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Author Topic: Faresaver - Wiltshire’s family bus company turns 40  (Read 1312 times)
grahame
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« on: January 07, 2020, 09:02:21 am »

From Coach and Bus Week

Quote
Faresaver Buses was established 40 years ago as Fosseway Coaches. Today it is Wiltshire’s largest independent bus operator and also provides bus sales and rental through its Next Bus division. Richard Sharman went to speak to second-generation family member and Managing Director, Justin Pickford, to find out how the operation has increased in size over the last four decades

Born out of humble beginnings using a fleet of Ford Transit minibuses, today Faresaver Buses operates a mixed fleet of over 50 vehicles that includes double-deckers. Council and commercial bus services are operated throughout North Wiltshire and into Bath and North East Somerset. ....

"Once the mainstay of the fleet, small buses now make up for 14 vehicles in a fleet of 55" - caption on picture of an 09 reg Optare at Chippenham Bus Station

Article continues behind paywall.

Congratulations to Faresaver.  I may have been (and indeed remain) critical of some aspects of their operation but you have to hand it to them that they have survived and grown in a very difficult and competive market amongst overall shrinking bus provision.  Simply because my own journeys tend to be long distance, and evening, (when they don't run), I'm not a frequent customer.

I did take their service up to Chippenham from Melksham on 21st December - return trip for an appointment there.  Thought it wasn't going to turn up, but it did - just over 20 minutes late.  Driver keen to make time up - down to 18 late into Chippenham.   But - a smile and a "sorry we're late" as passengers left the bus and a feeling that the message was genuine really helped.   It has to be admitted that I was on the bus because the train was cancelled, and @GWRHelp told me to wait for the next running service (when pressed, said that was five hours later) ...and for being "FareSAVER", the return bus trip cost me over twice what the return train trip would have cost.

I am delighted to see that after 40 years (I think for the first time) Faresaver are running an evening and Sunday service on route x31, Chippenham via Corsham to Bath; there is logic to that as they have been the sole Monday to Saturday daytime operators since they competed First off that route a couple of years back - as indeed they did off the Chippenham to Frome via Melksham and Trowbridge route in 2014.  But in that case - less enlightened time, perhaps, the evening service (single vehicle) with a couple of busy late runs after a quiet mid-evening was lost.

There remain curiosities and perversities on a couple of corridors - Bath, Melksham, Devizes, Urchfont and also Bath to Frome where commercial competition mixed with some council support at certain times of the day and week leads to an overall service which is not the best / most efficient for the passengers, not the best for the operators though they may not admit that, and not the best of the climate.  Both First and Faresaver have at times put their business as a priority over provision of the best (combined) service - understood that they have to do this to survive, but a deeply frustrating setup.  Still a bit of a mess in places, so I expect we'll have an interesting year to put it mildly.  Let's see if everyone (all bus operators present, passenger groups, council support specifiers) and work together to come up with something that's greener than at present, more useful for passengers than at present, better bottom line for the operators, and requires no more council money even though there are many more journeys being made.   Pie in the sky?  Not really ... it's just plain stupid and off-putting to have 2 vehicles running within a few minutes of each other followed by a gap of an hour.

Back to where I started. Congratulations to Faresaver on 40 years, thank you for your folks like that happy crew on the run up to Christmas, Thank you for taking on the evening and Sunday x31.  Here's to a continuation of this  direction.
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« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2020, 04:39:43 pm »

Thank you for your support.

Just a couple of corrections !  Faresaver have operated evening and Sunday services in the past, on the 231, 234, 265 and 271/272 services.....  oh and the 299 and 635 as well!  These were all under contract to the local authority at the time.  In subsequent years, First bus won these contracts and for no reason other than this Faresaver did not operate evenings or Sundays.  Now, once again we have the contract to run the evening service on the X31 service.  The Sunday service is now commercial (i.e no subsidy) as of 05/01/2020, if the first day were anything to go by, we didn't cover the cost of wages let alone fuel, wear and tear and overheads, but lets hope this improves as spring approaches.

