Friday 10th April 2020
As the end of week 3 of Lockdown Britain approaches, aside from the severely reduced service levels now applying across the country’s bus and train networks amply catering for the approximate 5-10% of normal passenger journeys, it’s sad, but inevitable, to see a number of operators and services suspended altogether.
Subject to reader’s additions in the comments below or on Twitter (which I’ll incorporate into an updated list here), that roll call of suspension currently stands at:
LNWR’s Marston Vale line (Bedford – Bletchley)
LNWR’s Abbey line (Watford Junction – St Albans Abbey : bus replacement)
Megabus (in England and Wales)
AIrport Bus Express, Stansted
South West Falcon
RailAir RA2 (Guildford – Heathrow) #
Arriva Click in Liverpool (not Speke) # (DRT)
Axe Valley Mini Travel, Axminster
Citistar, North Somerset
Cuckmere Buses, Berwick
GoSutton # (DRT)
Little Jim’s Buses, Berkhamstead
Marshalls of Sutton on Trent
Slide in Ealing # (DRT)
Swallow Coaches, Essex
T J Walsh, Halifax *
Wightlink Lymington -Yarmouth and FastCat Portsmouth Harbour – Ryde Pier
Golden Tours, Big Bus Company, The Original Tour/London City Tours and Megasightseeing in London and all open top services around the country.
There’ve also been extensive cut backs by UNO of their bus network centred on the University of Hertfordshire and routes to airports including Oxford Bus’s Airlink cut back from Gatwick to only serve Oxford and Heathrow (but additionally High Wycombe en route) with Chiltern Hundreds’ 101 cut back from Heathrow to Uxbridge. Stagecoach’s X5 is only running between Cambridge and Milton Keynes being withdrawn between there and Oxford.
Free weekend travel on TrawsCymru has ceased as has boarding through the front door of buses on a number of TfL routes as a “trial” to improve protection for drivers following the tragic deaths through coronavirus Covid-19 of at least nine London bus drivers.
Sadly from the list above, T J Walsh won’t return and my hunch is neither will a few others including those marked with a # in the list. Many small coach companies are also facing severe financial difficulties as the hire and tour business has completely dried up; inevitably some will not survive the shutdown.
You have to hunt around the internet a bit to find out Stagecoach’s South West Falcon has ceased; even the pinned tweet on its Twitter feed, now almost a month out of date, doesn’t let on …
…and neither does the pinned tweet from Oxford Tube, although the message is clear from the last Tweet sent out last Sunday as the coaches made their last journeys that day …
I noted in last week’s round up newcomers Snap and Zeelo making a pitch for business opportunities offering bespoke tailored contract hire for either key workers or employers needing to get their staff to work.
An outfit called ‘Transport2’ has also been trying to make itself known with email marketing and news releases promoting its ability to “call on 25,000 shared vehicles across London and the South East, safely transporting as many as 100,000 key frontline staff, such as NHS workers, concurrently”.
You have to admire their opportunistic kite flying as CEO Michael Hassell (head and shoulders image attached to the news release – I’ll resist including it here) who is “spearheading this movement” suggests “Transport2 is the leading provider of coach hire services in the UK, servicing more than two million passengers a year. The business has also just launched Kura, a revolutionary home-to-school transport management service”. Ever heard of them? No, me neither, and neither had the well informed editor of the country’s leading bus magazine who forwarded the email on to me. The Transport2 website explains it’s a “leading shared transport service provider, bringing together game-changing technology and a greener vision to change the way people travel”.
For a business that’s just been launched, Kura’s website is also pretty impressive with it’s tally of statistics – “we carry 2 million passengers every year” and “we transport 7,000 children safely to and from school every day”. I wonder if this outsourcing company called Kura is related to another similaarly named KURA who “is the Largest Independent Outsourcer in the UK” with its fascinating collection of outsourcing client case studies on its website?
Tom Opper of ‘PR Agency One’ explains “an alliance of transport providers led by Transport2, the Confederation of Passenger Transport and Gett, has written an open letter to government leaders, including Boris Johnson, Sadiq Khan and Grant Shapps to pledge their collective support in helping London’s key frontline workers travel safely to and from work amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic”.
I see Steve Whiteway, this year’s President of CPT has co-signed the letter as has Duncan Burgess, managing director of Gett (the taxi alliance) who adds “we are proud to be supporting Transport2 in leading the charge to bring our industry, and the nation, together at this crucial time”.
Tom explains in his email dated Tuesday 31 March to the media “the [open] letter was sent out over the weekend and so the story is likely to move quickly, but let me know if there’s anything else we can provide and we’ll be happy to help”. It looks like the story moved so quickly it passed by the main stream media and trade press completely.
I don’t quite know how to break it to Michael and Tom but things indeed are moving quickly as TfL have already organised shuttle buses to link nearby car parks with the newly opened NHS Nightingale at the Excel utlising a few of the hundreds, if not a thousand, of red buses available in the current downturn in normal business.
Meanwhile it’s positive to see, after the relaxation of the normal pre 0930 weekday restrictions on concessionary travel across the country, so many bus companies are cooperating to accept each others tickets in many areas on the slimmed down network. How nice it would be if these welcome developments became established practice after all this is over as part of a DfT and Compeition and Market Authority’s new found flexibility to make public transport use attractive.
As petrol prices plummet to close to £1 a litre there’s going to need to be some hard thinking in the next few weeks among decision makers about how to boost public transport use in a post corona world as surely we don’t want that other dreaded “C” word coming back … congestion. More on this in a bit.