Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Clock ticking for First

First have some timetable changes to the 7, 8, 9 and 13 in Southampton from 13th May. Their website says it's a Saturday:

It isn't, it's a Sunday.

Here are the new timetables: 7, 8, 9, 13. Only minor changes.

More interestingly, First announce that all of their Southampton routes will run under the City Reds brand. Presumably the X4/X5 will remain under the Solent Rangers brand, run from the Fareham depot.

This isn't as unusual as it may seem. Bluestar started off as a premium sub-brand of Solent Blue Line, that was then extended to the whole network. The same in Bournemouth, where More was once only applied to premium Wilts & Dorset routes, while More is now the name for Go South Coast's whole network across Bournemouth & Poole.

What it does however is make First's Southampton operations easier to split off from the rest of First, especially now that the costly travel shop in Pound Tree Road has been closed.

How likely is that to happen?

Ah, that likely. Passengers in East Anglia, dominated by First, are already worried. For us in the South though, what could it mean?

Go Ahead wouldn't be able to buy on competition grounds and of the other big groups, only Stagecoach have operations nearby onto which Southampton could be tagged. RATP, the Parisian regional transport authority and owner of Yellow Buses in Bournemouth, can't be ruled out, but they seem to have their work cut out in Bournemouth - they've just reversed an entire network revamp just over a year after it was introduced.

The other option is another arm of the French state: Transdev. They have extensive operations in Lancashire and Yorkshire, currently run by no other than Alex Hornby, who used to run Solent Blue Line. I wonder whether he's feeling a little homesick? Would there be enough money to be made pour les taxpayeurs de France?

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Days out from Romsey / More changes / X15 reduced / D1 for Bath

New days out are made possible by two new Sunday services that combine to run between Romsey and Andover. Stagecoach 77 will run between Andover and Stockbridge, with a free bus provided by the Three Rivers Community Rail Partnership adding the link to Romsey. Full details here. They will both run on Sundays and Bank Holidays from 6th May until 23rd September. Attractions the new services make accessible include Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, the Museum of Army Flying at Middle Wallop and Danebury Hill Fort.

More have new timetables on most of their routes from 27th May. Also, routes R4/R5 are absorbed into an expanded route 14. Unibus U5 is withdrawn from 26th May.

Xelabus X15, also branded as Shopper Connect, has a new timetable from 14th May. Unfortunately it's being cut from six to two journeys each way on weekdays only.

First 265 between Salisbury and Bath has been rebranded as of today as the D1, part of First's new Discover sub-network centred on Bath.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Pound Tree Road travel shop: GONE!

The First travel shop in Pound Tree Road in Southampton City Centre closed for the last time on Friday. First chose to notify passengers by issuing this message on ... err ... Friday. There's been a travel shop from First/Citybus/SCT on Pound Tree Road for decades, since long before privatisation. Can anyone remember when it originally opened?

First are steering people who used to use the travel shop to their website and app, which is fine for those of us comfortable with the technology, but some people will inevitably be left behind.

Southbourne Buses launch the S40 this Tuesday. It's a once-weekly shoppers' service from Ferndown via West Moors and Fordingbridge to Salisbury. See the timetable here.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Yellow B1 clings on / Bluestar upgrade

Yellow Buses' full network change came in this weekend just gone in Bournemouth - full details here and here. The lettered 'lines' have been abandoned in favour of simple route numbers.

The Bourne Line is now the 4/4a for example... except for when it isn't - the B1 is still running until 26th May when it will be replaced by new Yellow service 737 - yet another route number for Bournemouth Airport.

The council contracted routes that had been integrated into the 'lines', such as the Dolphin Line and Heath Line revert to their old route numbers 18, 33 and 36. More have taken over the 20 (which was half of Yellow D1) and the R4/R5 which keep their 'line' era lettering until the end of May when they'll be integrated into More 14.

More 32 has also has a slight route change.

In Southampton, Bluestar 1 and 2 are improved from this coming weekend. The 2's headline daytime frequency increases from every 20 to every 15 minutes and there are more evening journeys from Southampton to Eastleigh. The 1 has a few new journeys too plus posh new buses that are simply too nice to use on a route that doesn't go through Chandler's Ford.

