Games Makers

Thursday 28th July 2022

Today sees the start of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham continuing through to Monday 8th August. It’s a great opportunity for public transport to show off its credentials, as happened during the 2012 Olympics. But, oh dear, ten years on and circumstances are rather different, not least the impact of driver shortages, rail strikes and cracks in trams.

I popped up to Birmingham on Monday to take a look at four public transport developments which have been planned for completion in time to cater for the extra one million journeys expected across the city over the next 12 days.

Stagecoach gained the contract to provide additional bespoke shuttle transport for the event and have shipped in a multitude of double deck buses and drivers from all over the country to two pop up garages at Erdington and Oldbury. It’s reported as many as 710 buses are involved in the operation.

Up from East Sussex

Coming at peak staff holiday season this deployment is having a devastating impact on an already tight driver position at Stagecoach’s operating companies throughout the country.

Up from Devon

Schools being off may help but I doubt the peak vehicle requirement reduces significantly for a large network operator like Stagecoach.

Across from the Cotswolds

Games shuttle buses are being deployed to take staff and an army of volunteer marshals to and from venues as well as spectators of course with the cost of transport included in their event tickets although motorists have to pay to use the extra Park & Ride sites.

Down from over the border in Inverness

As you can see from the photographs, in just a few minutes on Monday I saw Stagecoach staff busy ferrying many bus loads of high-viz wearing marshals presumably receiving pre event briefings at the venues.

Up from Kent

It looks like it’ll be a busy fortnight for everyone involved.

Down from Cumbria

And for passengers waiting longer for their bus in other parts of the country, this is where your bus and driver can be found….

Photo credit with thanks: Robert Knight

….. in Birmingham.

Which unsuprisingly is becoming a news story in local media….

… the RMT may be “unable to provide specific numbers” but my understanding is as many as 1,200 drivers are involved in the operation.

It’s certainly a massive operation which only the likes of Stagecoach (or First) can tackle as a large resourced organisation but it perhaps could have done with much more sub contracting this time (as happened in the Olympics) to spread the requirement around and reduce the impact on any one bus company’s operating area especially bearing in mind the current “national driver shortage”.

It should really have been an industry wide project, not just a Stagecoach profit grabbing one.

I wonder if the Traffic Commissioners are taking an interest?

Spectators are certainly being encouraged to use the Shuttle Buses ….

….. as well as the local rail network.

Which brings me to another project in place ready for today – the redevelopment of the two platform Perry Barr rail station close to Alexander Stadium, one of the main Games venues north of the city centre.

The previous rather dismal station closed for a year in May 2021 so a complete revamp could take place and make it Games fit.

The £30 million project (yup; you read that right, £30 million) also includes a new ‘bus station’ sited next to the adjacent ‘One Stop Shopping Centre’ ….

….. which is actually four bus stops and shelters (albeit the nice new smart Travel for West Midlands high spec shelters) in a large lay-by off the A34 Birmingham to Walsall road.

This area has seen major changes to the road layout including the demolition of a flyover and the creation of bus lanes as part of the Sprint (bus rapid transit) project, on which more shortly.

The exterior of the new station building is certainly prominent and while it’s an improvement on what went before, especially the rather nice landscaping and foliage outside, the orange colouring already looks dirty to me, although I think that’s part of the intended design.

Facilities on each of the platforms are fairly basic with three sets of three seats, one shelter, a departure screen and a help point.

Stairs and lifts from each platform take you to the main station building on the road bridge carrying the A34.

There’s an open air footbridge passageway complete with yellow box hatch markings across ….

…. as well as another one under cover as part of the station building which includes a one window ticket office….

….. an accessible toilet and a baby change room and other staff facilities.

I couldn’t see any ordinary toilets but there’s a nice clear to read electronic departure board….

…. and a couple of ticket vending machines inside and one outside.

The floor has tactile ridges as I spotted in the new St Margaret’s bus station in Leicester….

