Saturday, 30 May 2020

It's Saturday Stuff ...

Why The Rush?

Maybe this is why.
fbb received this picture from Roy in Sheffield of a bus actually showing the Bus Full sign - but no route number, so a waiting passenger cannot be sure that his/her chosen bus is full. Neither Roy nor fbb knows whether the bus was actually "full" under the social distancing "advice".

As fbb has mentioned before it is all a bit "chicken and egg". If things are to start unlockdowning, public transport will be needed; but it will be a minority sport until the locks are undone a bit more. It's all a big hunk of guesswork.

As usual James Freeman. First Bristol boss, is keen to explain it all to his staff.

After a few false starts we were given the go-ahead last night to start our ramp-up of services across the West of England from this week-end. The main effect will be felt Mondays to Fridays across the day from 0630 to 1930.

"Last night" was Wednesday night. Not much notice for a June 1st increase in frequency.

During this time we are bringing many of our routes back to 80% of their normal operation, with greatly enhanced frequencies (practically back to normal, in fact) especially in our cities and towns. 

This means that our requirement for staff is considerably increased from next week, so people who were expecting to be furloughed next week for a further three-week session most likely won’t be (everyone concerned is being contacted individually).

Our engineers have already stepped up their operations with many people already returned off furlough.

For those of you who are on longer-term furlough, for social distancing reasons of one kind or another there is no change at this stage. We do expect a further increase in services from a few weeks’ time, probably at the start of July when we will be inviting anybody who wants to and is able to come off furlough to come back to work. I know that some of you are ready to get back behind the driving wheel! Anyway, for now, we welcome this next stage in increasing our operations and getting back closer to normal - with social distancing, of course!!

fbb thinks the "false starts" in bus company thinking boil down to the need to ensure that someone will pay the bill! That, of course is HMG, but ultimately will be you and me as we happily agree to let the chancellor have a bit more of our income/pension - maybe a lot more!

In Sheffield, for example, Stagecoach service 1 running north-south between Jordanthorpe and High Green was recently enhanced from every 30 minutes to every 15 over part of the route (Mondays to Fridays only) ...
... a relatively generous provision even with the 2 metre rule. On Saturdays the headway remained every half hour.
From 1st June the Monday to Friday service goes to every 15 minutes all the way ...
... as does Saturday!
That is an awful lot of empty buses to pay for.

Happy chappie Shappie only announced the agreed funding at the press conference on Wednesday last; hence a huge outbreak of last minute-itis.

But it is happening - almost everywhere.
Generally speaking the norm seems to be something like the pre-virus Saturday service.

fbb has even had a message from Arriva!

Dear Lynford

At Arriva, our key focus continues to be the safety of our customers and employees during this uncertain time and we are proud to support all the key workers and customers needing to travel as lockdown eases.

We will be increasing our current service levels across England in the next few days to ensure that we can serve the rise in customers needing to travel, whilst also adhering to the latest government guidance to make sure social distancing is possible on our buses.

Please note: services in Cheshire, Wales and Southend will be revised at a later date so there are currently no changes. Please keep checking back on the link below to stay up to date.

We will continue to monitor our service levels in line with current demand and ongoing advice from the government and public health bodies.

The love letter from Arriva came with a very scary graphic that was so big it barely fitted on fbb's laptop screen.
The text for the message, as quoted above, can just about be seen. It is below the tiny not at all scary screen display!

fbb rarely uses Arriva buses but supposes somehow they have found "Lynford" on some list somewhere.

Many thanks to those who have sent fbb uplift updates and links to web sites. He hopes to look at some of these in detail in dues course - that is when (and if) he gets the GoTimetable stuff finished in time.

12 hours yesterday (including refreshment brakes and the usual high number of PNBs)  - a little elongated by some annoying technical blips with the process.

No one has yet found any printed material for Monday's changes.

X5 Goes Begging
A while back, fbb reported that Stagecoach were abandoning their Severn Express route between Bristol and Newport ...
... having enthusiastically taken it over from First who some time previously took it over totally instead of operating it jointly with Stagecoach.

What fbb had forgotten is the Stagecoach also absorbed First's Excel X5 from Weston-super-Mud to Cribbs Causeway.
Stagecoach has jacked that route in as well.
But the X5 will continue after Stagecoach's demise.

As explained by none other than James Freeman of, erm, First Bus.

As you will remember, Stagecoach took over the operation of the X5 service from us last autumn. They have now announced that they are ceasing to operate the service altogether from mid-June. We have decided to register a modest partial replacement—operating between Weston-s-Mare and Portishead, starting on 14th June.

So Excel is back on the X5! The replacement Service X5 will run every 2 hours.

This replacement allows North Somerset Council time to explore a more permanent solution in time for when passenger levels start to increase, as more workers begin to return in line with the recent changes to Government guidance. The section to Cribbs Causeway is not covered by this proposal.

And A Puzzle Picture
It has a tenuous connection with transport and a slightly less tenuous connection with fbb.
The 10p coin, added for scale, might help - or it might be a giant chocolate 10p covered in silver foil!

 More Stuff tomorrow : Sunday 31st May 


  1. Obviously bus companies are concerned about who will make up for the lost revenue as they increase services and thus costs, but FBB obviously missed the important point that "Go" for 1st June's next stage of unlock was dependent on various virus reduction targets being met. Until that was known, and announced by No.10 we didn't know if we could move to the next stage.

    So. not much notice, and even less so for those running school transport as schools were on half term this week and at the same time re-arranging classroom space etc and not so generally answering the phone / emails about when, how and what capacity they need transport.

    FBB might also consider this whilst mocking the hard working bus industry. Many vehicles have been SORN, not unreasonably. But unlike when you re-tax a taxed vehicle for another year and the year runs from the end of the expiry of the current period, with SORN the payment begins with the month you re-tax the vehicle. Monday happens to be the 1st of the month, so any vehicles removed from SORN today, ready for Monday, will be charged for the whole of May. One can imagine the DVLA computer going down in the first few minutes of Monday morning as engineering admin staff all log on together. Oh, and one final problem a family run coach company highlighted is that DVLA won't take payment by most company credit cards via their website.

    The general pubic hasn't the faintest idea of all the preparation going on behind the scenes, and it could be argued, nor should they. But FBB, supposedly an expert, should display a little more knowledge, and considerably more understanding. I mean, moaning about the lack of leaflets! And if by "printed materials" he means roadside displays, I suggest he looks a bit wider than his usual Sheffield bias. Or would a few real facts spoil his skewed view of life? My LA has been out changing roadsides, re-arranging bay allocations to move the busiest buses away from each other at a bus station and I'm spending the weekend formulating plans to provide more pavement space at bus bus stops, and considering where we can remove traffic for bus and cycle only roads to ease pressure on socially distanced buses, work which the Government wants all signed off by Wednesday.

  2. There's been so much honest and thoughtful writing on this blog that has been enlightening and has painted a picture of an industry doing is damnedest, despite many hurdles. It's just a pity that this thoughtfulness has been confined to the comments section and has been sorely lacking in the blog itself!

    So thank you to all the schedulers, drivers, operators, and Traveline data handlers who've given honest accounts of their travails in the comments over the past weeks (anonymously or otherwise).

    Let's not forget that drivers have been on the front line. For many this virus isn't something seen from a distance on TV. For them it is very real, frightening and in too many cases has led to the loss of colleagues and friends.

    Yes, not everything is perfect, but we are in the middle of a health and economic crisis. Given everything it's facing, the bus industry as a whole has done itself much credit

    As anonymous says time for some realism and understanding.