Monday, 31 December 2012

No buses on New Year's Day

No buses will be running on New Year's Day with just one exception: that free Citylink bus that hardly any locals use between Central Station and the Red Funnel ferry terminal.

By the way, Happy New Year!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Buses on New Year's Eve

Here's how the region's buses will be running this New Year's Eve:

Bluestar will be running a full Saturday service except for routes 5, 6, 8, T1 and T2, which will run a weekday service. There is no early finish and night buses will be running.

First X2 will not be running. A weekday service will run on First routes 26, B1/B2/B3, H1/H2  and S1. All other routes will run to a reduced timetable with an early finish at about 2030. Times for the 4/4A/X4 are here and all other routes are here.

Unilink will be running a Saturday service with an early finish at about 2100, with the last buses running at the same time as on Christmas Eve. Route U9 will run a weekday service. Night bus U1N will be running.

Velvet will be running a full Friday service complete with night buses.

Xelabus and Brijan Tours will run a normal Monday service.

Stagecoach will be running a Saturday service on all routes except the 36, which won't be running at all, and the 46, which will have a weekday service.

More will run a Saturday service on all routes except the X1 and X2, which will have a weekday service.

Salisbury Reds will be running a Saturday service.

Friday, 28 December 2012

This weekend's buses / First fares go up on Sunday

Here's how our region's buses will be running on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th December:

Saturday will see all operators except First running a normal Saturday service. First will have a Saturday service on routes 4/4A/X4, 26 and S1. The X2 will not be running. All other First routes will be running to a reduced timetable.

On Sunday, all operators will be running a normal Sunday service.

Don't forget that First are putting many of their fares up as of Sunday. More details here.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Thursday 27th and Friday 28th December buses

Here's now buses will be running on Thursday 27th and Friday 28th December 2012:

Bluestar will run a Saturday service on most routes, except 5, 6, 8, T1 & T2, which will run a weekday service.

First X2 will not be running. There will be a weekday service on routes B1/B2/B3, H1/H2 and S1. A Saturday service will run on routes 4/4A/X4 and 26. All other routes will run to a reduced timetable.

Unilink will be running a Saturday service, except for route U9, which will have a weekday service.

Velvet, Xelabus, Brijan Tours and Salisbury Reds will be running a normal weekday service.

More will be running a Saturday service, except for routes X1 and X2, which will have a weekday service.

Stagecoach will be running a Saturday service, except for routes 36 and 46, which will run a weekday service. Route 36 will only run on Thursday.

Bluestar, Velvet and Unilink will be running night buses on Friday night as normal.

Xelabus X4 has a revised route and timetable from Thursday:

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Boxing Day bus services

If you really can't wait to get to the shops, there will be more buses running in Southampton tomorrow than there have been on Boxing Day for several years. Here's a summary:

Bluestar have a special service on routes 1, 2, 4, 9, 12, 16 and 18. Timetables here and below. There will be no service on any other route.

Velvet will be running a Sunday service on route A between Hedge End and Southampton only. No service on any other route.

First will be running on Boxing Day for the first time, with a limited service on parts of routes 1, 2, 3, 7 and 8 only. The timetables can be found here at the bottom of the pdf or to make it easier, we've attached them below. No service on all other routes.

Brijan Tours, More, Salisbury Reds, Stagecoach, Unilink and Xelabus will not be running any services.

Monday, 24 December 2012

No buses on Christmas Day

No buses will be running at all in our region on Christmas Day. There will be some services on Boxing Day however - more than in previous years. Full details can be found in the green panel on the right.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas Eve bus services

Tomorrow is the first day of altered service levels on our region's buses. We'll be posting every day with full details of the following day's services, so you'll have all of the information at your fingertips. If you need to know how buses will be running further ahead, just look at the green panel on the right, where it is all summarised.

So, let's start off with what will be running tomorrow, Christmas Eve:

There's a full normal Monday service on Bluestar, Brijan Tours, More, Salisbury Reds, Stagecoach, Velvet and Xelabus. The full timetables can be found at Traveline or on the operators' websites (links in the red panel below right). Xelabus X3 will run for the last time - it will be replaced by an extended X4 as of Thursday.

First X2 will not be running.
There's a normal weekday service on routes 26, B1/B2/B3, H1/H2 and S1.
All other First routes will be running a reduced service with an early finish at about 2030. Click here for the full special timetables (or here for routes 4/4A/X4).

Unilink are running a Saturday service with an early finish at about 2100. Times of the last buses on routes U1 and U6 are as follows:

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Bluestar doesn't want your comments

Bluestar have changed the settings of their Facebook page so that visitors cannot make a new post - they can now merely comment on posts that Bluestar have made.

The page hasn't been handled very well by Bluestar until now as most of the posts were complaints that presumably went unread (by Bluestar that is, other passengers certainly did read them) and unresponded to. Bluestar had a choice to either staff the Facebook page properly or to censor it - and they chose censorship.

There are some interesting opinions on this in the comments section over on Omnibuses, but what do you think?

I can't help thinking that roles are being reversed: First still allow visitors to post and they respond to them - they're really getting their act together considering what their reputation was like a year ago. Bluestar on the other hand...

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

First fares to rise / Stagecoach tweets / Bluestar tinkers

First are putting some fares up as of 30th December. Details here and here.

Stagecoach's Winchester depot are now using Twitter to provide updates on any disruption to their services.

Bluestar have just a few minor changes in store for 20th January on routes 1, 2, 11, 16 and 18.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Hedge Enders: Let battle commence!

Sunday sees the start of three-way competition between Hedge End and central Southampton, with the launch of Velvet A in direct competition with Bluestar 3 and First 8/8A/8B. Here's a map to explain the routes:

It's a doctored version of Hampshire County Council's Hedge End map, so routes wholly within the City are not shown for the sake of clarity. As you can see, Velvet A, which will run twice an hour, has the edge as being the most direct and therefore quickest route. Bluestar 3 is slowed down by its recently introduced excursion through Peartree and Woolston, plus it only runs once an hour outside the rush hour anyway. First 8/8A have a combined Mon-Sat daytime frequency of 4 an hour (2 each way around the Hedge End loop) but by far the most indirect route, via West End and Chartwell Green, just off the map.

Here are links to the timetables:
Velvet A
Bluestar 3
First 8/8A/8B

What about the fares?
Velvet: Single £3.50, return £5, day £6
Bluestar: Single £3.70, return £5.90, day £6.50
First: Single £???, return £???, day £4

The only ticket valid on all of them is the Solent Travelcard at £7.50 for a day.

It might not be too long before Bluestar 3 reverts to its old route through Northam.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Jurds Lake Way gets its buses back on Monday

Jurds Lake Way, near Weston, was cut off from the bus network in April when First withdrew the 1A. Well,  the 1A is back from next Monday. Why First haven't made more of a song and dance about this is anyone's guess. The route will be the same as the 1, apart from the diversion to serve Jurds Lake Way:

All routes operated by First unless otherwise stated.

For those on the section of route served only by the 1A, here's what the timetable will be:

The full new timetable for the 1/1A can be found here.

Jurds Lake Way lies outside First's pink zone, so the £3.20 FirstDay City will not be valid. The cheapest day ticket available will be the £4 FirstDay Southampton.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Bluestar diversions, moving stops and route changes

Bluestar 1 is diverted in Chandlers Ford tonight and tomorrow night. Velvet C1 will also be affected.

Bluestar 16 is having one of its bus stops moved in Bitterne Park from 4th December. It's the one on Cobden Avenue near the junction with Cobbett Road.

20th January 2013 will see a timetable and route change of some description on Bluestar routes 1, 11, 12, 16 and 18.

Friday, 23 November 2012

All change for Chandlers Ford this weekend

Tomorrow, Saturday 24th November, is the last full running day of Velvet C1 and C2. Running for free for one day only on Saturday is Xelabus X7 between Eastleigh and Fryern Hill. From Monday, the whole C1/C2 daytime route is split between the X7 and Xelabus C3/C4 between Chandlers Ford and Hiltingbury. As a summary then, we're going from this:


to this:

 Only Sundays stay the same.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Christmas & new year / Solstice mystery / Xelanews

We now have the details of Christmas and New Year services from most of our local and regional bus companies. A full summary can be found in the green panel on the right. The only ones we've not yet heard from are Brijan Tours and Xelabus. We've the usual hotch-potch of service levels including the now traditional 'special reduced' timetables from First, but the big story this year is that Boxing Day, usually the preserve of Bluestar, will see buses from First and Velvet also on the road. They will all be running a very reduced service on certain routes or part-routes only, so check the special timetables before you travel. Full details of First's festive services are here (or here for routes 4/4A/X4, 26 and those over in Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth). Bluestar seem to be revising their Boxing Day services as the timetables have disappeared from their website. Velvet will be running route A to a Sunday timetable between Southampton and Hedge End only.

If you fancy seeing in the winter solstice at Stonehenge, Salisbury Reds are laying on a special service from, you guessed it... Salisbury. There are some very mystical numbers and symbols on the timetable though. Probably best to check with them before travelling.

Two surprises from Xelabus:
Surprise 1 is that route X3 runs for the last time on Christmas Eve, to be replaced from 27th December by an extended route X4. The X4 currently runs just three days a week, so it looks like Valley Park will be losing couple of days' service.
Surprise 2 is the announcement that Xelabus plan to start accepting Plusbus tickets from January. I did mention this in my last post and I know Gareth reads this, so good on Xelabus for doing the right thing there.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Hiltingbury hooked up / Secret supermarket sweep

Hiltingbury loses its daytime Velvet C1/C2 journeys in a a couple of weeks time. The Eastleigh to Fryern Hill section will be replaced with Xelabus X7 and now Xelabus have announced that council subsidised routes C3 and C4 will provide the missing link between Chandlers Ford, Hiltingbury and Fryern Hill. Timetable here. Somewhat confusingly, Velvet will continue to run the Thurs-Sat evening and Sunday daytime C1 service for now.

It's worth adding that Xelabus have now joined Solent Travelcard, the ticket that allows you to travel on buses of all operators within quite a large zone, which covers most of our region. Good to see them finally join up. They still do not however recognise Plusbus tickets. Neither do Brijan Tours. Shame on them both for blocking a more integrated public transport network.

Xelabus have launched a new route (X9/X10) from the Waterside to Morrisons in Calmore. It started on Monday, but the timetable isn't available on the Xelabus website, so prospective passengers have no idea when the buses run and if they really want to get to Morrisons, will probably end up getting Bluestar 8 to Totton or the 9 to Redbridge and then changing to the 11.

Unilink U6 and U9 will divert in Upper Shirley from the 18th to the 20th November due to the temporary closure of Dale Road.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

How do you solve a problem like Marchwood?

The village of Marchwood is currently in the midst of a bus war between incumbent Bluestar 8 and challenger First 11. Some of the history to this is covered over on the Omnibuses blog as well in previous posts on this site.

The situation we have now is two operators running commercial services on a route that until a few weeks ago was seen as unprofitable and had to be subsidised by Hampshire County Council. Is this current set up really sustainable? Most probably not.

So what happens next? What seems obvious is that one of the operators will have to pull out of Marchwood before they lose too much money. But who will blink first and how much are they prepared to lose before they do?

First, as the newcomer to the route, seem at first sight the most likely to pull back to their city heartland. But the company is changing its ways. Southampton of course pioneered a whole network revamp that appeared to put knowledgeable local management in control rather than blindly following misguided orders from Aberdeen. The 11 is one of the early signs of First on the attack and finally looking to expand westwards beyond the city, or at least southwards beyond Totton, depending on which way you look at it. If they did pull out however, that would leave Bluestar with no incentive to provide unprofitable evening and Sunday services and it would be as though the 11 had never happened.

Could there be a chance that Bluestar would surrender Marchwood? The way Bluestar has neglected Hedge End over the years provides one model of what could be about to play out on the Waterside, with gradual decline from the main operator to be replaced by several operators with one or two frequently changing routes each. Not exactly ideal for passengers who benefit from having their local route as part of a big regional network. Maybe Bluestar will put up more of a fight this time, determined not to let First gain a base from which to seriously challenge their successful route 9. If Bluestar do drop Marchwood, that would surely be the only bit of the Waterside they would be prepared to wave goodbye to. There would be no guarantee that First, if they were left as the only operator in Marchwood, would provide evening or Sunday buses if there's not much money to be made from them.

So, thinking longer term, what could the future hold, if neither company can make a success of their Marchwood routes? One option is a shuttle route between Marchwood and Totton only. This would be the bare-minimum-option. It only covers the sections of route not covered by any other service and would be relatively cheap to run (only needing one bus) compared to subsidising a route to run all the way into Southampton. The obvious downside is that passengers would have to change at Totton, possibly to a different bus company, in order to get any further. If there is no reasonably priced integrated ticket (Solent Travelcard would be too expensive for such a journey as Marchwood to Southampton return), then this option would fail. One way it could possibly work though is for Bluestar to try it commercially, linking with their existing routes between Totton and town and making use of the integrated ticketing which would already be there for the onward journey beyond Totton. Maybe an evening and Sunday version of this could also provide a service to West Totton, when it would otherwise be unserved. After all, people able to get back home by bus in the evening means more people using the bus in the daytime.

For the links with the Waterside, that option could extend to either Applemore or right in to Hythe in the daytimes. This raises the option of extending the H1 and H2 Hythe local routes from Applemore through Marchwood to Totton. The only danger of that is if such a route were run by a company that then didn't offer onward travel from Totton using the same ticket. Not so bad for pensioners with their free passes, but a disaster for paying passengers and probably an overall disincentive to use the bus.

What are your ideas for serving Marchwood after the current competition has gone?

Friday, 2 November 2012

Summary of changes this weekend

Here's a summary of all changes taking place this weekend:

Bluestar 3 has a new route from Sunday and of course a new timetable. It now extends beyond Botley to Boorley Green, giving the village its first direct link to Southampton for years.
This stop will also see its first Sunday service for several years. Boorley Green is currently served by Velvet A, which will retreat back to Hedge End from 2nd December. The other big change to the 3 is that between the city centre and Bitterne it will now run via Peartree and Woolston (providing competition for First 2A) rather than Northam.
One sight that will greet passengers on the new route is a tree-obscured Peartree Church, which claims on its website to be the oldest Anglican church in the world.

Bluestar 8 is extended from Sunday to run all the way down to Calshot. It also runs on a Sunday for the first time since October 2011, thanks mainly to the new threat from First 11. New timetable here.
It will also run every half hour Mon-Sat daytimes between town and Hythe. This is widely expected to only last as long as First keep running the 11 however. The new section between Hythe and Calshot is a direct replacement for the less frequent route H3, which is withdrawn.

Bluestar 9 has only a minor change. With the 8 now running to Fawley and Calshot, all 9s will terminate at Langley. New timetable here.
This will be the new terminus - Kings Ride, one stop short of the current terminus at Langley Farm.

Bluestar 6 has a new timetable from Sunday. The short journeys between town and Rushington are cut, which means that the headline Mon-Sat daytime frequency is down to once an hour across the whole route.

Bluestar 10 is withdrawn and rolled into route 11, which will run between town and West Totton only. It will however combine with a retimed 12 to give a bus every 10 mins between town and Totton Mon-Sat daytimes. timetable here. The 11 is rerouted to serve Morrisions...
and then Goodies...
before heading back to Totton College and on to town every 20 minutes Mon-Sat daytimes. Only the 1710 11 from town will still run through to Cadnam (according to Traveline). For the rest of the day, Cadnam is served by new routes T3 and T4 which will start and finish in Totton. Timetable here.

On Monday, Xelabus X8 gets going again, providing a link between Eastleigh, Colden Common, Fair Oak and Horton Heath, a partial duplication of Brijan 8.

Bluestar H1 and H2 transfer to First on Monday with a new timetable and extra section of route, replacing the withdrawn bit of Bluestar 8 between Applemore and Hythe via Claypits Lane and Southampton Road. Timetable here
The loops in Netley View and central Hythe will be run clockwise by both routes.

Salisbury Reds 36 between Romsey and Lockerley will transfer to Stagecoach and some journeys will be extended to Winchester. Timetable here.

From Monday there are also new timetables with only minor changes on Bluestar 1, T1/T2 and Brijan 7.

