Friday 2 August 2013

Taunton's Transport Traumas [Follow-up 3]

Acquisition of Finglands bus operations
We’re pleased to announce that First are planning to acquire the Manchester bus business from Finglands Coachways Limited for £50,000.

This will allow us to expand our bus operations in the region.

The acquisition of Finglands, which operates a number of commercial bus services and school contracts to the South and East of Manchester, is subject to Office of Fair Trading (OFT) clearance and, if approved, is expected to be completed during autumn this year.

The acquisition includes the lease of the existing depot in Rusholme, existing service registrations and the transfer of approximately 100 employees. The fleet of 41 vehicles is not included in the sale although some may be used in the short term to meet commitments before new vehicles are introduced. The sale excludes the Finglands coach business.

This demonstrates our commitment to Greater Manchester and represents an excellent opportunity to further grow bus passenger volumes. It reflects our strategy of focusing on those areas that offer the greatest potential for growth and will allow us to improve bus networks for the communities we serve.

We are looking forward, subject to OFT clearance, to welcoming our new colleagues to FirstGroup.

Giles Fearnley
Managing Director – UK Bus

Finglands services with frequencies (Mon to Sat : mins per hour or "occ" occasional)
Back to the backwater called Taunton?

Make sure you read the small print!
fbb commented yesterday that, although there were plenty of timetables on display for First's new network in Taunton, the print size was not adequate for the majority of users. This becomes particularly true when raindrops splatter the glass or reflections distort the viewing. fbb was in Taunton in a mixture of bright sunlight and torrential showers. Both problems applied!
The excellent little booklet for the town services ...
... presented a different, but linked, problem; namely that of too much information. Here, photographed, is part of the timetable for the revised service 3 to Bishops Hull.
It is probably too small to read in detail, but note that there is a "repeat pattern" of every 30 minutes about half way along the bank of times. Here is the naked truth:-
The "repeat pattern" applies all day from first departure to last.

First seems to have a policy of filling up the page with unnecessary columns of times. If the "repeat pattern" is the same all day, why not say so? Sometimes, less is more. Certainly for bus stop frames this would allow a larger size and thus would help enormously.

For example, an A3 version of the town network map (or even better A2) could include all the timetables and be used as a poster in large bus shelter frames.
A print-outable and enlargeable PDF version is available (here). It's a bit of a botch job because converting it to fbb's dated fomat is less tan ideal (the original map could do with a redraw anyway) but you will get the idea.

Regular blog readers will remember fbb's picture of a bus stop flag, shown here as an inset.
Mr First has successfully obliterated the previous clutter and possible inaccuracy and replaced it with a clean and tidy "1 Wellsprings" and "2 Priorswood". But why so small? This particular "flag" is set quite low, near to the viewers eye; but this one ...
... is much harder to read. Other routes not part of the town network use these stops but get no mention at all.

Could do better!

Probably the most dramatic change for Tauntonians is the new fares structure. This is what First Bus tells us:-

"Did someone say three squid?"
Pause for polite and sympathetic titter!

Within the town services area there will be a flat £3 day return, which will include journeys where a change of buses is needed. The equivalent single fare will be £2. For the majority of existing customers this represents a cut in the price of travel.

Children (ie those aged between 5 and 15 years) will see all their fares reduced, as child fares will be fixed at half of the equivalent adult fare.

Taunton Weekly Passes will be reduced to £15, and a Child Taunton Weekly Pass will be introduced at £7.50.

Without detailed knowledge of what has gone before, fbb cannot comment on how much of a bargain this scheme might be. The problem with a (high) flat fare is that it discourages short-hop travel. Granny Miggins is OK with her oap pass, but young Elsie Miggins (with toddler Shane in a buggy and in the pouring rain) is unlikely to cough up three quid for two stops round the corner ...
... to Priorswood shops to buy a pint of milk (or even three squid?). Lost revenue; she will walk or do without milk until the rain stops.

Despite these niggles, three rousing cheers to First for a determined effort to attract more people to the bus. Let us hope that, for the good of Fearnley's "bottom line", lower fares bring more customers. If not, then it is out with the pruning shears again in six months' time. Some newer vehicles would help as well!
The Onslaught Continues "Out West"

Yet another new service due at the beginning of September. As Mr Fearnley might well intone, "Infamy, infamy; they've got it in for me!"
First Bus currently runs every 20 minutes to Torpont then across on the ferry ...
... although the puce paintwork is now passé.

 Next Bus Blog : Saturday 3rd August 

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