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  • Melksham Bus Meeting: February 07, 2020
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Author Topic: Changes to bus services – Bath to Melksham and Melksham area  (Read 2010 times)
grahame
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« on: January 28, 2020, 07:19:09 pm »

From jbp.co.uk

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Please find below a statement issued on behalf of First West of England regarding changes to the D3 service between Bath and Melksham.

Quote
First West of England has announced it has taken the decision to discontinue the discover D3 service between Bath and Melksham via Box and Atworth after service on Saturday 4th April.
 
The service has failed to cover its own costs for some time and, despite a significant increase in usage following the introduction of the discover brand two years ago, it is still loss making.
 
The evening and Sunday extension of the D3 route beyond Melksham to Devizes, Easterton and Urchfont, which is operated under contract to Wiltshire Council, will also no longer be operated by First from the same date.
 
James Freeman, Managing Director of First West of England said:
 
“We are sorry to withdraw this service which has been operated continuously for decades.
 
“These days there is a second operator on this route and the economic reality is there is not enough business for both the X67 operated by Faresaver and our own D3.”
 
He added: “Sadly, something had to give.”
 
First West of England Staff and buses will be redeployed. Customers with season tickets that expire after 5th April will be entitled to a full refund of the unexpired part of their tickets.
 
Note to editors:
Under the 1985 Transport Act, bus operators in England outside London may operate any bus on any route at any time charging any fare by giving 70 days’ notice to the local authority and the Traffic Commissioner. The process for service is the same in reverse: 70 days’ notice must be given of any withdrawal. The local authority (in this case Wiltshire Council) has a duty to consider the impact of any registration or deregistration and they are empowered to procure replacement services by tender, subject to considerations including whether it is in the public interest and whether any spending represent good value for money.

Ever heard the saying "careful what you wish"?  On heavy flow routes, there may be room for multiple operators to compete with each other. On routes that offer thinner traffic, competing commercial services are less than an effective use of resources and a single operator has the potential to make a profit where two will tend to drive each other into the ground.  Better to use the resources well for a complete network that works for the passenger than offer them two buses at virtually the same time and on the same route, but taking care to ensure that the outcome network works well for everyone.

This news is not totally out of the blue.  There's a pattern of similar losses of First bus routes to Faresaver competition.  The 234 (Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge - Frome) was lost in 2014 to the x34. Then the 232 (Chippenham, Corsham, Box, Bath) was lost to the x31.  Now the 272 (which was rebranded the D3 in 2018) is lost to the x72.  My view is that the pattern is established, and we will do far better saying a big "Thank You" to First for providing us with buses for so many years.  We have enjoyed working with you, we thank you for your happy courtesy, and we wish you well for the future.

For the most part, each of the duplicated routes overlapped, but there were elements of the service that were unique to the First offering (as there are elements unique to Faresaver). There's now both a risk of loss of socially useful unique elements, and an opportunity for those elements to be identified and re-sourced in such a way that they are cost effective.

Looking to turn theory into practise, some work has been going on over Christmas and the New Year to look forward for Melksham's buses - those within the town, and those to neighbouring towns. I have a meeting with others on Thursday, and with Wiltshire Council on Friday.  With the cards thrown in the air, there's an opportunity to blow just a gentle breeze across them and help them land in a way that's right for the community and its bus users, right for the operators and their staff, and right for the County Council and their taxpayers.

How to progress this?

Please keep your diary free for the afternoon and evening of Friday, 7th February.  No venue yet, but an agenda to consider what if anything the community wants to do about future bus provision; I believe we can have something suitable for the next decade rising from the ashes of the services that were running in the last decade - and indeed there's a draft technical paper on the Melksham Rail User Group website at http://www.mrug.org.uk/mkm2020_o247.pdf .  After the meetings this Thursday and Friday I'll know more - but intent would be to invite and inform all interested parties to work together; as a community and council lead initiative, we do have the position to help formulate something that works for everyone, and conforms to all the various regulations.
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Timmer
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« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2020, 07:41:02 pm »

How times have changed when it used to be FirstGroup, then before it Badgerline, that used to drive other companies off bus routes in some cases then shutting the route down after driving the competition away.

