Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Velvet to Hamble, Marwell & Pompey / First revamp Fareham routes

Here's a summary of changes which are on the way:

Velvet A: From 2nd April, two return journeys a day will run between Eastleigh and Hamble, restoring direct buses between the two. From 29th April, the main service from Eastleigh to Hedge End & Boorley Green gets a new timetable plus one return journey each weekday will extend to Portsmouth of all places!

Velvet C1/C2: New timetable from 29th April with only minor changes.

Velvet M: Starts running between Eastleigh and Marwell Zoo hourly every Saturday, Sunday and bank holiday from Good Friday 6th April.

Bluestar N3/N16: These two night bus routes transfer to Velvet as of 29th April.

First 56: Withdrawn after the last bus on Thursday 5th April. The whole route is already covered by either Bluestar 2, Brijan 8, Velvet A or Brijan 15.

First 72/80: Withdrawn as of 22nd April and replaced by new route with buses to Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth, currently scheduled to be numbered 4 and X4. The route number could change as there are already two route 4s in Southampton, one operated by First itself.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Single fares and smashing secrecy

Passengers who just need to make a single journey have a problem. Most bus companies don't want them to know how much their journey will cost until they are standing in front of the driver. It's been that way for years.

But would you shop in a supermarket that had no prices on the shelves, so that you only found out how much everything costs once you reached the checkout? Of course you wouldn't. So why should buses be any different?

Bluestar are starting to see the light, with the inclusion on their revamped website of a long list of sample fares. It's not every fare on every route, but it's a welcome start. What would be ideal though is the full fare charts for all their routes, so that every potential passenger can find out in advance how much their journey will cost. If the price is low, they'll spread the word. If the price is high, they can either choose alternative transport or they will at least be prepared for the fare, so that the driver doesn't have to bear the brunt of their shock. Or they might choose a better value day, weekly or monthly ticket instead. Surely it's win-win.

Velvet set a good example here, in publishing all the fares for all their routes on their website.

First don't publish their single fares, except for the current temporary special offer between Shirley and the City Centre, which could backfire as it is as good as them saying "We are normally more expensive than Bluestar where we operate along the same route". Neither do any of our other local bus operators.

The ones with a presence on Facebook have frequent posts from passengers asking for single and return fares, but the response times from the operators can vary wildly.

We think every bus company should be forced to publish their fares. Passengers have a right to know what they will have to pay before they decide whether or not to use the bus. Those companies that do publish fares benefit from enhanced passenger goodwill, while those that oppose transparency are judged accordingly. Let us and the bus companies know what you think.

Monday, 13 February 2012

First fare cut shock!

First have announced a temporary price cut for journeys between Shirley and the City Centre. Details here. It applies on routes 8, 10/10A/10B, 17/17A and 21 until Saturday 24th March. The adult single is now £1.60, which must be part of a fight back against Bluestar 18, which is now equipped with The Key, a smartcard that can be used for season tickets or a discount bulk buy of single journeys.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Route branding / First fury / Portswood

Xelabus launch two new routes serving the new Sainsbury's store in Portswood on Wednesday 14th March. The X13 will run to Chartwell Green in one direction and Northlands Road (off The Avenue) in the other. We're not sure where the X14 will go, but we'll let you know when we do.

Wilts & Dorset X7 could be getting a timetable change on Sunday 18th March. We'll keep an eye out for confirmation.

First doesn't enjoy the best reputation amongst bus companies, neither locally nor nationally. Managers of its Greater Manchester network have been hauled before the North West traffic commissioner to explain why around a quarter of their buses don't turn up on time. Full story here. How do you rate their services in Southampton? Can they be relied on down here?

