Stagecoach Cambridgeshire cuts

Thursday 22nd September 2022

First comes surprise news last night TfL’s Transport Commissioner Andy Byford is quitting after just two years in the job. It’s somewhat ironic his mantra since arriving at TfL’s top job in June 2020 has been the need for long term funding and stability for the organisation yet he’s turned out to be the shortest term Transport Commissioner London has had since the new regime began in 2001 (Sir Peter Hendy completed nine years while Bob Kiley and Mike Brown both managed five years).

Andy Byford’s two big achievements, it’s said, are the opening of the Elizabeth Line (yes, well, only three and a half years late) and securing the “long term” funding deal (after 13 temporary/extension deals and this crowning glory lasts for, er, eighteen months). I’ve obviously missed an amendment to the definition of “long term” somewhere along the line.

Now on to todays scheduled post and another topical hot news item ….

Stagecoach caused a bit of a storm on Tuesday by announcing a revised bus network for its operations in Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Bedfordshire commencing from Sunday 30th October.

It’s hailed as “a sustainable network” but the sting in the tale is nine key routes are described in the briefing “withdrawn as unsustainable” as well as a bunch of more minor routes in the St Ives area.

Inevitably this has led to a huge backlash from local politicians, councils and passengers rushing to tell the media about the hardship such withdrawals will undoubtedly cause. Opponents also point to the DfT’s recent updated commitment to continue Bus Recovery Grant (BRG) so a ‘cliff edge’ withdrawal of bus routes yet to fully recover from Covid inspired reductions in passengers can be avoided.

Against that background Stagecoach’s actions may look premature but as usual the DfT have not been very forthcoming about the detail of the extended BRG and let’s face it without certainty over long term funding a ‘cliff edge’ for some routes is inevitable so why keep putting it off?

Nevertheless Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority are particularly miffed issuing a terse statement on Tuesday…..

You can’t blame Stagecoach for acting commercially – after all it is a commercial business, not a charity or local authority. If the routes were viable (or to use the new parlance: “sustainable”) I’m sure the company would be only too pleased to carry on running them.

Two of the highest profile services Stagecoach are withdrawing are routes 11/X11 and 12 between Cambridge and Newmarket from where the former continues to Bury St Edmunds and the latter to Ely. Both routes run hourly on Mondays to Saturdays with no Sunday service.

I took a ride on them yesterday to see if all the fuss over their withdrawal is justified. The usual caveats apply in that my journeys are a mere micro experience which may be completely unrepresentative being off peak and in a strange week with an unexpected bank holiday at that.

I travelled late morning from Cambridge to Newmarket on route 11 which takes the slow route deviating to serve all the villages along the way. It takes a lengthy 77 minutes while route 12 follows a more direct route, albeit with less of a market to serve, but does the journey in just 35 minutes.

I’d show you the routes on a map; but obviously neither Stagecoach or the Combined Authority produce one these days.

We took six passengers from Cambridge four of whom alighted within the first 20 minutes at Stow-cum-Quay and Bottisham and picked six more up during the route, five of whom boarded as we took a tortuously circuitous route into Newmarket itself. It took getting on for 20 minutes to cover a myriad of residential roads in Newmarket along streets that I’m sure at one time would have had a dedicated local service. We’d also endured a tour of the village of Burwell which took at least five minutes to complete.

Obviously end-to-end passengers have the quicker route 12 to use but it can’t be very attractive for car owning village residents to face such a long winded route into Newmarket.

Arriving in Newmarket, the bus on route 11 which waits 17 minutes before continuing to Bury St Edmunds – not exactly attractive for through passengers either – misses connecting to a departing route 12 to Ely by just four minutes meaning a 56 minute wait if you want to travel from one of the villages served by the 11 on to Ely. Another rather unattractive proposition.

The bus I took on to Ely after my 56 minutes wait saw four passengers alight in Newmarket (as it arrived from Cambridge) and six travelled through with four boarding.

All the other buses I passed during the journeys and saw in Newmarket while waiting had similar loads.

Unless there’s a dramatic uplift of peak hour passengers – which also sees a few quicker X11 journeys – and/or there are large numbers of school children and students I would conclude Stagecoach are right that these routes are “unsustainable” as defined by being ‘uncommercial’.

The routes clearly are “sustainable” if some funding is made available or a lower cost operator really goes to town on some effective marketing.

Stagecoach have done a good job installing smart bus stop plates throughout the route with a local name identifying the location and I noticed timetable cases had timetable information displayed.

Except bus stops in the Newmarket area were not so smart and timetables were missing – is this something to do with Suffolk County Council policy, I wonder? It’s certainly not helping “sustainability”.

However, Newmarket’s small bus station had poster sized bus stop departure information….

…. but Stagecoach’s bus stop plate was showing an out of date route number (10).

Stagecoach’s approach to branding was also woeful with Gold branded buses dedicated to route 13 being used on both the 11 and 12 …

…. as well as ‘busway’ branded buses ….