As you say Graham, today’s news wasn’t unexpected.
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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2020, 02:49:50 am »

Eight passenger flows on which existing D3 passengers can't easily switch to Faresaver's current x72 bus:
* All Whitley journeys
* All evening journeys
* All Sunday journeys
* All Mallory Place journeys
* Batheaston and Box to Atworth / Melksham journeys (and back)
* Melksham Forest / Queensway journeys to west of Melksham (and back)
* Melksham Forest / Queensway journeys to Bowerhill (one direction)
* Melksham and Atworth to Bathwick, Holburne Museum area stops (inbound)

This list may not be exhaustive - for example
* there could be specific timetable gaps in x72
* there could be vehicles / services where the combined traffic is beyond the vehicle's capacity

First Bus and their predecessors ... Bristol Tramways, Western National, Bristol Omnibus Company, Badgerline ... have a long history of serving the community from Bath via Melksham ... onwards to Devizes, the Lavingtons and Salisbury, and there has be be a degree of sadness at what's something of the end of n era.  Route numbers 270, 271, 272 and 273 have been used for varients over the years, with the remaining 272 (Monday to Saturday daytime, Bath to Melksham (Bowerhill)) and 271 (Evenings and Sundays, Bath via Melksham to Devizes, Easterton and Urchfont) combined into the rebranded D3 in April 2018. But this sadness / nostalgia can't alone provide the passenger loyalty to pay the bills.

How has it come to this?

- it's how the framework for bus competition is designed to work - "survival of the fittest" with competing companies fighting it out, with winners, loosers, and re-organisations from time to time when one fails or gives up.

- we can look at the individual behaviour of the competing companies and pick out actions / activities which prioritise their interest over that of the people who want to travel.  They have to do that if they want to stay in business on that route, and these actions / activities need to be balanced with the need to keep the customer base they wish to contiue serving onside.

The current setup and variations on it had been in place for a very long time indeed, and the competitive offering from Faresaver has clearly built a winning product / customer base.  There's no point, and no realistic prospect, of looking to get a change of heart and keeping any of the old product. We need to move on, work with players who are looking to provide service into the foreseeable future, and look to develop their services so that they meet the needs of the various mass transit public transport flows current and potential.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2020, 03:19:06 am by grahame » Logged

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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2020, 03:47:51 pm »

Sorry to be a pedant Graham, but your list of previous operators should have started with Bath Tramways and I'm almost 100% certain the route was never operated by Western National. They pulled out of Wiltshire in 1970 and their Trowbridge depot transferred to Bristol Omnibus Company at that time.

Apart from that, good post Grin
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rogerw
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« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2020, 04:41:06 pm »

It makes you wonder how long the current situation on the Frome services will last. This will now be the only route where First and Faresaver go head to head
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Reginald25
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« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2020, 05:46:14 pm »

As someone who uses the D3 about once a week to travel to Bath, much more civilized than driving, it's really sad to this service ending. I was surprised when they introduced half hourly services about 2 years ago, and not surprised when it reverted to hourly last autumn. It has always been my opinion that additional buses in the late evening would actually increase overall ridership as a return trip would be possible after a night out in Bath or Bristol.

Clearly there was not enough usage to justify two operators on routes largely similar. Indeed if traveling to/from the key stops (Melksham town or Bath bus station) most passengers would get the first one that comes (and of course, if paying for a return, would need to go back on the same company's bus).
 
I use the Whitley stop (only served by First) but do live close enough (and am fit enough) to walk to the Shaw church stop served by both companies. I do feel that most of the loyal band of users in Whitley will now revert to cars, making the congestion problems worse in Bath. Many years ago there was a Park and Ride on the A4 to the East of Bath, that's option's gone as well.

I look forward to seeing how Faresaver react to this news, and hope service revisions will go some way to ameliorating the loss of the D3, including the council supported evening services.

Even if all the D3 services are covered by the alternative operator, the basic day passes will be limited to that operator's services, so hopefully some reasonable arrangements can be made.

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grahame
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« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2020, 07:18:14 am »

I look forward to seeing how Faresaver react to this news, and hope service revisions will go some way to ameliorating the loss of the D3, including the council supported evening services.