We do pride ourselves on service reliability and it is with great reluctance that we fail to operate a service.  Apologies if your bus was 20 minutes late, we do have one of the best service reliability figures in the WECA area.

As for the X34 evening service can we point out 'once and for all' that this was always a council contract and it was Wiltshire Council who deemed not to continue this service.  Again, if the loadings on the X31 evening service are any indication, there is no way that this service would stand up financially without support.

Thank you for your comments and please do use our buses as much as possible!

The multi-operator ticket (Avon Rider) on the X72 and D3 corridor would not have happened without Faresaver pushing for it.  We would like to extend it across a wider area.
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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2020, 06:07:06 pm »

I would suspect that last Sunday was pretty quiet all around - I passed through Bath (changed bus) on my way to Saltford and back, and it felt quiet; the lull time of year, so it should get busier.  As I understand it, the Sunday Faresaver x31 is running every 90 minutes rather than the 120 minute headway on the First x31 which ran up to the previous Sunday - that'll mean a significant change for some people, having to travel 30 minutes earlier or later than they're used to.  Good stepping up - better to have the vehicles running rather than parked up about 40% of the time, but perhaps a short term hit.  New Year was probably a good time to change.

Having had timetables change at the end of Saturday service, someone (I appreciate it's not always the individual bus operator) has to update signs... and on Sunday, late afternoon, this had not happened in Bath bus station. Once the travel centre was closed, nothing at all correctly told me when the next Corsham / Chippenham bus would leave.  I don't expect that lost many customers if your drivers gave people new timetables on the way in, but is it worth checking before next weekend?

It would be really spooky if I knew the history of Faresaver so well that I was aware of previous Sunday operations - thanks for filling me in on that. And confirming, yes, when First pulled the whole 234 operation (daytime commercial and evening supported), it was Wiltshire Council who failed to place any contract to replace the evening gap that First's withdrawal left. That IS something I'm very much aware of, as the last bus also acted as a "get me home" card after the last train had run.

No worry about the laterunning bus ... these things happen in traffic and I'm not going to risk commenting about trackers and watching online because I plain don't know what you have - there may be something already?  Lisa and I were in New York in September and each of the bus stops had a QR code on it - instant feedback of where the buses actually were.  We were on a cruise and it was sadly noticeable that our fellow passengers wouldn't/didn't simply use the local bus ... also how hard it was to get a printed bus map!  A now-rare cruise really isn't a significant market for the MTA ... but it did just show there's untapped potential there - just like here. But that's for another thread.

I would love to see wider shared ticketing too and, yes, I use public transport including the Faresaver bus more than I ever did. Personal milage in a car WAY down. But journeys remain long distance and for practicality of time, the train wins. From a list for the second half of last year for transport meetings  - York, Milton Keynes, Birmingham, Weymouth, Darlington, Taunton, NEC, London, Cardiff and Telford.  Not to mention the Isle of Wight, Dublin, Swansea and Coatbridge for my "proper" work. All by public (surface) transport, some of them with local bus at the far end.
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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2020, 10:59:15 pm »

Just to pick up on one part of this latest comment:  Our lovely (VERY) expensive ticket machines provide us in the 'back office' and at home and on our mobile phones when on 'holiday' if we want, with fantastic data.  They relay information back to us in realtime (to the second) so we know where the bus is, who is driving it, the speed it is travelling at, the direction of travel, we can see every ticket issued, where it was issued, child, adult, concession etc, the value of the ticket and we can also message the drivers and they can respond via the ticket machine (akin to text message), when stationary, of course.  I have just ran a sales report to find out what the takings were on the 06/01/2014 and to my surprise the data is still there.

We are just in the process of rolling out 'schedule adherence' whereby the ticket machine will tell the driver if he/she is not running to time and if not by how much so they can try and adjust accordingly.  We now also have constant summaries at the office, so we can see if there is a bus or buses struggling to keep to schedule at a glance.

Further to this, we have just ordered a brand new set of machines at an eye watering sum which will allow contactless payments.  No, according to the manufacturer, the old ones could not be upgraded with card readers?  This will be with us 'within days'.

The next thing on the cards is an app which is in development to allow the passenger access to that tracking data on their phone so it will be possible for you to track the bus in realtime. 

