Friday 18 February 2022

Sheffield - Dan Versus First AND Stagecoach

The Bus Men Respond

Blog readers will remember that Dan (The Man) Jarvis, Sheffield Regional Mayor, had written to the big bosses of Stagecoach and First Bus suggesting that, to help the ailing economy of South Yorkshire and to Build Back Better, they should not cut services or put up fares. Apparently, in order to support "the community" they should risk losing even more money until things got better.

A noble sentiment if you are a Mayor seeking public approval, but maybe not so good if you are a bus company struggling to survive!

Anyway, replies have been received and published (so we are told) in full.

First we hear from Martin Griffiths
super mega boss of Stagecoach.
We share your ambition to secure the best bus network possible for the region as we emerge from the pandemic, building on the consistently collaborative approach we have taken with national government, yourself as mayor, the Combined Authority, and other local partners throughout the past two years.

We are firmly committed to maximising the opportunities ahead from the Enhanced Partnership, as we seek to drive a shift away from cars towards public transport and active travel.

Our approach is absolutely focused on the long term – the future of our business and the jobs of the people we employ depends on securing a long term passenger base. Achieving that objective is the responsibility of us all and it is influenced by the decisions of national government, regional authorities and transport providers.

Very noble, very "politically correct" and very much "we're in this together". How nice! Sadly, we have heard it all before and Martin's thought are unlike to change anything much.

Current transport taxation policy, insufficient action to address car congestion and a lack of incentives to encourage a change in travel behaviour all continue to put pressure on fares and undermine the viability of bus networks across the country. Additionally, measures taken to address the pandemic continue to impact bus use, which remains below pre-pandemic levels.

It's not our fault that the Government demonised public transport so much in the depths of the pandemic  that people are often afraid to travel.

We have been grateful for central and local government support during the pandemic. Government support, combined with the steps we have taken to protect jobs and services, has kept bus networks on life-support. However, it is critical that there is urgent confirmation of government funding beyond the end of March 2022 to avoid a cliff-edge for the country’s bus networks.

We desperately need more money after the end of March; if not, we crash and burn!

We will continue to seek to maximise the scope of our bus networks, but they must also reflect the changed travel patterns that the pandemic and its restrictions have created. We must also plan for a scenario where the funding from government is insufficient to ensure a measured transition.

We still need to pay our bills!

For more than two years, Stagecoach’s own fares in the region have been frozen. At the same time, since 2019, costs have increased by around 12 per cent.

Somebody has to pay

The Martin throws his "coup de grace".

In recent weeks, Sheffield City Council has confirmed plans to reduce the authority’s workforce by more than 160 people. Council tax is to be increased. It is also facing a £14.5million budget gap, which is being plugged from financial reserves. But it admits that this is only a short-term solution and going forward the council will need to take further action to plug the gap.

So you are doing it as well! Touche (with an acute accent)!

To help us take this forward, I have asked Stagecoach Regional Director Michelle Hargreaves ...
... and Tim Bilby, Managing Director of Stagecoach Supertram ...
... to make contact with your office.

Erm, Michelle is not in this game for the long term, is she?

Then centre Stage is taken by 
Janette Bell mega-boss of First Bus
Only it isn't and she doesn't. 

The First Bus reply comes from Nigel Eggleton, Managing Director of a huge block of First Bus companies, one of which is First in South Yorkshire.
It is important for the sustainability and improvement of public transport provision in the city that we work closely with SYPTE, Travelmaster and other stakeholder partners.The decision by ‘Travelmaster’ to revise (that means increase the prices!) the multi-operator ticket range is an action we support.

It has been two years since there has been any change to this ticket range and as everyone will be aware, a lot has changed over this time with price increases in retail, utilities, cost of living and taxes.

Public transport providers are no different to any other business, whose costs are rising significantly, it is a fine balance and we are doing everything we can to encourage people back onto buses and at the same time look at all opportunities to develop and improve bus provision in the area. .

That is really good to hear, Nige. So we can expect to really high quality printed publicity - including maps - and some BOGOF type deals to ginger up bus usage; to encourage people back on to buses.

Stop laughing at the back!

It should not be forgotten that our staff have done a commendable job in keeping buses running throughout the pandemic over the last couple of years, and buses have continued to run with the help of financial support from local and central government which is due to end in March/April this year.

Same old, same old. We need the money!

However, services in South Yorkshire have not made a profit for nearly 10 years which needs to change if we are to see further development and improvements to public transport infrastructure, investment in new buses, new technology and better more reliable services in the city and surrounding areas.

So tough luck Dan, the fares will rise or services will be cut or both!
The cliff edge will not go away!

The industry could very easily fall over that looming lemming precipice.

It's being so cheerful that keeps fbb going.

But was all need a lift!

And The fbb's Have Got One!
Installed on Wednesday. We don't yet know when Mrs fbb will get her replacement hip - the waiting list is approx TWO YEARS, but she might be classed as an urgent case as her mobility is pretty much nil and her pain is constant!

She is already feeling the benefit of this splendid technology. She is very much a fan 'o' Stannah even though it cost a lot more than a tanner!

Future Bus - A Possibility
On line information about Abellio's much lauded London route 63 with electric buses is thin. This, for example, is the official timetable ...
... which is combined with this.
It does mean that the further from Kings Cross you travel, the more adept you have to be at the maths!

So fbb is trying this.
The route map is chopped into slices, each representing an approximate 10 minute journey leg on a Monday to Saturday daytime.
Currently the calculations need a bit more refinement, but it helps passengers get some idea of their journey length.

The "slices" could be smaller if that would be helpful; but most folk can add tens together!

If readers have any thoughts on the idea (remembering that both 63 and 363 are defined at "frequent" routes), please get in touch; but not via "comments". Please use:-

Of course, Transport for London could try to create a more customer friendly timetable and publish it in a leaflet and on-line.

Hey-ho ... there they go again.

 Next Variety blog : Saturday 19th February 

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