Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Wednesfield West Midlands Mystery

What's Going On?
Thanks to an email from a corespondent, this headline popped into fbb's in-box a few days ago.
An on-line trawl produced a further confusing note from 2012.
Confusing for fbb; but it appears that in 2012 Arriva bought a company called Liyell Ltd and four year later are getting rid of much of their work in that area by hiving it off to Diamond Bus West Midlands.

So who or what is or was Liyell Ltd?

The company was established by ex-London Forest manager Tom Young and business partner Barrie Marsden in 1992 with two Leyland Leopard coaches and three Leyland Nationals in a lime green and yellow livery, from which the company got its name. The first bus service operated was route 171 (Walsall - Leamore - Bloxwich - Mossley).
The vehicle had previously operated for Western in Scotland ...
The trading name was changed to Choice Travel ...
... and new(er?) buses were acquired for the trunk 171 route which competed with West Midlands Travel service.
Some sources suggest that the 171/301 operation was a co-operative venture. 301 buses carried the brand Superline.
Diamond Bus is now the intruder, Choice and its successors having "moved on".
Choice collected a couple of other companies, notably Metropolitan Omnibus ...
... which rapidly gained Choice Yellow. Also sucked into the fold was A2Z.
In the middle of this activity Liyell was bought out by D & G and buses began to appear in blue and off white.
A rebrand to "Midland" and a repaint in red completes the interwoven progress of the original Liyell company.
Back to Arriva. Their first move upon the completion of the purchase of Liyell/Midland was to "do up" the depot at Wednesfield seen here with a mixture of Midland's red an Arriva's blue.
Local bigwigs were invited to a relaunch with new(er) vehicles and a £280,000 refurb of the depot.
It all seemed to be going very well.

But clearly it wasn't. 

Now we read that the story comes full circle as Arriva is seeking to offload its Wednsfield depot and work to Rotala's Diamond West Midland. What Rotala will get is not yet specified, but most of Arriva's current work in the area is tendered; fill-in services running every hour.
What is clear is that Arriva, like First, is taking every opportunity to divest itself of the weaker parts of its business. We have said goodbye to Arriva routes in the Burton upon Trent area and there have been service cut-backs in Staffordshire. There are rumours of cut-backs to come from Stagecoach and some more trimming from First.

STOP PRESS : First sell their Borders operation (Galashiels etc) to West Coast Motors. More to follow.

Now is really not the time to invest in the bus industry!

Or perhaps it is if they are going to make bigger profits.

And an apology : fbb is no expert in the West Midlands scene and this post is offered as a quick summary of the background to Arriva's disposal. Others are far better qualified to understand and communicate the detail.

 Next Taunton blog : Thursday 9th March 


  1. A major revamp of Arriva's operations in Maidstone is taking place on 2 April. They have previously withdrawn from operations in East Sussex and scaled down their Tunbridge Wells depot.

    Over the last few years traffic congestion, road works (including rebuilding of the main river bridge gyratory system) and problems on the M20 have regularly (more days than not) grid locked large parts of the town road network. This has had a serious impact on reliability which Arriva have acknowledged.

    Their answer is a revamp of the network removing all cross town services except for some school journeys. A few areas will loose their buses, or have frequency reductions, in one case becoming every 70 minutes and another every 75! The 7/8 and 8 minute frequencies become every 10 etc. Quite understandable and 'sold' as such. However checking with Traveline the London Road (71 and 72) whilst every ten minutes departing Maidstone will return on a 5/10/15/5/10/15 split (currently every 7/8)! There are no doubt other anomalies yet to be found.

    The bigger 'concern' is the loss of the through service 6 between Maidstone and Tunbridge wells via Pembury Hospital except at peak times. This has latterly been operating every 30 minutes partly due to the new/rebuilt enlarged Pembury (Tunbridge Wells) Hospital taking over functions from Maidstone Hospital.The plan had been for it to have a much larger funded network about six years ago but Countryliner who had been awarded the contract ceased trading before it started.

    The 6 will now only operate between Tunbridge Wells and East Peckham every 30 minutes. From East Peckham their will be a new 66 operating to Maidstone Hospital (not the town centre) every hour. Technically it could connect with the 6 at East Peckham but what do passengers do to get to Maidstone Town Centre? To add to the mix in the off peak 6X a semi direct Hospital staff bus between the two hospitals operated by Arriva (which operates every 45 minutes!)will now start in Maidstone town centre operating via Maidstone Hospital and all stops to Nettlestead (before East Peckham) and then go non stop to Pembury Hospital. So no direct link between Maidstone town centre and East Peckham, The Hop Farm (main tourist destination - people do use the bus, Paddock Wood (though train here is an option), Brenchley, Matfield and Pembury village. No doubt there are figures to back up these 'changes', but it does seem a mess.

    The local press reports that consultation has already taken place with Kent County Council, as a result of which some changes had been made. A customer liaison day was held a few Saturdays ago.

  2. The contracts for most services operated by Arriva's Wednesfield garage expire in April, and the new contracts for them have all been won by Diamond (whether Arriva submitted bids for them I do not know). Wednesfield also lost work last year.

  3. Correction to my comment above - most (not quite all) of the new contracts have been won by Diamond. One service will go to Birmingham-based Claribel Coaches.

  4. Route One reports that Diamond applied for 100 extra vehicles on its O licence, but in the light of monitoring, the Traffic Commissioner has only granted 50, because of poor service reliability.
    If the Arriva drivers only work on tenders for Centro/Transport for West Midlands/whatever this week's title is, then it is entirely possible that TUPE applies, and any new operator would have to offer jobs to the Arriva staff (on Arriva conditions, no less).

  5. Travel A2Z - that was an interesting operation to say the least. Went from taxi's to loadsabuses in not very long and went under. Some vehicles ended up with Liyell along with the A2Z boss. I had the 'joy' of a trip from Walsall to Rhyl on an Irizar which had a somewhat leaky roof. I got very wet. AR