…. and buses in an anonymous base Green livery.

Obviously there are no printed timetables to promote the service and the information on line for route 11/X11 is unattractively rudimentary stretching over 12 pages of pdf.

Page 1 of 12 pages
Page 2 of 12 pages

It’s not exactly inspiring.

Bearing in mind the talk of a desire to build a section of railway track north of Newmarket to allow a direct connection via Soham to Ely for trains to run between the two locations I’d have thought some high profile route branding for both the 11/X11 and 12 would be really effective. Trains currently run hourly between Cambridge and Newmarket taking 21 minutes but bus stations are located much more centrally in both locations compared to railway stations, particularly the former, so there really should be a good market here for an enterprising bus company in tune with local markets.

Route 915 will also be withdrawn by Stagecoach

Other routes on Stagecoach’s hit list for next month include the six or so journey a day 39 Ely to March; hourly 18 and hourly 915 Cambridge to Great Cambourne and Royston (respectively); half hourly 25 shuttling between Trumpington and Addenbrooke’s; with three routes in Peterborough listed including 23/24 to Lynch Wood (which I can’t find a current timetable for) and off peak hourly 29 to Hampton; while over in Bedford hourly routes 72/73 to Biggleswade are also earmarked for withdrawal. I can think of one enterprising locally based bus company which I’m sure will snap that route up.

Although Stagecoach East are showing a link to the list of changes for its “sustainable network” in a ‘pinned tweet’ you need to look carefully to find details on its website. Bizarrely, they’re listed under “Promos and Offers” on the Cambridgeshire part of the website under an icon called “New East Bus Network”.

If this is the start of an inevitable trend by the large Groups like Stagecoach which seem to have lost its mojo for being in tune with locally based markets and branding then it could well herald new opportunities for truly locally based independent operators with closer ties to their local markets.

On the other hand, there have been calls by politicians in Cambridgeshire to bring in franchising and these route withdrawals may just hasten that outcome. I wonder if the new regime at Stagecoach might actually welcome that. Someone else taking the risk on struggling services, while earning the company a steady income from running them under contract.

Stagecoach East still in mourning yesterday

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS

70 thoughts on “Stagecoach Cambridgeshire cuts

Add yours

  1. Stagecoach East are on thier third Managing Director in four years. Non of which have/had any commercial acumen.

    That tells you everything about where they are now.

    Look at the planned timetables. Very busy routes such as the Cambridge Citi 1 don’t have any differential running times. Who on earth greenlighted that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stagecoach Group have gone from recruiting bus operators as senior managers, people who understand both the industry and the areas it serves, to recruiting rent-a-managers who would be equally useless in the retail, financial, industrial or “third” sectors for their three year average length of employment before they move onto the next sector they need in their CV. It’s hardly surprising that they’re struggling.

      Today’s Stagecoach is the FirstGroup of twenty years ago: it’s lost its way and doesn’t yet seem to realise it.

      Like

    2. Whilst Billions of pounds of public money are being spent propping up and expanding bus and train services in and around London, elsewhere we are seeing bus services disappearing and train services reduced. Apart from London, fares are also increasing to the point where many people cannot afford to travel to work.
      Is this what the Government calls levelling up?

      Like

    3. Whilst the commercial decision on the part of Stagecoach East is to a degree understandable, the marketing and promotion of the bus network in Cambridgeshire, by operators, the County Council and latterly the Combined Authority, has been abysmal. Hertfordshire learned the lesson years ago that its Intalink Partnership produced positive returns on all types of promotion, which in turn optimised the commercial network and allowed the local authorities to be more inventive in their application of subsidies to those services that would never be commercial. In Cambridgeshire it seems that everyone stood by and watched the network disintegrate, and we are now paying the price for that. Shame on you all!

      Like

  2. Stagecoach really have “lost their mojo”. Perhaps a couple of years ago they looked at Arriva and thought that was the model to follow.

    Cuts may well be justified, but these tend to be in areas where there is no attention to detail. At their best Stagecoach used to respond to problems by trying to persuade more people to catch the bus.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The problem seems to be that looking around the East, the enterprising local operators in touch with the local market, seem to be doing exactly the same thing as Stagecoach East.

    Like

  4. I suspect that Andy Byford is exhausted after the last two “unusual” years . . . in a recent photo he looked quite unwell. A shame . . . he had the right qualifications for the job.

    We need to remember that one of the Shapps announcements was that bus companies should undertake a review of route networks with a view to cutting out uneconomic operations . . . so that’s what Stagecoach have done. The Bedfordshire cuts aren’t as extreme just now . . . probably because thay’ve previously got rid of the deep rural routes. Stagecoach have tried to keep the network together . . . I would guess that Covid has simply speeded up the eventual outcome, although the lack of publicity certainly won’t have helped.

    I note that the Combined Authority is only responding now that Stagecoach have publicised the changes (with around 5 weeks notice) . . . and have now rushed out a statement saying they will tender the routes to other operators. AFAIK the 10 weeks notice of changes to the LTA now applies again, so they’ve had 5 weeks already to either issue tenders or speak to Stagecoach about the details . . . it seems that they’ve done neither.