… but that’s about it for £30 million which does seem quite a lot for what’s provided.

But it’s all nice and shiny and all ready for the Games.

And if you’re thinking those platforms look a little narrow for huge post event crowds enticed to take the train, ….

…..significant numbers are obviously expected as a multitude of barriers are all set up and ready to hold the queues outside.

Although as this maze of metal is sited adjacent to the ‘bus station’ it could be to organise the queuing for those four bus stops rather than the station. Or both, perhaps.

Either way let’s hope it doesn’t rain.

The third development I took a look at on Monday is the showcase ‘bus rapid transit’ corridor known as Sprint following my visit last December when all I found was a plethora of road cones for much of the route along the A45 and A34.

I was confidently expecting Sprint to be a very high profile part of the transport offering for the Games. After all the Games Transport Plan produced by the West Midlands Combined Authority and Transport for West Midlands in January referred to delivery of “the first stage of infrastructure works for the Sprint corridor ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games…. providing additional public transport capacity for the Games.”

But, aside from the cones disappearing much of the dual carriageway A45 south east of Birmingham doesn’t sport any bus lanes at all from where bus route X2 (from Solihull) meets up with bus route X1 (from Coventry and Birmingham Airport) at Sheldon and heads into Birmingham.

Sheldon on the A45 – July 2022 and…
…flashback: December 2021, the same spot. So what were all the road cones for?

Even approaching traffic light junctions with a bus stop lay-by at the head of on street parking, there’s no bus priority.

It’s only when you get to South Yardley the bus lanes kick in and from there run continuously for some distance towards DIgbeth where ironically there’s still lots of roadworks taking place alongside the coach station which clearly aren’t going to be completed for the Games.

North of Birmingham on the A34 to Walsall there are impressive bus lanes for much of the route…

… although the bus I travelled on on route X51 didn’t seem disposed to use them, which wasn’t surprising as the road was free flowing on a Monday-before-Games-lunchtime.

There was much evidence of the investment in new shelters along the corridor but it was disappointing to see many were still devoid of any information.

I had thought Sprint would be more advanced in terms of a joined up cross city route (the X1/2 and the X51) ready for the Games with lots of marketing of the Sprint name, but it would seem that’s waiting delivery of the Transport for West Midlands preference for articulated hydrogen powered “tram like” single deck buses (with their reduced seating capacity) expected next year.

Until then National Express West Midlands continue with their preferred Platinum branding denoting improved seating and capacity busting double decks buses.

I’m not sure where the provision of “additional public transport capacity for the Games” through Sprint is, as claimed in the Games Travel Plan as frequencies seem the same as always to me.

I also didn’t spot any of NatEx West Midlands’ shiny new hydrogen buses delivered some time ago and destined for the Sprint corridor pending those artic buses coming next year.

It does seem unfortunate this investment in ‘state of the art’ buses is not giving any return at the moment, let alone utilising ‘Wind power to Walsall’.

The fourth and final development I checked out on Monday was the newly extended Midland Metro tram route to Edgbaston which I’ll tell you about in Saturday’s blog.

Meantime, if you’re an ardent sports fan or just a compulsive Stagecoach bus spotter, Birmingham is definitely the city for you for the next 12 days.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu

68 thoughts on “Games Makers

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  1. Sprint – seems not a lot dissimilar to Timesaver to me.
    I can remember Halesowen – ‘Town’ – Airport – Cov; Wolverhampton – Walsall – Sutton (?) – Chelmsley – Airport – Solihull. (There were others – I think a ‘Town’ to Wolverhampton route.) These were gradually cut back due to unreliability. I hope this experiment is more successful.

