Saturday 16 September 2017

Medley of Miscellaneous Matters (1)

Moaning Mule Man
Eight correspondents have sent various bits of the "Jurassic Mule" saga to fbb over the last couple of weeks, including one person who expressed surprise that el chubbo had not featured this "happening" in one of his blogs.

Well now ...

Mr Mule has had a rotten season; the weather has been bad, his vehicles have broken down with consequent high costs and he probably hasn't made much money - if any. But if you are potty enough to run an open top bus service in the UK's variable climatic conditions, using old vehicles, what do you expect?
This is not a personal criticism of Mr Mule, it is a statement of harsh reality. fbb has been there, done that and got several T shirts from his time running an open top bus service in the UK's variable climatic conditions. And fbb didn't make much money either. There was also a private hire coach business, specialising mainly in school journeys work but with a few interesting variations.
It didn't make much money either!

A small bus and coach business will always be risky; one bad breakdown and a season's profits are blown!

Under these circumstances a small number of unjustified complaints can explode into an enthusiasm- busting horror. The person in Haven Court flats (pictured right) ...
... is well-known amongst other residents for being a rampant trouble-maker. So why over-react? A better place to "wait time" would be at the sea front itself, namely Marine Place by the clock tower. If the critics have a point, then move there.
If the wheelnut loosening and access blocking in Colyton are real, then the police should be involved. fbb does not know whether they were.

There have also been reported personality problems within the collection of people who have been running the tours. (And Mr Mule has not laid off 25 people although that number may have contributed at various times during he season.)

There were some dubious business decisions. During the low season, the service operated Mondays to Thursdays only, omitting the weekends when Seaton is noticeably busier. When fbb ran his bus on the Isle of Wight, he was constantly told that Saturday was "changeover day" and it was not worth running. In fact Saturday was consistently the second busiest day of the week.

Additionally, it was announced on-line that Mr Mule would be retiring after the recent Bank Holiday weekend and supporters were asked to come along and give him a cheery send-off.

Therefore a Facebook contribution from the "retiree" posted recently seems a little confusing.

So has he retired or not?

You're joking!

Because of a very small number of trouble stirrers? Don't be silly.

Can you guarantee that there won't be another "problem" in Dorset? Of course not.

After all the bad publicity for the project as a whole?

The reason fbb did not join in the fray originally was that there was a danger of the whole thing becoming about personalities, not about business decisions. But because of the huge amount of press coverage, fbb felt obliged to flesh out the situation a little. It is never a good idea to believe everything you read in the papers, or even everything you hear on the Jeremy Vine show.

But the only reason NOT to run in 2018 is that the business is simply not viable. However unpleasant the so-called "vendetta" might have appeared, it should not feature in a future business decision. 

There IS a viable business model based on Seaton; but it might need to be significantly different from that operated in the last three years.
Mildred DeLois Taylor is an African-American writer known for her works exploring the struggle faced by African-American families in the Deep South. Her opinion is appropriate:-

“It's tough out there, boy, and as long as there are people, there’s gonna be somebody trying to take what you got and trying to drag you down. It's up to you whether you let them or not.”

There isn't, and there never was, a vendetta.

Seaton - an idyllic town? Even the fbbs, who greatly enjoy their life there, would not go that far.

Lost, the Lovely Logo
Remember Arriva's "interim branding", earlier this year?
Remember the new logo, announced at the same time.
A closer look?
Three Arriva roundels ...
... sort of - reformed (or deformed) into a letter "A" - sort of? It seems to have vanished without trace. Here is the latest of several Arriva liveries on service 5/6 at Milton Keynes, now "Sapphired" ...
... although the word "Sapphire" is barely visible, as snapped by Northampton correspondent, Alan.

The "old" logo prevails. Is "Sapphire" on the way out?

Wet Weather in Wales
Just a nice picture of people enjoying a train ride in the rain ...
... in an open sided carriage on the Talyllyn Railway.