    I’ve been against franchising in principle . . . it takes away the entreprenurial opportunity in favour of maintaining the status quo, and bus operators generally have the skills to adjust networks, whereas LTAs generally don’t have such skills any more. HOWEVER . . . maybe it IS time for a change . . . give the LTAs a taste of what it’s like in the “damned if you do; damned if you don’t” world !!

    Like

    1. A lot of money must be being spent by Luton on the Luton Dart airport rail link. It still has not opened and there is still no date or explanation as to what has gone wrong

      In Hertfordshire a number of routes have been cancelled

      Central Connect have picked up a number of them

      Like

    2. To add to the fun Arriva London North are currently planning to go on an indefinite strike

      Looking at the Arriva accounts Arriva PLC made a lost as did Arriva London North Ltd

      Like

    3. Should bus and rail be properly integrated? In London both are heavily subsidised

      Would it make sense to make the fares the same. Would that increase passenger numbers and allow for a more efficient and cost effective bus network as well as making public transport more attractive
      At present if you use bus and rail you effectively pay twice which is not an attractive option

      Like

    4. Stagecoach though should have consulted with the affected LTA’s before cancelling the routes. The onus is on the bus companies to consult before they act.

      Like

  5. In theory Stagecoach should have consulted with the relevant LTA’s it does not sound like they did

    In effect the 11 is two different routes and is shown as such on traveline
    To confuse things further there are variants of the 11 but they all use the route 11 number

    The obvious thing would be to properly split the route 11 so that the Bury St Edmunds to Newmarket section becomes a totally separate route. It might be something Stephenson’s might be interested in. Their garage is in Haverhill but most of the routes they now operate are in the Bury area garage though. A2B might be another company that might be interested

    Stephenson though already operate a service 16 between Newmarket and Bury that route though runs via Mildenhall

    The service 12 already has one Journey sponsored by CCC operated by Star Cabs (Note Traveline info erroneously also shows the Big Green Bus company operating a 12. That must be an error as they went bust)

    Looking at the 12 timetable I could not work out how Stagecoach were operating it buses got to Ely as 56 Minutes past the hour but buses left Ely at 51 minutes part the hour

    With the 915 I would think it would be important to maintain the link between Royston and Cambridge. Could be Richmond’s & A2B might be interested

    Like

    1. When I was a careless trainee I used to use the 915 (then 146) frequently, as the only passenger, and at best use was as described in Roger’s blog. That was in 1985. On visits since, patronage hasn’t improved. It’s important to maintain it? What for? Locally in Royston, the Council actually sponsor a competing service. That helps!

      I can think of plenty of Eastern region commercial services which are similar. I won’t mention them, because I don’t want to be the “kiss of death”. But the same question is as I asked myself in 1985: how the heck do they survive, commercially?

      Even the sponsored services are struggling.

      Like

      1. I have used that service and it always used to be quite busy. There was also an express service that operated from Victoria and that was busy as well

        From Royston the obvious main shopping areas is Cambridge

        The current timetable does not seem to be very efficient

        Like

      2. Yeah, there was a couple of years when the Green Line 797/8 was very popular at least between Royston and Cambridge, but as far as I can tell, it never transferred to the 146/27/915 despite trying to link it down the years to the busway and the local shopping mecca; nor to Arriva’s 331 or its Ermine Street successors. Admittedly, all low key and unnoticed. But that’s the same, everywhere.

        Like

    2. Bob wrote “In theory Stagecoach should have consulted with the relevant LTA’s it does not sound like they did”

      Or perhaps they did but the LTAs don’t wish to admit it?
      I tend to be suspicious when a political organisation claims no knowledge of something they were legally required to be advised about. It generally means that they’ve lost it in their systems somewhere (in a filing cabinet in a room with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the tiger”, maybe) or they’d shuffled it into the “too difficult” pile and were hoping nobody would notice.

      Like

      1. In my experiance changes to bus services are treated like classfied information and the public only find out at the very last munute leaving them little chance to object to the changes not that there is any real proccess for passengers to have an input

        Like

  6. While marooned at the roadside earlier this month on a failed route 33 short working (Peterborough to Whittlesey – a forthcoming abandonment) the driver gave us early notice of the restructuring that Stagecoach has now announced. His emphasis was on closure of the March outstation and the apparently forced redeployment to Peterborough of drivers based there (I didn’t know there were any), and also withdrawal of the 904 (Peterborough to St Ives) which in fact survives as far as Huntingdon.

    There’s a strange map in the Stagecoach proposals which shows non-bussed main roads almost as prominently as some of the bus routes, and has a few errors (eg route 36).

    BBC East has shown an interview with the owner of A2B which runs at least one route in Cambridge. He was lamenting his severe shortage of staff. Stagecoach East currently posts daily lists of cancellations on routes run from the Bedford, Cambridge and Fenstanton depots; and notably Fenstanton appears to be about to lose all its non-Busway work except possibly a share of the 904.