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    1. Sprint will be operated by specially built Van Hool Bendibuses and bears no resemblance to WMT TIMESAVER

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  2. Another fascinating blog Roger, many thanks. Re the supply of buses, I wonder how many operators are being hired in by Stagecoach? I know Stephensons of Essex have 9 buses working for them in Birmingham on games transport, and in Kent, Go-Coach are proving 3 (I think) buses on hire to cover local Stagecoach contracts in Kent. Presumably there are other similar hires?

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    1. But Stephenson’s are already mass cancelling services on a daily basis. Why are they allowed to take on more work when they cannot even operate their current registered services. It is the same with most of the other operators

      Where are the Traffic Commissioners with this?

      If operator cannot operate their current registered service they should not be allowed to take this work on

      Who is paying for this as well ?

      https://stephensonsofessex.com/daily-service-updates/

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think Stephenson’s are losing a bunch of contracts when the new Essex tenders take effect. Maybe the drivers are already leaving, or their management have recognised they are overstretched and a pull back a bit.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m amused by the spurious accuracy of Sprint being supported by “at least 79 (new) bus shelters”.
    You might have thought that they could have said “…about 80 …..”.

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  4. That will be the same Stephensons of Essex who have today yet again cancelled numerous journeys in my neck of the woods. To be fair, I assume that they signed up to providing games transport long ago when they didn’t have a severe staff shortage.

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    1. They still would not have had the capacity. With no consumer protection for bus passengers bus companies will continue to provide poor services as they can get away with it

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    1. The vehicles from First Devon & Cornwall Buses Limited are onside and have been subcontracted amongst others by our delivery partners.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. No those from First South West are among a further 200 odd hires by the Games to provide contingency specifically for rail strikes over a 14 day period.
      Most have returned already but 17 of the FSW ones and a couple from Mayflower that are in the same depot have been retained for general contingency, and are providing extra resources procures operated by Stagecoach.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. No those from First South West are among a further 200 odd hires by the Games to provide contingency specifically for rail strikes over a 14 day period.
      Most have returned already but 17 of the FSW ones and a couple from Mayflower that are in the same depot have been retained for general contingency, and are providing extra resources on routes operated by Stagecoach.

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  5. As part of Transport for West Midlands planning team for the games extensive plans have been undertaken and the stress tests carried out have indicated the infrastructure will be well able to cope. The orange army you commented on are part of “workforce” Sprint will not be operational until early next year. The NXWM Hydrogen buses have been out of service since December 2021 & are awaiting rentry. If you had contacted me before your visit I would have been happy to show you round all the sites and answered any questions you may have had. I have previously invited you to Warley home of Sandwell Aquatic Centre its unfortunate you chose not to take this invitation up for your blog

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  6. The vehicles from First Devon & Cornwall Buses Limited are onside and have been subcontracted amongst others by our delivery partners.

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  7. I can assure Roger that when these tenders came out and were responded to, at both initial and Best and Final Offer stage, the world was a different place. The challenges on staffing were clear and known but the subsequent staffing challenges (for all the reasons that we know about) have massively intensified in the intervening period.

    When you then consider the rather stringent commercial contracts (especially in terms of liabilities) in place, not to mention the massive reputational risk, it’s little wonder that Stagecoach have elected to sacrifice local services in various places. It’s not right but it’s how they’ve got to where they are.

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    1. The original specifications were outlined in the bid after the games went back out to tender . The actual tender for an invitation to tender were applied in 2020 and the contract was awarded at the end of last summer to Stagecoach

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes – I know, and I’m also painfully aware of the service credits and liabilities associated with the contracts.

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      2. Stagecoach had the experience of the previous games in the UK & produced the most competitive bid which was accepted by the games delivery team. The test events performed very well and judged a sucess.

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      3. As with public sector procurement, there is a commercial response. There is also a technical envelope in which quality and experience is to be demonstrated, as is the Social Value element. All of this is assessed for compliance, scored and the bidder appointed.

        Stagecoach have had the same challenge as any other tenderer in that between tender and delivery, the employment market is much more challenging for all the reasons that are now evident but could not reasonably have been predicted (excepting and exacerbating the longer term issues with driver recruitment into the industry).

