Sunday 20th March 2022
There was a time when jointly operated inter-urban bus routes were quite common not least between adjacent subsidiaries of the National Bus Company. It made for an efficient way to operate a route which linked towns many miles apart which were located in different bus companies’ territories’.
One of the most extensive operations I was involved in during my career was in the early 1980s when South Wales Transport, National Welsh and Bristol Omnibus collaborated to jointly run the ExpressWest branded route from Bristol to Cardiff, Swansea, Llanelli and even some journeys extended to Haverfordwest.
In Sussex there was a three-way operation at one time on the route between Brighton and Tunbridge Wells with Brighton & Hove, Southdown and Maidstone & District while along the coast, route 799 was at one time operated by Brighton & Hove, Brighton Buses and Hastings & District between Rye and Worthing. There were many other examples all over the country.
Deregulation put an end to many of these arrangements with competition law preventing bus companies from agreeing fares and ticket prices meaning each having to act independently often to the puzzlement of passengers when prices differed. As the years have passed bus companies have circumnavigated some of these restrictions, particularly the acceptance of each other’s return tickets, even if technically they may not always be the same price.
Thanks to Twitter the following list of eight jointly operated inter-urban routes was compiled from contributions submitted a couple of years ago and during my recent Covid break I finally had the time to document them – I’ll add this to the menu of pages on my website so it’s easily accessible for future reference and any changes that might occur will be incorporated, but for now, here it is as a blogpost.
1 High Wycombe to Chesham (and Hemel Hempstead)
This route is operated by both Arriva and Go-Ahead owned Carousel Buses on a fifteen minute frequency between High Wycombe, Amersham and Chesham with one of Carousel’s buses each hour continuing to Hemel Hempstead via Bovingdon replacing a former route along that stretch of road.
A ‘one’ branding was used by both operators before there was a bit of a falling out and it was gloves off for an alternative competitive battle but good sense prevailed and for some time it’s been coordinated again including mutual ticket acceptance.
8 Salisbury to Andover
Operated by Salisbury based Go-Ahead owned Salisbury Reds and Stagecoach South from its Andover base.
The route runs half-hourly from end to end with Stagecoach operating extra half-hourly short journeys between Tidworth and Andover.
Marketed as Ativ8 both companies used to operate branded buses on the service but more recently while Salisbury Reds have updated its branding, for now, Stagecoach has yet to downgrade to its standard livery but it’s probably on borrowed time.
30 Cardiff to Newport
Operated by Cardiff Bus and Newport Bus on a half-hourly frequency, it’s unfortunate the timetable shown on the Newport Bus website only shows its own buses with 90 minute gaps where Cardiff Bus buses run – you need to know to click on the “PDF Timetable” icon to get the full jointly run timetable.
Newport Bus also operate an X30 every two hours between Newport and Cardiff taking just 39 minutes rather than the 51 minutes taken by buses on route 30, but Cardiff Bus don’t get involved in that speeded up option.
X38 Derby to Burton-on-Trent
This fast route taking just 35 minutes uses the A38 linking Derby and Burton-on-Trent running to a twenty minute frequency and operated by TrentBarton and Arriva.
88 Colchester to Halstead
I hesitate to include this one in the list as you’d be hard pressed to call it a ‘joint service’. Both First Essex and Go-Ahead owned Hedingham operate a route 88.
Both routes run between Colchester, Lexden, Eight Ash Green, Wakes Colne, Earls Colne and Halstead.
First Essex buses leave Colchester’s Osborne Street at 40 minutes last the hour, arriving Halstead 55 minutes later from where they return from Conies Road at 38 minutes past the hour.
Heddingham’s buses leave Colchester Osborne Street at 10 minutes past the hour also taking 55 minutes to Halstead returning at 08 minutes past the hour.
So it’s a nicely coordinated half-hourly service, except it’s not advertised as such – only as two separate hourly services. Not very Bus Service Improvement Plan is it?
271/2 Sheffield to Castleton
These routes are jointly operated by Hulleys and First South Yorkshire on a 60-90 minute frequency. Hulley’s brand the routes as Peak link. First doesn’t. Hulley’s journeys do a double run to serve Bradwell Memorial Hall on the journey from Castleton to Sheffield whereas First South Yorkshire do the same double run on the outward journey from Sheffield.
Commendably the only information on both websites confirms there’s full ticket inter-availability between the operators.
350 Hull to Scunthorpe
Branded as Humber FastCat, this service which crosses the spectacular Humber Bridge is jointly operated by Stagecoach and East Yorkshire on a half hourly frequency.
Whereas most joint services have equal shares between the two bus operators, here Stagecoach is the dominant operator with East Yorkshire contributing just one bus running four return journeys a day (three on Sundays) every three hours.
Again clicking on line the East Yorkshire website only shows its rather sparse three-hourly timetable and you have to know to click on the ‘PDF Timetable’ icon which then brings up Stagecoach’s full timetable for the route (including the East Yorkshire journeys).
685 Carlisle to Newcastle
Perhaps one of the most famous of joint routes for those who’ve been in the industry for many years as it became a cause célèbre for split licences/registrations when differential laws were introduced for drivers hours for routes over 50 km in length – at that time being a joint United and Ribble service.
Operated nowadays by Arriva and Stagecoach Cumbria and North Lancs, a few years ago the hourly service via Brampton, Haltwhistle and Hexham was branded as Cross Pennine with a nice Best Impressions livery.
Sadly neither Arriva nor Stagecoach are interested in such fineries these days but at least both promote the same nice looking timetable without distinguishing between which operator runs which journey.
And unless readers know otherwise, that’s the sum total of jointly operated inter-urban routes.
There are also jointly run urban routes as part of Partnership arrangements in both Oxford (Stagecoach and Oxford Bus) and Sheffield (Stagecoach and First Bus).
Some of these have coordinated timetables but use different route numbers – Oxford’s routes 1 (Stagecoach) and 5 (Oxford Bus) between the railway station, city centre and Blackbird Leys run to a combined 5 minute frequency (10 minutes each route) and another uses the same route number – route 8 every 7-8 minutes combined with each operator every 15 minutes between the city centre and Barton.
There are five bus routes which could be considered “joint” in Sheffield and I’m grateful to fellow blogger ‘fatbusbloke’ from the Public Transport Experience website who has expert knowledge of the Sheffield bus scene. He kindly gave me an update confirming such joint arrangements began in 2013 under the “Sheffield Bus Partnership” brand later updated to “Buses for Sheffield”.
Route 1 – First has withdrawn from this and it is no longer joint although First calls it’s version route 1a. There is now a very similar route north of the city centre but they’re very different in the south.
Route 7 (Stagecoach) – Routes 8/8A (First Bus) between Ecclesfield and Crystal Peaks running a coordinated timetable on the same route north of the city but via two different routes to Crystal Peaks in the south.
Route 24 (First Bus) – Route 25 (Stagecoach). These routes (Lowedges to Woodhouse) are similar on both sides of the city albeit with a bifurcation via Beaumont Road North (24) or Harborough Avenue (25) to and from Woodhouse in the east of the city.
Route 52 (Stagecoach) – Route 52a (First Bus). Minor differences at both route ends but the core of these routes (Woodhouse to Hillsborough/Wisewood/Loxley) is the same.
Route 120 (both operators use the same number) between Halfway and Fulwood is identical but is operated in two overlapping sections on Monday to Saturday daytime with the full route joint all the way evenings and Sundays.
Do let me know if there are any other “joint operations” out there to be added to this list.
And no sooner posted and a contributor has kindly been in touch to add the eight joint/combined bus routes under Merseyside’s Quality Bus Network run by Arriva and Stagecoach.
Details of the routes are here: https://www.merseytravel.gov.uk/customer-information/quality-bus-network/
Thanks to Neil and Peter (see comments below) for adding to the list the three routes run under a partnership agreement in the West Midlands jointly by National Express West Midlands and Rotala owned Diamond – routes 31/32 (Walsall – Mosley/Lower Farm); 40 (West Bromwich – Wednesbury); and 42/43/43A (West Bromwich / Dudley/Bilston).
Thanks to John ho commented below there’s also routes 83 (First Bus) and 83A (Stagecoach) in Sheffield with both routes taking identical routes in the north of the city and on Eccleshall Road as far as Hunters Bar where the routes bifurcate with the 83 serving Bents Green and the 83A to Fulwood. Sundays sees both operators run route 83.
Thanks to Philip who commented route 585 between Aberystwyth and Lampeter is a three way timetable with six return journeys and one single trip per day on behalf of Ceredigion County Council divid up between three operators – Lloyds Coaches, Mid Wales Travel and Brodyr James Coaches.
Which reminded me to add to the list the jointly operated TrawsCymru route T12 between Machynlleth and Wrexham jointly operated by Lloyds Coaches and Tanat Valley Coaches. And thanks to Alfie who added route T10 (Corwen to Bangor) operated jointly by Llew Jones and K&P Coaches.
Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu.
Next blog, Tuesday 22nd March 2022 and its back out and about on the road again with: All across Dalcross.