    Final comment (for the present): the Bedford to Biggleswade routes to be withdrawn have faster
    end-to-end competition from Grant Palmer.

    Like

  7. The 56 minute wait facing passengers attempting to reach Ely from points on service 11 is a typical example of the way Stagecoach East’s services are “planned”, with no thought to network connectivity. I discovered this on a visit to the area earlier this year, when planning a trip around the Peterborough/Ramsey/Ely/St Ives area was a nightmare due the number of “connections” on low frequency services missed by minutes or too tight to trust. It certainly put me off travelling, but the changes needed to correct it were minor.

    James Davies 98 Dorrington Road LANCASTER LA1 4TD 01524 298680 07581 486361

    >

    Like

  8. These short notice cancellations due to driver shortages have been going on for too long. Perhaps mass service withdrawals are the answer, but I found it particularly frustrating when there was a long list of cancellations on the Stagecoach Twitter page during the Commonwealth Games despite Stagecoach telling the local newspaper that this would not happen.

    The unreliability is driving people away from buses. Obviously it is not just Stagecoach, as I know Trent Barton for example are even worse, but perhaps people need to realise that in the current funding model £2 will not be enough to provide a service.

    Like

    1. Stephenson seem to have gone downhill as well

      Today’s cancellations on their service 16
      How an earth are you going to get people using buses when the services are so bad and the operators dont even seem to care

      Route Departure time From To
      16 09:20 Newmarket Bus Station Bury St Edmunds Bus Station
      16 09:50 Bury St Edmunds Bus Station Newmarket Bus Station
      16 11:10 Newmarket Bus Station Bury St Edmunds Bus Station
      16 11:50 Bury St Edmunds Bus Station Newmarket Bus Station
      16 13:10 Newmarket Bus Station Bury St Edmunds Bus Station
      16 13:50 Bury St Edmunds Bus Station Newmarket Bus Station

      Like

    2. Gareth Cheeseman wrote “These short notice cancellations due to driver shortages have been going on for too long.”

      Realistically, though, what can be done about it? Bus driving is a stressful job which is badly paid, with quite a lot of companies outside the conurbations paying little more than minimum wage, maybe the living wage.

      HGV drivers now get paid better but don’t have to deal with the public, so it’s unsurprising that bus drivers are leaving for the freight industry.
      For a bus driver who has decided they don’t particularly want the hassle of driving any more but who is only being paid minimum wage or the living wage, almost any low end job is now an option, including the sorts of jobs that people wouldn’t think of such as cleaning.

      To attract and retain staff bus companies need to offer better pay and much better terms and conditions than they do today, but whatever the politicians may claim about bus company profits it’s clear that many bus companies are on a slippery slope towards bankruptcy and those that aren’t yet are having to cut off the dead wood to ensure they stay solvent.

      The withdrawals we are seeing now are the thin end of the wedge.

      Like

      1. I totally agree. As an ex bus driver for 30 years who retired just as covid started I am glad to be out of it. It was a job I loved but went downhill very quickly. Twice I have been asked to return but quite frankly I would rather pull my own finger nails out!

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Working in the the industry over the last two years has been utterly dreadfull for local operations. Service reductions on once profitable routes and mass daily cancellations due to drivers leaving the job have driven away about 20% of our passengers compared to 2019. Around 50% of our commercial office staff were made redundant during during covid, meaning that no effective improvements can be made. Genuinely feels as if smaller depots are being run down now.

      Like

  9. Have to echo every single word and point made by Greenline 727, other than to add that the “wrong” livery complaint (by Roger) is actually no longer valid. As far as the “new” Stagecoach are concerned, the “only” liveries are the mis-matched, un-co-ordinated eyesores we now see in increasing numbers. All the former Gold and Busway liveried vehicles are simply awaiting any one of the new horrors.

    As an aside, it may of interest to those of us who still valiantly try to enjoy bus riding and lament lack of maps, to log onto “BusAtlasUK”. One enterprising individual has produced an invaluable set of printable maps (some updated) for many areas which have most certainly helped me.

    Like

  10. Glad you’ve sampled the 11 and 12, Roger. You would have travelled right past my house in Bottisham when using the 11 !

    The Stagecoach management’s lack of commercial acumen here is staggering. They mostly don’t publicise, and when they do they give inconsistent messages (e.g. on liveries). They don’t respond properly or quickly to tweets. They changed what was ’10’ to become ’11’ when the previous ’11’ (since withdrawn apart from the peak-hour journeys now called ‘X11’) took a similar route but which was different in a number of key respects.: how to confuse their customers!!! They aren’t on top of local geography. Stagecoach still sometimes calls my local stop (in public timetables) ‘The White Swan’ but that shut pre-2000 (!) and nobody local calls it that now!

