Monday 13 February 2017

The Fate Of The Late 28 (1)

As It Will Be From Saturday
For the residents of Groby, Arriva provide a good bus service, although not everyone agrees. Like all services entering and leaving our busy cites, it can be unreliable. Currently there are SEVEN buses an hour via "greater" Groby on Mondays to Saturdays.
26 (LIGHT BLUE) runs hourly and continues via such delightful places as Newtown Unthank, Botcheston and Bagworth taking the "long way round" to get to Coalville. 

27 (DARK BLUE) eschews the village centre, serving relatively new housing in the Laundon Way area every 30 minutes and then wiggling round the contiguous village of Ratby.

28 (MURKY YELLOW) joins the 26 and is hourly via the village. It wiggles round some of the estate roads.

29A (MURKY GREEN) is the main road route via Whitwick to Coalville and beyond, bravely venturing all the way to Burton on Trent. There are two 29As every hour. There are 29s currently but they only run between Coalville and Burton.

29X (MID BLUE) joined the mix as recently as April 2015, being an hourly pseudo-express route to Coalville running direct via the former A50 and not via the delights of Whitwick. Both 29s run via Groby village centre.

Here is a geographical aide-memoire.
Leicester is off-stage bottom right.

Putting the 26, 28, 29A and 29X together, buses leave the village ...
 ... at he following minutes past each hour.

18, 28, 33, 48, 58

The ill-fated 28 is (quirkily) the xx58 departurex. The 27s, of course, run via Laundon Way ...
... and do not serve the "traditional" Groby. They fill the gaps at 08 and 38 giving a ten minute frequency from County Hall and the Hospital into the City with the addition of the 29X.

So what has the poor 28 done to deserve its excision?

Here's what Arriva said back in December 2016.

“We are presently reviewing the A50 corridor group of services which pass through Groby,” the spokesman added. “The main Leicester – Groby – Markfield – Greenhill – Whitwick – Coalville route is busy and popular. Service 27 to and from Ratby is also well used. Service 28 is a different matter, in particular the Glebe Road, Pymm Ley Lane and Sycamore Drive section." (i.e. those Estate "wiggles" - fbb)
"On most days the total number of customers using the service from this area can be measured in single figures across all journeys over the whole day."

But isn't this a dangerous way of thinking? Any bus route running from Largeville to suburb or villages will always carry a small number of passengers to the last few stops. Chop off those stops and the route will now carry a small number of passengers to the new "last few" stops. Continue the argument to "reductio ad absurdum" and you end up with no buses at all!

Surely a wise manager will look at the Groby mini-network as a whole and make decisions accordingly. Of course, the Arriva's back-room boffins may have done that, decided that a bit of a trim wouldn't be amiss and the poor passenger numbers argument is a sop to attempt to pacify the worthy and noble burghers of the hinterland of groovy Groby.
Of course it won't pacify anybody. The small numbers will be the typical off-peak bus passenger, namely the little old lady travelling, not to the big city, but to Groby co-op, the post office or to participate in community activities.

Socially the chop will be painful even if it makes commercial sense.

Before we examine the change in more detail and speculate as to whether there might be an alternative "cunning plan", fbb will indulge in  bit of non-too-distant nostalgia. Back to 2009 in fact.

Veolia owes it existence to Napoleon, who ordered that the Compagnie Générale des Eaux should be set up. To cut a long story story it became Vivendi and then was re-re-branded as Veolia. In the UK, the company had a rush of blood to its corporate head and started buying up bus companies with  view to becoming  "dominant force in the industry".

Unfortunately most of the companies Veolia bought (or acquired in a deal with the embryonic Transdev) were hardly big noises in the bus world.

So it was that Veolia acquired Paul James of Hugglesote ...
... and a liking for Opal Fruits; which became Starburst.
The Veolia network based (loosely) on Melton Mowbray was branded as "Starburst".
In passing, fbb is amused that this particular piece of hype is branded as a "map" of Veolia bus services. Be that as it may, in June 2009 Starburst 50 began operating between Leicester and Coalville in competition with Arriva.
The service ran hourly and had one or two tweaks in its lifetime in an attempt to find a few passengers.
As far as fbb can discover, no vehicles ever carried Starburst as a brand; it was just standard red all over. Thanks to a very helpful new Groby correspondent (who supplied the above leaflet) fbb can publish a rare picture of a (non)Starburst service 50.
Note the helpful destination display.

