Saturday, 27 December 2014

Christmas Presents - Taunton versus Penzance

Go? No-go!

A reminder that, in London, Sunday service ran all day yesterday (Boxing Day) on buses. Similarly on the Underground but subject to engineering work. Most Newtork Rail Lines uncluding the Overgound were closed, but see yesterday's blog (read again).

First Bus put out a self adulatory press release.

Responding directly to people's changing habits and the increased demand for travel on 26 December, around 1,000 buses and some 1600 staff will operate local services across Britain on Boxing Day. First expects to carry in the region of 250,000 passengers. 

"With every passing year we operate more and more services on Boxing Day," said Giles Fearnley, Managing Director of First Bus. "Whilst historically we have operated services on 26 December principally with support from Local Authorities, this year we will see a record 55% of Boxing Day services being run entirely at our commercial risk."

He continued: "We are responding to the needs of our passengers. Customers are telling us that they want to get out and about on Boxing Day to take advantage of the sales, take in a sporting event or visit friends and family. Retailers and Local Authority partners are telling us that running buses on Boxing Day helps support local economies."

"I'm delighted to confirm therefore that we?ll be running services in the majority of the major towns and cities that we operate in, including Aberdeen, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Leicester, Bristol, Portsmouth, Southampton and Swansea."

Responding to people's needs in Rotherham and Doncaster, First were running NO buses on Boxing Day. ditto Stagecoach in Barnsley. But in Sheffield, another small settlement, services were being run by First (mainly) and Stagecoach. Why the South Yorkshire difference?
Sheffield City Council (NOT the PTE) was coughing up some dosh with a dribble donated by Meadowhell.

Likewise the tiny community of Plymouth ...
... had nothing from First or CityBus.

But Leicester got a Sunday service ...
... finishing early; exactly the same level of service as competitor Arriva.

Confusion reigned in First's West Yorkshire operations.

Special timetables on service 72 to Leeds and service 363 to Huddersfield.
No service on other routes.

Special timetables on services 185, 301, 306, 310, 314, 324, 328, 363, 370, 372 and 503.
No service on other routes.

Special timetables on service 503 to Huddersfield and service 508 to Leeds.
No service on other routes.

Special timetables on services 1, 2, 3/3A, 4, 5, 6, 7, 12, 13/13A, 16/16A, 19, 33/33A, 40, 42, 49, 50/50A, 51/52, 56, 72, X98 and 508. No service on other routes.

and, up the road in  York 
Special timetables on services 3, 7 & 9 (Park and Ride)
No service on other routes.

And in Manchester, from TfGM:-
Arriva, First, Stagecoach and South Lancs Travel will run a special or Sunday timetable on some services.

It is hard to see, from a comfy armchair in seasonal Seaton, how this decision is made. Where there is competition (e.g.Leicester), it is odd that both parties seem to have come to the same decision - without collusion, of course.

But even within one subsidiary the process seems illogical. Take First in Devon and Cornwall plus Buses of Somerset. This shebang is all run by Alex Carter with admin being based in Plymouth.
We have already seen that Plymouth was seasonally busless, as was the whole of Cornwall. But in the flesh-pots of Somerset ...
... the same team was running a Sunday service. OK, Sunday service in the Taunton and Bridgwater area is hardly lavish; Taunton locals 1 and 22 plus buses to Weston-super-Mud and Minehead but it's better than nothing. Amazingly the 102, normally Monday to Friday only, appears in the web site index as a "daily" service ...
... but don't expect to find one on Boxing Day. It is a bludner.

No. Boxing Day public transport makes no sense at all.
 verse 27 
  Luke Ch 2  
Led by the Spirit, Simeon went into the Temple. When the parents brought the child Jesus into the Temple to do for him what the Law required, Simeon took the child in his arms and gave thanks to God.

It is NOT all over for another year; it's just beginning.

Under Jewish cleanliness rules, a woman who had just given birth was "unclean"; so she had to go to the temple to perform a ritual cleansing ceremony. As the years ticked by, it merged with the child's official dedication and naming.
Something spooky happened. This old codger, Simeon, had been told in a vision that he would not die before seeing the one who was to "save Israel". No doubt he, like thousands of others, was expecting a military or a political Messiah.

Instead Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus arrived.

Simeon's response is telling.

Now, Lord, you have kept your promise,
and you may let your servant go in peace.
With my own eyes I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples:
A light to reveal your will to the Gentiles
  and bring glory to your people Israel.

Simeon was one of the first to recognise the purpose of Christmas.

And a note for Church attenders (some denominations only!) The "Song of Simeon" has a posh title in Latin, viz. (and that's from Latin as well); it's called the "Nunc Dimittis", Latin for "Now you dismiss" i.e. "you may let our servant go".
 Next model railway blog : Sunday 28th December 


  1. I think a lot of this is due to the changing nature of the Christmas 'holiday'. Those of us who are longer in the tooth remember just having Christmas Day and Boxing Day as the holiday. You returned to work the following day. So you travelled out on Christmas eve and returned on Boxing Day. Sunday services on the 26th were the norm - and most staff were paid a premium for working it.

    Once New Years Day became a holiday (and workers generally enjoyed more annual leave) more and more people seemed to be off for longer. There were more cars available 'at home' and less people needing to travel on Boxing Day, Loadings, certainly on bus services, dropped off quite considerably. Some local authorities opted to financially support services on Boxing Day and/or New Years Day but from what I saw loadings were often very poor.

    Things have now swung back with more shopping on these days - but most people do so by car even if there are bus services operating.

  2. You're not quite right fbb. Your last line should say "No Boxing Day public transport makes no sense at all". Giles Fearnley hits the nail on the head. Subsidy from local authorities has underpinned Boxing Day services. Unfortunately, subsidy has underpinned too much bus industry profit for too long. it has been easy pickings and stopped innovation. Operators need to stop taking a blinkered look at individual journey receipts and take a much wider look at providing a 'service'. They need to build revenue potential on routes that are generally profitable and make them available when people want to travel, which includes early mornings, evenings, Sundays and all public holidays including Christmas and the New Year. If the industry wants a future, it needs to get back to running buses at all times, not just when the pickings are easy, so that people can travel when they want. If there is no convenient bus to take them, people will find alternatives and stick with them, so you lose them permanently. It can be done. Be brave. Taking Clive C's last point, Boxing Day has become one of the retail industry's most profitable days of the year because of the car. There is no reason why the bus cannot take advantage of this demand as well, as some operators have realised for some time and others are now srarting to catch on.

  3. A lot depends on what you have to pay the drivers. One of the cities listed above has a union agreement for such a high pay rate it means local authority support is required to run anything on Boxing Day.