    They insist on splitting though routes that are strictly in excess of the EC Drivers’ Hours rules (but still allowed as through journeys) but don’t code the timetable data properly so that when imported into Journey Planners the systems insert a change of vehicle for the passengers with a ‘transfer allowance’ that causes passengers to transfer onto the next journey (often half an hour later). The new stop timetables are smart-looking but often confusing and unhelpful as they give no intermediate details of routes (which may change from departure to departure) and have misleading place names on the large Header with no qualification (e.g the name in the Header might be served by only a few journeys each day with the vast majority of departures stopping short).

    For DECADES they have had the two last buses from Cambridge to Bottisham (travelling by different routes – now the 11 and the 12) leave at the same time from Drummer Steet Bus Station (19:15). What a missed opportunity to dramatically improve servces at only a marginal cost.

    I know the road network east and north-east of Cambridge is challenging for efficient and attractive bus operation (there is no well-populated direct trunk corridor like on the south-east – Cambridge-Haverhill: route 13, where all the villages are either on or only just off the main direct road). But Stagecoach could do still do a lot better here.

    I suspect that you’re absolutely right about a non-admitted desire for franchising. Bus operation in the Cambridge area is particularly challenging because of congestion and because of the high cost and low availability of labour. And also because of the organsational mess here about local authority structure, responsibilities and Scheme DELIVERY. Whippet (Ascendal Group), which operates one key route in Cambridge and routes on corridors to the west, has publicly spoken out in favour of franchising, I’m completely mystified about how the Greater Cambridge Partnership thinks it can double the provision of bus services in the Cambridge area through road-pricing funding (that was the local newspaper headline two weeks ago !)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Although it rarely trumpets the fact, Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority has made a formal commitment to introduce a franchise system.

    These developments might be seen as forcing the pace.

    Like

  12. I’m wondering whether what I think was the Stagecoach takeover (bolt-on) of Burwell and District provided the precedent for the takeover of Norfolk Green, and will now end in the same way?

    Human history has a way of repeating itself. Or just perhaps, we never learn.

    Like

  13. As far as Hertfordshire is concerned, we were aware of the 915 being withdrawn in August (right at the time all LAs are fine-tuning operations for the start of the school term!). In this instance, we engaged with Stagecoach because we identified that a PVR saving was achievable by not running round the bits of Royston that are already covered by the semi-commercial 16 town service. Going every two hours would save further costs as would reducing the Saturday timetable from the same one that operates during the week.

    The fact that the service is to be withdrawn in its entirety suggests that the decision had already been made or maybe the company thought the gap between revenue and costs was too great?

    It is encouraging that Cambridgeshire Combined Authority are offering-up all these routes to the tender process, but who’s there to operate the services? On the Cambridgeshire/Herts border the independents who run local services have handed back routes of late, citing driver shortages. Whippet are not the force they once were. As we know from Guildford, bus companies can’t rely on drivers transferring to other operators in the numbers required.

    This leads me to believe that Stagecoach know exactly what they’re doing and and that is to win the work back through the tender process. Cynical? perhaps, but one does wonder if the cuts would have been so severe if it looked obvious that a rival operator could easily boost their market share and start running on the city network….

    (views mine and mine only etc).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My thoughts exactly. And, of course, it’s not the first time a Stagecoach manager has expressed some of these thoughts, either.

      Like

  14. In my experience Royston to Cambridge has never been all that busy. No doubt the regular changes of route numbet has not helped, it was 26 before it became 915. However the Cambridge to Newmarket link used to be extreemly busy, even through to Bury could have it’s moments. Not sure why the passengers have deserted this in greater numbers than elsewhere, but I guess the reduction from 2 to 1 fast bus an hour has hardly helped, and the 11 is no longer the fast Cambridge to Bury link that it was, especially with that long wait in Newmsrket. Bedford to Biggleswade is another route that used to be extreemly busy, but again doing away with route numbers and naming the routes after planets probably confused everyone. At least that weird idea never lasted long, buy now they are combining the Bedford to Luton 81 and Luton Airport to Milton Keynes 99 into one route numbered MK1. For many passengers on the 81 end, they have no wish to go to Milton Keynes (nor any desire to have to go via Luton Airport either), so any relevance the MK1 number may have at the MK end is lost elsewhere on the route. Will there be an MK2 ? – perhaps the X5 is earmarked to be renumbered that, as that’s the only other Stagecoach East route there.

    Like

  15. The 915 is an absolute lifeline for many single older people whose only contact with others is on the bus between Royston & Cambridge. Its loss will be felt through the many communities between the two termini. A great shame. Car usage will inevitably increase.

    Like

  16. Stagecoach have now backed off

    It would appear they probably did not follow the Enhance Cooperation process

    Stagecoach East has now called for a “rural connectivity summit to identify new transport solutions across Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire to help protect the future of local communities”.

    The summit will bring together elected councillors and transport officials at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, local authority representatives from the two aforementioned counties, bus operators, transport users and business groups.

