End of the road for Kent’s shopper buses

Tuesday 23rd August 2022

Earlier in the year I reported on Kent County Council’s review of its supported bus services with a mission to save £2.2 million from the Council’s annual £6.1 million tendered bus budget. And that was before the impact of Covid Bus Services Support Grant/Bus Recovery Grant originally scheduled to end this autumn, but just recently extended to next spring albeit in reduced form.

The County Council has given a reprieve to its Kent Karrier network of Dial-A-Ride type operations but has confirmed the rest of the services will be for the chop in October including a variety of off peak, once or twice a week shopping journeys linking villages and hamlets with their nearest main town offering a couple of hours retail excitement.

Update …. Thanks to reader Darryl I understand the cuts were debated by councillors at a Scrutiny meeting last Thursday and the decision to proceed halted pending a debate at the next full council meeting on 15th September. Apparently councillors have “inundated with emails” about the cuts. Well, here’s another communication about them.

A minibus on Kent Karrier in Maidstone

Over the last week or two I’ve been taking one last ride on some of these routes before they succumb to their impending demise, partly for nostalgic reasons – I love a quirky rural bus ride – and partly to see the social impact their withdrawal will have. Loss making in financial terms they certainly are especially as fares rarely feature (they’re dominated by concessionary pass holders), but it’s hard to put a value on the social benefits these weekly meet ups of regular passengers achieve with many otherwise living in isolation, cut off from other friendly faces.

Regent Coaches operate a trio of routes (541, 542 and 544) linking isolated communities lying to the west of Sandwich and Deal and north of Dover to Sandwich (Thursday route 542) and Canterbury (Wednesday and Saturday route 544) as well as Dover and Deal (Monday, Tuesday and Friday route 541). These are all ending in October.

Arrival into the destination on the 542/544 is around 11:00 with a return at about 13:00 and involve a circuitous journey around Kent’s country lanes to serve as many hamlets as possible meaning someone boarding at the outer end of the route enjoys a journey of around an hour and fifty minutes. But, as I found, that three and a half hours or so on the bus (there and back) results in some amazing social interactions and companionship.

I took a ride on the 542 return journey from Sandwich back to Deal and Warmer on a recent Thursday afternoon leaving Sandwich at 12:45.

Sandwich’s Guildhall Square was hustling with market stalls over lunchtime and soon after 12:30 I started eyeing up likely custom for route 542 as quite a crowd was mingling by the two bus stops in this charming area.

However it turned out most were scooped up by the 12:36 Stagecoach departure on route 81 to Dover and Deal which is a through bus from route 43 from Canterbury and the 12:41 departure on route 43 to Canterbury which is a through bus from route 81 from Deal.

Just before 12:45 the Regent Coaches Volkswagen 14 seat minibus pulled into the Square and twelve passengers, obviously pleased to be reunited after their retail expedition climbed aboard for the homeward journey.

There was much chatter as we headed off and it was difficult to know which conversation to eavesdrop on. I couldn’t help but overhear the discussion about one regular, not on board that day, who everyone agreed will be devastated when the service ends in October. Apparently she’s cut her son and daughter out of her Will in favour of an animal charity so they no longer have anything to do with her; yet she lives alone in an isolated cottage and really needs support and company. The overwhelming feeling was good for her to leave her money to whom she wants; young people have to make their own way in life; etc etc; but it was worrying to hear the thought she “might top herself” when she can’t get out because the bus no longer runs.

Luckily the subject soon moved on to more positive subjects before we ominously passed a horse drawn funeral cortege along a particularly narrow lane.

More positive vibes for the future came from one passenger who’d already sussed out the Kent Karrier network of community bus operated links (which Kent County Council have confirmed they’ll be keeping) “where you can ring up a day or two before travelling and the bus will pick you up” one knowledgeable passenger was telling another. Another overhearing that chipped in with her recent experiences of Kent Karrier which wasn’t quite so slick; “they can keep you waiting all morning before arriving” she said. Apparently the County Council has confirmed funding support for such services will continue from a more general public transport pot of money rather than the tendered bus services budget.

12 passengers had boarded in Sandwich which made the 14 seater bus feel quite crowded, especially as one of the seats wasn’t really that comfortable looking…..

…. alongside the wheelchair space.

