Monday 7 April 2014

Better Late Than Never [1]

 1 Bike Bus 

Southern Vectis' mainland company, Solent Blue Line, went into open top buses "big time" with their New Forest tour (later "tours" under today's GoAhead ownership). A trailer for six bikes was provided.

Some operators hook a couple of bikes on the back ...
... or, overseas, on the front.
About 12 months ago, "The Vectis" announced that it's recently reintroduced "Round the Island" service (which doesn't go all the way round) would be increased from oue and a half trip a day to four, equipped with rebranded buses ...
... wwhich would be adapted to carry bikes. Unvinyled vehicles were espied skulking in the depot ...
... and later these oddly coloured buses, now fully adorned, appeared in service.

But bikeless.

It was unclear why this project didn't happen; the rumour (probably disseminated by SV spin-meisters) was that the Vehicle Inspectors had "issues" with the bike racks.

So, better late than never, and a year later ...
It is now easier for cyclists to take their bicycles to areas across the Island using public transport instead of their cars. The Isle of Wight Council is working with Southern Vectis to provide bike storage facilities on four buses. The buses, which are the existing ‘Coaster’ route vehicles, have been converted to each store up to six bicycles at a time using money from the council’s sustainable transport access to tourism project, which is funded by the government’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF).

Four journeys will leave per day from either Ryde or Yarmouth, with some extended to include East Cowes and Newport, providing a round-the-Island connection for cyclists. It will mean cyclists can now visit local attractions or areas they would normally drive to using public transport instead with their bicycles.

Luisa Hillard ...

... is the council’s Executive Member for sustainability and welcomes the new buses. She said: “This project is part of the council’s commitment to promoting greener, car-free tourism on the Island. It will support cyclists getting from the ferries, to and from their accommodation and to the tourist attractions in more remote locations. This is just one of many other exciting projects which are benefiting from government funding to improve the cycling infrastructure for visitors and locals and will strengthen the reputation of the Isle of Wight as one of the best places for a cycling holidays in the world.”

General manager of Southern Vectis, Matt Kitchin ...
... added:

“The Coaster route has proven to be tremendously popular as it is a great way to see the Island and visit attractions without the hassle of driving. The addition of space for bikes on board gives more opportunities for cyclists to get out and about, enjoying the scenery without relying on a car.”

The newly converted Coaster buses began service from 5th April and will run daily until 28th September. There is no charge to carry bicycles on the buses other than the normal (pricey!) passenger fare.
The mechanism used for storing the bicycles has been designed by two local engineering students.

Last year's timetable was for a simple four trips (each way) ...
... but fbb was intrigued by "Some extended to include East Cowes and Newport, providing a round-the-Island connection for cyclists" so went on-line to look at the 2014 timetable.
It wasn't there all last week but had appeared by Saturday morning when the service started. Better late than never!
As is typical with much of today's timetable design, the panels do not deal helpfully with journeys that add something to the standard 2013 route. The 0920 from Newport and the 1550 from Ryde are part of the anti-clockwise route and should be tacked on to the top of the table below. Likewise the continuation of the 1840 at Yarmouth should appear above and not below as it is a continuation of an anti-clockwise journey.
But it wouldn't do to make things easy to understand, would it?
There is a pretty map in the on-line leaflet; but, frankly, it is just that; pretty with the addition of "useless" to explain the potentially useful add-on trips. Those who know the Island may while away their waking hours working out which way the bus actually goes.

By the way, Matt Kitchin, Vectis boss, has been reported as saying that the better frequency introduced in 2013 had brought a four-fold increase in revenue. Sounds positive until you remember that the number of journeys increased from one (and a half?) to four! Statistics again!

Oh yes; and how many downstairs seats are there for all the creaky old crusties that make up the majority of the Island's visitors? Looks like five, across the back.

Unfortunately, our Isle of Wight correspondent has just set off on a holiday in Barbados ...
exciting view from his hotel window!

... so a detailed report on the new service may follow later.

Tomorrow, "better late than never" in Taunton and Northampton.

 Next bus blog : Tuesday 8th April 


  1. I wouldn't dismiss SVs explanation for not being able to carry bikes previously, when my employers tried to buy some (admittedly new rather than 10 year old) vehicles to carry bikes we were told we couldn't fit racks to the back and towing a trailer would have invalidated the warranty (also from memory Solent Blue Lines experience of using trailers wasn't the paragon of reliability and drivers need a special license to tow trailers which few modern drivers have, though drivers with older licenses may have the allowance through grandfather rights). Most operators who are trying to carry bikes on buses appear to be switching to carrying them inside (I believe the New Forest Tour also does it this way now) which does limit the ability to offer the facility more widely as it basically either removes seats or needs to use the buggy bay which would, on most routes, be more profitable to use as buggy bays.

    A four fold increase in passengers after an almost four fold increase in service is still a positive, there have been many instances of frequency increases not producing anything like a comparable jump in passenger numbers. Having a matching level of growth to service improvement at least offers some light of potential existing in the service.

    1. I would also remind you that 4 times 0 is 0.

  2. And who says the extra passengers aren't just people transferring from the alternative routes in their network!

    1. Given that SV consistently report journey numbers increasing year on year I think it is safe to assume some of the additional passengers on Coaster are new. Remember they've achieved all this without the crusty ones help.