Wednesday 17 August 2016

Boosting Buses in Bath - or Not? (2)

The Dominance of Bristol Tramways
The Bristol Tramways Company had not operated trams since 1941 buyt retained the anomalous company name for many years after that. A 1966 route map shows near domination of Bristol, Bath, North Somerset and much of South Gloucestershire.
Bristol is the green box upper centre, Bath is centre right. The extract below shows a significant rural network radiating from Bath.
Today's rural First Bus network is much reduced. Take away urbanised services to Bristol, and routes via Radstock and Midsomer Norton and there isn't much left.
In recent years the 265 has been re-extended to Salisbury but much else has been abandoned to "independent" operators

The X31 is a case in point.

This 1938 map extract shows a rich profusion of services in the Chippenham direction. As a route map it was useless as it failed to show any route numbers! Even in 1938 bus publicity wasn't always good. (click on the map below to enlarge it)
By the time of the Great Britain Bus Timetable and the xephos database, First Bus operated every half hour between Bath and Chippenham, routes 231 and 232.
The "Barbie" buses were then joined by a competitive newcomer, Faresaver of Chippenham.
Faresaver numbered their route X31 with X meaning nothing more than "one of our important routes", although it did miss out some of First's estate "twiddles".

Then, following a national pattern and the Aberdeen-lead policy, First simply gave up, leaving the route to the upstart newcomer. The service now runs every 20 minutes.
Faresaver operates some impressively up to date vehicles ...
BU51 TOY was originally LG52 DDF with Arrival London,
Faresaver's livery is smart, uncomplicated and looks well on all the vehicles.
GH57 BXH was previously with Southdown in Crawley.
But, we hear you cry, fbb has got it all wrong. In that list (above) there is a First Bus X31.
Is the retrenched company making a comeback om the Bath to Chippenham Road.


In a cruel twist of fate, First now runs the Sunday tendered journeys on the X31.
How the mighty are fallen!

At the other end of the scale is Faresaver's route 69, aka Zig Zag.
Although not a Bath service this indicates with breadth of Faresaver's business. It is a Wiltshire tendered service with a small number of journeys each day serving a selection of rural communities.
Again, smart vehicles are the order of the day ...
... here, a minibus also seen with Acklams of Beverley.
That is just a savour of the flavour of Faresaver, one of the largest "independents" serving Bath.

But now we must move on to Bath City and the changes to be introduced by First from Sunday 4th September.

It's quite a shake-up!

 Next Bath blog : Thursday 18th August 


  1. Some additional information for FBB - I'm sure these are not deliberate omissions but more a reflection of the limitations on blog length or lack of local knowledge.

    It's a little misleading to state that First have merely followed an Aberdeen lead (sic) diktat. Not least because such a decision was made locally and perhaps understandably and hardly quickly. Faresaver engaged in a very canny policy and have fought over that route since 1999 (at least IIRC). As FBB will doubtless recall, the tactics incurred the wrath of the TC such that Badgerline (as was) were banned from the route only to then re-register using the Wessex O license.

    What Faresaver did was to have a couple of dedicated vehicles on the service in peak but use vehicles from their many schools contracts to compete in the off peak to match First's service. In the mid noughties, you had brand new First B7RLEs running against various van derived minibuses from Faresaver. The quality that is there now is a long way from the first 10-15 years of competition. I might also add that Faresaver did try to "mix it" with Stagecoach (Chippenham to Calne). Swift and unmerciless retaliation followed with Stagecoach registering over Faresaver's local work; you can work out what happened next! I'd also add that First also had Faresaver competing on Bath city services but did successfully repulse that incursion so perhaps they just tolerated Faresaver in Wiltshire as the lesser of two evils (although Uncle Brian wouldn't have tolerated any of them, preferring to monopolise evil himself!!)

    As for why First is running eve/Sun services? Well, they announced their intention to pull off the route and may have been quite happy to relinquish everything. However, Faresaver WILL NOT operate Eve/Sun, so Wiltshire Council had to convince First to continue. Please note that when First axed the Chippenham to Frome service last year against a similar onslaught and business model from Faresaver, evening services were totally lost.

    Note FBB mentioned "some impressively up to date vehicles" and then illustrates the point with a 14 year old ex London decker. In that respect, the deckers that First and Stagecoach use in FBB's patch must be futuristic!! Also, and without wishing to attract the legal fraternity, Faresaver and it's predecessor (Fosseway Coaches) have not had an unblemished record of exemplary service - apologies if that sounds a little cryptic but those who know the local bus scene will know of the incidents that I am referring to (viz Fosseway and Wiltshire CC, and the Marshfield incident)

    Just some extra info that hopefully adds to the blog and puts some things into a little better context

    1. I don't think you are correct in that Stagecoach never registered over faresaver's local work at all.
      Faresaver have not said they will not run evening and Sunday services they have done so in the past under contract to Wiltshire Council. The reason the evening service Chippenham to Frome were lost was because Wiltshire withdrew funding.
      The Fosseway Wiltshire you refer to is in the last century !
      The Marshfield accident was just that an accident.
      You need to get your facts right before making potentially libellous comments.

  2. The second map shows the network around Swindon, not Bath.