Two got off in Goodnestone at 13:08, four more in Nonington at 13:18, one near Snowdon Station, three in Eythorne at 13:51 and the final one in Tilmanstone at 13:57 who’d been particularly chatty during the journey and pointed out the various sights to me, including his rather grand looking home where he alighted…..

…. then leaving just me on the bus for the next half hour until we reached Deal at 14:29 where I left the driver to continue on his own to nearby Walmer.

It’s a lovely rural ride along narrow country lanes…

…. in this part of south east Kent.

And there’s the inevitable meet up with a delivery van coming the other way – forcing them to reverse is always fun to see.

Another couple of routes for the chop are the once a week shopping journeys from villages between Tunbridge Wells and Tenterden which are not served by the seven journeys a weekday route 297. Both routes are operated by Autocar – route 293 runs on Thursdays and continues beyond Tenterden to Rye on the town’s popular market day, while sister route 299 runs on Fridays and starts in Tonbridge, rather than Tunbridge Wells, and only runs as far as Tenterden.

I travelled on the latter on a recent Friday with 10 passengers boarding as we passed through the various villages on route.

One boarded at the terminus at Tonbridge Castle with two more at the stop by Tonbridge Station – but only just made it as they sat in the bus shelter not recognising the bus as it passed by, being on loan from Farleigh Coaches to Autocar and branded for another route.

Luckily there were roadworks with temporary traffic lights at red just beyond the bus stop and realising what had happened rushed up to the bus just in time. Initially the driver wasn’t keen to let them on, already being frustrated at the long time the red light had been displaying, but being a once a week journey he obviously had second thoughts about leaving them behind and opened the door, making it clear he was far from happy – as did the two passengers too, which didn’t make for a very happy start to the journey.

We picked up two more passengers on a circuitous route as we left Tonbridge arriving at the large Tunbridge Wells hospital in nearby Pembury which again requires a circuitous route to reach and not surprisingly, for a once a week journey, not picking anyone up there, making such a deviation (costing about five minutes) somewhat superfluous.

One more passenger joined us as we passed through Pembury and then one more (Brenda – who everyone knew) in Lamberhurst; we then did a tour of Hawkhurst, including the dog leg through congested traffic to serve The Moor where no-one was picked up and by now 14 minutes late we continued on picking two up at Hawkhurst’s main bus stop where Tesco’s now stands on the spot where Maidstone & District once had a delightful small bus garage and finally Stan joined us in Benenden

Like route 542, everyone on board knew everyone else even though they lived some distance apart on the 90 minute journey and we finally arrived into Tenterden 14 minutes later than scheduled at 11:14 hours but no-one seemed to mind and went off to enjoy two hours and twenty minutes in this lovely Kent town before it came to return home time.

Meanwhile the driver headed back for a short return journey to Hawkhurst via Newenden and Sandhurst on route 292 with no-one on board.

I was in Rye on a recent Thursday and saw that day’s route 293 arrive which sadly only had five passengers on board. This is a big reduction from a pre-Covid journey I took on the route a few years ago with a very respectable full size single deck bus load in the hands of Hams Travel in those days.

One route up for withdrawal which is more substantial than a once or twice a week shopping service is route 123 operated by Stagecoach running four time a day Mondays to Fridays linking the villages of Biddenden, Smarden, Egerton, Little Chart and Hothfield with Ashford.

I travelled on the 12:39 from Ashford on a recent Friday along with 12 other passengers many of whom seemed to be regulars and knew each other.

Three alighted before we turned off the A20 to Hothfield village who also have route 10X as an alternative which runs between Ashford and Maidstone but the other nine are totally dependent on route 123 for their travel. Four alighted in Pluckley, four more in Smarden and one went all the way to Biddenden.

… it wasn’t full; nor was there social distancing; just changing the blind for the return journey.

It’s a lovely route through Kent’s countryside including well used narrow roads, including by HGVs making for some precarious squeeze pasts which our driver dealt with magnificently.

… as well as motorists with the usual struggle with reverse manoeuvres.

These snapshot rides are only a very small part of the cuts being made to Kent’s bus network Kent in a few weeks time but they give an indication of the impact these withdrawals will have.

