Friday 18 July 2014

Velvet revolution: Buses back on the road thanks to mystery buyer

Velvet has been bought out of receivership and its buses are back on the road. It's not yet been confirmed who the new owners are.

The company have confirmed that they are running routes A, B4, S1 and S2 today.

Their other routes will remain with the new operators, Xelabus and Bluestar.

Comments on Velvet's Facebook page suggest that the replacement operators have not been made aware that Velvet are back on routes S1 and S2, which are seeing a Velvet bus in convoy with a Bluestar one. A similar situation has been reported in Hedge End, with Velvet and Wheelers buses running in convoy on route A.

More as we get it.


  1. As much as I admire Velvet, what they did this morning was very poor.

    As usual it will be the passengers who suffer because they won't know which bus to get on, and who to buy a weekly or monthly pass from.

    this is why the bus industry has such a bad reputation!

  2. Right, wish someone would clarify the situation properly here, rather confusing

  3. I have several concerns if reports are to be believed and BETC have purchase velvet.

    To start with they have reportedly got their own financial difficulties, with one buses impounded at the workshop for them failing to pay for the previous two vehicles re-trim.

    They also seem to have an incredibly high turn over of buses, several buses are out of service due to having blown up engines and others have disappeared without explanation.

    Excetera also had their entire fleet and garage seized a few months ago for breach of contract conditions, and had to use hired vehicles for 5 days.

    That said I have heard reports that the drivers are very polite and friendly, and they do seem to be customer motivated. I just worry whether they will be able to provide stability, or if this reported purchase is going to unleash a range of new problems, especially as they do seem to have rapidly expanded over the last two years, they will not have a bottomless pit of money.

  4. The mystery buyer is 100% which seems really concerning as a recently ex director and what looks like a ltd company assoicated with the same jokers is at public enquiry for south eastern traffic area in early august.

    these jokers will kill velvet (although they have done it for themselves already)

  5. What's going on-Know one knows-I have never seen such a mess in years-If this is how private companies operate heaven help ue in the future-Only the public suffer in the end and the staff employed by the companies-So will someone give us some straight answers so all know in what direction we are going-This nonsense is a disaster for all who use buses-As a 100%% bus users and supporter I'm getting sick of it all, and so are the general public-When we look at the Xelabus site timetable page we have no updated information as to what they operate,but He criticises people for complaining about His operation-I have no complaint about Xelabus myself,but update the information on the site about school or college services or any other information about what they may now operate- He now operates certain services that were Velvets so please show them-In the past few days Xelabus,Wheeler's and Bluestar have moved heaven and earth at very very short notice to cover services that were operated by Velvet due to unfortunate circumstances-Today it's all changed again due to someone taking them over,but we have had on some routes two operators operating in tandem such as Wheeler's and Velvet on the A and Bluestar and Velvet on on the S1 and S2-Considering the fact that Wheeler's,Xelabus and Bluestar and I'm sure First if the situation had arrised, gave the respect in operating these rotutes at short notice, I find it an insult to them at what has happened today-Myself if I were using the service today I would not be using Velvet, I would use the other operators who have had a slap in the face over this situation -My comment do not involve any Velvet driver who I wish the very best to in where ever they decide to work in the future - PAC

    1. Since my comments above yesterday I note the Xelabus site has been updated-Thank you - PAC

  6. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the new owners - they haven't got the best reputation around - I find it difficult to believe that they had the capital to buy Velvet since they are just about breaking even after coming out of a small amount of debt earlier this year

    I wouldn't hold my breath for the long term survival of Velvet since the new owner's have simply taken on to much all at once.

    All the other bus companies have to do is sit and wait - I would advise Bluestar not to decommission those MPD's just yet as they will be needing them again in a couple of weeks time.

    1. Any credibility Velvet had has now evaporated...

  7. This is getting better than any soap opera, one thing that strikes me about Velvet's saviour, which if I've been keeping up with events is Coaches Exetra?.... Countryliner....the legend lives on and is coming to a bus stop near you! Surely it is time for Go Ahead to look locally at what it inherited from Solent Blue Line and what it is left with and the operating enviroment
    it is now competing in since it has given up marginal routes to smaller operators, I know it all comes down to cost and times change but this situation would never had arisen in the Musterphantom era with it's domination for route network coverage. "If we can't run it, you'll run it for us... it's called franchising"...come back John Chadwick/Pete Shelley all is forgiven!

    1. Possibly. But the Solent Blue Line of old was no model of financial health, to put it mildly! Nor was it renowned for high quality services. Bluestar under Go-Ahead have ditched a lot of poorly performing routes, but have also successfully invested in and grown the core parts of it's network.

      As for Velvet, the situation is now beyond a farce. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to buy it in the circumstances that it faces, and especially not someone who apparently already has 'issues' in their existing operations. I can't see this re-incarnation lasting long at all.

    2. No SBL wasn't a model of financial health, but Go Ahead have hardly shone since taking it over. Velvet filled some of the vacuum left by a cost cutting GSC, although GSC then took great exception to this and restarted some routes.
      There is room for people who have a different approach, and GA have sensibly concentrated on the key profitable corridors and left the side roads to other people. They should apply that elsewhere.
      They will however compete for tenders, and the GA business model is one that demands aggressive expansion against competitors, either on commercial or tendered corridors.
      Xelabus have several fences in the credibility arena to mend, but it is worth noting the age of the MD, and whether all this activity is a prelude to his own retirement in due course, all businesses have an exit strategy, and it is becoming clear what that is. They come out of the Velvet episode with a much better reputation than Velvet who have well and truly damaged their credibility they held with the customers. Xela now have a solid stable revenue stream, which Velvet sold them, and that underpins a lot of the costs the business will have. As for Velvet, its clear that cash flow issues have been prevalent and this is presumably what stopped them trading. But, when you sell your solid income stream can it be much of a surprise?

  8. This from Bluestar seems to almost sum up the confusion that abounds:

    "We have been very happy to be able to assist the council and ensure customers had a service in place during this difficult period following the financial collapse of the previous provider.

    These services will be once again be operated by the previous provider."

    Add into that that on another page they are still advertising the launch of their new service 'M' apparently starting on Saturday the 18th July?!

    To add in the missing line in their headline, and yes there really is supposed to be 4 lines in the verse:

    We're going to the zoo, zoo zoo
    how about you, you, you
    you can come too, too, too
    We're goin' be confused confused confused

  9. The Velvet site which diappeared then reappeared has been showing for over 24 hours Some content will be here shortly followed by a smiley face-I don't see anything at present to smile about-I notice too under services operated another school service has disappeared since looking yesterday-Will it be when I look next it will have all gone

  10. As an infrequent user of buses etc in Woking and Guildford they can be both good and bad but the 73 runs reasonably well in Woking (even if the drivers don't like accepting Woking Travelwides and are really rude). When the first took the 73 on they repainted a bus in livery and spelt Horsell as Horsall and took months to fix it! Their ex Countryliner routes around Guildford have all sorts running them and run with varied reliability and to give an insight their cabs had notices in telling their drivers not to talk on their mobiles whilst driving as customers were noticing!!! Also their timetables do seem to be an inconvenience! Certainly not up to the old Velvet standard and certainly not a knight in shining armour. More like a stay of execution and a severe downgrade. I really feel for the wonderful Velvet drivers that did so much to change the image of local buses. The main positive is that Buses Etc take Discovery so hopefully Velvet Etc will soon too?!!

  11. Love the comment someone has put on the Velvet facebook site that perhaps the M is now sponsered by M and M's-Blue M and Purple M-PAC

  12. I agree with some of the comments, hats off to Bluestar, Xelabus and Wheelers for taking on the Velvet routes at short notice, but I feel it does come as a slap in the face for Velvet to then be running again less than 48 hours later, almost seems as if they are being punished for their good work. But another question arises, if the Velvet drivers and other staff were made redundant because the company went bust, what drivers were they using yesterday morning?

    Sadly, Velvet built up trust and a good relationship with the local authorities around Eastleigh and Southampton, and had trust and respect from its customers and even the other operators in the area, as seen by Bluestar and First appealing for ex-Velvet drivers to come forward following the sudden closure of the business on Wednesday. I feel that trust and respect has now been lost because of the embarrassing moments surrounding the sale to Xelabus which fell through but also the fact that Velvet's new owners, whoever they may or may not be, for not telling either the emergency replacement bus operators not Southampton City Council that they were returning and just presumed it was acceptable to start operating again on the same routes and timetables out of the blue almost.

    I always admired Velvet and its managers for running the company with a different approach, through its social media and friendly drivers, showing the bus travel didn't have to be something serious and everyone could get involved and have fun. Their new catch phrase, "Love every journey" proved that.

    Excetera Buses had the depot and buses ceased by I believe Surrey Council after serious breaches of the contract and could only run buses from an emergency yard and hired buses from Ensignbus, which resulted in a few days/weeks of lost trade, as some journeys are cancelled, but also caused havoc for customers.

    I agree with Anon @ 20:32, if I had been using any of the effected Velvet services on Friday morning, I would have partly been pleased to see Velvet back, but also confused hence why I would have used the replacement operator, be it Bluestar, Wheelers or Xelabus.

    Xelabus may not be the most popular company around, but they did do a very good job providing replacement buses and drivers for the effected Velvet services, and providing buses and drivers for the night services at short notice, something like 35 minutes!

    It was a shame to see Velvet go in the first place, but I believe if Excetera have brought them out, they won't still be around this side of Christmas, as they are still getting over the financial shock of the contract breech a few months ago.

  13. Xelabus is running the E8 now, but has renumbered it to the X8. I used it earlier this evening.

  14. The problems at btec were not to do with breach of contract. It was an in house legal dispute and a disagreement over the long term lease of the garage. The council did not close the garage. Surrey county council supported the company with use of land for parking of the buses. Buses come and go as the company is replacing aged buses. As a small company with tight margins they can not afford to buy new. This means they will purchase the odd dud. The company has tried to deliver a customer focused approach. They introduced Sunday services on some routes but these were stopped as no one used the service. Yes some drivers can be rude, but on the whole they are a good bunch. Like most small companies they do not have a queue of lovely drivers waiting to join.

    1. SPOT ON. It was nothing to do with cancelled contracts or Surrey county council whatsoever. It was more to do with a dispute over the lease agreement and the use of the land as a bus garage itself and Buses Excetera won fair and square.
      Too many chinese whispers going on on here.
      If you don't want to live next to a bus garage, don't buy a house thats right next to land thats still got ancient planning permission rights to use the land as a bus garage.
      No Change of use planning permission necessary. Next time get a surveyor to do proper checks and make sure the land near your chosen dwelling does not include planning permission for use as a bus garage that was granted a long time ago, because one day,,,,,,just one day,,,,,someone might just use it as a bus garage. Then you'll regret blocking and objecting to the Jewsons Building supplies application that got rejected a few months before Buses Excetera moved in.
      They didnt need planning permission because it still had planning permission for it to be a bus garage from way back when it was an Arriva garage.
      OOOPS NIMBYS!! You forgot about that didnt you.

  15. shows some info re 'takeover' services