    Like

      1. To be fair to Stagecoach although the Enhanced Cooperations state what should happen I doubt any proccess has been drawn up so Stagecoach presumbly just notified ther traffic commsioners and followed the standard existing process

        Like

  17. TfL Latest

    Khan has now said he will come up with £500M of funding to bridge ther current budget shortful. It is not clear where the £500M is coming from but is though a lot will come from a big increase in council tax

    This does not affect the current proposed cuts to bus service which are still to go ahead but subject to the consultation

    Like

  18. Bob . . . thanks for the link, but as you say . . . Stagecoach have followed the existing process correctly; this sounds like an attempt to get the politicians involved, but it’ll be too little, too late.

    Having looked at the Cambridgeshire cuts in more detail . . .
    Routes 31 33 36 37 46 904 look to have been planned on the “what’s the revenue and what’s the service that can be afforded” basis . . . so lots of 90 minute / 120 minute frequencies; they’re hopefully expecting that the revenue loss will be minimal, with most passengers simply remaining at the reduced frequency. Unlikely, but we’ll see . . .
    The Busway is still every 10 minutes on the core section . . . the peak services are massively reduced from c20 BPH to c8 BPH . . . that might just reflect the reduction in commuting, of course.
    It’s a while since I used the Burwell route, but it wasn’t busy then. I’ve not used the Royston route, but it doesn’t serve many chimneys along the A10.
    I always reckoned the Newmarket – Bury link was the weakest part of those routes; with an hourly train service available, it’s probably not too much of a loss (not many chimneys along the bus route either).

    As I’ve said elsewhere . . . people will drive to a P&R hub instead of relying on an infrequent bus route . . . and maybe that’s the best way forward . . . is that why the Cambridge > Newmarket routes are no longer worth running?
    We are seeing the end of the comprehensive rural route network, and maybe it’s about time. Many of these routes were 2-hourly or worse in the 1960s and 1970s; Rural Bus Grant saved them from withdrawal (or even increased them) in the 2000s . . . but now is now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suspect that we are seeing the start of an evolution which will see us with the European-style networks that so many proponents of public transport claim to want, but will be horrified if they actually get it.

      Why? Because even in the much-vaunted public transport nirvana of Switzerland, what you often get is:
      – trains providing the inter-urban links but running hourly at best on all bar the core routes;
      – local buses (and/or trams) providing urban links, often biased towards the railway stations rather than local community destinations such as shopping centres;
      – interurban buses only where there are no parallel railway lines (these are usually the only non-urban buses running at what we would consider reasonable frequencies such as two-hourly or hourly);
      – village-near-town to town links provided at surprisingly low frequency based on school needs and peak commutes only;
      – other rural links served primarily by some form of pre-booked (but timetabled) fixed-route taxibus at low frequencies and often at higher fares or with “convenience” supplements; and
      – local dial-a-ride operations to fill the gaps if funding can be provided by someone, but at even higher fares.

      And, just for the icing on the cake, in much of mainland Europe that’s the Monday to Friday provision. Saturdays and Sundays can see 50% of the M-F provision, 50% service with everything being scheduled taxibus requiring pre-booking, or even no weekend service at all (in parts of Germany they shout about “providing quality public transport” with a two-hourly Monday to Friday only inter-urban service and nothing at weekends).

      Oh, and before anyone says “but you can use your bus ticket on the train”, there isn’t always integrated ticketing either.

      There’s a reason there are so many cars on the roads in Switzerland and Germany, and it’s partly because the public transport offerings simply don’t cut the mustard.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Swiss taktfahrplan is a 1960s idea, implemented in the 1970s, which has barely been altered to take account of social changes since; although an excellent idea at the time and providing a solid base, it has had the result of preserving the entire Swiss network in aspic.
        Yet, for some reason, any criticism of the Swiss system – even by Swiss transport professionals, who find attempting to improve it frustrating – always gets howled down.

        The Swiss system immediately outside Zürich may carry twice as many people as that of South Oxon’s amazingly attractive public transport provision, but that’s not really anything much to brag about. They’re both pretty poor.

        The success of public transport is measured by the number of cars on the roads, and specifically by the increase in the number of cars year on year. Switzerland’s public transport might satisfy planning nerds and timetable fanbois, but it clearly doesn’t satisfy the numbers of Swiss who are driving instead.

        Like

  19. Come off it… we all know it’s less to do with the needs of the passengers than keeping the competition in its place. Unless of course there’s no need or point trying.

    Like

  20. Might your comments about Mr Byford’s achievements be a little on the harsh side?

    When he was appointed to be TfL Commissioner, the Crossrail project was already over-budget and repeatedly delayed. There was still no opening date in sight, and a real risk of further delays and cost over-runs. The project has been brought under control, in summer 2020 the opening date was set as the first half of 2022, the Elizabeth line has duly opened with no further slippage.