Furthermore, bearing in mind the withdrawals are off peak journeys (292/293/299; 541/542/544) there must be implications for the peak hour journeys (maybe school runs) the buses presumably also do.

Subsidising routes 541/542/544 costs Kent County Council a substantial £81,270 a year with route 293 costing £15,498 and the 299 along with the 292 another £14,498, while route 123 comes in at £85,627 so you can see why the cash strapped local authority is keen to bank a saving approaching £200,000 from axing these lightly used bus routes representing about 10% of the savings it’s seeking.

However, as I’ve found, bus routes like these are greatly valued by those who use them. I reckon a very rough ‘back of the envelope’ calculation makes a subsidy per passenger return journey of around £15 which sadly is probably too high a price, especially when it’s mostly concessions travelling. On the other hand up in North Yorkshire a recent report on how the YorBus branded DRT operation is going for the county council commented on its success in its first nine months with a subsidy per passenger of £17 per single passenger journey. But anything DRT is of course currently in vogue; boring old timetabled once a week shopping trips aren’t.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens at next month’s full Council meeting.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu

40 thoughts on “End of the road for Kent’s shopper buses

Add yours

  1. Most of these routes are probably fitted around school runs. If they cancel these routes it could push the cost of the school runs up a bit as they would have more dead running and the buses may be sat in the depot between school runs

    Most of these routes see to be scheduled by council transport planners whose main focus seems to be cost also they have probably never set foot on a bus since they left school

    This network of routes could probably be run more cost effectively and efficiently by a single operator. There may though be no operator large enough to do it. The big players would be to expensive

    Have the council actually analysed the passenger data to see if the routes could be improved ? Presumably where the passengers get on can be obtained from the ticket machines and a reasonable estimate of where they get off can be obtained from the return journey

    If you take the 292/299 it had 10 passengers with the single journey taking about 1.5 hours not particularly attractive option to get from a to b

    The 292/299 runs Mon to Fri and costs about £14K5 a year which works out at about £60 a day. Using the 10 passengers (That may be be typical though) it work out at £6 a passenger. The 292 as well might get the odd passenger Presumably the fares/ Pass revenues reduce that so it looks to me that with some work to improve the efficiency of the route and some good marketing /publicity that route could be saved

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the enlightening blog, Roger. Not an area I know very well but it was reminiscent of my youth in Yorkshire where a school run would form the bedrock of the vehicle day, with a different set of infill journeys depending on the market day in question.

    The fact is that these services are frequented by older people, and they have particular needs and constraints. They may not be able to drive (for historic or health reasons), aren’t smartphone savvy (so excluded by DRT) and also folks of that vintage become more fearful – what if I can’t get home? Hence why structure, and a fixed timetable, is much more desirable to them.

    You do wonder whether the cost of such cuts will simply exacerbate social exclusion and loneliness, and merely see the cost transferred to the social care budget in the end?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Excellent point here – when you cut the cost here, driving up things like loneliness, lack of access to healthcare, loss of a cheaper food shop, you simply increase the burden of another service down the line. A real shame

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  3. Unfortunately, with nearly all these Kent rural services, Covid has seen quite a dramatic fall in passenger numbers. Even more unfortunately, particularly with the West Kent services, most passengers using them now have alternatives. The 299 in particular, hence now down to single-figures, as most people originate in Tonbridge/Tunbridge Wells/Pembury and Beneden/Hawkhurst areas, with virtually nobody using them in the hamlets without alternatives. This is less so in East Kent, and withdrawal will create some very real hardships. Those previous users who have sadly died off over the last few years are not being replaced, with people who perhaps should no longer be driving a car still doing so.

    And of course, as pointed out, DRT will be the “saviour” in spite of it’s many shortcomings. Councils are expected to follow “best practice”, a stipulation laid down many years ago, so I suggest they look at the Shropshire experience where all such services were happily converted to DRT some years ago. It will not take long as there is nothing left unless it has been well hidden.

    As pointed out, the social impact can be devastating, some passengers heard to remark on many occasions that “once I get indoors, I won’t see a Soul until………”. You get the drift, and DRT, which is no more than a costly taxi certainly won’t solve that. But with pandemics and wars, money will be ever more tight, so unless more people start to use there services, I cannot see much alternative other than paring down to perhaps fortnightly or even once a month rather than weekly.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There is no real attempt to grow and develop the services we just get the slow decline and the ever growing migration away from the already inadequate bus services

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In addition to these possible cuts Stagecoach have announced a whole raft of cuts to their commercial services in Kent. These changes come into effect from the 28th August

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  4. Before cutting services like this there should be a proper targeted marketing campaign. Perhaps the social aspect could be a good selling point to attract new passengers.

