Friday, 29 August 2014

New Xelabus route from Monday... or is it?

Xelabus have registered a new route, the X5, to run from Monday. A look at their website for more details gives you just this message:

No timetable or even details of the route other than that it serves "Chandlers Ford Business Park".

Luckily, Traveline has more information. So if the route is launching on Monday, we should assume that it will look like this:

It links Southampton Airport Parkway railway station with Chandlers Ford railway station via part of Chestnut Avenue and some business parks. It'll provide some useful new links for people connecting at Parkway with the X4 to Hedge End, Unilink U1 into Southampton or even with the trains.

Here is a list of all stops that will be served:

...and here is the timetable:

Hopefully it will indeed launch on Monday and Xelabus will remember to put details of it on their website.

Here's a summary of all changes happening in the next couple of days. It looks like Wheelers WA is not now going to launch, due to the Velvet revival, but one early morning journey on the W1 will start from Hedge End:

31st August:
Stagecoach 69, Unilink U1, U2, U6, U9: Timetable changes.

1st September:
Wheelers W1, More X1/X2, Bluestar 5: Route & timetable change.
Xelabus X5: New route launches between Airport Parkway Station and Chandlers Ford.

2nd September:
More 112: Summer route & timetable ends, normal service resumes.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

First 12 rerouted / Unilink U2 frequency boost / Wheelers W2 withdrawn

First 12 will be rerouted from Sunday 17th August to serve Kingsway instead of the New Road/Palmerston Road junction.

All Unilink routes get new timetables from 31st August. The U2 is rerouted in the city centre to now serve the new Mayflower Halls instead of the Civic Centre and is doubled in frequency to every 10 minutes on weekdays during university terms between the City Centre and the University Interchange. Details here.

Stagecoach 69 and some of their other Winchester routes have timetable changes on 31st August. Details here.

Wheelers launched their WA briefly before Velvet's relaunch, but it launches properly from 1st September providing a direct alternative to the new Velvet's A. We'll let you know once the WA's timetable has been released.

Staying with Wheelers, the W2 is to be withdrawn after 27th September. It has run since last November and provides a direct link from Southampton City Centre to Hill Lane, Valley Park and Hiltingbury. Most direct journeys that can be done on the W2 will require two buses after it stops running.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Velvet buyer revealed

The Echo has confirmed that the buyer of Velvet is Adam Smith. Who, you may ask? The Echo doesn't say. Some might be left thinking that the 18th Century economist and philosopher has posthumously saved Velvet.

But no, the Adam Smith in question is indeed the man behind Buses Excetera of Surrey.

On this page of their website is some information about the man himself:

The yellow highlights are mine. One hopes that the standard of English used on the Buses Excetera website is not a sign of things to come at Velvet.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Changes this weekend / Stockley statement

We have a few changes happening this weekend, so here's a summary of them all:

More 112 becomes useful from Saturday. For the summer holidays only, rebranded The Beach Bus, it will be running hourly every daytime and is rerouted to serve Lepe Beach, Exbury Gardens and Beaulieu's National Motor Museum. Bluestar Explorers at £8.50 are valid if you want to connect with route 6 at Lymington or routes 8 and 9 in Hythe, or there is a day ticket valid only on the 112 at £6, which you can also use on the iconic and historic Hythe Ferry to really make the most of your day out.

From Sunday, First 4/4A/X4 towards Locks Heath, Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth become the X4 and X5 with simplified routes and more buses to Fareham. See the new timetables here.

From Monday, Paultons Park gets easier to visit with more journeys on Salisbury Reds X7 running right to the park's entrance. See the new timetable here. Don't forget that if you want to visit Paultons on a Sunday, then you need to use Gardbus 139.

Phil Stockley, formerly of Velvet, has given his informative take on last week's events in a comment to this blog's most recent post. You can read it here. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank him for his regular contributions to this blog's comments and to wish him, Velvet's remaining staff and the company's new owners all the very best for the future.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Bluestar hands M back to Velvet

Bluestar have advised that they are no longer running the M, which they had taken on after Velvet collapsed last week.

Now Velvet are running again, Marwell Zoo have said they want to keep the contract with Velvet.