Sorry more words than i intended, but all good news hopefully!
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grahame
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« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2020, 06:23:42 am »


Sorry more words than i intended, but all good news hopefully!

More than happy to have the words posted here and hear the good news.  Please keep us updated from time to time - and we do appreciate the time that takes.

For me ... and I suspect for many more ... the knowledge of "where's my bus/train" tracking makes my very use of that transport decision.   Badly put - I'll pick a transport mode of something I know about when it will turn up over something I don't have on-the-day data for.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2020, 05:54:01 pm »

We now also have constant summaries at the office, so we can see if there is a bus or buses struggling to keep to schedule at a glance.

When my local bus is significantly late (by which I mean over about 8 minutes) as we have a regular driver I ask "Bad traffic or bad passengers?" I am usually told "bad traffic" or just get a knowing smile... Just for clarfication, before you read on. I can do that whilst the machine is reading my card and printing the ticket.

Traffic conditions will always delay buses, and to an extent can be timetabled for. What can't be factored in to timings so easily is to deal with, to take a recent example, an old fool who has rung the bell to get off, the bus stops, and then he jabbers away for a full minute (I timed it) to another couple on the bus whilst the driver is just stuck with it. He was delaying the bus, delaying the rest of the passengers' journeys, but no doubt if the driver had said anything to him then he would probably have made a complaint against the driver.

I see this sort of thing happening time and time again, and usually with the same culprits who, if I said anything would no doubt come back with a rejoinder about me being a miserable old git or the time honoured "but we were only two minutes..." And just to rub salt in it, two particular nutcases on my route who don't appear to be physically capable of getting on or off a bus without rabbiting about nothing at length to the driver, then have the nerve to compain that "Your bus is always late!"

I would be interested to know what guidance if any Faresaver (and indeed other bus companies) give to their drivers about this sort of thing.


PS - the 'erberts I describe above are probably most unlikely to be Coffee Shop members. However, if they are, I shall probably hear about it tomorrow morning. At some considerable length...
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GBM
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« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2020, 10:46:19 am »


I would be interested to know what guidance if any Faresaver (and indeed other bus companies) give to their drivers about this sort of thing.

None!
Under customer service headings, drivers are always told to smile and apologise & state the reason for being late.
Whilst I'm happy to TRY and look happy and smile, the constant "Where you've been/glad you managed to turn up" type comment really do grate.
Majority of drivers try to be on time and dislike being late, but if that passenger lets off steam it's probably them venting their frustrating day at the first object the see.
I will apologise for MY mistakes, not the companies.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2020, 07:30:58 pm »

Now, once again we have the contract to run the evening service on the X31 service.  The Sunday service is now commercial (i.e no subsidy) as of 05/01/2020, if the first day were anything to go by, we didn't cover the cost of wages let alone fuel, wear and tear and overheads, but lets hope this improves as spring approaches.

I happened to be outside Chippenham railway station this morning when the 1000 X31 Chippenham to Bath pulled up. As far as I could see there were no passengers on the bus on its arrival, although two got on. This, and your comment about last week's loadings, made me think.

Why might it be that Stagecoach are running what looks to be a quite well patronised 55 service at 30-minute intervals Between Chippenham and Swindon on a Sunday, whilst First and also Faresaver don't appear to be getting good loadings on the X31? They both run from Chippeham to a major local centre (one might argue that Bath is a bigger attraction than Swindon) and they are serving not-too-dissimilar population centres on the way - Calne/ Corsham, Lyneham/ Rudloe, Box, and Wootton Bassett/West Swindon vs Batheaston, although in both of those last cases there are also other local buses on the route.

I wonder whether frequency might be an issue. Being so used to what has been, to all intents and purposes, a paltry X31 service on Sundays. have people got out o the habit of even thinking of using it on Sundays? The service has now improved from 2-hourly to every 90 minutes, but even so that might not be considered regular interval by many potential passengers, and it would be very important for potential passegers to know the timetable virtually off by heart, because just missing a bus would lead to a very long wait for the next one.

How well has the new service been publicised?
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