    Another thought, perhaps when an operator deregisters a commercial service or part of one they are automatically excluded from tendering to get the work back. That might prompt a rethink and a marketing campaign. I have read in the past that larger operators sometimes game the system, deregistering and getting the work back with a nice subsidy.

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    1. If you try to factor in reductions in pollution and congestion and even accidents (You can statistically do this. Accidents are not cheap) and the health benefits of getting the elderly out then that can improve the numbers a bit

      The big problem though is in much of England the bus services are so run down they are of no use at all to 80% plus of the population. and that’s the big problem

      To get adequate numbers you have to win back some of that 80% plus that are not using buses. High cost of fuel should make it easier but it will not happen until good frequent and reliable services are provided

      Could local ho etc contribute. If you take the typical High Street the main users are the elderly. Given better bus services they might travel to the shops more frequently

      Should council be supplying P&R service , If you want people to use buses that’s not the best way to do it

      If you have to have P&R should it not double up as a normal bus service ?

      Should station car parks have EV charging points when you are trying to encourage the use of public transport

      Should they go back to making an annual charge for concessionary bus passes with those revenues ring fenced for better bus services

      I stuck with buses for a long time but year after year the service got worse and less reliable and the fares increase were excessive so finally I had to give up on them

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    2. Not keen on excluding the previous operator from bidding. With falling passenger numbers and rising costs, it is easy to see how a service that used to be commercially viable may not be any more, through no fault of the operator. Yes, definitely consider whether they might be gaming the system, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater by refusing to consider the one operator that knows the route well and may have good a good relationship with passengers.

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  5. I’m sorry to buck the comments here . . . but “society” really needs to decide what it wants from bus services. Is it transport, or is it social inclusion? If transport, then leave the bus companies to provide appropriate transport for those passengers who want to travel. If social inclusion, then accept that “society” will need to pay for it.

    There are too many rural journeys that Roger has travelled on that carry penny numbers of passengers. Outside the conurbations, evening buses either don’t run or run almost empty. Town centres (like most of the towns visited by Roger in his series) are closed after around 6pm . . . if there is nothing to go to, then how can an evening bus carry passengers?

    Any subsidies that still remain should be directed to those services that are around 80% profitable, with a view to making them fully viable. Any services that don’t meet this target should be cut . . . UNLESS “society” deems them necessary, and finds the money to continue them.

    Actually, the Transport Act 1985, which heralded the concept of “commercial” and “supported” bus services did just that . . . and until Gordon Brown, with his “free travel for over 60s” policy, it worked tolerably well.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree, but the confusion (which suits the politicians, as usual) is across the business. No one seems to know whether buses serve the operators or the passengers. They need to do both. It isn’t particularly hard. Successful retailers manage it, and that is basically what a bus operator is. But if tendered services are to work, the Councils who procure them need some commercial nonce too.

      Putting anything in a straightjacket, and then combining it with a laissez-faire attitude is never going to work. For anything.

      But why does public transport find it so hard? It’s a mess.

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    2. If bus companies provide poor and unreliable services and don’t meet the customers needs which is what they do they don’t get many customers and don’t even retain the few they have left

      Even in large cities now the services are poor

      Liked by 1 person

  6. And to answer Bob’s point about Park and Ride . . . where is congestion? where is poor air quality? It’s in the towns!
    So . . . accept that the car will always win in rural areas, but “encourage” car drivers to use P&R (higher car park charges and so on) and we solve the twin problems noted above.
    People will use P&R if the service is frequent enough and simple to use, and if charges are lower than town car parks.

    It’s logical really . . . it just needs foresight. I’ll put me tin hat on now . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well the simple fact is the majority of buses being axed are not in rural areas but Urban areas. The lastest round of cuts announced are from Stagecoach West

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      1. A key difference is that when buses in urban areas are cut, it is usually a reduction leaving a usable but less convenient service, whereas in rural areas it may be a total withdrawal or a reduction to an unusable service, leaving potential passengers completely stranded.

