very fishy from NS Council about these contract terminations. The contract provisions allow for immediate termination in event of poor performance - and WebberBus disputes that there are operational issues on these contracts in today's Route One. The Tracking is a recent-ish addition to fleet, in response to the issues raised at the PI.

    If there were serious issues, why wait until July to terminate the contracts? Another commenter suggests that Webbers' contract is the highest subsidised one in North Somerset and the council having seen how cheaper it can be done (old buses etc etc) wishes to terminate their side early.

    Put this way, does this encourage other operators to tender for NS Council contracts in the future? Perhaps they will be left with First, Bakers and Crosville. Well done to NSC for reducing the number of tenderers for your contracts in future - shall we see them complaining about increased First tender prices in future?

  7. some one should ask the drivers at webberbus for their comments it isn't our fault

  8. the management are very weak at webbers there has been cases of fuel,food and money theft and bullying and abuse not once has the management intervened, why? when hr was contacted was told they were not aware of anything and still no action taken. not all the drivers are bad infact the old school highly qualified drivers are leaving every day amidst comments of no commitment to the company being thrown at them making them feel very uncomfortable in their last few days.
    even with all the comments flying round now buses are still being pulled off service not due to lack manpower but to keep bridgewater depot running at the expense of Weston. just last week they took a supervisor from Weston to cover bridgewater he just sat in the office all day doing no work and hey presto due to that Weston had to lose the service 4 for the day, this week a driver was told to go to bridgewater yet again, a driver had a crash also which left yet another shortage and to top that a driver who was leaving that day was told to not arrive to work till 12.30 that day to run the number 83 from 1pm till 6pm, no contact was made to the driver from the supervisor directly to say that the shift was changed yet again to an earlier start so when the driver arrived as was told for work at 12.30 he was told there was no work for him now and he was no use to the company now so might as well go home, when the supervisor was asked what was happening to the 1pm 83 bus he said I am taking the bus off at 1.30pm and it will not be in service after that for the rest of the day. the driver said he was there to work and will do the duty which was his anyway but he was told to hand over his keys etc and leave the premises right away.
    there was work for this driver but due to the assiness of the very inexperienced supervisor all the bus services were lost in Weston by 4pm as he himself was refusing to run any of them as he was going home, there was enough buses and no defects, yes they may have been short on driver but if the supervisor had worked and let the driver that had arrived work there would have been less of a problem.
    the driver that was refused work has left a very disalusioned man and to boot has lost his final days pay through no fault of his own, something needs to be done now about webbers .