Tuesday 1 March 2016

In It - Up To The Nines?

Mysterious Deeds in Darkest East Devon
Devon General's bus from Exeter to Sidmouth bore the number 9.  Service 77 was a sort of Sidmouth local ...
... running via Sidford to Sidbury.
Later, as National Bus-itis took hold and closer joint management with Western/Southern National, all this became the 339.
Various routes operated onwards and eastwards to from Sidmouth to Seaton via the main road or Branscombe and on to Lyme Regis. Then came privatisation and the minibus revolution (?).

Exeter to Sidmouth then becomes 52 and 52A.
Under Stagecoach and privatisation thigs remained much the same until 2005 when the current service began. 52s ran every hour between Exeter, Sidmouth and Honiton and 52As every hour from Exeter to Sidmouth and Seaton.
For the first time in omnibological history this brought a stable, fixed interval service between Sidmouth and Honiton with connection with the trains and between Sidmouth and Seaton.

Briefly, Stagcoach dallied with a connection on the Lyme Regis numbered 152.
Meanwhile, First Bus in collaboration with Devon and Dorset councils was developing its Jurassic Coaster X53.
This route did not (and does not) serve Sidmouth but until last auitumn provided a useful likn between Seaton, Beer and the main hospital in Exeter.

Then came the chop. From October 2015 the X53 was reduced to an utterly useless three journeys a day. Needless to say, this was received with boundless enthusiasm in these 'ere parts. Even fbb was forced to make known his "concerns|". Observation of the remaining non-service suggests that the plan has been a disaster with most buses running as near empty as possible.

So a poorly performing winter service was turned into a complete basket case of a service.

There were suggestions in the local press that Stagecoach should replace First.

So this registration, published last week, should come as no surprise.

Variation Accepted:
Operating between Exeter and Seaton or Honiton
given service number 9A/9/X9 effective from 02-May-2016.
To amend Timetable.

Registration Accepted
Starting Point Seaton
Finish Point: Lyme Regis
Service Number: 9A
Effective Date: 02-MAY-2016
Daily service, Hourly Mon-Sat, 2 hourly Sunday

It does need a bit of unpicking, and a bit of guesswork. In simple terms the 52A and 52B are renumbered 9A and 9 and the 9A is extended from Seaton to Lyme Regis. This will be the first time that the link has been hourly. Also within the text is the increase of the 52A Sunday service from every three hours to every two. We can only guess what the 9X might be.

fbb is expecting to receive a full timetable in the next week or so and will report further.

So what is First Bus going to do about the X53?


fbb did approach yer man at the top, Marc Reddy; but no hint was revealed.
If they've not decided about May 1st, they've left it a bit late for eight weeks notice for the registration.

Or does fbb smell a "pub deal" rat? First terminates the X53 with the X51 at Axminster and provides some sort of connection with the new 9A at Lyme Regis? Of course, such things simply don't happen; colluision is illegal - even if it is the best for the public.

A two-part Jurassic Coaster?
Maybe not!

 Next couchette blog : Wednesday 2nd March 


  1. They've not left it late for the 1st May yet, the registration notice period for the 1st May requires the registrations to be submitted by the end of this week. As a scheduler I am often still finalising timetable details the day before the registrations are sent off in the post and given the Stagecoach new registration may have upset Firsts plans you can see them having to re-plan aspects fairly last minute.

    1. FBB said "left it a bit late". your comment seems like nit-picking.

    2. Yet again First claim they can't run any service and yet Stagecoach somehow manage hourly! Maybe if First hadn't raised fare so much over the past couple of years on the Jurassic Coaster it may have been a bit busier. Also maybe if there weren't so many breakdowns or crewing issues it would help with usage. Last summer it was crazy the number of days it was almost 2 hours late due not to traffic but to vehicle issues or staffing.

  2. There's a clever trick you can play with registrations that occur within a week of a bank holiday. The normal period of notice is reduced to 21 days for that week's operations, which means that the eight weeks notice on a permanent registration can be reduced to an implementation period of seven weeks.

  3. Dorset County Council have previously made some 'selective reductions' in the services they financially support. I believe they are or have been consulting on further reductions which would (in general) see daily services reduced to just two or three days a week.

    Does the loss of the rural network they had been supporting have any knock on effect on the use of these more major and frequent 'trunk routes'? Or do they now only really cater for 'purely local' journeys/need?

    1. Seems logical they would, but why should an operator worry unless the overall bottom line is hit too hard?

      Damory who are a major loser are still recruiting.


    2. I think the days of passengers connecting between services are diminishing. The difficulties of obtaining timetable information (if not a computer user - and there are still plenty of those out there!) and the user profile of most rural routes (Mrs Scroggins with her OAP pass that only travels into town for shopping) means that passengers seldom catch the bus into town and then another bus to another town. Obviously there are exceptions, but stand at Blandford Forum East Street or West Street and see how many passengers transfer to/from X8 having used X9 or X12 to get there . . . . penny numbers, if that.

      The bus network outside urban areas is changing rapidly; for my money, better a supported bus every hour that carries decent passenger numbers than 4-5 deep rural weekly routes that carry 4-5 passengers (and there's plenty of those in Dorset, I'm afraid).

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