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      2. Whilst the scheduling matters are, of course, important; and it’s perhaps understandable in the chaos which is Britain’s road network, nobody has yet addressed or explained, let alone justified, the buses failure to pick up waiting passengers for no discernable reason. Regulation is an excuse, not a reason. You’re not going to have passengers if you don’t pick them up to start with. The passengers aren’t the problem. They’re waiting for the bus, which ignores them. The shop is closed.

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  7. Interesting that there were any passengers from Tonbridge on the 299: you can get from Tonbridge station to Tenterden in about an hour, every half-hour, on the train plus Arriva 12 bus (one of the few bits of good co-ordination, at Headcorn station).

    Not much joined-up thinking at KCC, if these cuts merely increase the quotes for school travel. Will it force a re-think by the smaller bus companies? – perhaps it might be worthwhile (if they can face the hassle of getting payment for bus-pass fares) to run these services commercially. Roger has shown that these services have good cores of users, could be advertised – there seems to be a tabu on publicity for ‘social’ bus services.

    Maybe the big companies might just review their child-like insistence on evaluating routes financially one-by-one instead of as a network; doing this latter could be a way of putting a monetary value on ‘social inclusion’.

    Maybe the willingness by county councils to discard ‘social’ routes will finally call out the big companies, who were so quick to make big cuts to their services when privatisation came in. In Kent, for example, Arriva (or M&D as I think it was then) cut most evening services, knowing that they would still sell return tickets, but not have to provide the inconvenient services to get passengers home. The ‘social’ buses provided by KCC were in reality just a subsidy to the big commercial company.

    The big win would be if there were generally more and better co-ordination between buses and rail, so that services like these also linked passengers with the big transport network; bus operators would have to think about the connection-factor in their timetables; train operators would have to consider handing over a proper share of the increased revenue to bus operators. What a shame some government has not cancelled the rule that train companies mustn’t operate buses……

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  8. Well Rail Compnies do run buses or you could put it the other way around Bus companies operate rail services.
    Possibly the only one at present is Arriva bu National Exprees di operate rail in the past

    General the bus operations and rail re operated by seperate companies but come under the same group company

    The BUs Back Better required bus/train hubs whether it happens who knows

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  9. Most modern hospitals always require long run arounds to get in because basically they are car parks with a hospital in the middle.If you ever sit near the front desk of the hospital the questions to the staff aren’t about where wards are are but about car parking.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Let’s face it. There are rare exceptions, not the rule, but the bus has lost any social or community function. They just cart human cargo around, as long as it has the right paperwork, and if they feel like it on the day. For social interaction, we’re better off with the Royal Mail, or Tesco/Sainsburys/ /Waitrose/the Co-op etc.

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    1. The latest Rural Bus cuts are in the very Rural area of Reading

      The remporary TfL fund run out almost 2 weeks ago and as far as I know RfL have not accepted the goverenments funding offer. The report I saw said TfL are using their reserves

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  11. So here this post covers cuts in Kent. Not long ago I read about ambitious plans for buses in Cornwall funded by a devolution deal. All very exciting and this is what’s needed all across this country. So I was surprised to read that there are bus cuts imminent in Cornwall already, who would’ve thought! Oh well considering the Bank of America has downgraded the UK to “emerging market economy” status it must be our new normal.

    https://www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/people-being-deliberately-isolated-bus-7503627

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    1. AS I endlessly say what we have at present is not working with most buses unfit for purpose. In general the services are so poor they are reduced to pretty much only carrying schoolchildren and concessionary pas holders

      Since Covid many concessionary pass holders have given up on them and they travel for free and Councils are looking at more cost effective ways of transporting children to school

      If you are working or want to travel to leisure facilities or a rail station in most places you can forget the bus because they don’t even provide a service

      As the bus companies cut services their fixed cost increase and they close garages and try to operate bus very remove from many areas they serve, Meaning more dead running and even more unreliable and infrequent services

      At present we are getting the continual decline of bus services with more and more people giving up on them

      Surveys of non bus users highlight no bus service is available as the main reason for not using the bus. If you ignore about 85% of your potential market you are in real trouble

      Growing passenger numbers is no on the agenda of most bus companies

      Increasing costs and fewer passengers means they will keep axing what is left of bus services

      The government has stumped up another £130M to try to keep bus services in England going for another 6 months
      That’s only about £5M a week

      I think we will see a lot more cuts between now and the end of the year with some more bus companies going out of business

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    1. Essex CC have form. They’ve been quite creative down the years, but atrocious on the consistency stakes, and as for letting the public know, give up. Rather like “showing off”. Presumably it ticks off some Government check list. Very British, we might think.