Even if all the D3 services are covered by the alternative operator, the basic day passes will be limited to that operator's services, so hopefully some reasonable arrangements can be made.

Here's their press release, which addresses th principles behind their new arrangements

Quote
PRESS RELEASE - 31st January 2020

A statement on the withdrawal of First Bus service D3 Melksham – Bath
It has come to our attention this week that First Bus are intending to withdraw their D3 bus service from Melksham to Bath on 6th April 2020.

Faresaver buses have been operating an X72 bus service between Melksham and Bath since 2006. When First Bus cancelled the service between Melksham and Devizes in 2010, due to alleged poor usage and lack of sustainability, Faresaver stepped in and extended the X72 service to Devizes and the surrounding villages to fill the void left by First Bus. We were initially pleasantly surprised at the level of usage and in the years since we have seen this usage grow on the corridor.

Since 2014 First Bus have cancelled the Chippenham Trowbridge Frome 234 service and the Chippenham Bath 231 service amongst others. In each case, Faresaver has stepped in to provide a comprehensive service and fill any voids left by the withdrawal of First Bus. In every case we have provided a suitable replacement to the First Bus commercial services which have disappeared.

We now have a new opportunity to enhance the corridor between Melksham and Bath. Prior to 2006 there was one bus an hour, the new Faresaver service made this 2 buses an hour and this increased to 3 when the Devizes extension was added. The launch of the First Bus Discover network increased this to 4 buses per hour (four times the level of service previously existing). It seems there were not enough passengers for First Bus to cover their costs on this route.

Now that the D3 is going, Faresaver are faced with renewed challenges:
We need to try and ensure that we provide a bus service to all stops on the route currently covered. if they are adequately used.

We need to ensure we have sufficient capacity at peak times.
We understand that Wiltshire Council are looking at the provision of replacement contracts for the evening and Sunday bus services.

Compared to First Group plc, Faresaver is a relatively small independent operation. However, despite this, we are perfectly capable of providing a bus network that many outsiders view with envy. We use the very latest transport technology in terms of satellite tracking, realtime data, wi-fi on bus and now contactless payments. To this end, we are relishing the prospect of providing Melksham with a bus service suitable for the coming decade.

Their plans are logical, make huge sense, and are almost exactly what anyone who's looked into the principles or the  detail of this would expectThe social and commercial provision benefits overlap hugely, and the operation of a route by a single provider has the twin benefits of the provider getting the benefit of market quantity, at the same time saving costs (not having to spend so heavily) on attracting people to your bus (versus theirs).

There remain questions / concerns, of course - there always will be at a time like this, and times like this are the planned features of the public bus service legal structure - rules and regulations - we have in England outside London.  Something breaks, and then there's a short period of worry while remaining (or perhaps brand new) operators move in to soak up dropped customers on their (usually revised) services.   The masses end up with a service they can use (on what, after all, is a mass transit system) - sometimes better than what they have lost, sometimes less good. 

For some the replacement services will be tangential to what they really need, and for some the replacements will be so different as to be impractical - especially on those which are not mass flows - noting.  I note "We need to try and ensure that we provide a bus service to all stops on the route currently covered. if they are adequately used." which indicates things being looked at in a way they should be, and (realistically) stops short of making promises on frequency, timing, connectivity and price - even before considering that final "if they are adequately used."

You'll see previous posts where I have picked up / described previously made journeys which people made on the D3 because they weren't possible / practical on the x72.  There's also a plethora of journeys that have been made on the x72 in recent years because First's buses didn't cover that part of the market.  I would hope and expect (and it makes massive business sense) that Faresaver have their eyes wide open to the requirements of those passengers as they come up with a new commercial service that works as widely as possible within the compromises necessary.

