Monday 2nd August 2021
It was a welcome makeover at the time. In September 2013 Arriva bought out its majority partner shareholders in Centrebus Holdings which had been running buses from bases in Huddersfield, Elland and Honley since 2008 under various brands. Some of the operations had originally been part of the old Yorkshire Traction company’s Huddersfield operations which had been bought out by Stagecoach while others were Arriva’s own branded routes.
Coinciding with the 2013 buyout Arriva launched a new Yorkshire Tiger brand with a bright orange livery for most of the routes.
It was a revolutionary step for Arriva as a young enthusiastic Martijn Gilbert was put in charge and soon made his mark with a distinct operation which few would know was part of the Arriva corporate structure. It was an impressive set up and showed what could be achieved when the corporate strait jacket is released on a localised bus operation.
Two years later Martijn moved on to higher things at Reading Buses and in subsequent years sadly much of the shine came off the Tiger brand. Following last year’s loss of tenders to Transdev Blazefield of the routes to Leeds Bradford Airport it was not entirely surprising to hear news a few months ago Arriva had agreed to sell most of the remaining Tiger operations to Transdev Blazefield too.
Route 231/232 between Wakefield and Huddersfield is the only route excluded from the sale and has become one of Arriva’s routes operated from its Wakefield depot. In a surprise and welcome move it’s been given Sapphire branding.
The deal with Transdev Blazefield has included the two former Yorkshire Tiger garages at Waterloo in Huddersfield and Elland as well as a motley collection of buses.
The operation is being given full Transdev brand makeover treatment and is now known as Team Pennine with a bright pink ousting Tiger orange.
Transdev Blazefield announced a few weeks ago route 233 between Huddersfield and Denby Dale would spearhead the brand makeover with its own Denby Darts sub brand together with a fleet of refurbished Enviro200s dedicated to a renumbered route D1.
In the meantime the motley inherited fleet has had its Tiger branding removed and a rather cheeky but nonetheless appropriate message inserted in its place.
And colour coordinated too.
When you look closely at some of the fleet you can understand that message is somewhat spot on.
I took a ride on the 233 between Huddersfield and Denby Dale on Saturday 17th July, one week before the takeover as well as on Saturday 31st July, one week after the takeover, to contrast and compare. Sampling just one random journey is obviously not in any way a scientific comparison but it was an interesting experience.
Route 233 (now D1) operates half hourly reducing to hourly in the evenings and on Sundays. End-to-end journey time is 62 minutes southbound and 67 minutes northbound with five buses allocated to the schedule. Layover of 21 minutes is taken at Huddersfield.
There’s a double run to serve Clayton West north east of Denby Dale and a small deviation in Denby Dale around a residential area in Gilthwaites Lane/Crescent otherwise it’s pretty much a direct route taking in Highburton, Kirkburton, Shelley and Skelmanthorpe.
On both Saturdays I travelled on the same journey – the 11:45 from Huddersfield to Denby Dale, due to arrive at 12:47. Here’s how the two compared. In both cases I arrived at Huddersfield bus station in good time at around 11:30.
Yorkshire Tiger 233, Saturday 17th July 2021
On 17th July I’d noticed a little disconcertedly there was no YorkshireTiger bus displaying 233 waiting in the bus station but I was reassured by the ‘real time’ departure board above stand F that the bus was on its way but running 4 minutes late from what should have been its 11:45 scheduled departure.
Worryingly the expected time slipped back again at 11:49 showing a departure three minutes after that, at 11:52.
Yorkshire Tiger also operate a route 84 to Denby Dale via a slightly different route which leaves from the same stand at 11:50. That bus arrived picked up a few passengers and left.
The 84 gone, reassuringly at 11:52 the sign clicked over to “Due” but still no bus.
Not reassuringly at 11:53 the departure listing was updated and the missing 11:45 disappeared completely from the display.
Fortunately, after about half-a-minute more, the bus appeared and approached the stand and passengers on board alighted.
The twelve year old bus was an Optare Tempo which had seen service with Arriva Yorkshire before being adorned in the bright Yorkshire Tiger livery.
Although standing out in its distinctive colour scheme, the bus showed its age on closer scrutiny being a bit battle scarred and sadly looked rather sorry for itself with a missing brand name on the nearside.
Not only was the body of the bus rather sad to see, so too was the body language of the driver reflecting someone who was obviously somewhat harassed which came over in his off hand attitude to me and the seven other waiting passengers as we boarded. I quickly realised this was not going to be a calm relaxing journey.
We all quickly got on board and sat in one of the you-can’t-possibly-miss-it Tiger striped branded seats, including a communal area towards the rear.
After leaving the bus station ten minutes late at 11:55 we picked up three more passengers waiting in nearby Lord Street making for a total of ten on board (and myself making eleven), which was the maximum on the bus for the entire journey although seven more passengers boarded along the way as others alighted.
The bus certainly rattled as the driver kept up a fair pace to claw back some of the late running. You certainly heard every bump in the road as we ploughed on. Take a listen to the video clip below – turn the volume up loud on your device for the full rattle experience.
You might spot in the above photograph and video the brand confusion between Yorkshire Tiger and Arriva on the seat backs ….
… and the notices behind the driver – always a hallmark of an Arriva bus – the more notices the better, even if they’re almost impossible to read. It doesn’t seem to matter, as long as it’s a notice.
The 233 (now D1) is an interesting route to ride passing through attractive towns as well as some great countryside as West Yorkshire heads towards South Yorkshire.
We’d kept a face pace for the whole hour’s journey but I was still a bit taken aback when we pulled into the Denby Dale terminus by the rail station fully back on time at 12:47 and I realised the driver had successfully clawed back all the lateness.
