30 September 2009

Bus Wars: Citybus strike back

"This has created an opportunity to restore one of Plymstock’s most popular bus routes

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Pilgrims Progress - another must read!
Plymouth Citybus have announced a few changes to their services from 25th October:
The big news is the new Citybus 5/ 5A service which takes Citybus deep into Plymstock
Recent changes within the Plymouth bus market have resulted in reductions in the amount of bus services First Devon and Cornwall operate within Plymstock. This has created an opportunity to restore one of Plymstock’s most popular bus routes which First Devon and Cornwall had operated for many years prior to April 08. Therefore, from 25 October 2009 Plymouth Citybus will be restoring much of what were First Devon and Cornwall’s Services 5 and 6.

As usual I have produced a map of the new route:

View Plymouth Citybus 5 5A in a larger map
Timetables can be downloaded from Citybus HERE (PDF) Or they can be viewed in my archive files HERE (quicker if you have a slow connection
Other changes announced:
Service 25
On the 5 July 2009 Plymouth Citybus increased the frequency of this service to every 20 minutes for most of the day but ongoing parking issues in the Barbican and West Hoe areas have unfortunately had a detrimental effect on the reliability of the service. Therefore from the 25 October 2009 the Service 25 is to be reduced in frequency from every 20 minutes to every 30 minutes Monday to Saturday with the service being extended to operate via Drake Circus and Mayflower Street. There will be no changes to Sunday and Bank Holidays.
Timetables: Download PDF or View archive
Service 26
This service is going from strength to strength and as a result will be increased from 4 to 6 buses per hour operating every 10 minutes between Pemros Road, St Budeaux, Devonport and the City Centre. Services to Saltash will also be increased to operate every 20 minutes Monday to Saturday. In addition evening services will be introduced operating every 30 minutes Monday to Saturday along with a new Sunday daytime service also operating every 30 minutes. The result of this is that Plymouth Citybus will be operating in excess of every 10 minutes Monday to Saturday with 8 buses per hour and every 15 minutes during the day on Sundays and Bank Holidays with 4 buses per hour between St Budeaux Square, Devonport and the City Centre.
Timetables: Download PDF or View archive
Service 43
The frequency this service will be increased from every 10 minutes to every 7/8 minutes during the day with Sunday services increased from every 30 minutes to every 20 minutes. There will be no changes to evening services. Despite the challenges this service faces over the coming months we intend to maintain a The introduction of the enhanced Service 43 will see Plymouth Citybus operating in excess of every 5 minutes between St Budeaux, Wolseley Road and Milehouse to the City Centre from Monday to Saturday, and in excess of every 20 minutes on Sundays all supported by full evening services. We will also maintain our commitment to the City Centre West End and continue to operate to the City Centre via Western Approach for as long as public transport users continue to favour this approach to the City Centre.
Timetables: Download PDF or View archive
Service 34
Due to continued problems with on street parking around the Co-op, development works within Mutton Cove, the rapidly changing Plymouth Bus market and the reality that the vast majority of public transport users within Mutton Cove make their way to Cumberland Gardens to catch more direct higher frequency alternatives the Service 34 is to be withdrawn from Mutton Cove. The service will operate to the Torpoint Ferry Terminal instead providing direct services between the Torpoint Ferry Terminal and Derriford Hospital as well as more choices for travel to the City Centre from the Ferry Plymouth Citybus is investing considerably into new high frequency easy to understand services which are to be introduced across the city over the coming months with the above changes to services representing the start of this process. The increased development of these high frequency services coupled with the additional increased competition has meant that low frequency marginal services are becoming increasingly unsustainable.
Timetables: Download PDF or View archive
Service 52
Due to the changing bus market the Service 52 is one of the marginal services that have now become unsustainable and as a result this service is to be withdrawn. For alternative journey options please use Services 21 or 51 to Marsh Mills, then change to Service 50 for Derriford Hospital.

(Of course you could also just use Target Travels 52A - but don't tell Citybus I told you that!)

29 September 2009

Citybus Incoming

"This war will certainly look a lot smarter than the last one,”

PlymTransit on Twitter
Overtaken by events?

On the road
(fits in with my post!)
Callington: The End
Torpoint Changes
(interesting post!)
Plymouth Citybus 413 PL51LGJ ©B George
The fleet of Volvo double deckers continue to be readied for service with Plymouth Citybus. A couple of them are seen here for publicity photos at Home Park to help promote the football specials.
Plymouth Citybus 413 PL51LGJ ©B George
The refurbishment brings these buses up to a high standard to match the rest of the fleet. I cant wait to have a ride on them. They were originally due for school services mainly, but that was before the current bus war was declared. I would not be surprised if we see more targeted use of these buses in service either on the routes that First are competing with, or maybe even on services against First. Understandably no one is saying yet!