Looking forward, readers may have noted the proposals for Melksham area buses at  http://www.mrug.org.uk/mkm2020_o247.pdf . If you read them, you'll find that they are designed to work well with a commercial Bath - Atworth - Melksham - Bowerhill - Devizes service and indeed those of us behind those suggestions - which should grow bus use on all routes  have already allowed for a possible reduction to a single operator on those trunk interurban routes and beneficial connectivity and none-duplication too.  I really hope we can work well with Faresaver and others as the position develops.    Let's make it clear - we want to persuade people out of their cars  and onto buses and trains, with all the operators of those buses and trains gaining enough from their operation to make it very much worth their while.  Early days - what - just a couple of days since the announcements and much will be come clearer very early next month.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2020, 07:34:05 am by grahame » Logged

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grahame
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« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2020, 09:31:39 am »

Please keep your diary free for the afternoon and evening of Friday, 7th February.  No venue yet, ...

Venue is The Canberra Centre, at 56 Spa Road Melksham, with a start time of 7 p.m. Doors open well ahead of time for people arriving by bus at 18:10 or 18:30.

Hope to be over for 20:50 bus back towards Devizes - probably not for 20:20 bus though town and on to Bath, but should be a number of people to offer lifts. 

Invites have gone out to bus operators who we expect to have a significant future service in the town (and others) - agenda details on Thursday when we know who'll be speaking at such short notice.  Other bus operators welcome too - especially if you're considering registering a commercial service or bidding for contracts (either of which any bus company can do)

Poster text:

Quote
Buses!
Melksham!
Future!

Public Meeting – all welcome

The Canberra Centre, 56 Spa Road, Melksham, SN12 7NY
7th February 2020, starting at 19:00

Following up on the news last week that First’s D3 bus service to and from Bath (and Devizes, evening and weekends) is being withdrawn after service on 4th April, but looking forward to the future.

Further details:
http://www.option247.uk/ * http://www.mrug.org.uk/
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rogerw
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« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2020, 11:23:21 am »

I hope to attend if I get away from Bath early enough (court duties that day).  I assume that we park on street.
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grahame
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« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2020, 11:29:44 am »

I hope to attend if I get away from Bath early enough (court duties that day).  I assume that we park on street.

There is plenty of parking just behind the centre (and we live at no. 48 with plenty more parking there too!).  Hope to see you, Roger - thanks.
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grahame
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« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2020, 06:14:32 am »


And briefing paper prepared for last night's Town Council meeting at http://www.mrug.org.uk/checkpointx72.pdf
« Last Edit: February 04, 2020, 06:26:47 am by grahame » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2020, 05:33:27 pm »

Faresaver have posted a newsletter on their web site regarding the changes

http://www.faresaver.co.uk/newsitem.php?i=9462793
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grahame
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« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2020, 07:39:51 am »

...  After the meetings this Thursday and Friday I'll know more - but intent would be to invite and inform all interested parties to work together; as a community and council lead initiative, we do have the position to help formulate something that works for everyone, and conforms to all the various regulations.

Invitations went out (as also noted elsewhere) on Monday, responses coming in. I am chasing up one or two;  if you are going to be potentially involved in specifying, running, funding, looking at bidding for Melksham bus services in the future and haven't heard from me - you should have. Please let me know - I can (re)send invites. 
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« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2020, 09:50:38 pm »

Good meeting ... first report on Facebook

Links to all the documents at http://www.mrug.org.uk/resources.html

Food and sleep now ... very successful evening.
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« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2020, 05:17:53 am »

From https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-51453457

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The government is set to pledge £5bn over the next five years to improve bus and cycling services in England.
In the House of Commons on Tuesday, the prime minister will say the extra money will provide more frequent services and simpler, more affordable fares

I wonder how / if this (in addition to the half million announced for Wiltshire last Thursday) will help sort out the Bath / Melksham corridor?

"Four buses an hour" as quoted by several is too much - but then that intensity only runs from after school start time until about lunch time.   A gap from 14:40 to 16:00 out of Bath would be too long (that's the current gap in the surviving operator's service), and a gap from 17:40 to 20:00 (between his final current service and the first supported service) would be a major problem for many people who work and / or are educated in Bath and live in Atworth / Whiteley / Melksham.

I expect that the there will be additions - just hope they're up to standard for what people need, and not down  to a level at which profit and "minimum subsidy we can get away with" are the prime movers.

I travelled out from Bath yesterday in a First bus - the one we'll be loosing in April - in the middle of the 80 minute gap.  Most seats were taken ...
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