    As for TfL’s funding, I for one am very glad not to have been in the TfL Commissioner’s shoes over the last two and a half years. Repeated and protracted negotiations with a government seemingly more interested in playing politics, taking things to a cliff edge where London’s transport authority was within hours of running out of money, applying onerous conditions while only offering “stop-go” deals lasting only a few months (if that), must have been utterly exhausting. At last, there is a funding deal which covers for a year and more, up to the point at which TfL expects to be financially self-sufficient once more, providing a degree of longer-term certainty which had been missing since early 2020.

    Like

  21. I just so happen to try the 11 from Cambridge to Bury a few months ago. Passenger numbers were very low to Newmarket and I was impressed by the level of service some of the small villages like Lode and Swaffham were getting.

    The long break at Newmarket I found odd for a through bus route and I was confused from studying the timetable before hand, so I questioned the driver before getting on. If I couldn’t work it out as a hobby bus rider, how is a normal passenger supposed to understand it. Admittedly, it did give me a fresh air & toilet break on the long bus journey, so wasn’t a bad thing.

    Contrary to other comments here, I found the stretch from Newmarket to Bury to be healthy with passenger numbers. But if the service isn’t making profit, it’s probably not viable given it’s so far out from Stagecoach’s operating area.

    I’m not too surprised Stagecoach are pulling out of these small villages in Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk. But there’s hardly going to be any buses left in the area if these routes aren’t replaced. The 16 ran by Stevensons will be the only regular bus route linking market towns in the region together.

    Like

    1. Lode is only served by every other service 11 (on the other hour the bus uses the time to run via the village of Reach between Swaffham Prior and Burwell) – though of course one wouldn’t know that from the Stagecoach corporate-style at-stop timetables which don’t show such information !

      Like

    2. Clearly this route needs to be split. It would then be able to be operated a lot more efficiently

      It would mean a new operator for the Newmarket to Bury section. Probably as well should be able to buy a through ticket. Probably not many passengers would travel from Cambridge to Bury but every passenger counts. The LTA(s) should be able to make it a requirement of the service

      Like

  22. This will be replicated all over the country, my only surprise is that it’s taken them so long to act.

    Most operators are short of drivers, and the situation isn’t really improving. Despite the service reductions in London ,Stagecoach are having to bribe provincial drivers to work there as the non-operation penalties are so high. Until operators get back to running 100% of their advertised mileage all they are doing is continuing to damage their future viability.

    You mention other enterprising operators might like to have a go.
    But both of those you mention have daily cuts through driver shortages. Others might try but they need to find drivers, and even if the tenders were let as minimum cost they are still subject to fuel and other consumables inflation. Small operators don’t have fuel hedges that the big operators have, which are currently saving them many millions.

    The Dft havnt the slightest idea what’s going on and the £2 fare is pure politics from a failed and now ex Transport Minister. He should be surcharged with the cost. Don’t think he didn’t know exactly what he was doing, spending our money to bind the new leader into doing something once announced it would be difficult
    to cancel.

    There is no simple way out of this downward spiral until 20% of the network disappears, and I do mean disappears and not replaced on tender. Until what’s left is basically reliable everyone is wasting their time.

    Like

      1. … and chase subsidy, wherever. Maybe it’s what happens when you get upwardly-mobile accountants running the business, not local busmen.

        Like

  23. At the moment if you use the bus on a regular basis you take part in the daily lottery of whether your bus will turn up or not. If it is not your day and your lottery ticket does not come up, you are left stranded for up to an hour. If you needed to make a change of bus you could have lost your connection as well

    Passengers are simply not going to tolerate that for any length of time so it is no surprise that passenger numbers are falling off a cliff. Add into the equation that your service could be axed at any time with almost no notice then there is little confidence in bus services

    It looks as if the decline in bus services is accelerating. We are probably only seeing the start of the decline in services at present. Oher then the large towns and a few interurban services there will not be much left

    In the East GoAhead must be vulnerable to large cuts. They have never made a profit. Ipswich bus are probably not doing much better and the same would apply to First Bus who are still busy divesting themselves of bits of the business. The latest being a chunk of their Scottish operations being sold off

    The Enhanced partnerships seem to be doing nothing. Even the simple stuff has not been tackled such as getting rid of duplicate route number in an area. No progress neither in ensuring bus stops and bus shelters are maintained and presentable. Most give an impression of they have given up and are happy for them to fall into disrepair

    The buses really need to be operated as a Network to run them efficiently and cost effectively, but the Enhanced Partnership will do nothing to achieve that. At the moment we have the LTA’s just firefighting with them running around like headless chickens trying to retender a route at the last minute and if it i retendered it ends up with a totally inadequate service

    What we have at present is not working and will not work

    Strangely the councils and government are happy to invest in rail and cycling and cars but will not spend a penny on buses

    Without real investment things will not improve. At present the bus companies are even struggling to get concessionary pass holders to use their services. Thats a strong indication of how bad things are when you cannot get people to use the services for free

    We have the £2 fare next month I am not expecting that to achieve much as the bus services are not there for people to use. The services are simply too limited. I would expect it may get a tiny increase in passenger numbers for the duration of the scheme but that’s all

    Like

  24. “There is no simple way out of this downward spiral until 20% of the network disappears, and I do mean disappears and not replaced on tender. Until what’s left is basically reliable everyone is wasting their time”.