I will also pick up on a comment that Nick Rice has left on yesterdays post:

On one hand, I'm pleased FDC is bringing (quite) new buses to Plymouth. On the other hand, these are the buses that are going to be used to give Citybus the squeeze..

I have to agree with Nick on this one. When First declared they were going to start competitive services against Citybus I, along with many others, recalled the horrors that occurred twenty-odd years ago in the last bus wars. Lots of second-hand buses running in Plymouth. Great for us enthusiasts but the buses were poor and the benefits short lived as it took a long time for both companies to recover once the hostilities came to an end. It is clear that this time around the competition is very different. First are certainly going about it in a very different way, at least with the vehicles they are using. A fleet of Wright Eclipse Urban single deckers all in Ugobus livery will get a lot of attention. It is a welcome boost for the Plymouth fleet. Citybus are clearly focusing on quality of their service to fight back. The recent double deckers are all being prepared fully before going out on the road and not just being pushed out into service quickly, even though being red they could probably get away with it!
As to the long term effects of the competition I must admit to still being worried. Only one of the competing services seems to provide anything different to what is already provided. As some routes get extra services it cant be long before other areas start to loose out. I am lucky I live in an area which sees extra buses. I will almost certainly use the 15 service from time to time as it will provide me with extra options to town, especially on Sundays. I know drivers on both sides, many of whom worry about what happens next, after things start to return to normal as they almost certainly will have to at some time in the future regardless of who owns Citybus.
It is good to see both sides trying to avoid the worst excesses of competition that we witnessed in the 1980's. This war will certainly look a lot smarter than the last one, which is progress. It is only when the war is over that we will really be able to judge the actions of all involved.

28 September 2009

Incoming Ugo Buses

"B7RLEs are being released by various operating companies

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Sharksmith Flickr

Carrot and Sticks
Our Winners are…
Highton Ridley
Galley and Google
Leon Daniels
RTWs return

The influx for First Devon and Cornwall's new Ugobus duties continues with the arrival last week of another batch of Volvo B7RLE Wright Eclipse Urban buses from within the First fleet:
69245 YJ07WFM
69246 YJ07WFN
69247 YJ07WFO
69248 YJ07WFP
69249 YJ07WFR
69250 YJ07WFS
YJ07WFN First Bradford Volvo B7RLE 69246 (by Sharksmith)
©Sharksmith: First Bradford Wright Eclipse Urban bodied Volvo B7RLE 69246 pictured in Shipley Market Square.
YJ07WFO First Bradford Volvo B7RLE 69247 (by Sharksmith)
©Sharksmith: On a wet day in Shipley, First Bradford 69247 operates a 677 service to West Bowling via Bradford.
YJ07WFP First Bradford Volvo B7RLE 69248 (by Sharksmith)
©Sharksmith: First Bradford 69248 leaves Norfolk Gardens, Bradford for it's city centre pause on Channing Way. This is a Volvo B7RLE with Wright Eclipse Urban bodywork operating route 613 to Buttershaw.

There are clearly more due as pointed out by Leon Daniels in an email:
B7RLEs are being released by various operating companies including West Yorkshire, Manchester, Bristol and Glasgow to form the allocation at D&C for Ugobus phase 3 in October.
Leon Daniels (Customer Service and Communications Director for First UK Bus) also now has his own Blog which can be found here. Clearly an enthusiast here!

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25 September 2009

Catch up

"I have always liked this Wright design”

