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.


  1. Re: your comments on Velvet 46: How do you know the decision makes in Hampshire County Council are not bus users? For your information many of them involved do use buses - regularly so perhaps its best to not make such comments on a blog unless sure of the facts?

    1. They may well be heavy bus users, but the truth is that it seems to have been the Conservative county councillor from part of the New Forest who decided to take one of the two contracts covering the 46 / 546 away from Stagecoach.
      Leaving the college (also part HCC funded ,)contract and the commercial bit with Stagecoach. Leading to the present conflict.

      The question is did he ever understand the various requirements of the different groups who go to make up the passengers on this artificial but well thought out route by the person who originally put it together some years ago. Does this councillor care ? Does he understand the effect on the various groups of passengers of what he has done ???

    2. The conservative county councillor follows the recommendations of his officers, those officers are regular bus users and would know all the operators involved extremely well.

    3. Then they are clearly in the wrong job with the mess they have made of this route. It's no wonder the public as a whole have lost faith in their council officers.

  2. Southampton bus station was compulsory purchase so Stagecoach had no choice. They did choose to sell the Grosvenor Square garage although there was local environmental pressure. A new bus station was included in plans for West Quay, between the shopping centre and Portland Street but Solent Blue Line and Southampton Citybus were adamant they didn't want one !

  3. I wouldn't be surprised that the 46 will go. Though I suspect that was the plan when it was stopped from going into Southampton, and terminated at the General Hospital.

    It used to be a handy bus then, as it went right past my house, so I used it very now and then. It's useless to me now, as I only live 5 minutes from the General.

    Restore the link into Southampton, and I am sure it's fortunes will improve.

    1. In theory you are right, restoring the 46
      into Southampton would help. The problem
      is, as one Stagecoach driver explained to me
      First Bus would not come to an arrangement
      over sharing tickets with Stagecoach.

      It also took a long time to get from Winchester,to Southampton on the 46 because of all the various diversions it took. Once they were removed the bus started to speed up no end.

      In fact it was just as fast and more convenient to take the 46 from either Valley Park or Hiltingbury to Southampton than it was to take the velvet / xelabus and the Bluestar No 1.

    2. I'm afraid you've been told tosh by the driver, operators cannot just share tickets as it could be construed as operating a cartel and price fixing by the Competition authorities. Anyway I fail to see why operators on this route would want to share tickets and what advantage it would give? One operator runs dozens of buses per hour to the hospital whilst the other runs a bus once an hour maximum.

  4. If Stagecoach do get a foothold in Southampton,perhaps they will create a dual operator partnership with Go Ahead,as they have successfully done in Oxford.That would rationalise the number of buses on the road,and improve the flexibility for passengers.

  5. It is only me or First routes are getting busier and busier

  6. Yes they are, particularly the 3, which seems to get the oldest buses often with the dot matrix destination board (I'm lucky to get one with an LED destination board) More double deckers on the 3 please!

  7. Interesting entries on VOSA today

    1. Yes, very interesting Velvet finish with the 46
      on the 5th October.

    2. Soory I meant to say the 4th October for the 46.