Thursday, 30 July 2015

Bluestar to bite back?

The last post has attracted more comments than any other in this blog's six year history. Testament indeed to how many people read it (many thanks to all of you who do) and of course to how many people in our city are going to be adversely affected by the imminent changes to the First network from 6th September.

First held a 'Meet the Manager' session on their Facebook page on Tuesday. Many people asked about the cuts in services to Sholing, Merry Oak, Harefield and Townhill Park, but they all got the same answer: that those services are not used by enough full fare-paying passengers. It's an interesting choice of words and accurately highlights several problems facing all bus companies in Britain outside London:

  • Fewer people are travelling by bus
  • A higher proportion of those still travelling by bus are pensioners on free passes
  • Bus companies are not being adequately reimbursed by the government for the cost of transporting pensioners. The costs are therefore being picked up by taxpayers and full fare-paying passengers through higher fares, which in turn deter more full fare-paying passengers
  • In the current system, all bus companies exist to make a profit. If they lose money on a route and local councils are unwilling or unable to subsidise it, they are free to cut that route.

When the council ran the city's buses, they had a duty to make sure that all areas of the city were connected with a reasonable service. Now nobody has that duty. First's only duty is to make money for its shareholders. The council can subsidise extra routes to fill in the gap in the commercial bus network, but it has no legal obligation to do so. Therefore we are now seeing services being drastically cut in large areas of Southampton.

With the new First 10 set to duplicate the eastern half of Bluestar 18, the boys in blue aren't taking it lying down. They've registered a timetable change for the 18 from 21st September (in addition to the change already scheduled for 1st Sep), details of which are still to be revealed, but it's highly likely that a frequency boost is on the cards. All Unilink routes also get new timetables from the same date.

Some Stagecoach routes linking our region with Winchester have new timetables from 30th August. See them at these links: 46, 66, 69.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

First changes: Sholing shafted

First have released details of their service changes from 6th September. Here are some of the main points:

  • 5: Withdrawn, leaving Swaythling without an SCT/Citybus/First service for the first time since public transport first started in Southampton. Bassett Green is left to Unilink U2 and Swaythling has Bluestar 2, Unilink U1 and Unilink U6.
  • 9: Mon-Sat daytime frequency halved to half-hourly. Diverted to run from the City Centre via Woolston, Merry Oak and Bitterne to Sholing, keeping Sholing's link with Woolston but with a longer journey time and of course extending the journey time to the City Centre. The Sunday service is cut completely.
  • 13: Diverted to serve Peartree instead of Merry Oak. Mon-Sat daytime frequency cut to hourly. Still no Sunday service.
  • 12: Will only run between the City Centre and Lordshill. Frequency cut to half-hourly. Townhill Park and Midanbury are left with no link to Bitterne other than the Bitterne Hoppa B1 service.
  • 8: Diverted to run via Northam instead of Peartree & Woolston.
  • 1: Mon-Sat daytime frequency halved to half-hourly.
  • 10: New route that will run at a high frequency between the City Centre and Thornhill, designed to take passengers from Bluestar 18.
  • City Red routes: the 2, 3, 7 and 11 get extra buses to make them more reliable with no major route changes.

As a Swaythling boy myself, I never thought I'd see the day when Citybus's successor gave up completely on the part of the city I grew up in. First have taken a ten minute frequency to the city centre and run it down to the point where they are now left with nothing. In that time, they have also presided over the loss of Swaythling's direct bus links to Chartwell Green, Shirley, Millbrook and Totton. Luckily the university stepped in a few years ago and helps support Unilink, now run by Bluestar, which fills some of the gaps and makes sure that Swaythling is not cut off. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Harefield and the far end of Sholing, which do seem to be heading for total car dependency.

In positive news, Bluestar 1 is being boosted from every 20 minutes to every 15 minutes Mon-Sat daytimes from 1st September. Details of that and minor changes to Bluestar 5, 8, 9, 11, 12 and 18 here.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

First to surrender Swaythling?

First have a whole raft of changes on the way from 6th September. Details haven't been announced yet, but from the VOSA registrations, we can see that the 5 is to be withdrawn. If there's no replacement, then this ends First's provision of services to Swaythling, an area they dominated when they first bought Citybus. It could also mean the end of Woolston's link to the far end of Sholing.

First 12 will be cut to run between Lordshill and the City Centre only.

A new route, the 10 will run a circular route which will include the City Centre, Bitterne and Thornhill - direct competition for that end of Bluestar 18 perhaps?

We'll let you know once more details have been released.

A late addition to services to Marwell Zoo this summer: Stagecoach M3 from Winchester Railway Station is due to start on Saturday. No mention so far on Stagecoach's own website, but Traveline has the route map and timetable and the zoo gives us the following:

This makes Marwell Zoo better connected by bus this summer than it has been for several years, what with First M1 from Eastleigh and First M2 (now running Wednesdays and Sundays) providing direct links from across Southampton.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Xelabus to take on Brijan Tours' routes

Brijan Tours becomes just a coach operator from 6th September, with all of their routes transferring to Xelabus. Here's what will happen route by route:

  • Brijan between Southampton and Bishops Waltham becomes Xelabus X10
  • Brijan 8 from Eastleigh to Bishops Waltham via Colden Common and Hedge End becomes Xelabus X9
  • Brijan 8B Eastleigh market day service to Botley will become part of Xelabus X15, running 6 days a week instead of the current 1
  • Brijan 15 between Hamble and Hedge End will become Xelabus X15, be extended to Eastleigh and will run 6 days a week instead of the current 3
  • Brijan 17 between Bishops Waltham and Petersfield becomes Xelabus X17

Existing Xelabus routes X5, X24 and X56 will be withdrawn, although the X24 will be back next summer.

The first week of September sees timetable changes to many local routes:
  • First 6
  • Bluestar 1, 5, 9, 18
  • Stagecoach 46, 66, 69
  • Salisbury Reds X7, X7R
  • Xelabus X1, X2, X3, X4, X6, X7, X11

Full details on those nearer the time.

The next change, on Sunday 19th July will be to First 8 - that's the end of the Botley extension and cuts to evening services to Hedge End. See the new timetable here.

From this Sunday, More 112 between Hythe and Lymington becomes Beach Bus 99 and actually useful for days out for a few weeks only. CORRECTION: Beach Bus 99 operated by More will run this summer in addition to the virtually useless More 112. See full details here.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

A bit of bother at Brijan?

All of Brijan Tours' routes have been officially deregistered as of 6th September.

In the absence of more information, we can only speculate about what is going on, but for anyone who relies on a Brijan bus service, it looks like changes are on the way.

They currently run the following routes:

  • the 7 between Southampton and Bishops Waltham
  • the 8 from Eastleigh to Bishops Waltham via Colden Common and Hedge End
  • the 8B Eastleigh market day service to Botley
  • the 15 between Hamble and Hedge End
  • the 17 between Bishops Waltham and Petersfield 
  • plus a couple of school trips

More as we get it.