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      4. Well they seem to have been doing a good job all this week I haven’t had any major issues raised.

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      5. To respond to Bob, let’s not forget that the tender process took place in 2020. The issues of driver licensing, loss of drivers not returning from furlough, and the impact of Brexit in terms of onshoring of logistics services (losing drivers to the freight world) and also staff leaving the UK and not able to return, were not fully known. That there would be a challenge was known (as has been the case for years). Then you have drivers going sick with the latest Covid sub-strain. It was a known issue but events since then have massively impacted it more. The reality now is much worse than could have been predicted.

        Because of the exacting contractual position, and it is quite draconian, then the risk to Stagecoach is that were they to fail to meet their obligations, then the financial penalities are high. Not only that, but the reputational damage would be immense – as always, you ask yourself, how would it look on the front page of the Daily Mail.

        So yes, expect the CWG2022 to go swimmingly as that is the most sensitive, commercially and reputationally. Making it as front page news on the Gloucestershire Echo is not as important. That’s not to underplay the issues for those local passengers, with major trunk routes (e.g. Cheltenham to Gloucester) that should be every 15 mins struggling to provide two per hour.

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      6. The invitation to tender was issued during the Covid-19 lockdown therefore all operators were fully aware of the situation we were living in. If an operator is now suffering a logistic shortage it is simply short sighted planning by the operator concerned. No service cancellations are currently being enacted by operators within the West Midlands Combined Authority. All services are operating at levels registered with the traffic commissioner throughout the Commonwealth Games including the enhancements supported by Transport for West Midlands for the duration of the event.

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      7. “The invitation to tender was issued during the Covid-19 lockdown therefore all operators were fully aware of the situation we were living in. If an operator is now suffering a logistic shortage it is simply short sighted planning by the operator concerned.”

        Sadly, we are seeing across the UK economy (not just each and every bus operator) that many factors were either unknown or could not be realistically or accurately predicted at that time. Even though it was apparent that immigration controls/Brexit would see a decline in labour availability it was impossible to accurately predict:

        – The number of drivers not returning to the industry after furlough and essentially retiring early
        – The massive upsurge in the requirement of LGV drivers
        – The huge numbers of drivers going sick with Covid
        – The delays in getting new drivers processed

        This is affecting ALL major operators, even those not involved with CWG.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Wrong all operators are NOT experiencing what you outline whilst always encouraging new staff neither National Express West Midlands or Diamond Bus West Midlands are facing serious staff shortages. Both have looked after thier staff excellently thru the pandemic. Operators who now face staff shortages only have themselves to blame hence the repeated strike actions against both Arriva & Stagecoach.

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      9. Operators are struggling across the country. West Midlands might be better placed in terms of available labour and demographics but it is certainly not immune to driver shortages as demonstrated when Diamond deposited me in West Brom on a 4H the other week. No relief driver available, though with my ticket, I was able to wait for an NX service.

        Now stop being confrontational – it is tiresome.

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      10. There was obviously a rare operational issue with the 4H . I use the service 364 days a year. From September a new timetable will provide a bus every 10 minutes between Walsall & Blackheath & half hourly to Hayley Green with three buses per hour to Halesowen 4H/231 Monday to Saturday. The NXWM 4H service is absolutely hopelessly unreliable. The new Diamond Timetable will improve on its all ready exceptional service. As for being confrontational some sadly simply don’t like hearing the truth.

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      11. The truth is that these are countrywide challenges though the severity of the effects is different according to local demographics. There was no shortage of planning.

        As Roger has highlighted in earlier blogs, even exemplars like Transdev are experiencing challenges in the recruitment and retention of drivers. Even then, it can vary from depot to depot. These are the realities, unfortunately.

