Thursday 12 January 2023

Something Old, Something New (2)

Not Quite Adieu!

Southamptonian lovers of all things First Bus (if such beings exist) will not be totally deprived of their friends after First's withdrawal on 18th February. Their prestigious "Solent Ranger" services X4 and X5 will continue to depart from West Quay shopping centre for Portsmouth and Gosport.
But what a crummy tiemable!
If you really want to discourage passengers, then run your buses every 40 minutes. Unless you have a gargantuan ability to remember timetables, you can never guess when your next bus will leave. Awful. 

Surely, once upon a time, the X4 and X5 were each every 30 minutes.

fbb will not be at all surprised when First withdraws from these services. It's a pity because the branding is attractive and there is good reinforcing publicity in the buses ...
... but, of course, there is nothing in print and enquiry offices are, if open at all, unreliable.

First clearly has a death wish!

Bust Mostly From Red To Blue
fbb continues his review of how Blue Star is filling the gaps left by First. And the gaps are being filled almost exactly. So fbb can rattle through quite quickly.

First 3 - Lordshill City Thornhill every 10 min
The was the first route to be branded in Southampton.
Initially called "The Three" (clever name, eh?) it later succumbed to the overal label of City Red.
The three runs from the splurge that is Lotdshill and Aldermoor through the city ...
... and on via Sholing to Thornhill (terminus of Blue Star's 18, remember?).
A direct replacement
Blue Star 19
but reduced to every 15 minutes.

First 6 : Hamble every 15 min
A direct replacement
Blue Star 15
every 30 min.

Somewhere in the dim and cobwebbed recesses of fbb's mind is the fact that Solent Blue Line and/or Blue Star once ran a 15 to Hamble. But fbb can find no photographic evidence. 
But here's a Blue Line model bus going to Romsey.!

First 7 : Townhill Park every 15 min
This route runs via Portswood, passing close to the former Southampton City bus depot, now a Sainsburys superstore.
A direct replacement
Blue Star 20
every 15 min.
But note that Blue Star introduced a route 16 to a similar area as competition with First.

It also runs every 15 minutes but via Bitterne

Here are the two Townhill Parks up close and personal on the new Blue Star combined network map from after the takeover.
To fbb, it seem an awful lotta lotta buses to Townhill Park!

 First 8 : Hedge End every 30 min
A direct replacement
Blue Star 14
every 30 min.
Blue Star 3 remains at Hedge End doing some of the wiggles that a more complicated Solent Blue Line network used to do. 
It only runs every hour.

First 9 : Sholing every hour
To confuse your ancient author still further, service 9 does not appear on the simplified network diagram for First Bus. Maybe it isn't a City Red?

Or first forgot that they operated the 9? So here is the new Blue Star network map of the area.

Direct replacement
Blue Star 10
every hour
Back in the day this route used to be called "Butts Road" which was one of the first Solent Blue Line incursions in May 1987. Route 10 joins Blue Star 7 which runs every 30 minutes from Lordshill and the Hospital.

And finally ...

First 13 : Harefield every hour
Direct replacement
Blue Star 13
increased to every 30 min

Blog readers may be surprised at the doubling of frequency to Harefield. But it is not that long ago that first CUT the service from every 30 minutes to every hour.
The local press duly reports on behalf of the hard-done-by residents. Of course the press resolutely refuses to understand that bus "services" are a business to make money, not run to be kind to Harefieldites. At least the campaigners for improvement have directed their opprobrium to Southampton City Council rather than First.

Calls have now been made for the council to help Harefield after its 13 service bus timetable dropped to just one per hour and none in the evening.

The Harefield estate’s bus service is run by First and on October 31  the operator cut its service.

Residents can only get a bus up to 6.30pm – and no buses run in the evenings, or on Sundays.

The ‘heartbreaking’ issue was brought to Southampton City Council by members of the Harefield Bus Campaign.

So if Blue Star has increased the frequency commercially, give the management a whole chocolate peanut for a good PR move. If it's council money, they can have the peanut and share it between them.

So from 19th Feb, Southampton will have its one-operator network back after nearly 36 years.

But you have to ask ...

If First couldn't make their routes pay, what magic will GoAhead:s Blue Star have which will be any different.

If this is purely a "we've got rid of First" vanity project, Southamptonians should be ready for a frustrating series of timetable cuts as GoAhead discovers the commercial reality of what it has done.

That Missing Hornby Programme
Of course, fbb should have been looking at the Yesterday Twitterings site! How foolish was he not to check?
Summats up! Is something amiss at Hornby? Or did someone not like what the programme makers said?


Maybe somebody at Yesterday lost the recording?

 Next Ayrshire blog : Friday 13h January 


  1. First's Hamble service is also every 30 minutes, so no reduction proposed. Solent Blue Line did indeed run there in the past, conductor-operated every 20 minutes to Romsey, but this end of the route did not last that long.

  2. The reason that CityRed 9 was missed off the map is an easy one to explain. At the time the map was printed, the 9 service was being withdrawn, but had a last minute rescue from the City Council, for a three month trial period.

    Townhill Park certainly justifies having two services through the estate, as it's much larger than you would expect. Plus, the two routes provide access to two different shopping districts - Portswood and Bitterne. The City Red 7 also serves Bitterne Park and St Denys.

    City Red 3 (BS 19) serves a different part of Thornhill to the BS 18, and also serves Sholing and Woolston.

    I don't see Bluestar reducing any services in the long term, as all their routes, including the additional ones, can be justified by passenger numbers. And backed up by the huge amount of contract work that Bluestar do, including Unilink.

  3. The X4 & X5 did indeed run every 30 minutes each (15 combined) pre-COVID. I guess the reduced frequency is down to driver shortage as the route branded Streetlites have been replaced by a deckers, in the new generic 'Solant' brand rather than specific route branding. Who knows if First have managed to retain enough Southampton drivers to return to the pre-COVID timetable.