All the above images are from Google Maps, except for the X8 route map, which is from Xelabus's website and the H1/H2 map, which is from Traveline South East.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Hedge Enders: a third option from Velvet

Velvet have announced that the A will extend from Hedge End to Southampton from Sunday 2nd December. The new section will be tagged on to the existing Eastleigh-Hedge End section. Velvet A will no longer serve Botley or Boorley Green, but they will be served by an extended Bluestar 3 from this Sunday.

This means that Hedge End to Southampton travellers now have a choice of three bus companies:
Bluestar 3 (once an hour weekday daytimes)
First 8/8A (4 per hour weekday daytimes)
Velvet A (every 30 mins weekday daytimes)

Velvet are yet to announce fares, but they must surely be preparing for some fierce competition from the larger operators. Their big advantage though is their route: direct via Thornhill Park Road and Northam. Bluestar 3 is about to be diverted via Peartree and Woolston and First 8/8A run via West End and Chartwell Green before getting to Bitterne.

The new timetable is here. Sundays will see a bizarre situation where Velvet will be running commercial As between town and Hedge End, while First will be running Hampshire-subsidised As between Hedge End and Eastleigh - and the two won't be timed to connect.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Clocks, diversions and imminent changes

Don't forget that the clocks go back this Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Part of Hinkler Road in Thornhill will be closed for two weeks from Monday 29th October due to resurfacing. This will mean diversions on Bluestar 18 and First 3.

Stoneham Lane will be partly closed in the daytimes next Monday to Thursday, so Bluestar 2 will divert via Stoneham Way. Stops between the Concorde Club and Bassett Green Road won't be served during those times.

Brijan 7 has a minor timetable change from 5th November. The 0746 journey from Waltham Chase to Southampton will run 10 minutes earlier throughout.

On the same date Stagecoach take over the running of Salisbury Reds 36, for which they have now released the timetable. Certain shoppers' services on Tuesdays and Thursdays are extended beyond Romsey to Winchester.

Also on 5th November, Xelabus X8 returns, this time running to Horton Heath.

Following Velvet's news that the Mon-Sat daytime journeys on the C1 and C2 will not run after 24th November, Xelabus have released details of their partial replacement, the X7.

Unilink are launching on-bus audio stop announcements on the U1.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Velvet: C is for Cuts - Hiltingbury left high and dry

Velvet have announced that they will be withdrawing the commercial Mon-Sat daytime service on routes C1 and C2 from Monday 26th November.

The routes had been subsidised until the October cuts of last year, after which Velvet stepped in to keep the services running. They say however that the services have become unviable. The evening and Sunday journeys on route C1 are still subsidised by Hampshire County Council and will continue to be operated by Velvet.

The rumours are that Xelabus will run a replacement service between Eastleigh and Fryern Hill, but this will leave Hiltingbury high and dry. Xelabus do not currently accept the Solent Travelcard or Plusbus tickets, so when they take over, Eastleigh's public transport will be severely fragmented.

More as we get it.

Friday, 19 October 2012

First Hythe timetables / Redbridge rerouted

Bluestar have advised that they will not be serving Redbridge Roundabout for at least a week while there are roadworks there. Routes affected are the 6, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. First 10 and 11 and Salisbury Reds X7 will also be affected.

First have released the timetable for their H1 and H2 in Hythe, which take over from Bluestar's H1 and H2 on 5th November. They will run to the same route, plus an extra bit between Hythe and Applemore via Southampton Road and Claypits Lane. The extra section replaces the part of Bluestar 8 that will be withdrawn from the same date - all 8s will run via Hythe Hospital.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Above Bar closure

Part of Above Bar Street will be closed for two weeks from today affecting the bus stops at the Cenotaph (HD, HC, HA) and on Commercial Road (HF, HG, HE). Bluestar and Unilink have posted their diversion details, although some First routes are affected too, as is Velvet S2.

Two more confirmed changes from 5th November:
First H1 launches between Hythe and Applemore, replacing Bluestar H1 and H2.
Salisbury Reds 36 between Romsey and Lockerley transfers to Stagecoach.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Bluestar changes from 4th November

Bluestar have just announced some big changes to their routes taking effect from 4th November. We'll cover them in more detail nearer the time, but the main points are:

Bluestar 3 rerouted to serve Woolston and Peartree (instead of Northam - head-to head with First 2A) and extended from Botley to Boorley Green.

Bluestar 6 will have its Rushington short journeys cut but will have bigger buses to make up for it.

Bluestar 8 is getting paranoid after the launch of First 11 and suddenly now it's apparently profitable to run every half hour between town and Hythe with an hourly extension to Calshot. An hourly Sunday service will run. There will also be an evening service between town and Marchwood only.

Bluestar 9 will always run to Langley, leaving Fawley and Calshot to the newly extended 8. The Sunday daytime frequency is halved to hourly, but the new Sunday 8 will also be hourly so most of the Waterside will still have 2 buses an hour.

Bluestar 10 and 11 merged into one route (11) between town and West Totton, with three buses an hour Mon-Sat daytimes, all serving Morrisons.

Bluestar 12 up to three buses an hour Mon-Sat daytimes.

Bluestar H1, H2 and H3 are withdrawn as Hampshire County Council have decided to give the subsidy to First. It remains to be seen how these routes will run - Bluestar 8 extending to Calshot on a commercial basis means HCC are unlikely to pay for the H3 to continue.