On a lighter note, Bluestar's sister company Go North East, based in Newcastle, is famous for branding its individual routes with innovative names and cartoon pictures. One which recently grabbed national attention was the revamping of South Shields' route 50 to the "Whey Aye Five 0". That got me thinking about which routes in and around Southampton could do with a distinctive name. Here are just a few off the top of my head:

  • Titchfield Thunderbolt (First 80)
  • March(wood) Hare (Bluestar 8)
  • QE2 (Complete with ship pictures. Could be used on Bluestar 2 but might better suit the 9 as it serves the Waterside)
  • Chariot (Bluestar 1, playing on Winchester's Roman origins)
  • Victoria Line (First 16)
  • Hythe Hoop-La (Bluestar H1/H2)
  • Calshot Cruiser (Bluestar H3)
  • The Pony (Bluestar 6)
  • Spitfire (First 1 as the Spitfire was made in Woolston; or Velvet A for the airport)
  • Triangle (First 3)
  • The Causeway (First 4)
  • Bell (First 5)

Leave a comment and let us know what you can come up with!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Day out ideas: Marwell Wildlife

UPDATE 23th JULY 2014: Velvet M runs from Eastleigh direct to Marwell Zoo every day until 1st September. Details here.

Updated 17th February 2013.

The second in our series looking at how to get to our region's major tourist attractions by bus looks at Marwell Zoo Wildlife.

Located near Fishers Pond, Marwell is one of the best zoos in the country. Unfortunately, it used to be a lot easier to get to than it currently is. I remember when I was little, every Sunday the 48 (predecessor to Bluestar 2) would run right up to the zoo entrance. Shamefully, the zoo is now rather isolated from public transport. It does still have that bus stop right by the entrance:

But since Hampshire County Council cut funding for Stagecoach 69 to divert there on Sundays, it is currently served by no buses at all.

Last year Velvet M ran on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays, providing a direct service to the zoo from Eastleigh. It looks like it will be running again this year, probably starting on Good Friday. We'll let you know as soon as this is confirmed.

If you want to go to Marwell before that or on a weekday, you face a bit of a walk from Fishers Pond, where Xelabus X8Brijan 8 and Stagecoach 69  stop. On a Sunday, only Bluestar 2 runs in the area and you'll have to walk from the top of Sandy Lane:

Xelabus X8 runs via the same route as Brijan 8.

Here are the stops you'll need to use at Fishers Pond:

From there, you'll need to walk along Portsmouth Road...

... which has no footpath, then Thompson's Lane...

... which also has no footpath, but it does have a bus stop, currently served by no buses. You might want to reconsider whether you really want to go as these are narrow country lanes. I certainly wouldn't feel safe walking along them with young children.

If you do decide to go, how much can you expect it to cost?

If travelling from the Fareham and Bishops Waltham direction on Stagecoach 69, you can use the Stagecoach South Hants Dayrider (£6 adult, £5 child).

If you want to use Brijan 8 or Xelabus X8, then contact them directly to find out what their fares are. If connecting at Eastleigh from Bluestar or Velvet, then use a Solent Travelcard, valid all day on all buses (except Xelabus) in most of South Hampshire for £7.50 per person. This is also the best ticket to use if you're travelling from Winchester on Stagecoach 69.

If you're travelling from beyond Winchester on Stagecoach and connecting there to the 69, then you can use a Dayrider Gold, valid on all Stagecoach buses in Hampshire, Sussex and Surrey for one day (£8.20 adult, £6.40 child).

If you're arriving at Eastleigh by train and are tempted by the PlusBus ticket, bear in mind that it is not accepted on Brijan Tours or Xelabus. You'd have to catch Bluestar 2 to the top of Sandy Lane and either walk or catch Stagecoach 69 for a couple of stops and then walk from Fishers Pond.

When Velvet M is back up and running, details of fares will be on the Velvet website. The PlusBus zone ends at Fishers Pond, so even if you're arriving by train, you'll need to buy a return on the bus in order to get to Marwell. Solent Travelcard will be valid on the full route however.

Don't forget there's a full interactive journey planner at Traveline.