I said well done to the driver for getting us back on time as I alighted and managed to extract a smile from him. I hope he had a more cheerful relaxing rest of the day.
I hung around for the next bus which also arrived on time at 13:17 but was in the blue livery used by Tiger Blue, that part of the business that was formerly K-Line – it’s quite a complex back history to what came to make up the Yorkshire Tiger family.
But again, the shine was coming off this bus too.
I’d like to think this reflected the fact the bus company was in its dying days and couldn’t justify making buses look presentable for the last few days before the takeover, but I suspect this hasn’t just been a last week phenomenon.
Denby Darts D1, Saturday 31st July 2021
Fast forward two weeks to the first Saturday of Transdev Blazefield’s takeover of the business when I made exactly the same journey at 11:45 from Huddersfield.
This time there were no worries about the bus not appearing on time as I spotted it arriving into the bus station from its previous journey at 11:22, a couple of minutes ahead of the scheduled 11:24 which bade well. When I wandered up to Stand F at 11:35 I saw the bus reassuringly parked up on the apron.
At 11:37, eight minutes before departure time, the driver reappeared to get the bus ready for the off ….
…. and pulled forward to Bay F at 11:42 ready for an on time departure.
This time rather than seven, I was impressed to see twelve passengers waiting to board – I’m not sure this is due to the ‘Team Pennine’ effect already, and perhaps more of a coincidence, but a nice start to the comparative journey.
We left spot on time at 11:45 and headed to that stop in Lord Street where we picked up three passengers last time. This time only one boarded making for 13 on board (fourteen including me). We picked up six more passengers during the journey with 15 being the maximum on board at any one time.
This bus was a five year old Enviro200 which had seen previous service on airport duties at Gatwick before a complete makeover to bring it into the new Denby Darts branding as part of the new Team Pennine.
While you couldn’t miss Yorkshire Tiger’s bright orange stripes on the seats, this bus had the smart multi coloured Transdev Blazefield moquette with some rather classy cherry coloured leather head rests.
As part of the refurbishment the buses now have wifi and seat back usb sockets.
There’s also next stop audio and visual announcements and colourful cove panels all in keeping with the new branding Team Pennine are establishing.
Take a look.
And, great to see a nice diagrammatic map of the route too.
And, of course, leaflets on display and available to pick up including a timetable and map guide to the Denby Darts D1 as well as a leaflet explaining what Team Pennine is all about.
Take a look.
I should also report, there were copious supplies of both leaflets, and yet a third announcing the renumbering and rebranding of the 233 to the Denby Darts D1, in West Yorkshire’s Metro Travel Shop in Huddersfield bus station.
I reckon it’s the first time in its history Huddersfield has ever had such a colourful display. What a shame all the other bus routes in Huddersfield operated by Arriva, First Bus and a few other bus companies don’t have similar information readily available – I suspect we’ll be seeing more from Team Pennine as other routes in its new portfolio are given the makeover treatment in coming months.
Back on my bus ride, I once again enjoyed the towns and scenery we passed through as we travelled along at a much more leisurely pace than two weeks previously, even including a pause two or three times for a minute to ensure we didn’t run early.
Bus enthusiasts would have been pleased to see we passed a former Leeds Corporation bus parked up by Dobbies Garden Centre in Shelley for a wedding at the nearby Emmanuel Church.
As we continued towards Skelmanthorpe a road closure on the B6116 necessitated a diversion via Lower Cumberworth which cost us a good three minutes additional journey time.
Then after the double run via Clayton West we were approaching Denby Dale station and suddenly turned off the A636 Wakefield Road to run around the residential area along Gilthwaites Lane and Gilthwaites Crescent (shown below, top right) and dropped two passengers off.
I then realised why the Yorkshire Tiger driver two weeks ago had got back on time so easily, apart from bombing along for the whole journey ….. he’d missed this part of the route out completely. No wonder I got a smile when I congratulated him on getting back on time.
This time we arrived into Denby Dale at 12:50, just three minutes late, which wasn’t bad considering the diversion had cost us that time due to the road closure.
As before, I waited for the next bus to arrive which came along exactly three minutes down too, at 13:20 thanks to those roadworks.
It was another nice smart Denby Darts branded bus.
So, there you have it. A completely unscientific comparison of the same journey; one week before and one week after a bus company takeover.
I know which one I felt more welcome on board, which one was a more enjoyable relaxing and comfortable ride, which one offered me an abundance of information, which one ran closer to time, which one didn’t rattle, which one didn’t miss out part of the route and which one carried 19 passengers instead of 17.
It’s the same team of ex Yorkshire Tiger drivers now at Team Pennine of course and I’m quite sure they’ll rise to the challenge and respond to the investment they can all see is now going into the business and, importantly, passengers will also notice this, as I did, and respond by giving the revitalised operation their custom.
It demonstrates, if there ever was any doubt, that if large international transport businesses want to attract passengers and grow the market they must invest in a locally based enthusiastic team with excellent knowledge of the area. It happened in 2013 when Yorkshire Tiger began and now history is repeating itself in 2021 with the arrival of Team Pennine.
Whereas Stagecoach, Centrebus Holdings and Arriva have all given up on running buses in this part of Kirklees and Calderdale, all the signs are Transdev Blazefield will provide the quality of service that’s needed to attract passengers back and make Team Pennine a success.
Not only is the Tiger going to be made better, it’s going to be ‘in the pink’.
I used to run a bus company but in retirement am a full time passenger travelling all over Britain enjoying its splendid scenic delights by bus and train. Currently social distancing at home.