Tuesday 30th November 2021
Transdev Blazefield’s purchase of Yorkshire Tiger from Arriva in July included an immediate high profile rename to Team Pennine along with a bright new pink themed rebrand with refreshed buses christened Denby Darts introduced on the Huddersfield to Denby Dale bus route renumbered D1 together with a promise of “creating better buses …. with a third of the old fleet being replaced within three months”.
That’s quite a promise.
Commitments continued that “there’ll be improvements to our local town buses in Huddersfield, as well as a brand new fleet of Mercedes midibuses for rural routes in Calderdale. Then we’ll be revamping our Holmfirth-Wakefield route with a simple hourly timetable and more new-look buses”.
It’s now just on four months since that promise so I made a couple of visits to Team Pennine land to see how things were going and whether those promises have materialised.
I took a ride on the Denby Dart D1 soon after the takeover at the end of July and wrote about the immediate improvements introduced at the time.
My next visit was to Huddersfield on a wet Saturday three months later at the end of October by which time the promised makeover of the Wakefield to Holmfirth route had taken place together with three local routes in Huddersfield.
I caught the newly numbered X1 Holmfirth Explorer from Wakefield to Holmfirth. The hourly route is now in the hands of three rejuvenated Optare Tempos. They’re 2009 vintage but you’d never know thanks to the way they’ve been refurbished with the Transdev Blazefield smart moquette …
… and excellent branding carried though into the interior including a diagrammatic map showing where the route goes.
We carried about ten passengers making different length trips along the route. Not a massive load for a mid morning Saturday hour long journey, but the weather was fairly miserable to begin with, only brightening up as we reached Holmfirth.
I headed up to Huddersfield from Holmfirth but soon became aware Team Pennine were not having a good day for driver availability and had withdrawn local route 319 serving the Berry Brow area which I’d planned to take a ride on. This was timetabled to run every 15 minutes along a route which is exactly duplicated by First Bus route 306 running every 20 minutes – a rather strange arrangement inherited from Yorkshire Tiger. So in the event, passengers still had a service with First benefitting from the extra revenue.
The 319 together with another local Huddersfield route 360 (also suffering driver shortages) normally running every 20 minutes are branded with a snappy “Hudds Quick” name which features on the repainted three year old buses brought in from a pervious life in York.
While Team Pennine like every bus company has been struggling with the current shortage of bus drivers, it’s good to hear this situation is now improving with more drivers in training as well as some judicious reductions in frequencies, including reducing the 319 to every 20 minutes.
Another local Huddersfield route, the 262, is branded as “Kirkheaton Quick” providing an hourly service to Kirkheaton along much the same route as Arriva’s route 261 to Cleakheaton.
You’ll have no problems finding out about the new look Hudds Quick and Kirkheaton Quick routes if you take a look in Metro’s travel shop in Huddersfield bus station – it didn’t surprise me to find they’re the only printed timetables along with the D1 on display there.
My next trip was last week to Halifax having seen news the promised new midibuses for local routes around that town had entered service.
Like the new midibuses introduced on tendered routes gained in the Lancashire area north east of Burnley in May and branded as Ribble Country, these are the very practical and good looking Mellor midis and have been similarly branded “Calder Country” for Halifax and in the pink colours of Team Pennine.
And very smart they look too. Both outside …
…. and importantly inside too.
Indeed one passenger boarding as I travelled round told the driver in a loud voice so we could all hear how much she “absolutely loved these new buses”.
You don’t hear that on many bus rides.
I’ve commented before about the attractiveness of these Mellor vehicles. They offer some decent room inside for passengers despite the inevitable confined space. The seats Team Pennine are using are comfortable too…..
… although I found the back row of four had rather too much of an upright back, almost to the point of leaning forwards.
The vehicles are eminently suited to the routes they’re being used on which are ones serving narrow roads and twists and turns off the main roads….
… with low density housing meaning passenger numbers are lower per bus.
Most passengers are making short journeys on these routes so there’s no usb sockets or WiFi on board.
The bright new Calder Country branding certainly stands out as you wander around Halifax town centre and compares well with the rather dull orange still retained on former Yorkshire Tiger vehicles.
They also stand out alongside First’s buses which by comparison really do look uncared for in this part of West Yorkshire.
Which is strange as the First Bus fleet in Leeds is really looking attractive and enticing these days. I understand there’s a problem with the bus wash at Halifax bus garage and also there’s a new brand for First’s routes around Halifax but I had to have it explained to me, initially wondering what HX Connect meant. Someone mentioned to me they thought the colouring meant it was a tie up with the NHS.
Other operators seen around Halifax last week were also experiencing some presentational issues….
… although to be fair to CT Plus, the offside was better.
It was also good to see cooperation between bus companies with the much admired South Pennine Community Transport helping out Team Pennine by covering two of its routes – the hourly 514 to Wainstalls…..
… and the 532 to King Cross. Both routes reverted back to Team Pennine from yesterday as another sign the worst of the driver shortage is hopefully over.
Halifax is certainly a town to watch over the next few years with West Yorkshire Combined Authority revamping the town’s bus station ….
…. and plans out for consultation on “the new, exciting proposals” to improve the railway station.
Team Pennine’s investment in new buses and attractive branding in the town is therefore very timely and I’m sure will help raise the profile of bus travel and encourage more passengers.
It’s also noteworthy four months on from the Yorkshire Tiger takeover all those initial promises are fulfilled.
But there’ still much work to do, as I know the team at Team Pennine acknowledge.
But it’s all on course. And that’s good news for passengers in this part of West Yorkshire.