My personalised bus route number has ended

Sunday 28th August 2022

Back in 2014 – a Solo in Uppingham on route RF1

Some people like to drive cars sporting a personalised registration plate depicting their initials.

It’s not so easy to do this when you’re a ‘bus and train user’ but routes numbered RF1 and RF2 are pretty close to the concept for me personally so it was with a heavy heart I recently took one last ride on route RF1 a couple of weeks ago before it ceased to use that number after the end of service yesterday.

The two routes, RF1 and RF2, have been operated by Centrebus for some years on behalf of Rutland Council. RF stands for Rutland Flyer and route RF1 has run hourly between Melton Mowbray, Oakham, Uppingham and Corby with RF2 running six journeys a day (four on Saturdays) between Melton Mowbray and Oakham via some of Rutland’s delightful villages.

But it’s all change from this weekend when new tenders have been awarded and route numbers are changing to a new R series.

Route RF1 becomes plain boring R1 and will be operated by Stamford based Bland’s while route RF2 is renumbered R2 and will continue to be operated by Centrebus.

Other renumberings this weekend include Vectare route 47 (Peterborough to Melton Mowbray) becoming R4 and Bland’s route 12 (Uppingham to Stanford) changing to R5 with a new R9 formerly Centrebus route 9 which at one time went all the way from Peterborough to Nottingham (changing its number to 19 midway); now it’ll be operated by a Rutland County Council minibus between Stamford and Oakham, such is the way of the diminishing world of tendered operations.

At one time routes 9/19 ran from Peterborough to Nottingham via Oakham, seen here at the bus station

My recent journey on route RF1 left Corby at 11:54. Luckily a Centrebus liveried bus was on one of the departure stands which lie either side of George Street adjacent to the town’s main retail offer as this saved me from wandering up and down the road seeking out which bus stop it departed from.

We pulled away dead on time with just myself on board which remained the case right through until we reached the village of Manton 38 minutes later on the south western edge of the delightful Rutland Water, where one man boarded.

Before that we’d paused for about ten minutes in Uppingham – normally it’s just five minutes stand time there, but due to a road closure we’d been unable to serve the village of Lyddington so had made up time.

The Manton man alighted in nearby Oakham – eight minutes further along the route – where there’s another five minutes stand time pause at the town’s bus station before continuing on to Melton Mowbray. Three passengers came on board at Oakham, one travelling a short distance home in Oakham itself, and the other two alighted near the village of Ashwell. We picked up one final passenger in the village of Whissendine who travelled the 15 minutes to Melton Mowbray.

Arriving in Melton Mowbray

Centrebus have been deploying three buses on the route to maintain the hourly timetable and it doesn’t take long to realise the numbers travelling are just not sufficient to justify this.

It’s not surprising to see when Bland’s start the new timetable after tomorrow’s bank holiday on Tuesday it will be slimmed down from an hourly frequency to six journeys a day including a three hour gap between journeys at 09:15 and 12:15 from Melton Mowbray and 10:54 and 13:54 from Corby which will do nothing to make the service attractive to new users.

Rutland is a unique Unitary council with some smashing scenery…..

…. not least the amazing Rutland Water (shown in the maps above).

It holds the accolade of being Britain’s smallest local authority wedged in between Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and West Northamptonshire with Oakham (population circa 12,000) its administrative centre.

Back in 2013 the Council won a grant from the DfT to fund a circular tourist bus route serving Rutland Water.

Running four journeys on a daily basis it was a great route to take a ride on which I managed to do before it was withdrawn two years later in 2015 when the funding ran out and it had failed to attract enough passengers to become commercial.

As you can see a special livery featuring Shore Link branding was applied to the bus used on the service which had facilities to take bicycles at a fare of £2. I mention this in the context of Bus Service Improvement Plans and just to show there’s nothing new when it comes to funding “new and innovative” but sadly, little used, bus routes.

However, back to the main subject of this blog and it’s cheerio to route RF1. It was good to know you.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: TThSSu

12 thoughts on “My personalised bus route number has ended

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  1. I used the RF1 in the summer to get to Rutland Water and it was yet another example of the industry’s lack of retail skills which get mentioned here so often:
    – no connections with the trains at either end
    – no promotion for the fact it stops a few minutes walk away from one of visitor centres at Rutland Water (even to the extent that no-one could be bothered to change the name of the nearest stop on the online database)
    – the situation at Manton where the bus runs right through the village to use the roundabout on Lyndon Road to turn, but most of the section has no stops. My driver dropped me off at the end so I could talk to the other visitor centre, but said he couldn’t be sure his colleagues would pick me up there so I had better walk into the village for the return bus.

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    1. Imagine visitors trying to plan a day out exploring the lakeside with only four journeys to chase from. That plus the lack of rail connections pretty much sealed its fate. Suh a shame as innovative features like bike transport is what we need. Would’ve been an ideal route for modified single decker with the open air rear sections as introduced by First with their Sunseekers.

