Saturday, 27 July 2019

Bluestar 19 to take on First Three

Bluestar have announced a new route, the 19, which will start on 22nd September competing directly with the eastern half of First's Three.

This is significant for several reasons.

  1. The first is that this half of the Three is First's last high frequency route in Southampton that does not face direct competition from Bluestar. This further weakens the economic viability of First Southampton.
  2. The second is that in September 2015, First launched their then route 10 directly duplicating this side of Bluestar 18 to Thornhill via Bitterne. They wanted to kick Bluestar out of Thornhill and run both routes themselves. They stopped serving the Thornhill via Bitterne route in January 2018, seemingly content with just the Three running the Fairfax Court via Woolston route. Now the shoe is on the other foot and Bluestar is coming for the Three.
  3. The third is that First at a corporate level is in disarray. It wants to separate its UK bus division from the rest of the business, but nobody seems clear how this is going to happen. They've recently sold a depot up in Manchester to Go Ahead and one in Bolton to Rotala (to jubiliation from locals I should add - the First brand is tainted in many areas), so nothing can be ruled out. This is the time for Bluestar to make a grab for territory before another company with possibly more ambition (even if it's still First Bus, just legally separated from the rest of First Group) takes over.

So what happens now? It really depends on what happens at a corporate level with First.

  • If the bus business is merely spun off into a separate entity, they could decide to close unviable operations, which Southampton may by then have become. 
  • If it's sold in one big job lot, then it depends who buys and how much they think they can make a go of what First couldn't - National Express might be in a position to revitalise the operation and would face few regulatory concerns as their existing bus operations tend not to overlap with First elsewhere in the country. Or another company from outside the UK or outside of the transport sector could fancy their chances.
  • If it's broken up bit by bit, then anything could happen. On its own, Southampton is probably unattractive to potential buyers in its current state, but if it's bundled up with Portsmouth and/or Weymouth, then there's hope of it surviving. 

For now I'd say it's 50/50 whether Bluestar will still face a serious competitor in Southampton in 2 years time.

Stagecoach 700 has a new timetable for the section between Portsmouth and Flansham from tomorrow. Details here. The main changes are to early morning journeys.

In Bournemouth, Yellow Buses have new timetables on many routes from 1st September. The full timetables are yet to be published but some details can be found here. The 1a's extension to New Milton is doubled in frequency and the 6's extension to Wimborne also stays.

There will be changes at the start of September on many routes of Bluestar, First Portsmouth, Stagecoach Winchester and Southern Vectis too. More on them as we get it.

See all upcoming changes across the region at-a-glance here.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

RATP sells Yellow Buses / Summer days out

RATP, owned by the French taxpayer, has sold Yellow Buses of Bournemouth to its local management team. We wish them well as the become the biggest locally-owned bus company in the region. We do so with concern for their future, as Go Ahead, the company behind More, has deep pockets and can afford some fierce competition in order to gain territory. The French taxpayer also had deep pockets, which probably put More off from trying to wrestle too many routes from them. Now that Yellows are local again and no longer part of a multi-national, they could be vulnerable to attack. We'll be watching closely.

The New Forest Tour starts this Saturday, making much of the national park accessible to those of us without a car. It's operated by Go Ahead, so there is integrated ticketing on connecting routes by Bluestar, More and Salisbury Reds, plus the historical Hythe Ferry from Southampton.

Bluestar's South Downs Rambler starts on Sunday, running every Sunday and Bank Holiday until 8th September, providing a link between Winchester and Petersfield via attractions like Winchester Science Centre and Hinton Ampner. See the PDF guide here.

From 21st July, Bluestar 9 is extended to Lepe Beach opening up more day out ideas. There's a great value Lepe Group Dayrider ticket valid for 5 people between Applemore Tesco and Lepe Beach for just £7! PDF leaflet here.

Stagecoach are making a bit of a fuss about the attractions served by the 69 between Winchester and Fareham. The star of the show is Marwell Zoo, but that is only served on Sundays and only from the Winchester end, not from Fareham.

Over on the Isle of Wight, Southern Vectis 27 resumes on 20th July, making it possible to visit Tapnell Farm without a car.

What are your favourite days out by bus in our region? Leave a comment and let us know.

See all upcoming changes across the region at-a-glance here.