      Throwing money at a beggar makes us feel (and look) good, but it is rarely productive. My experience is that there are a lot of good and conscientious people in the bus industry, but sadly so much of their effort is wasted. Why? It seems we are just incapable of using resources effectively. Too many vested interests, I suppose. Maybe some things never change. We give up.

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    1. A big problem is lack of any effective regulation of bus companies and no redress for customers when they are frequently let down by bus companies
      Bus companies can and do get away with almost anyrhing

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  12. Are we now seeing the final demise of bus services in many parts of England?

    There is no sign of any improvements and the axing of services continues together with the extreme unreliability of what is left

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    1. No. They’re just struggling, again. And the response is the same, cuts. What other option is there? Hacking, with a blunt instrument. Look back at the 1970s, the last time the economy tanked anything like this.

      Beggars can’t be choosers. As always, we’ll tinker and only look at options if and when we have no choice. Otherwise we’ll just ride our luck, until we crash. How badly, is anyone’s guess.

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      1. Didn’t Brighton & Hove, of Roger fame, emerge out of the bus mess of the 1970s? Perhaps a few lucky areas might be able to replicate the experience this time too? It’s a ramshackle way to run a national transport network, but maybe the best we’re gonna get!

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      2. A bit of checking identifies bus companies are cheating over the level of cancellations they claim

        They should be reporting cancellations against the service level registered with the traffic commissioners but many are not counting cancelation where they have published them on their web site or twitter

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  13. ‘Twas always so, wasn’t it? What’s “planned”?

    To me though, there is nothing more demoralising than watching your near-empty in-service bus go sailing past when you’re at the bus stop with your hand stuck out even with other passengers, and the driver looks straight at you and/or several buses fail to turn up in succession. Especially when you’re trying to get to work or an appointment.

    It happens too frequently.

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    1. I was hoping BSIP would improve things but sadly not
      The bus companies have another 6 months of funding at a reduced level. Many of the Covid cuts have not been full restored and passenger number have not recovered., Give the dreadful number of last minute cancellation and the low frequency of service that comes as no surprise. Cost are rising as well so the outlook is not good
      The Schools go back next week so I would guess we can look forward to even more last minute cancellation

      It is time we had proper regulation of bus service. The Traffic Commissioner’s are just a joke

      Buses cancelled due to staff shortage are under the control of the bus company. They should be penalized for not running the service
      The same goes for breakdowns that under the control of the bus company

      In many cases delays and cancelations of buses due to road works are under the control of the bus company if they have had advanced notice of therm. They should adjust the timetable to factor in the roadworks rather then just use them as an excuse

      A good example is First Bus in Norfolk. There have been lots of cancellation due to long term road works so the bright sparks in the management came up with reducing the service level. The result even more cuts and delays as the remaining buses are fuller and the rod works ae still there. They made no attempt to introduce a temporary timetable to allow for the road works

      You can add in real time departures board that do not work as well

      I think it is watch this space. I am expecting a lot more cuts to service between now and the end of the year

      Maybe eventually we may get good news but I don’t hold out much hope on that front

      Like

      1. We clearly live in a target-based culture, where they matter to the exclusion of almost everything else. Like the old rule-book mentality. Combined with the loss of experienced traffic staff, I fear modern OpCos increasingly just don’t have the capacity.

        If management are just coping, and adopt a what-we-can-get-away-with approach, maybe because it’s the only way they can, then that will inevitably seep down to the staff. The rest is history. We’ve been here before.

        I’m slightly more optimistic about Stagecoach and Go-Ahead, if the foreign infrastructure funds offer the prospect of stable long term investment. For First and Arriva, I see at present no end to the struggles, though so far to me Arriva do seem to have shown a more strategic approach, though sometimes misplaced, apparently.

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