    Spot on !! As clear and succinct a solution as I’ve seen anywhere. If times improve, then maybe services can be improved as well . . . but for now it should provide a sound base to continue.

    Like

    1. So your solution to increasing social mobility, cutting carbon emissions in urban areas and improving access to jobs is what exactly? Reduce the bus network by 20%?

      The bus industry does not operate in a bubble.

      Like

      1. Dan Tancock wrote “So your solution to increasing social mobility, cutting carbon emissions in urban areas and improving access to jobs is what exactly?”

        It’s not the bus industry’s problem, though, is it? We as a society decided almost 40 years ago to turn bus operation from a public service that was state- or locally-controlled into a purely commercial business set-up. The only obligation a commercial bus company has is to make a profit for its shareholders.

        If we as a society want buses to be a public service that is part of a fix to the problems that you mention – and personally I wish that public transport was part of such a fix – then it’s up to us as a society to kick our politicians into arranging it – and it’s also up to us to agree to pay the necessary taxes to fund it.
        At the moment society likes to utter lots of fine words about how important everything all is but then vote into power whichever politician promises to cut taxes, so we’re not going to see buses being part of the fix. We’re not actually going to see a fix at all.

        But don’t worry! If Putin presses his red button then bus service funding will be the least of our problems.

        Like

    1. Quote “When Cottenham Road was closed, a few weeks ago, lots of people were left standing at bus stops because there was nothing to indicate that no buses were coming at the bus stops – even the electronic ones were showing bus times when no buses were coming. I don’t know if this is Stagecoach’s responsibility or the council’s but the only way to find the information was on social media, again excluding a lot of people.

      Apologies for that it should automatically shut them down with a message ‘please refer to timetable’

      So Stagecoaches response is it should have shut down and display a message saying refer to the timetable

      First no explanation as to why it did not shut down and second referring to the timetable would be useless

      Why could not the display give useful information such as where to get the bus? Failing that why could they not have put a notice on the affected stops. I guess that means customer service a concept alien to bus companies who seem to like to make life as difficult as possible for their passengers. They then seem to be surprised when they cannot retain their passengers

      Liked by 1 person

  25. So the council whats to charge drivers who already pay road tax to up-keep the roads whilst getting less parking spaces in the city centre with a extra charge however they state public transport will provide whilst the bus service are intact over charging & reducing services ? How does that work ?

    Like

    1. Road Tax as a hypothecated tax was removed in 1937. Drivers currently pay a tax based on vehicle emissions that can be spent on anything the Government wishes, such as the NHS. I expect only a proportion gets spent on roads.

      Like

  26. Dan Tancocks aims are all laudable but currently both unfunded and unplanned. Buses were not mentioned in yesterdays fiscal event, and as many commentators have said what’s needed is a long term plan for the economy, buses included, rather than knee jerk interventions of BRG and the £2 fare. Stagecoach’s comments on those mentioned in the Orchard House meeting should be noted.
    As Dan does not mention how to solve the driver shortage, my suggestion would be that the industry is funded so it can pay all drivers a £3/hr pay rise, to move drivers pay for an essential service upwards in the labour market. Labour is like most products, a supply that can be increased by an increase in price. But I’m not convinced even that increase would solve the problem in some areas

    Like

    1. Buses within an area need to be treated as a Network. There is a lot of cost savings and efficiency gains from that as well as making the service more attractive to passengers and possible passengers

      Having what’s left of town service in the small and medium size towns by a multitude of different operators who frequently change is simply not working

      Having a low cost town ticket that allows you to travel on any service within a town would be a much more attractive option than the current mess

      Like

  27. As usual Roger is spot on about Newmarket. The latest route on the 11 replaces a Newmarket circular service so as a result it winds its way through various housing estates on its way into town rather than just going straight down Exning Road. There is an irritating habit of using Busway vehicles or those pale green blank ones. I wonder if anybody knows they are Stagecoach. For somebody who notices these things it is quite tiresome to be following one through Burwell and reading (on the back of the bus) that it is a direct link to St Ives, Huntingdon and Peterborough

    Like

  28. Last Friday I travelled by train from Cambridge to Newmarket for the races. This service has improved out of all recognition in recent years. It runs hourly seven days a week and the trains are the new three car Stadler trains. The 11.46 outward that I used had increased loadings due to the race traffic but it still seemed quite busy. But I was staggered on my return journey to see the 16.46 from Cambridge arrive at Newmarket full with many standing. At least 20 to 30 people left the train at Newmarket. I caught the 17.18 from Newmarket to Cambridge which was already busy. This train formed the return 17.46 from Cambridge and the platform (5) was full of many passengers waiting to join. I used the footbridge to platform 7 and looked down to see that there was still queues of passengers waiting to board the train. I would imagine that many had to stand. It is good to see that public transport can be successful if the service is reliable and receives investment.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: