Wednesday 31 May 2017

What's These Buses Called "A", Eh? (2)

Seasonal Bravery?
The northern coast of the far west of Cornwall is sparsely populated and sparsely served by bus from Penzance (click on the map to enlarge).
First service 17 runs via St Just and eastwards to Pendeen whilst service 16A goes to St Ives via the Gurnards Head Hotel, a tidy step from the actual "Head" as quoted in the timetable!
Often overlooked is the service 7 offered by the West Penwith Community Bus ...
... which links Lands End with Zennor via St Just.
In recent years, First has offered a service 300 with variable number of round trips. Two years ago, when fbb was in Penzance, this route was not frequent ...
... being three trips a day, usually on a vintage Bristol FLF.
The trips that fbb observed were poorly loaded.

So the 2017 timetable comes as some surprise. Service 300 becomes A3 and runs hourly ...
... "connecting" (i.e. through buses) with the A2 at Lands End. Open top buses are due to be provided.

Scenery pictures never do justice to the live view, especially from a breezy top deck. But here are some samples.

Sennen Cove


Gurnards Head Hotel


There are sea views almost all the way and the double route trip terminates at the cliff top bus station in St Ives.

But the circular bus fun is not yet over. At St Ives the hardy open top explorer can change buses (yes, really change this time!) to the A2, formerly the summer only 17B ...
... for more views, including the mysterious and glorious St Michaels Mount.
First Bus kindly provide those who wish to do the full round trip with a combined summary timetable.
Which leaves us with the question, "why A?"

The answer sort of began with a service from Newquay rebranded last year.
Service 56 bears the name "the Atlantic coaster" ...
... and becomes the hourly A5 for 2017, but is not open top.

Some journeys on the A4 (formerly 57) will be devoid of top.

To complete the set of As, the long-standing service 17 between Pendeen, Penzance and St Ives joins the Atlantic Coasters club with the unadventurous name of A17.
So from one bus route from Newquay last year as a single Atlantic Coaster we have a plethora of routes with the pluralise Atlantic CoasterS label.

It is not clear how many vehicles will be carrying the new livery. As we saw recently in Weston Super Mare, routes have been publicised at Excel but with little evidence on the road; according to local bus watchers.

The First Kernow Facebook page has pictures of two. One an open top double deck ...
... which presumably cannot be used on service because you have to climb a step!

The single deck is equally intriguing because it appears o have a map witb only the A5/56 from Newquay and the A3/300 from st Ives.
A work in progress,

Picky thought; have the stops been re-branded or do they still show 300?

fbb would like to publish pictures of Atlantic Coasters happily coasting plus any other local publicity.

Please send to:-

This batch of newly-promoted Open Top and associated services represents a significant act commercial bravery, most notably with the dramatic expansion of the 300/A3. It deserves to do well.

 Next Nottingham blog : Thursday 1st June 


  1. ALL bus stops on the old 57, 300, 17B and 1 routes have been updated and are in full branding. All buses I saw on A1-A6 were in full branding. Connections at St Ives were also held where possible. Healthy loads on all buses on Monday, particularly considering the weather. Full Kernow timetables also available on all buses and in St Austell station and Penzance temporary bus station stop. 2 step entrance open toppers running on Monday using up their 20 day exemption and on full branding including the trusty D reg Volvo ex Badgerline Weston-super-Mare. All in all a fantastic effort from FirSt Kernow. I for one hope they are a success. Complemented by the new fully branded new buses on T1,T2,U1 and U2 things are really looking up at last. My only complaint would be my A4 non-open top (it was raining) was fully branded outside but rather run down inside, as was my A17. But I'm told it's still a work in progress and even Helston might be finally getting new buses. Miracles really can happen. First elsewhere in the country should take note of the sheer scale of turn round in Kernow.

  2. Thank you very much Karl. Penzance is a long way from Seaton, but I hope to visit in the near future. Developments in Cornwall have been very encouraging indeed. Meanwhile ... in Sheffield ...

  3. From someone who lives in Doncaster and has the delight of First South Yorkshire, I couldn't be more shocked that First can offer something so positive sounding! It's high time FSY got its arse into gear ...

    1. They do still have lots of very old run down buses on other routes but Rome wasn't built in a day and, unlike other parts of First, the improvements are a step change and even the biggest First critics, such as me, can't fail to be impressed. Once all routes are done it may well become the best First operation in the country, which is a far cry from being the most neglected which it was only a few years ago. I do appreciate many still have to make do with old buses and the awful First seats in Cornwall but they clearly are trying and focussing on the tourist routes first makes sense as it is where the money will come from to sustain and update the other less profitable routes. Also a shout out to the bus station supervisor at St Ives who seems to have been there for years and puts his life on the line daily helping to reverse buses. Last year he helped reverse a bus all the way back up the hill when another bus broke down in front of us. Compare the Kernow staff and drivers with First Portsmouth and the difference is frightening. Upgrading buses, routes and frequencies only works if you have publicity and excellent staff to back it up and First Kernow seem to have figured that out.

      To FBB, Penzance is a long way from Honiton Road, Exeter too but made easier with early morning Falcons!