Bluestar T3 and T4 will be two new routes between Totton and Cadnam, mopping up the abandoned sections of the 10 and 11.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Sunday services return to Marchwood / Other changes this weekend

A few big changes this weekend:

As of last night, Velvet N3 became the N8 and the route changed to serve Northam and Bitterne instead of St Denys and Bitterne Park. The N6 also got a new timetable. Both services have a new route through the city centre, starting from Leisure World. Look on Traveline for an exact map.

Tomorrow (Sunday), First 7 gets a new timetable, upping its frequency to 8 an hour weekday daytimes in order to counter the attack from Bluestar 16.

The big one tomorrow is the launch of First 11 and the return of Sunday buses to Marchwood. The route is the same as for the journeys on Bluestar 8 that run via Hythe Hospital. Bluestar will retaliate in the next few weeks and the rumour is that evening services will return. But that doesn't change the fact that until First decided to give it a go, Bluestar were not seriously interested in Marchwood and were perfectly happy to see the village isolated in the evenings and on Sundays while taking taxpayer handouts from Hampshire County Council for the Mon-Sat daytime service.

On Monday, First's Bitterne Hoppa B1/B2/B3 services are revamped with amended routes and new timetables.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Summary of changes from 1st October

The following changes take effect tomorrow, Monday 1st October 2012:

Velvet A: New timetable. Evening services will end earlier, but will now run Mon-Sats rather than just Thurs-Sats. The last bus from Eastleigh will be at 2330 on Friday and Saturday evenings only, with a gap of nearly 3 hours before it. Journeys to/from Hamble are renumbered/lettered as route B and only one per weekday will run through to Eastleigh - the other will terminate in Hedge End.

Brijan 7: New timetable with only minor changes.

Brijan 8: New timetable with minor changes. The current 0730 Mon-Sat journey from Fair Oak to Bishops Waltham will now depart at 0723 and will only run on schooldays.

Velvet 46: Transfers back to Stagecoach. No change to times.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Focus on Townhill Park / Bluestar 16 launches this weekend

Choice comes to Townhill Park this Sunday in the shape of Bluestar 16. To commemorate the occasion, here's a summary of what the choice will be.

Here's a map of First's routes in the area:

The 2 runs to town via Bitterne, Merry Oak and Woolston every 20 mins Mon-Sat daytimes, 30 mins Sunday daytimes and hourly in the evenings - timetable here. The 7 runs via Portswood and Bevois Valley every 10 mins Mon-Sat daytimes, 20 mins Sunday daytimes and hourly in the evenings - current timetable here, although the frequency will be increased from 7th October. On top of that you have the 8/8A/8B along Townhill Way (the blue line above) and the 2A turning off at the Big Cheese roundabout.

Bluestar 16 will run to this route and this timetable. with a frequency of every 20 mins Mon-Sat daytimes, 30 mins Sunday daytimes and 30 mins Mon-Sats early evenings. No late evening services however.

Turning now to the fares. Single fares have long been protected by the Official Secrets Act, so we can only compare the day tickets that are available to Townhill Parkers from each company:

Also this weekend, there are new timetables from Sunday on Velvet C1, C2 (minor changes) and E8 (the Sunday service is increased to hourly).

More changes follow on Monday (see the green panel on the right). More details on those in the next post.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

46 back to Stagecoach / First extend City zone

In the run up to the launch of Bluestar 16, First have extended the validity of their FirstDay City ticket to include all of Townhill Park, Harefield and Thornhill. FirstDay City has a smaller zone and is cheaper than the FirstDay Southampton ticket. Zone details here.

Brijan Tours 7 and 8 both have new timetables from 1st October.

Also on 1st October, Velvet 46 does return to Stagecoach after all, albeit initially only until January.

The part of Above Bar Street between Pound Tree Road and New Road will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 2000 meaning diversions to all routes that normally run there.

Then on Thursday evening after 2000 Bernard Street will be closed, meaning diversions to First 1, 2, 2A and 3.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

HCC Waterside contract changes in November

There are quite a few changes coming up in November, mainly due to Hampshire County Council contract changes. The following take effect from either 4th or 5th November.

Bluestar H1, H2 and H3 are all transferring to First.

Bluestar 10, 11 and 12 are being merged into one route, the 11.

There are also timetable changes on Bluestar routes 1, 3, 4 and 6, plus the T1 and T2 might be disappearing altogether.

Salisbury Reds 36 will transfer to Stagecoach.

Full details as we get them.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Waterside: Retaliation?

Even before First 11 to Hythe launches, Bluestar are planning their response. They have registered route and timetable changes to their main Waterside routes, the 8 and 9, to take effect from 4th November. The biggest change is that the 8 will be extended to Calshot.

Will the 8 still serve Marchwood though? Surely Hampshire County Council will be withdrawing their subsidy from the 8 now that First has decided to serve Marchwood commercially. Also, the extension to Calshot could suggest a change to the H3. We've heard whispers (as yet unconfirmed, I should add) that the H1, H2 and H3, currently operated by Bluestar under contract to Hampshire County Council, might soon be passed by HCC to First.

More as and when we get it.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Bluestar 16 timetable published

Bluestar have released the timetable for new route 16 to Townhill Park, which launches on 30th September. The main thing that jumps out at me is that the last bus from town in the evening will leave at 2030, meaning anyone who wants to stay in town later than that will have an incentive to stick with First.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

New timetables tomorrow on Bluestar 5, Salisbury Reds 34 & Stagecoach 69

New timetables start tomorrow on three routes in our region:

Bluestar 5: The 1535 weekday journey from Romsey to Eastleigh is retimed to run at 1525 and will no longer divert to serve North Baddesley School.
This is only an extract. Click the link above for buses on Saturdays and towards Romsey.