It lasted six months. This is what the Veolia man said:-

“In July 2009 we endeavoured to provide a service from Coalville into Leicester through a route that we believed needed improving, said Wayne Smith, General manager at Veolia's local base at Hugglescote. “On some portions of our route there was an existing service but on other portions we were on new territory. It soon became obvious that existing operators within the area made a decision to defend there (sic!) existing routes by registering a service that mirrored ours and ran it a few minutes before our own." 

That was rotten of Arriva. Fancy wanting to stop some upstart company from pinching your profits!

"We have no desire at this moment in time to start what can only be described as a bus war so after due consideration we decided to cancel the service.”

Or, to put it another way - we were losing buckets-full of money.

“We were disappointed that we were not given the opportunity to develop this service,” added Wayne. “We are also aware that the increased services by these other operators were indeed reduced again following our withdrawal."

They really are rotters!
It wasn't long before Veolia decided that bus operation in the UK wasn't as much fun as they thought it would be and services were sold off  or withdrawn without replacement.
The Hugglecote site now used by Roberts Coaches ...
... which also acquired the Paul James tours brand. A selection of local buses is also operated.

7 Measham to Atherstone - (frequency varies)
27 Loughborough to Thurmaston - (hourly)
120 Coalville to Leicester - (every two hours)
155 Coalville to Castle Donington
159 Coalville to Hinckley - (hourly)

fbb was anxious to check on the frequency of the 155 and obediently went to the Roberts web site.
Very helpful!
Talking of Rail Fares
Last week fbb wrote two blogs about rail fares; read again (here) and (here). Does anyone take any notice of the old man's ramblings? Apparently so as this e-mail popped through the electronic letter box on Saturday.
But he has rambled somewhat from the purpose of this blog. Tomorrow we assess what Arriva is actually doing at Groby this coming weekend.

 Next Arriva Groby blog : Tuesday 14th February 


  1. But aren't there two "elephants in the room" behind all this?

    One is the fact that the reimbursements given to bus companies for carrying your "little old ladies" are inadequate; which means that such services will always be under threat of being cut? The same thing has happened to the bus which used to stop outside our door - although well-used, it was commercially unviable. (There is also the problem that, outside metropolitan areas, traffic will tend to flow largely in one direction at most times of day, leaving much unremunerative mileage).

    Second, and thinking of the competition between Arriva and the upstart Veolia, wasn't this inevitable once free-market deregulation came in? If one wanted to encourage private enterprise, wouldn't it have been better to mirror the London model where contractors had to work within an overall framework of services? That was not the political thinking of the time. (Of course, some of us would like to see buses run by the Corporation, as in the "good old days", but that ain't likely to happen any time soon!)

  2. Fairly certain the Hugglescote depot has always been the home of Roberts Coaches, the old Veolia depot was down a narrow lane behind some house just to the south of Coalville Town Centre (THE SCOTLANDS, LONDON ROAD, COALVILLE, LE67 3JJ), you can still see the depot with Veolia buses in it on Streetview (their offices did appear to be separate on the edge of Hugglescote in a small business unit on a farm).

    Some buses did receive Starburst branding, I have seen a picture of one with a window vinyl & I am pretty sure some Solos at Melton (which was really the Starburst network) had the pseudo-map on the back.

    In other cases your argument about not looking holistically at passenger numbers for a full route is often correct, but in this case where the majority of the service is duplicated by other busier services it is not. If you look at the distinctive sections of a service (and in this case it is a very small proportion of the whole route) and it is carrying less than 1 passenger a journey (which by their statement it certainly is) then it is really a question if you should retain it. Looking at the map I suspect that most of the prospective passengers already walk to either the route of the 29 or 27 to pick up the more frequent services with little inconvenience, it is difficult to justify it's commercial retention & one suspects with council funding pressures I suspect that the rest of the network provides buses within the statutory walking distance as well.

  3. Thanks for corrections and enhancement, Dwarfer1979.