On a completely unrelated topic, Bluestar have tarted up their website. It includes a few pages of places of to visit, including what is meant to read "Brockenhurst". I wonder if one of their drivers didn't enjoy a day out there...

UPDATE 23th JULY 2014: Velvet M runs from Eastleigh direct to Marwell Zoo every day until 1st September. Details here.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Redbridge nights / Half term deals / Easter

Bluestar have advised that Redbridge Roundabout will be closed overnight 9pm-6am between the 7th and 15th February. All buses at those times will run via the flyover. The only routes affected are evening journeys on Bluestar 12 and nightbus routes N9 and N12, which won't be calling at these stops:

Stagecoach have unveiled some special deals for the half term week. From Saturday 11th February to Sunday 19th February inclusive, a child Dayrider Gold will be cut to £2 and anyone buying the adult Dayrider Gold at £7.70 can add up to three children for just 10p each. Both tickets are valid on the full length of routes 46, 66 and 69 (see the directory at the bottom of the page for full details of where they go) and also on all other Stagecoach routes in Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex. If you live in Lordshill, Romsey or Fair Oak, that's ideal for a cheap day out in Winchester!

Bluestar have confirmed that they'll be running a Sunday service on Good Friday 6th April and Easter Monday 9th April. We'll assume for now that all bus companies will be doing the same and will let you know if we hear otherwise.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Day out ideas: Paultons Park

Update 2nd May 2015: The below post is now out of date, as routes and timetables have changed so much. For up to date bus details between Southampton and Paulton's Park, see Salisbury Reds X7 and Xelabus X24.

Half term is just a couple of weeks away, so we're going to run a few posts looking at our region's main tourist attractions and how best to get to them without a car.

We start today with Paultons Park.

The theme park near Ower is ideal for a day out with children. Just one bus route serves the area: Salisbury Reds X7 which runs from central Southampton to Salisbury. Timetable here. It also runs past both Southampton Central and Totton railway stations, providing a convenient interchange (but no integrated ticketing with the trains) for passengers travelling from a bit further afield.

You can travel to the door of Paultons Park on weekdays during Wiltshire school holidays and on Saturdays whenever the park is open. Only two journeys a day run via the park itself, one to get you there and one to get you back. To get there, you'd need to get the 1105 bus from Southampton, calling at Central Station (stop SB) at 1109:

 and Totton at 1122

 which arrives at this stop outside Paultons Park at 1131:

Having enjoyed your day out, get back to that stop for the bus back towards Southampton at 1622, which gets to Totton at 1634, Central Station at 1645 and West Quay at 1652.

All other journeys on route X7, including all buses on schooldays, don't run to the above stop, but use these stops on Romsey Road, a short walk from the main entrance:

Click here for the Nextbuses departure board for the stop on the right, for buses to Totton and Southampton.

Route X7 runs a limited service on Sundays or bank holidays, but only during the summer. We'll let you  know when it starts up again. Once the clocks go back in October, there is no Sunday service at all.

Most of us will need to change buses (probably in Southampton City Centre or Totton) in order to get there, so what fare deals are available?

The X7 is operated by Salisbury Reds, which is Bluestar's sister company (them both being part of the Go-Ahead group), so if you only need to use Bluestar buses to connect with the X7, you can use a Bluestar Explorer (£8 Adults, £5 U16s, £18 Group of 5 people) to get you there and back home again.

If you need to use any other bus company (except Xelabus) to connect with the X7, or if you're travelling without children, then you'd probably be better off with a Solent Travelcard (£7.50 per person) which can be used on the buses of any operator (except Xelabus) in the rather large zone detailed on their website. Paultons Park is right at the edge of the zone.

A full interactive journey planner, can be found at Traveline.

Let us know your experiences of and thoughts on visiting Paultons Park by bus, by leaving a comment below.

In the next few posts, we'll look at getting to other local attractions by bus, including Marwell Zoo, the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, Exbury Gardens and more.