Tuesday 18 March 2014

Clopper, Clipper, Freebee, 3B, Gone [3]

Sheffield FreeBee
Travel South Yorkshire was delighted to be at the heart of the first ever FreeBee bus. Launched in Sheffield city centre in October 2007, it continues to be a rip roaring success and a real customer favourite. Which is why we are withdrawing it.

Travel South Yorkshire runs the free service every seven minutes from 0700 to 1900 weekdays and 0800 to 1900 on Saturdays and is a hugely popular and trusted choice for travellers in Sheffield.  Which is why we are withdrawing it.

Leaving from Stand B4 within Sheffield interchange the FreeBee bus links popular city centre locations including all your favourite shops, Sheffield Hallam University and the Winter Gardens.
Why not take a look at our Sheffield FreeBee route map? [we will do, later] The Sheffield FreeBee bus has been a huge success and carried its millionth passenger in 2009, smashing predicated [do they mean "predicted"?] figures and receiving glowing feedback. Which is why we are withdrawing it.

Download a copy of the Sheffield FreeBee leaflet for more information and give it a try today. Remember, it’s free for everyone.

Every week Travel South Yorkshire’s FreeBee buses operate in Sheffield with you, the customer, in mind. Which is why we are withdrawing it.

Thousands of people trust and use the service free of charge, safe in the knowledge that they’ll reach their destination in a super quick stress free style. Which is why we are withdrawing it.

The fantastic FreeBee buses have established themselves as an integral part of the Sheffield community, with customers using the buses for both work and leisure. Which is why we are withdrawing it.

The freebee service makes it really easy to get to the new Market building at Moorfoot; the market traders are keen to encourage new and existing customers. Which is why we are withdrawing it.

All the above paragraphs, except the last, come from the authority's own web site blurb. Obviously (?) fbb has added the blue text. But your author has an alternative suggestion for TSY (Travel South Yorkshire). How about moving out of your palatial offices right in the centre of Sheffield?
The lease on TSY towers must be costing far more than a paltry freebee service.

The freebee is, of course, a tendered operation, run by Powells in Rotherham ...
...  formerly by T M Travel in Sheffield ...
...and now by First Bus in Sheffield.
Occasionally the eagle-eyed will spot a First Bus bus masquerading as a freebee ...
... but usually the PTE supplied (?) vehicles are very evident. Despite the different operators, the service itself has been encouragingly consistent over the years. Buses run every 7 minutes throughout the day with a later start on Saturdays.
Oddly, First Bus' on-line timetable does not quote  frequency, preferring the unhelpful "frequent intervals" offering.
For a while, First's web site indexed the service as route 3B (threebee, freebee - gettit?) but now the confuser only answers to "free".
The 7 minute frequency is unusual (if not unique?). We are used to every 7½ minutes, usually advertised as every 7 and 8; every 8, every 6 minutes also occur on some busy services; but ...

Why and how 7?

The timetable shows a running time of 16 minutes which, with a "layover" of 5 minutes at the interchange, gives a total round trip time of 21 minutes. Even modern maths teaching tells us that three buses on a 21 minute round trip gives a frequency of every 7. QED!

The problem, however is that 16 minutes, even 21 minutes, can be a bit "tight". The route avoids the very congested High Street area by nipping "round the back" via Norfolk Street. Indeed a right hand turn for buses off Arundel Gate was created specially.
Freebee's stop 4 is by the famous Crucible Theatre ...
... whence there are numerous passageways through to High Street; and the main Arundel Gate stops are located reasonably conveniently on the far side of the theatre. Despite this congestion-avoiding ploy, a Sheffield correspondent reports that irregular running is not uncommon. This photograph at Moorfoot ...
... shows, not a bus every 7 minutes, but three buses every 21 minutes. Not good!

But from April 27th, it will be no free buses ever. Opinion gurus reckon that the savings for the PTE will be minimal compared with the loss of trade for central Sheffield shops and, more importantly, the new Moorfot Market. We await, with bated breath, the consequences of the second part of the PTE's apiaristic extermination notification.

"Alternative services with good value tickets will be available in Rotherham and Sheffield for customers who travelled on the FreeBee."

Tomorrow we look at Sheffield's current Freebee publicity and take a sideways glance at another withdrawn Free B.
exellent grammer hear in Seaton ...
... on a shiny new sign on the fbbs' local esplanade snackery.
 Next bus blog : Wednesday 19th March 


  1. Not sure it is quite as cheap as people are trying to make out to provide the FreeBee. 3 buses working an intensive, city centre route (so very poor mpg figure comparatively) over what amounts to a 12 hour day with no fares income coming in to cover costs is not cheap, you'll be lucky to see much deal of change from £500k a year - so nearly a million pounds a year for the two routes I assume - it would be interesting to see the price to see how sharp Firsts pencil was when they submitted the bid and how much operators in Sheffield wanted the contract (the more operators want a contract the lower margin they will accept and the cheaper the price will be). With tightening standards on reliability (particularly if reliability is as bad as you suggest which would indicate that a fourth vehicle is really needed) and removal of BSOG (Fuel Duty Rebate) from free services the costs are only going to be increasing which, during a time of austerity, is going to be hard to support as there is no chance of increasing revenue to cover the increased costs as it is a free service.

    There is nothing to stop the city centre traders, if they believe that they will bring in more money with it than it costs to run, to fund the operation of the services themselves either directly through a deal with an operator or indirectly by funding SYPTE to keep it going. You often find that while businesses are happy to benefit from taxpayer funded largesse to bring in customers and will complain loudly if they are selected for withdrawal they are rarely prepared to find the services themselves to keep them going. An exception is a number of the big supermarkets who do find free bus links to their out of town superstores but they do it relatively cheaply with off-peak work using local school buses rather than this sort of intensive all day service which is very expensive to provide.

  2. Valid points of course, dwarfer1979; my view is that, within the PTE budget, the cost is small change. Also, city traders might say that they already pay too much in business rates and, again, the cost of continuing is far less than many other, less directly useful, so-called "services".