Salisbury Reds 34: The 0900 weekday journey from Romsey to Salisbury will now also run on school holidays.
This is only an extract. Click the link above for buses towards Romsey.

Stagecoach 69The first journey from Bishops Waltham to Winchester now runs 7 minutes earlier. There is an additional journey in each direction between Waltham Chase and Winchester on Saturdays.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

First 11: It's Marchwood! / Bluestar mobile ticketing

First have released the timetable for route 11 to Hythe, starting 7th October. It will run via Marchwood and Hythe Hospital, even on Sundays. They've also published new timetables from that date for the 7 (in retaliation to Bluestar 16, which coincidentally doesn't have a timetable yet) and the Bitterne Hoppa routes, which are amended to serve North East Road in Sholing.

Bluestar are launching mobile ticketing, enabling smartphone users to buy and store tickets on their phones.

Stoneham Lane will be partly closed for 5 days from Monday, meaning diversions to Bluestar 2.

Next weekend, Bluestar's New Forest Tour will not be serving Beaulieu's National Motor museum, due to an event taking place there and the expectation of heavy volumes of traffic. Can't help thinking they're missing a trick: Maybe traffic wouldn't be so heavy there if people had an alternative to their cars to get them to the museum. It seems barmy to run fewer buses than normal to a destination that lots of people obviously want to go to, especially when the excuse given is that so many people want to go there!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Diversions: Maybush, Upper Shirley, Chapel

A few diversions coming up:

Maybush: Bluestar 4 is diverted by a closure of Romsey Road after 1900 for three nights from 30th August.

Upper Shirley: First 8A and Unilink U9 will be diverted by a partial closure of Wilton Road from 3rd to 20th September.

Chapel: First 5, 6 and Velvet S2's Northam journeys will be diverted before 0900 on 16th September due to roadworks on Chapel Road. This is on a Sunday when none of these routes serve that road!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Diversions in Swaythling

Wessex Lane in Swaythling is closed tomorrow (Wednesday), meaning diversions to Unilink U1 and U6.

Bluestar 16 route revealed

Local website have got hold of the route map for Bluestar 16, which starts on 30th September. Here it is:

There is surprisingly little overlap with First 7, with Bevois Valley and the top end of Riverside Park being missed out in favour of Stag Gates and Cobden Avenue. This will open up more direct destinations to Townhill Parkers and in most cases, will force them to choose between First and Bluestar before they decide which stop to wait at. Bluestar will need to market this right in order to get enough people using it from the outset, as they are serving some roads that didn't previously have a direct bus to town, so people won't yet be used to waiting for a bus to town from there.

For a comparison, here is the route of First 7:

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Velvet 46 temporary timetable / Sunday service on Monday / Xela cuts

Velvet are taking over the Stagecoach journeys on the 46. New temporary timetable here. Hampshire County Council have still to decide what will happen to that route after 28th September.

Don't forget Monday is a bank holiday, so all buses will be running to a Sunday service.

Xelabus X3 launches on Tuesday, running to the same route as the X5, which runs for the last time today, but to a greatly reduced timetable. X3 timetable here:

Monday, 20 August 2012

Bluestar 16 route snippet / Stagecoach 69 new timetable

Bluestar have officially announced route 16, which will run between town and Townhill Park from 30th September. It will run every 20 minutes Mon-Sat daytimes and half-hourly on Sundays. The full route is still uncertain but they have revealed that the 16 will serve Cobden Avenue and Wakefield Road. Between the two, it still isn't clear whether it will serve Mousehole Lane or Witts Hill and Midanbury Lane or maybe an alternative route. More as we get it.

Stagecoach have released the new timetable for the 69, which starts on 2nd September.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

First fights back... in Hythe!

First are retaliating to Bluestar's imminent new route to Townhill Park with a revised timetable on the 7 from 7th October.

More interestingly, on the same day, First will launch new route 11 from central Southampton to Hythe, treading well and truly on Bluestar's toes. We have no further details on the route yet but we can fairly safely assume that it will by-pass Marchwood and compete head on with Bluestar 9. Bluestar 8 is under contract to Hampshire County Council, so if First were to run via Marchwood, HCC would cut the subsidy and Bluestar would cut the route, unless they decide to run it commercially to try and get First of 'their patch'.

Hythe has expanded greatly since this map was put together.

Watersiders have long complained about high fares on Bluestar, so with some clever pricing, First could make big inroads here. They will of course also be taking on the historic Hythe Ferry, which is much quicker for direct journeys from Hythe to Southampton.

Regarding the route, apart from the Marchwood option, there is also the question of whether it will run direct between Totton (assuming it will serve the town centre) and town or whether it will run via the General Hospital as First 10 currently does. If it does run via the General, it will be far less attractive to Watersiders heading in to central Southampton, but will provide a new direct link from the General Hospital to Hythe.

My guess is that this is indeed retaliation against Bluestar for Townhill Park and that First 11 will be head to head with Bluestar 9. As soon as the exact route is revealed, we will let you know.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Xelabus website back, buses cut / Shirley Warren diversion

Xelabus have got their website working normally again. While it was down (and major browsers were warning of potential malware attacks), it appears that the X13 and X14 had yet another route and timetable change to become the X14 and X15, which will run for the last time this Friday due to low usage. One can't help thinking that those routes may have performed better if the passengers had a way to find out about them and if the routes weren't altered seemingly every month.