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      12. Hard to compare Transdev to Rotala it’s like basing Trandev as Kwik Save & Rotala as Waitrose there is simply no comparison between the quality of the two operators. Thankfully our main local operator is Rotala.

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      13. Rotala is as Waitrose, as Transdev is to KwikSave…? Shark jumped

        Transdev is a multi-award winning operator with industry-leading standards of vehicle presentation including stunningly luxurious vehicles on routes like the WitchWay, the 36, the ONE, Coastliner.

        Today’s Diamond offering on the 4H? 11 vehicles with an average age of over 13 years.

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      14. The regular offering on the Diamond Bus 002 & 202 are 70 plate & 19 plate Streetlites part of one of the most modern fleets in England. The vehicles you describe on the 4H are currently for sale and are due for early withdrawal in September. The 226 has 16 plate vehicles on it while the 16 19plate. On the most recent TfWM Customer Research Diamond Bus West Midlands had a 97% Customer Satisfaction Level. I doubt an operatior such as Transdev can only dream of the operational sucess of Rotala in the West Midlands. I am not aware Transdev have won any awards recently & suggest you view thier customers comments on thier twitter feed & then view Diamond Bus West Midlands feed. Transdev from my experience is very much the Kwik Save of England

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    2. Even back then they new they would not have the capacity. They were prepared to cut the local service knowing the passengers could do nothing about it

      If bus companies had to compensate customers as airlines have to the bus companies would change their tune as it is they can get away with anything

      You can bet they will operate the Games services as their will be stringent penalty clause in the contract

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  8. Bob makes some good points here.

    From a legal point of view, an operator is liable for sanctions on the operator’s licence if they fail to operate registered local services. Ultimately, they could lose their licence. I am not aware of any such sanctions if they fail to operate a contracted service on behalf of a third party.

    So it seems to me operators are taking a big risk in both supplying vehicles and drivers for a contract at the same time as posting daily cancellations on local bus services.

    I must admit, I think the corporate Stagecoach livery is growing on me!

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    1. Dan – whilst they might not be impacted on their operators’ license, a failure to operate a major contract for a global sports event will result in massive liabilities being incurred.

      The risk wasn’t nearly as great when the tender responses were being put together in 2020. Then we were busy paying people to stay at home and protect jobs with grave concerns on mass unemployment. Now the country can’t fill the vacancies (in many sectors).

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  9. Sport, and those who like,it always get priority so people who use buses run by Stagecoach will have less services because all of their buses and drivers are in the Birmingham area and I’m betting the lion’s share of them will be providing park and ride for motorists too.

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    1. The real issue is bus companied can bid for these tenders knowing
      that they don’t have the capacity to operate them without cutting their registered bus services

      They will run the games services as they will have penalty clauses. There are no such clauses for registered bus services and the Traffic Commissioners are highly unlikely to do anything. You will get the same think with schools service. They can face penalties if they cut them so the poor paying customers get the usual shoddy service and random cuts to service often at no notice

      There is a Passenger Charter for Norfolk & Suffolk. Stephenson cuts seem to be mainly services operating out of their Haverhill depot

      It does not include services crossing Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Hertfordshire or Essex. They will be covered by a separate charter.

      It states that Services we say are running will run at least 99.5% of the time

      Appears to be no penalties for not complying though so is pretty toothless

      Liked by 1 person

    2. The majority is actually of the contractual transportation is for CWG “workforce” & games officials and competitors while the small number Park & Rides slots are bookable only for motorists.