Perhaps Mr Mule should offer his passengers strong umbrellas for bad weather rides?

fbb once carried just two passenger on his open top bus in the pouring rain. They were a young man and his "belle" and obviously very much in love. They travelled on the open top deck all round fbb's downland tour route crouched low in the seat with an open brolly pulled right down to the seat backs creating a near-waterproof "tent" with a very limited view of the view.

fbb offered them a free repeat ride when (if?) the sun came out. they would have none of it. "It's the best thing w have done all holiday," they opined with great glee, "very good value!"

Total revenue for four round trips - £8.

If only all customers were like that.

If only more people enjoyed riding open-topped in the rain, fbb would be very rich and Mr Mule would be very happy.

More Medley tomorrow.

 Next Miscellaneous blog : Sunday 17th September 


  1. I feel the need to address some points in your blog.
    You mention no service on Friday, Saturday and Sunday despite having a higher footfall. For an unknown reason Friday Saturday and Sunday carryings were around 1/4 of Monday to Thursday. The tramway tell me they have the same experience. Why aren't these people spending money?
    We used Marine Place for waiting time last season which upset AVMT as they felt it was blocking their access as they wait time there.
    The complaints to the council were that we waited over 10 minutes at a time on the Underfleet Southbound - completely unsubstantiated- we timetabled 6 minutes, but in reality the buses never lay over that long as they were inevitably delayed coming out of Lyme Regis due to traffic congestion. Complaints were made before we even started running for the season about us blocking The Underfleet, perhaps supporting the unsubstantiated nature of the original complaint.
    Regarding the abuse, unfortunately completely true- you will see 2 tour guides and a tour driver have commented on the Facebook post of their own experiences being similar to our own (if you have time to trawl through the 500+ Commments)
    I'm not sure how you conclude last weeks media coverage is negative. Negative about Seaton, yes, certainly not negative about the mule. We have since received 1507 messages of support and only 9 negative messages. 99.4% positive by my own calculations. We never imagined it being of national newsworthiness, and only made contact with BBC devon, Devon Live and Pulhams group, as we are required to publish the termination of our tours- 56 days notice isn't required for tour registrations, but public announcement is required.
    Regarding viability - the business broke even and returned a small profit. quite happy with that as long as its bringing enjoyment. That enjoyment was lost due to the constant unpleasant behaviour from a few.
    There is no disputing a clash with someone who was supposed to be helping me with promotion and running things, despite talking a good game, failed to deliver on all tasks. He was dismissed early in August, and Richard stepped in at short notice. That person is claiming he was unfairly dismissed and claimed he was victimised. The facts are he failed to deliver his promises and as any diligent business would, we have records of such. Richard in 10 days delivered the planning of extra services for Lyme Regis Red Arrows, and promoting them. That single day beat our previous busiest day by double. The dismissed person had failed to complete any planning for anything for the Red Arrows day - our normal service would have been inadequate - Richard identified this from his experience of Red Arrows displays in Falmouth where he had previously worked.
    Richard took it on his own to run weekend promotions, due to low passenger numbers even in peak season. With those promotions weekend passenger numbers rose to around 2/3 of weekday numbers. It is my believe that weekend footfall around all of the towns on the routes are generally people with low disposable income as when we ran promotions with fares reduced at weekends, passenger numbers increased. One Saturday where we ran a £5 ticket offer was in fact our 5th busiest day. Richard obtained feedback from many passengers when he promoted the tram and Jurassic centre that the ticket prices were unaffordable perhaps supporting the fact that those visitors had little disposable income.
    On wet days our short tours were very popular between Charmouth and Lyme Regis as people still visited Lyme on wet days but none of the other destinations, which was in itself something I never figured out, as little indoor activity in Lyme!

  2. I write as a user. We used the mule early in the season it may have been the summer term half term can't recall. Anyway we loved the fact that at that point it provided a much needed Sunday bus service to Beer where we were based. It was wet when we travelled which was a shame but so what. We went from Beer to Lyme and back to Seaton after a warm drink in Lyme. I loved the mule and can't believe it has been stopped by silly people who seem to get upset by a handful of buses when they put up with crazy car pollution and congestion all the time. Very sad. I hope the. Use is resurrected in some form.