Sticking with Xelabus, their X5 becomes the X3 from 28th August. The route stays the same, but operating hours are cut drastically. The Saturday service is cut completely. It's a shame to see this route shrivel as it provides an important link between Valley Park and Eastleigh. I wonder if Xelabus's non-participation in PlusBus could be an issue here - there must be plenty of people in Valley Park who could use a bus to get them to Eastleigh rail station for a commute up towards London, but were put off the X5 by its already limited running hours and the fact that Eastleigh's PlusBus add-on ticket (available with train tickets to/from Eastleigh) is not recognised by Xelabus.

There are roadworks in Shirley Warren until Sunday causing diversions to First 3 and 10.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Velvet changes / First speculation

Velvet have announced several changes from 30th September:
A will have some of its Monday to Wednesday evening journeys restored, after they were axed last October. This is balanced by a slight cut in service on Thursday to Saturday evenings.
B will be the new route number for journeys from Eastleigh to Hamble via Hedge End.
C1 and C2 get a slight route and timetable change. Velvet also take the Sunday C1 service back from Xelabus as of 2nd September, great news for users of PlusBus and the Solent Travelcard.
E8 goes hourly on Sunday daytimes and has a slight timetable change on Thurs-Sat evenings.
46 could be disappearing, depending on what the misogynistic non-bus users at Hampshire County Council, who subsidise the route, decide.
N3 is renumbered N8 and has a route change.
N6 also has a route change.

Bluestar and Unilink have announced that all their buses are now equipped with wifi.

First have a temporary bargain ticket for journeys between Millbrook and town. FirstWeek Millbrook is £8 until 1st September.

There were many comments to our last post, which questioned the future of First in Southampton. We'd all like to see the nationally tainted First brand turn over a new leaf and let the local management teams do what they do well with only minimal interference from head office in distant Aberdeen. But the national situation described in the last post means that the unthinkable (for some) could be round the corner and their Southampton operations might not be part of the First Group for much longer. So who might be willing to buy their Sotonian network?

Stagecoach has to be a contender. A major national operator, with a base nearby in Winchester, it has a track record of running strong, professional regional operations all around the country. South West Trains has been part of Stagecoach since BR was smashed up, so they're not completely unknown here. Indeed, their 46 route used to run right into central Southampton. The only thing that might put them off is that First's regional subsidiary here also includes Portsmouth, where Stagecoach are the only major competition. The recent case in North Devon demonstrated that the Competition Commission would not be likely to approve them taking over there. But if the price is right, Stagecoach might be interested in snapping up Southampton alone, meaning MegaRiders all round. They've already had one chance in our city back in the 80s of course: they bought the whole of what was then Hampshire Bus but broke off the Southampton and Eastleigh section and sold it on to become Solent Blue Line. Stagecoach were also responsible for selling Southampton's bus station to become the Marlands Shopping Centre.

The second potential suitor is RATP, better known as the company that runs the Paris Metro. They've owned Yellow Buses of Bournemouth for a couple of years now as well as an operation in London. They even run Manchester's trams. There would be no competition issues with them taking the rest of First Hants & Dorset's operations in Portsmouth and Weymouth and with the French state behind them, their pockets are certainly deep enough to make an interesting offer. The question is will they make a move to turn our buses yellow on this side of New Forest?

This is all speculation of course. First might decide to fight back, keep hold of Southampton, sell one or more of their other operations around the country and really make a go of giving our city the service it deserves. Their track record suggests otherwise, but the changes they made here in April do suggest a significant gear change and appear to have got Go Ahead worried. Anything could happen in the next few months.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Does First have a future?

Bluestar have registered a new route, the 16, to run between the city centre and Townhill Park via Portswood from 30th September head-to-head with First 7:

This is most probably a response to the national corporate problems at First. First needs money, fast, and has said that it might be prepared to sell some of its bus operations around the country. It tried to sell its North Devon operation to Stagecoach, but after the Competition Commission stepped in, decided to just close it, leaving passengers there with a Stagecoach monopoly after all. Here in Southampton, First completely overhauled their network in April. Either it was in trouble locally and that was the last gasp, or they saw potential in the Southampton business and were seeking to streamline it, concentrating on building profitable routes, which could bag them a small fortune when they sell. Or just maybe they genuinely are interested in serving our city for the long term. Either way, a sale of First Southampton's local operations could well be on the cards and Bluestar going head-to-head on a route they've never served before is a message both to First and to anyone thinking of buying their local operations here: that they are ready to move in on First's routes and they will compete for them. This will surely reduce the price potential purchasers would be willing to pay for First Southampton, although would any interested parties seriously have expected Bluestar to just sit back while their biggest competitor changes hands? Go Ahead know what they are doing and the uncertainty around the future of First is an opportunity that they are clearly determined to exploit to the full. If First stays in the city, they will have a fight on their hands. If they sell, whoever buys will face heavy competition and would probably be left with a fraction of the current First network. If no-one is willing to buy and Bluestar's attacks intensify, could we eventually see First just deciding to close their Southampton operations? All we know at this stage is that nothing is certain, but it's going to be a very interesting few months.

In other news, the bus stop outside Asda on Portland Terrace in town is closed for 3 weeks. No buses are diverted, so you'll need to walk to either the previous or next stops for Bluestar 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 18, Brijan 7, Unilink U1 and U6, Salisbury Reds X7 and First 8, 8A, 8B and 9.

Stagecoach 69 has some minor timetable changes from 2nd September.