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  10. I have found the Herts Passenger charter. It is even worse than the Norfolk & Suffolk one . Nothing really measurable and no timescales and no penalties for not comply so we will get the usual two finger salute from the bus companies

    It is not in my view a charter just a collection of vague aspirations, No doubt it has no budget neither although councils seem to have no end of money to spend on road schemes and cycling schemes and car parking

    Intalink Bus Passenger Charter
    We will make improvements to bus services & planning through:

    Better real-time bus departure information and at more locations
    More frequent buses
    Punctual and reliable buses
    Improving the connection to other modes of transportation using a bus
    Decarbonisation of bus fleets
    Number of available bus routes
    We will make improvements to fares and ticketing through:

    Extending our range of multi-operator tickets
    Introduce smart ticketing options on mobile and card
    Easy to understand fares which will be published
    Fares prices available before boarding
    We will improve passenger engagement through:

    An improved Intalink website and app
    Easy feedback procedures
    The promotion of Intalink
    Strengthening the Intalink Brand
    We will improve passenger satisfaction through:

    Clean, comfortable, and reliable buses
    Buses that are accessible to all
    Annual survey on passenger transport topics
    Providing clear and simple feedback channels. If you want to tell us something, please contact us below:
    Web: http://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/busfeedback or click Bus feedback
    Write to: Freepost INTALINK
    Phone: 0300 123 4050
    Passenger promise

    And in return we ask:

    Be courteous to the driver, vehicle, and other passengers

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    1. Well, Bob, a customer charter can be many different things. Some are just a framework of rules; others may have specific service level agreements.

      In this case, Stagecoach is clearly sacrificing local service reliability in order to support the CWG. They made plans based on a job market that was in the quasi-reality of on/off lockdowns. The full impact of the Brexit changes was yet to be realised, and the impact of driver licensing delays was unknown, as was the exiting of a significant number of drivers who simply retired early.

      That doesn’t make it any more palatable for those whose service is now unreliable.

      However, if people believe that they personally could have foreseen all of this in mid/late 2020, you wonder why the entire industry (and most of the UK economy) failed to take their sage advice.

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      1. Sorry that simply does not wash. They have plenty of timer between the award of the contract and the operation of the contract to take step to ensure they had adequate staff levels and to taker steps to mitigate any issues. They have done nothing though

        I note they manage to have all the staff for the contract service but choose to axe the registered bus services as they can get away with that without penalty

        Why as well if the new they could not operate the full timetables for registered service did they not register temporary reduced timetable. Well we no the answer to that they can get away with it

        Service levels and customer service attitudes in the Industry have to change but they are not. They are getting worse

        How many times do bus companies cancel buses with the lame the bus has broken down excuse?, Bus companies have the maintenance of buses under their control if they don’t properly maintain them then they should be penalized, If a plane breaks down the airline has yo compensate you. Why should buses be any different

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  11. I agree with you about the uncertainties with tendering for a major contract two years ago but the liability for running a major sports event in this case is with Stagecoach and not sub-contracted operators such as Stephenson’s. So the central question remains why such operators are prioritising a contract like this over their local bus services. The cynic in me thinks it must be the money…

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    1. Stagecoach have a contact with the Commonwealth Games Delivery Unit & Transport for West Midlands & are legally bound to fulfill the terms of it. However it should be rememberedwe have been rehearsing since February. Around Edgbaston today various Stagecoach E400s were carrying full loads and as the Opening Ceremony gets underway no major problems have been reported as at 18:29

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    2. Dan, public sector contracts invariably have “flow down” agreements so that sub-contractors are also on the hook.

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      1. Any subcontractor used by Stagecoach must meet the specification laid out in the contract signed with the Commonwealth games delivery unit and be approved by Transport for West Midlands.

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  12. That Perry Barr station building just looks rusty to me! I guess the yellow crosshatch markings on the open air footbridge are there to try and prevent people bumping into what look like lighting shades protruding at shoulder level on the wall.

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    1. Transport for West Midlands provided a full risk assessment and delivery plan for this station which has been fully refurbished by TfWM prior to the games. Having visited the station personally the facilities are excellent for visitors to Perry Barr whether the games or the dogs.

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  13. Transport for West Midlands provided a full risk assessment and delivery plan for this station which has been fully refurbished by TfWM prior to the games. Having visited the station personally the facilities are excellent for visitors to Perry Barr whether the games or the dogs.

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  14. It’s now 19:43 & the opening ceremony of The Commonwealth Games is now underway. In the control room all contracted services are operating very well. There has been very little reports of things going awaray yet. The big test is tomorrow as Sandwell Aquatic Centre which will be welcoming both visitors and competitions. Sutton Park will also be in focus too and plans for the compeitor infrastructure will be in place. Most City bus services will run to about 2am tonight and every night for the next 10 days under contract to TfWM

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    1. This is good to hear!

      Despite all the carping (yes, from me as well!), let’s not forget that events like this are a brilliant way to showcase what the bus industry can achieve.

      And, by the way, I agree with you that there are massive differences in how different operators are coping with the driver shortages…

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      1. Thank you for your kind words It’s been quite amazing to see the months and months of planning I have been part of coming together today and makes me so proud of being a born & bred Brummie

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      2. Yes Brilliant axe services all over the country without any real advance notice and you hold that up as a good example

        What it does show is the abysmal attitude to customer service in the industry

        It shows all that is wrong with the Industry. Making a quick buck is more important to them then looking after their paying customers. The industry then scratches its head wondering why it cannot win back customers let alone gain new customers

        Attitudes need to change bit I have zero hope of that happening

        No doubt we will be treated to more last minute mass axing of services in October when the temporary funding runs out. All without any real notice to the customers. The keep them in the dark attitude is alive and well in the bus industry

        A massive shake up of the industry is needed. What we have at present is simply not working and is far below even a minimum acceptable standard

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  15. Like Roger I understood that Sprint would start before the Commonwealth Games started, and that it would be operated by the Hydrogen double decks until artics were obtained.

    However, although the Hydroliners are now coming back into service (in small numbers), the decision has recently been made to delay the start of the cross-city Sprint route until early 2023 because of the roadworks in Digbeth.

    And apparently even when it starts, it won’t be called Sprint until the artics take over.

    TfWM have announced that completion of the roadworks means Phase 1 successfully accomplished. I’m sure that wasn’t the original plan!

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    1. There was never any intention following Covid-19 for Sprint to be operational for The Commonwealth Games the main priority was the Metro extension to Edgbaston. When the many problems of the frankly very poorly produced WrightBus Hydrogen Vehicles came to light at NXWM the start date was confirmed as next year although much of the infrastructure is now in situ.

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      1. A major feasibility study was undertaken to see if Sprint could commence with the NXWM Hydrogen Vehicles however this plan never materised and now the project is concentrating on the delivery aim of Van Hool Artics. Test runs using an NX Merc Bendi Bus from Stansted have been undertaken recently which are currently being evaluated

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      2. Why wasn’t this announced to the public at the time then?

        The delay to the start of the cross city route was only made public very recently – and then through a report to the West Midlands Combined Authority Board rather than as a public announcement.

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      3. No official announcement was ever made by Andy Street, TfWM & WMCA that NXWM Hydrogen Vehicles would actually have a start date on the X51/87/50/X1 it was simply announced as an option that was never pursued . WMCA governance reports regularly carry the last guidance towards Sprint & are avaliable for public view on WMCA website Any actual official announcements on Sprint can always been found on the TfWM website.

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      4. The trouble is that TfWM rarely make announcements until immediately before things happen.

        However, back in 2020 TfWM did announce an intention to start Sprint with Hydroliners until the artics arrived. No change to this intention was announced – nor was it apparent through WMCA reports (not really the best way to communicate with the public!) until very recently.

        I think I’ll leave it here before it becomes tedious.

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      5. There is nothing tedious in transport planning at TfWM as you quite rightly say there was an announcement of an INTENTION to use the Hydrogen Buses. In the end no announcement was given of a start date or of the plan to be introduced and the plan waa simply abandoned. As no start date was ever issued I am at a loss to understand why you are trying to point score against TfWM. I can be a very vocal in my opposition and criticism to both Andy Street & TfWM plans and announcements when I believe it is correct to do so whereas this is just trivial conjecture

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    1. Stagecoach signed a contract with The Commonwealth Games Delivery Unit to provide services to The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. In Birmingham we expect them to fulfill the terms of the contract they have entered into. At present we have no problems with the delivery being undertaken by the company. It is up to Stagecoach to maintain its services registered with the traffic commissioner with regard to thier operating companies.

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      1. I haven’t read all of the comments but the article quoted by Peter Brown was critical of Stagecoach, not of the Commonwealth Games Delivery Unit. As you say, it is down to Stagecoach to maintain its services, that is not an issue for you, it is an issue for the Traffic Commissioner, local authorities/ transport authorities and to some extent, (potential) passengers (in that they can make their feelings known, to elected representatives, in the media, etc).
        When Stagecoach in the South East were short of staff last autumn, other companies were contracted to operate certain school runs. If they were expecting difficulties, did they take mitigating measures? (A rhetorical question regarding this thread). If nothing else produce a timetable for the duration of the Games so that potential passengers knew which buses would run. In Ashford today 37 journeys on local services today were cancelled, in Dover 29 mainly journeys on local services were cancelled (according to their twitter feed). Similar yesterday when the Ashford service most hit was the one to the hospital.
        Let me make it clear, this is no criticism of the Commonwealth Games and its organisers, who I offer my best wishes, but some of us who live in areas served by a certain company, deserve better, as do the staff; the drivers, customers services, who take the flack when a passenger has been waiting ‘ages’ because two consecutive journeys have been cancelled.

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      2. As long as it’s not whoever ran the bus in Live and Let Die that lost it’s top deck under the railway bridge!And a Birmingham theme to it too as Wings also did a version of the Crossroads theme music.The first time I’d ever seen a Midland Red bus was on Crossroads where Bennie got on one in about 1984 to go to Evesham fruit picking!A West Yorkshire one appeared on Emmerdale Farm as it was then too.

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    1. But some/many of them off-topic or relentlessly harping-on about how wonderful particular organisations or operators are. No wonder Roger (note, not Rodger), has made his latest blog comments-free, A pity but I can see why.

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  16. It’s not just Stagecoach who have had problems with resourcing and service reliability over the last few months. As a native West Midlander I can attest that National Express West Midlands have had issues too with reliability.

    The Pershore Road services in Birmingham have been particularly poor and this is not just when the cricket is on at Edgbaston (which is a mile away from the supposed Edgbaston village where the Metro terminates). A search on social media will show frequent tales of people waiting ages at bus stops in the city centre four services down the Pershore Road and reporting Ghost Buses not turning up, even though the bus is showing as “Due” on the RTI displays.

    Then on other routes out in the suburbs I’ve heard stories of missing buses later in the evenings.

    Events have intervened since the CWG contracts were let. A lot of bus drivers have left the industry, moving to drive lorries an HGV because of pay and conditions are better (plus they haven’t got the joys of driving a bus around an estate late at night with yobs trying to throw bricks at it), or have retired and not been replaced, or left the UK all together thanks to Brexit and the hostile environment that has been generated for anyone not native from these shores by the Johnson Government (sic).

    The problems are going to continue even when the Birmingham Commonwealth Games are long finished. The Challenge for the bus industry is to start rebuilding its resilience; recruiting and retaining good staff both drivers and those in the engineering functions and operating a service that is reliable and deliverable. As the various travails around the country demonstrates what we have is not that. No amount of white papers and £2 fare offers are going to address that.

    The fundamental truth is that if buses provide an unreliable service where the timetable collapses on normal days, high days and holidays, the people who we do need to use them if we are going to be serious about reducing congestion will not. That will mean an even worse service for those who depend on buses to get around. A vicious circle, not good for the industry or society.

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