While this is good for Velvet and their new owners, whoever they may be, passengers lose out. With Bluestar running the M, you could use a Southampton Plus Dayrider at £5.60 to get from the city to the zoo. Now Velvet are back on the route, the Bluestar ticket isn't valid on the M and it now costs £8 for a Solent Travelcard to make the same journey.

Hats off to Bluestar for the professional yet jovial tone of their notice to passengers.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Velvet revolution: Buses back on the road thanks to mystery buyer

Velvet has been bought out of receivership and its buses are back on the road. It's not yet been confirmed who the new owners are.

The company have confirmed that they are running routes A, B4, S1 and S2 today.

Their other routes will remain with the new operators, Xelabus and Bluestar.

Comments on Velvet's Facebook page suggest that the replacement operators have not been made aware that Velvet are back on routes S1 and S2, which are seeing a Velvet bus in convoy with a Bluestar one. A similar situation has been reported in Hedge End, with Velvet and Wheelers buses running in convoy on route A.

More as we get it.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Almost all Velvet routes rehomed / Bluestar to Marwell Zoo

Following yesterday's shock news that Velvet have closed down, the other operators in our region have been working very quickly to make sure that none of Velvet's passengers will be left stranded.

Today, Bluestar have confirmed that they will be running route M between Eastleigh and Marwell Zoo from Saturday. Great news for passengers travelling from Southampton, as you can now use a Southampton Plus Dayrider at £5.60 to connect from Bluestar 2 to the M. Before, you needed a Solent Travelcard at £8 to make the same journey.

Bluestar are also running routes S1, S2 and B4.

Xelabus have taken on evening journeys on the X4 and evening and Sunday journeys on the X7.

Wheelers are now running the A between Southampton and Hedge End.

The only route left unclaimed is the E8, which provided evening and Sunday journeys between Eastleigh and Boyatt Wood. It should have been running tonight, so hopefully Hampshire County Council can convince someone to run it in time for tomorrow night's service.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

End of the road for Velvet: All routes cancelled

Velvet have ceased trading as of today. Their buses are off the road for good. This is the message that is currently visible on their website:

Evening journeys on the X4 and evening and Sunday journeys on the X7 are transferring to Xelabus with immediate effect. It is not yet clear what will happen with the other route Velvet ran under contract to Hampshire County Council: the E8. The council will be looking to sign up another operator to run it at short notice but until then, it will not be running. Bluestar have said that they will take over running routes S1, S2 and B4 under contract to Southampton City Council from tomorrow, Thursday 17th July.

The A was their only remaining commercial route. Wheelers have registered to run a new route, the WA, between Southampton and Hedge End starting 1st September. Officially they have to give 56 days notice, but it appears that they have been granted an exemption in order to start running the WA from tomorrow, Thursday 17th July. Passengers between Southampton and Hedge End can also use Bluestar 3 or First 8.

Route M between Eastleigh and Marwell Zoo is also no longer running, which is bad news for the zoo right at the start of the summer school holidays. Hopefully another operator will step in to run this vital link to one of our region's biggest attractions.

Velvet was always well respected and it is sad to see them go. They started with what was then route A between Eastleigh and Hedge End and route C between Eastleigh and Chandlers Ford after Bluestar withdrew from those routes. Then there was a war with Bluestar on the Eastleigh to Fair Oak corridor and also on what was then route B between Eastleigh and Southampton via Boyatt Wood, Velmore and Bassett. Bluestar won both of those squabbles (and withdrew their Beep Bus as soon as Velvet B has been withdrawn), but Velvet soldiered on and carved a niche for itself as the quality local operator, picking up tenders from Southampton City and Hampshire County Councils as well as launching a commercial route between Southampton and Hedge End.

Then routes became unviable, contracts were lost to Xelabus and reports appeared in the Echo that Velvet were having financial problems. A merger with Xelabus was cancelled at the last minute, before Velvet's original route between Eastleigh and Hedge End was transferred to Xelabus on a commercial basis.

More recently, the registration by Wheelers of a route between Southampton and Hedge End threatened Velvet with a bus war on their only remaining commercial route. It's a sad end to a high quality local bus operator.

Share your memories of Velvet in the comments section below.