Friday 23 November 2018

Saving Buses : Making (More) Money

Because we are blessed (?) with a bus system that has to be a business, we can expect operators to be always looking fir ways to improve their profit margins. Whether commercialism is the right policy for the country is always open to debate; but, currently we are stuck with in and no government of any colour is going to be brave enough to take it all back into some form of public ownership. 

Despite what Jezza might say!

In the Midlands group of companies, Stagecoach is planing a short back and sides trim of all its networks from January 2019.

We have already seen some of the more significant village and inter-urban changes (read again) and these are summarised below.

 X7 Northampton Leicester
    service halved over the full route
X10 Northampton Kettering
    service halved, diverted to cover part 8
X89 Northampton Towcester
    withdrawn completely, part covered by revised 88
  3 Piddinton Northampton Harlestone Road
    withdrawn completely
  8 Northampton Broadway Eastern District
    withdrawn, see X10. Kings Heath section remains

The 3 and the X89 chopleave several villages with no service and little chance of the local authority (being bankrupt) doing anything about it.

Some of the town services have seen chops in frequency and fbb will TRY  to explain.

Sunnyside (a k a Obelisk Rise for ancient Northamptonians) is de-linked from its Eastern District 12 ...
... and becomes a self contained 4 (an old route number!)
FREQUENCY REDUCED from every 12 to every 15

Thee 8/12 to Kings Heath ...
... becomes all 8 but retains a bus every 15 minutes.

The Briar Hill and Camp Hill routes are merged ...
... into a really wiggly service 3.
This will match the service 2 frequency, no no change there and continue every 30 minutes to Tesco replacing the 10/X10 - again no change in frequency BUT...

Hunsbury Hill Road loses ...
... its half hourly bus. Many folk will have longer journeys and a longer walk to a bus. The Camp Hill estate is served by a two hourly wiggle on the 89 (currently 88).

The current 12 to East Hunsbury is unchanged in frequency at every 30 minutes ...
... but loses its Granary Road wiggle ...
... where the folk who don't have a car (maybe not many?) will have a longer trudge from their current stop to Butts Road.
The 12 is linked across Wootton with the former service 1 to make a mega circular (both ways round as 12/12A).
Service 1 is currently every 30 minutes on its southern section and this does not change. It is hard to see what this has achieved for Stagecoach but maybe the buses can complete the round trip on a more economic schedule. Service 1 is unchanged in the Eastern District.

And so to poor Hardingstone.
Half hourly service 7 (YELLOW) is diverted via the present 3 route (MID BLUE) to replace the expunged 3 (see above and previously). Hardingstone only get as hourly bus (SERVICE REDUCTION) on the X6 (Northampton to Milton Keynes) which also covers the 10 which will be diverted away from Parklands (DARK BLUE).
To confuse Mrs Miggins and her chums, Hardinstone still get a service 7 on Sundays.

Is there any good news?

A very tiny bit of good news. Because service 8 via Broadway is halved to hourly (BROWN), nice Mr Stagecoach is hoping folk with totter through to Birchfield Road East and catch the 12 (PALE BLUE) ...
... SERVICE INCREASE to every 10 minutes. 

This means that, had fbb been living there as a teenager today he would have a half hourly X45/X46 (BROWN) at the top of Orchard Hill (largely unchanged from the 1960s) ...
... but a bus every TEN at the bottom of his road; once the purview of York Brothers as-and-when service. The old man used to live here ...
... as a young man with mum, dad and sister. It is at the H of Orchard Hill.


If you must have a "commercial" bus system, this sort of thing is to be expected. But will the cuts (in response, we are told to a reduction in demand) simply create a further reduction in demand and then the inevitable cycle continues with the next lot of changes in 12 months' time.

Is this REALLY the best way to run a bus service?

 Weekend mélange blog: Saturday 24th November 


  1. Well I remember cuts coming thick and fast in the era of regulation and near universal public ownership. As far as I can recall, some of this reflected wider societal change, such as the coming of out-of-town shopping and employment. One of the aims of deregulation was to reduce the ever-increasing bill for network subsidy, which in non-Met areas at least, it did quite successfully.
    If we start from the premise that no more public money will be available for bus services no matter who owns or controls them, what is the alternative of which fbb hints?

  2. A commercial operator will have a minimum profit needed per passenger carried, while we as a local authority have a maximum subsidy per passenger carried.

    Therefore there is no difference really, each party is just looking at it from the opposite side of the "zero" line.

    OK subsidy can keep things going, but for how long? At what point do you get challenged about running empty buses when the roads have pot holes, libraries are no more and the elderly are not cared for?

    It's not just the bus industry though. Take a look at the High Street. When M&S closes a branch do people go to the next nearest branch or do they shop with someone else? Its a risk M&S take, just like Stagecoach.

    Or if buses are not run commercially, but run as a public service should we compare them to increasing school class sizes, closed Police stations, closed libraries, alternate week bin collections, street lights turned off at midnight? Either way the end result look pretty similar.

  3. Agree with the above comments from Shieldsman and Anon.

    FBB seems to ignore the realities of our current situation in terms of reducing high street footfall - surely "correspondent Alan" can confirm that decline of Northampton town centre?

    As for the funding, surely FBB is not going to advocate cross subsidy.....? That didn't work in the past - FBB's preferred environment.