Monday, 12 March 2018

New timetables in Bournemouth & Winchester / Summer starts for Weymouth & Marwell

Yellow Buses' network is completely reworked in Bournemouth and Poole from 8th April, with every route changing back to conventional route numbers. See the new timetables here. It looks like More are taking on the R4 and R5 routes, which are being abandoned by Yellow.

Stagecoach have new timetables on most of their Winchester routes from 25th March. See full details and the new timetables here.

Also on 25th March we have a timetable change to First X54 (Poole-Weymouth) and their entire Weymouth network.

Plus, First M1 (Southampton-Marwell Zoo) relaunches for the summer season from 30th March. First don't think you're interested in the timetable yet, as it isn't on their website, but you can see it on Traveline here.

See a summary of all changes on the way here.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Yellow numbers to return

Last January (2017), Yellow Buses revamped their entire network throughout Bournemouth and Poole. Route numbers were replaced by lettered 'lines', with the routes identified by a letter and a number. The burghers of Bournemouth have spoken and from 8th April this year, many of the changes are reversed. The lettered lines are replaced by numbers again, although some of them will still have 'a' versions (1a, 4a etc).

Here's how the new network will look from April:

Compared to the current network, this is slightly cut down. Bournemouth Airport is cut off from public transport and West Moors loses its Yellow link. Some of the council-funded routes are up for retender, so Yellow might retain them or they could go to another operator depending on what the councils decide.

Here's the current network, running since September 2017:

This is what the current lines looked like in April 2017:

Before the lines were introduced, this was how the numbered network looked prior to January 2017:

Timetables will be out in a few weeks, but the frequencies for the new routes are shown here.

At the same time, the Route One ticket is being withdrawn, which will present fare payers on some routes with a price rise.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

First X54 axed ?

Update 30.1.2018: It looks like just a convoluted timetable change rather than full withdrawal of the X54, for now at least. We'll scour the timetable as soon as the powers that be have determined that we mere passengers can see it! UPDATE 2.2.2018: See the new timetable here.

It's not just in Southampton that First are making savage cuts. In the far west of our region, route X54 has connected Poole and Weymouth in some form or another for several years, with a new timetable coming in on 25th March.

For end-to-end and many intermediate journeys, the train (now operated by First) provides an alternative. But there are many villages for whom the X54 was their main or only public transport. Dorset County Council no longer produce bus route maps of the county, but the last one in 2016 gives us an idea of the terrain:

This is an old map and many of the routes on it no longer run

More Purbeck Breezer 40 will continue to run more frequently between Poole and Wareham, so let's concentrate on Wareham to Weymouth. The following villages rely on the X54 as their only public transport link:

From Warmwell, Damory 5 also provides a limited service via Osmington and Preston into Weymouth.

The once great Jurasic Coaster service which used to run from Poole to Exeter is no more. The Exeter end has already been axed and the eastern leg is a pale shadow of its former self.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

January Round Up

First have released their new timetable booklet for Southampton, which takes effect from next Sunday 21st January. See it here. With the withdrawal of route 12, their network map now looks like this:

Compare it with September 2009 to get an idea of just how far First have run down their services in our city:

Passengers who rely on First 12 can switch to Bluestar 7 from 21st Jan, which is being extended to Lordshill via the 12's route. See the new 7 timetable here.

Much of the reason for First's long term local decline has been the intervention of the University of Southampton in the local bus market. They were unhappy with how First were serving their staff and students, so worked to bring about an alternative: Unilink. For several years, the Unilink routes have been operated by Bluestar and therefore integrated into the wider Bluestar network. The University are clearly happy with the job Bluestar are doing, as they've just renewed their Unilink contract for another 10 years. This makes any return of First to Swaythling and Bassett highly unlikely.

In other news, Stagecoach 66 has a new timetable since 8th Jan due to roadworks in Romsey.

Stagecoach 39 in Havant gets a new timetable from 28th Jan with only minor changes.

From the same date, some fares and ticket prices are going up on Stagecoach. Don't forget you can pay less by switching from paper tickets to their Smart card or mobile app.

Yellow Buses have revised times on their Uniline U6, U9 and U10 routes from Sunday 21st January. Details here.