Friday 3 May 2013

Cynicism Surrounds Sapphire [1]

Magnificent crystal ...

... or marketing con?

Arriva has launched a premium service, Sapphire. It is initially to be used to upgrade one inter-urban route in each of four operating regions – the North West, the Midlands, the North East and the Shires & Essex. The buses will have high-backed e-leather seats ...
... (in a 2+1 arrangement on the upper deck) and wi-fi.

The first Sapphire upgrade was introduced this week, with nine refurbished ADL Enviro400s operating on service 1 between Chester and Wrexham.
Michael Morton, MD Arriva Wales

There will be 21 refurbished double-deckers for services between Oxford and Aylesbury and between Leicester and Oadby in the summer, while the fourth Sapphire route, between Durham and Darlington, will get 11 new VDL SB200/Wrightbus Pulsars in the autumn. All of the services will have a minimum daytime 15-minute frequency.

Mark Yexley, operations and commercial director for Arriva UK Bus, says: “We felt the time was right to introduce the Sapphire brand. It will certainly offer our customers something different and we hope will tempt more people to try the bus as a result. We’ve deliberately selected key routes on our network that offer a potentially longer journey time, so that customers have more time to take advantage of the free wi-fi, or to simply enjoy sitting on comfy leather seats.”

So what is really special about an Arriva Sapphire service? Back in the days of the great Great Britain Bus Timetable, the 2000 edition duly recorded Arriva Cymru route 1 as running every 15 minutes Monday to Saturday and every hour on Sundays.
Today the route runs every 12 minutes Monday to Saturday and every 20 minutes on Sundays.
Improvements all round. Mind you, the information is less than easy to find on Arriva's hard-to-fathom and hard-to-use web site. Google offers ...
... which leads to not a single timetable.For such luxuries, you need to go to ...
... and then you can find the service 1: with no mention of its Sapphire status! So there doesn't appear to be any change in the timetable. In addition to the leather-seated refurbished vehicles, you get a logo using letters with missing bits which would be marked "poor" from a five year old.
Perhaps the travelling experience offers something new?

How do I catch a Sapphire bus?

Go to one of the Sapphire bus stops along the route and hold out your hand as the bus approaches. This signal will let the driver know you want to get on the bus. When the bus stops simply step aboard - our easy access buses make it easy even if you have a buggy, shopping trolley or wheelchair. Click here to find out more. [and below is the "more" you find out!]
Helpful hint : how to catch a bus

Thanks, Arriva. But isn't that what I do with every Arriva bus route; with every bus route from every bus company? Patronising or what? Do I need to climb some steps to get to the upstairs seats, or is there a lift? Will the Sapphire driver take me right to my front door? Are refreshments available on board? Is there a dress code for passengers? Where is the toilet?
Maybe we can find out more by looking on the special Sapphire web site ...
... not easy to find unless you know! And don't get mixed up with this one ...

... because the locations may be further away than you think.

Indeed, they are in Australia!

More from Sapphire tomorrow ...

 Next Bus Blog - Saturday 4th May 


  1. Try the Omnibuses Blog post on Sapphire by clicking here

  2. Being a bit cynical aren't we FBB? We are constantly told than one of the big barriers to increasing bus use is that non-users don't understand how to catch a bus and so are put off travelling, and you may be surprised how many people stood at bus stops waiting for a bus expect the bus to stop without any signal (even in areas where that hasn't been the case for decades, if at all).

    Personally I find the Arriva website the best of the big groups to navigate especially if you are a little unsure of where you are trying to go. Stagecoach can produce some very daft returns when you try searching (and that is when the site works at all, the last two times I have tried to use it to find timetables it has either not worked at all or required a cheat to get around a blockage). The First one is just a dull list of routes with very little information for the prospective customer to work out where the routes go. The Arriva site has a route number search or a list of towns to find your route where they give you individual route maps, a quick access web timetable of the option of a pdf, all in all a most user friendly site, though as is becoming clear possibly not best suited for emphasising individual brands (but then neither are any of the others).

  3. fbb may be cynical, but he is probably right!

    The reason MOST people go to a bus company web site is to check the timetable for a particular journey. If this is statistically the case, then First's web site is outstandingly good because it delivers that information quickly and succinctly. I would agree that Stagecoach's site is outstandinglyu bad.

    Very few people will look at a bus web site to find out how to catch a bus, or, indeed to make philosophical and general network enquiries. Recent surveys have confirmed that people are generally dissatisfied with modern information sources. The one missing item from web sites, again confirmed in a number of surveys, is detailed fares information.

    The best way of disseminating network information is, and always will be, a printed timetable book. Which is, of course, why bus companies and local authorities no longer bother to produce them (?!).

  4. Unfortunately your extract from the GBBTT shows everything that was wrong with the publication, what the heck is a JG67? It lists lots of intermediate places served but then goes onto display only one intermediate timing point on a route of approximately 15 miles. I always felt the timetables produced were a compromise too far hence why I never purchased a copy, using the copy in the local library to obtain the relevant operators phone number to enquire before the days of widespread tinterweb.