      We really need proper Swiss style integration with rail. These services should be included in PlusBus by default, and on train announcements should reference the connections. Now THAT would be bus back better!

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  2. Would it be better to split the route. I cannot imagine many people anting to travel from Melton Mowbray to Corby. Why the 5 minute waits in the timetable ?

    I do not know the area but I would have thought a service to Peterborough would be useful. There is a train service but according to Traveline you have a 24 minute walk when you get to Peterborough which no one would do

    Why does the Oakham Town service have the 5 minute waits Why does it not serve the rail station

    Taking an hour to run around what appears to be a small town seems excessive. Could i not be routed better

    The lower the frequency the fewer passengers a service will attract

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    1. Bob In answer to your questions:
      By running the RF1 through you save a bus, between Corby & Oakham is 2 buses with a long layover & between Melton & Oakham is 2 buses with a long layover, by running through it only required 3. Also whilst the number wanting to go from Melton to Corby isn’t high, the flow going from Oakham to Corby or Uppingham to Melton is key.

      The 5 minute waits are recovery time, the service is actually quite tightly timed (which is why it doesn’t serve Corby Station, there simply isn’t time in the cycle to get out there) as pausing in the intermediate villages is less than ideal so it is done at the core nodal points at the two major town in Rutland. Also there are historical bus connections, I don’t think they had survived well in Oakham but in Uppingham all the bus services (RF1, 747 & 12) arrived at the same mins past the hour and leave similarly (though as the 747 & 12 are 2-hourly not necessarily the same hour), the new irregular Blands timetable of course undoes all this.

      There used to be a direct bus from Oakham to Peterborough, it wasn’t viable, the problem is the train is much faster and the same frequency so that draws most of the fare payers. Unless Traveline thinks the Centre of Peterborough is at the opposite end of the Shopping area to the Station then there is no way it takes 24-mins to walk it. I can get to the Bus Station under the Shopping Centre in barely 5-mins from the alighting the train (particularly now they have improved the walking route and made crossing the main road more convenient) though the shopping area is quite long and thin so it takes a bit of time to walk from one end to the other (but it doesn’t take 20-mins).

      The Oakham Town Service is effectively 3 loops round different estates in the town so it needs some recovery in the cycle to ensure it keeps to time, getting 3 loops properly penetrating the estates (there are some big areas to the south-west & north-east) is actually fairly impressive. I think 2 of the 3 loops actually pass the station but it is too close to the main centre stops to be listed seperately (it is 5-mins walk, 1 min on the bus and the next stop to the west though they don’t stop outside the main building but on the other side, the location of the level crossing and its proximity to a road junction means one of the stops for one of the loops is further away that is ideal). You could do it in less time if you combined the two northern loops into one and didn’t return to the town centre between but that would be less attractive to the customers and save enough time to make a difference to what could be offered.

      The problem for Rutland is none of the towns in it are that large so there aren’t huge volumes coming out and the settlements en-route are small villages so there is little intermediate traffic to bulk it up and with a good rail service between Oakham and the neighbouring towns (Leicester, Melton, Stamford & Peterborough) the potential market is small. I would say Roger seems to have got an unusually quiet trip when he caught it, it is normally much busier than that it just wasn’t quite covering the cost of 3 buses and RCC didn’t have any more money to keep the hourly frequency. Unfortunately it seems the Blands timetable has been designed around driver shifts rather than providing the best timetable possible (a decision has been made to produce a sub-optimal timetable that means driver swaps are only needed in the afternoon) which means school flows aren’t matched and a big gap in the morning appears.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes I believe it’s Corby – Google maps timed it at 20 minutes when I was visiting. As a result it was actually easier from Manton to go back north and get the train from Oakham to London.

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  3. The R1 timetable seems to have been made deliberately unattractive so it can be withdrawn in a couple of years as so few passengers will use it.

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  4. You could have said the bland R1 run by Blands! Rutland was the smallest English county and the only one with land at the end that was nowhere near the other 3; Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmoreland (the last 2 blandly Cumbia now along with bits of Lancashire and Yorkshire).On the interesting public transport front there’s a ferry on Rutland Water but I think more of a tourist trip than proper public transport.Kielder Water has a ferry too .

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  5. This comment from Rutland CC:

    “We’re disappointed that we’ve been unable to maintain the current level of service for passengers who use the RF1 and Service 9 buses. Unfortunately, we had to choose between a reduced timetable for these services or discontinue them altogether. Increased fuel prices and driver shortages mean it’s now more challenging than ever to operate a rural bus service. We’ve also missed out on around £3million of government grant funding to implement a new Bus Service Improvement Plan, which would have boosted public transport in Rutland. Despite this, we are determined to make improvements where we can and will be carrying out a full review of all local bus services in the autumn, with a view to updating our entire network in 2023.”

    Says it all, really . . . if the new timetables keep most of the existing passengers, then job done.

    The timetable could be tidied up a bit, for sure, but no additional journeys could be provided . . , it does look like a third bus is used (Melton 1219-1215), but we don’t know what the school movements are, so it’s all a bit guessworkey . . .

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