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.