Solent Travelcard has put its prices up. It now costs £7.50 a day or £30 a week. Their website is unprofessionally still displaying the old prices. So far only First has seen fit to inform the passengers.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Bluestar retaliates / Bevois Valley diversion / Stagecoach Smart

The next change to our region's bus services is a timetable change on Bluestar 1 from Monday 13th August. Not much is changing. According to Traveline, the only additions are one bus each way on weekdays between town and Chandlers Ford Asda, timed two to three minutes ahead of Xelabus X11, which is only running until Friday 24th August anyway. It's Bluestar's way of telling Xelabus not to get any ideas about trying to compete on their routes.

Bevois Valley has some roadworks from Wednesday 1st to Friday 3rd August, which will mean diversions to First 7 and Unilink U6.

Regular users of Stagecoach will probably already know that they've rolled out their Stagecoach Smart card to their buses here in the South. It works in a similar way to The Key on Bluestar. Details of the tickets you can get as a smartcard on Stagecoach can be found here.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Lymington train v bus / First family offer / Millbrook roadworks

There will be diversions in Millbrook from Monday, as Kendal Avenue is resurfaced. First 2, 2A and X2 and Bluestar 18 will be affected.

First have a special offer on from this Sunday until Saturday 1st September. Their FirstDay Hampshire Family ticket is being cut from its usual price of £13 to £10. It is valid for 5 people (max 2 adults) all day on all First services in Hampshire, which apart from Southampton mainly serve Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth.

Bluestar have negotiated several discounts for holders of their Key smartcard. One of the participating restaurants is La Viña Tapas & Wine in Lymington. Just don't rely on the bus to get you back from an evening meal there: The last Bluestar 6 leaves Lymington at 1735 Mon-Sats and 1720 on Sundays. Might be best to skip dessert. The trains do run later however, the last one leaving Lymington Town station at 2235 Mon-Sats and 2216 on Sundays - change at Brockenhurst for Southampton Central, with a total journey time of up to an hour and 20 minutes including the connection. A single on the train from Central Station to Lymington Town is £7.70, while an off-peak day return is £7.90, so you might as well get the train both ways if you do fancy an evening meal at La Viña. For the record, Bluestar 6 would charge you £5.60 single or £7.50 day return to get from town to Lymington, but of course Explorer day tickets (£8) are valid on the 6 and across the entire Bluestar, More and Salisbury Reds networks.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Wilts & Dorset name to disappear

Wilts & Dorset has been a familiar name to bus users in those counties and here in Hampshire for decades, but those words will soon be no more, as a look at their website explains:

The Bournemouth & Poole operation, which also includes Lymington, is becoming More. The Salisbury operation, which includes W&D's services in Romsey, is changing to Salisbury Reds. Technically they remain part of the same company, but the new brands will be adopted. This mirrors what happened here with Bluestar starting as a sub-brand of Solent Blue Line, then growing to become the main brand itself. Looking at the ticketing pages there is some confusion. Bluestar and W&D, both part of the Go Ahead group, have recognised each other's Explorer day tickets for years, but there's a hint that this will end. Bluestar's website says that their Explorers are valid on W&D, presumably both parts. More's website does not mention Bluestar, so Explorers bought in the New Forest on their buses might no longer be valid on Bluestar. Salisbury Reds do mention Bluestar on the Explorer part of their website, so no change from their side. Maybe it's just an omission on More's part. Let's hope so.

In other news, Romsey has its carnival on Sunday afternoon, which will mean possible delays on Bluestar 4 journeys running between 1430 and 1700. The only other route serving Romsey on a Sunday is Stagecoach 966 which launches this weekend. Its return journey from Paultons Park towards Winchester is due to pass through Romsey at 1720 so it should just miss out on all the delays.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Xelabus changes / Diversions / Olympic torch

There are some strange goings on at Xelabus. But first, a round up of news...

Romsey Road in Maybush will be partially closed from 1900-0600 each evening until 16th July. During those times, Bluestar 4 will be following this diversion:
First 1, 2 and 2A will also divert.

Roadworks on Millbrook Road mean Bluestar are expecting delays to routes 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and W&D X7 until 17th July.

The Olympic Torch will be in Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst and Lymington on Saturday, causing delays to all bus routes in the area, but particularly Bluestar 6, which serves all three. It might be worth catching the train instead on that day if there's a convenient station.

The Torch gets to central Southampton early on Saturday evening. Details here. Bluestar have said to expect minor delays.

To our top story now. For the last few days, when trying to access Xelabus's website, Chrome gives me the following warning:
I've not wanted to proceed beyond that kind of warning, so hopefully it'll all be sorted out soon. Especially as there are a few changes coming up on several Xelabus routes. First up is a new timetable on routes X1, X2, X4 and X5 from 23rd July as well as the launch of temporary route X11, which will run one journey a day in each direction largely along the Bluestar 1 route between town and the Asda hypermarket in Chandlers Ford. As there are so many problems with their website, I've managed to find the following on Traveline for you:

The X11 will be withdrawn again after 24th August, followed the following day by the X5, X8 (Eastleigh-Marwell Zoo link) and X9 (Rush hour journeys between Eastleigh and Fair Oak). From 28th August however, the X3 will launch to Valley Park replacing the X5.

Given the problems accessing Xelabus's website, the best place to look for route and timetable information is Traveline. Here's what I found for you. Scroll down from the timetables for a list of stops and roads served:

X1 current
X1 from 23rd July (route change in Stoke Common)
X2 current
X2 from 23rd July (route change to serve Bosville instead of Twyford Road)
X4 current
X4 from 23rd July (will no longer serve Velmore)
X5 current
X5 from 23rd July until 25th August (Timing changes and diverted to serve Velmore instead of North Stoneham)