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Ingy the Wingy Flickr

Catching up with a few odds and ends from the last week or so:
For a month or so now I have been monitoring the VOSA web site for any bus service registrations made for the local area. I have been adding these onto my Plymothian Transit Calendar along with other events and items I feel are of interest. The following have all be posted on VOSA over the past couple of weeks:
11 September 2009
PH0005527/1 - JOHN MERVYN WILLIAMS T/A RADMORES COACHES, 4 WOODFORD CRES, PLYMPTON, PLYMOUTH, PL7 4QY Cancellation Accepted by SN: Operating between MOTHERCOMBE Turning Circle and PLYMOUTH Exeter Street given service number 611/609B effective from 21-Sep-2009
15 September 2009
PH0006742/29 - ROBERT JOHN RISK, 4 ARCADIA, ELBURTON, PLYMOUTH, PL9 8EF Variation Accepted by SN: Operating between George Interchange Park & Ride and Derriford Hospital given service number 60/60A effective from 05-Oct-2009. To amend Timetable.
16 September 2009
PH0004983/330 - FIRST DEVON & CORNWALL LTD, THE RIDE, PLYMOUTH, PL9 7JT Variation Accepted: Operating between Plymouth Royal Parade and Goosewell given service number 6 effective from 08-Nov-2009. To amend Timetable.
17 September 2009
PH0006741/75 - WESTERN GREYHOUND LTD, WESTERN HOUSE, ST. AUSTELL ST, SUMMERCOURT, NEWQUAY, TR8 5DR Variation Accepted by SN: Operating between Callington and Plymouth given service number 576 effective from 27-Sep-2009. To amend Timetable.
18 September 2009
PH0004983/278 - FIRST DEVON & CORNWALL LTD, THE RIDE, PLYMOUTH, PL9 7JT Variation Accepted: Operating between THE GEORGE PARK AND RIDE SITE and PLYMOUTH (Royal Parade) given service number PR1 effective from 12-Nov-2009. To amend Timetable.
PH0004983/294 - FIRST DEVON & CORNWALL LTD, THE RIDE, PLYMOUTH, PL9 7JT Variation Accepted: Operating between Coypool Park & Ride Site and Plymouth City Centre given service number PR2 effective from 12-Nov-2009. To amend Timetable.
PH0004983/337 - FIRST DEVON & CORNWALL LTD, THE RIDE, PLYMOUTH, PL9 7JT Variation Accepted: Operating between Plymouth Royal Parade and Mount Batten given service number 2 effective from 12-Nov-2009. To amend Timetable.
PH0004983/395 - FIRST DEVON & CORNWALL LTD, THE RIDE, PLYMOUTH, PL9 7JT Variation Accepted: Operating between City Centre and City Centre given service number 13 effective from 12-Nov-2009. To amend Timetable.
PH0004983/396 - FIRST DEVON & CORNWALL LTD, THE RIDE, PLYMOUTH, PL9 7JT Variation Accepted: Operating between City Centre and City Centre given service number 15 effective from 12-Nov-2009. To amend Timetable.
PH0004983/397 - FIRST DEVON & CORNWALL LTD, THE RIDE, PLYMOUTH, PL9 7JT Variation Accepted: Operating between City Centre and City Centre given service number 12 effective from 12-Nov-2009. To amend Timetable.
21 September 2009
PH0004983/398 - FIRST DEVON & CORNWALL LTD, THE RIDE, PLYMOUTH, PL9 7JT Variation Accepted: Operating between City Centre and City Centre given service number 17 effective from 12-Nov-2009. To amend Timetable.
22 September 2009
PH0006742/31 - ROBERT JOHN RISK, 4 ARCADIA, ELBURTON, PLYMOUTH, PL9 8EF Cancellation Accepted by SN: Operating between Royal Parade, Plymouth and Goosewell given service number 6 effective from 25-Oct-2009.
22 September 2009
PH0004983/186 - FIRST DEVON & CORNWALL LTD, THE RIDE, PLYMOUTH, PL9 7JT Variation Accepted by SN: Operating between PLYMOUTH Bretonside Bus Station and LAUNCESTON Westgate Street given service number 76/76A effective from 27-Sep-2009. To amend Timetable.
24 September 2009
PH0004983/35 - FIRST DEVON & CORNWALL LTD, THE RIDE, PLYMOUTH, PL9 7JT Variation Accepted by SN: Operating between TORPOINT FERRY and PLYMOUTH Bus Station given service number 81/81C effective from 27-Sep-2009. To amend Timetable.

First Incoming

With all the new services due to start in Plymouth FDC need to bring in some extra buses and these are now starting to arrive. Several Volvo B7RLE with Wright bodywork have been noted in service already including 66881 MX05CKP, 66883 MX55HHP, 66884 MX55HHO, 66885 MX05CLF and 66886 MX55LHL. Another batch of 07 registered buses have arrived in Plymouth just today but we await details of these. I have always liked this Wright design which is quite striking and will certainly be noticed on the streets of Plymouth. I must get round to having a go on one! P3173734 (by Ingy The Wingy) ©Ingy the Wingy. First Manchester Limited 66886 MX 55 LHL, a Volvo B7RLE built 2005 with a Wright ‘Eclipse Urban’ B43F body on Dale Street, Milnrow at the junction with Station Road with the 13:30 Middleton Bus Station to Rochdale Bus Station via Oldham, Shaw and Milnrow 58 service. Tuesday 17th March 2009

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24 September 2009

Torpoint Travails

"their bus will be a different colour and travelling in the opposite direction”

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Bus Awards

9 months?

Continuing where yesterdays post left off....
Service 80/81
A revised timetable is being introduced on this service. That is all FDC say on their front page. When you look at the timetables you can see there are quite a lot of changes. This group of services have always been very complicated so its not easy to see the full impact of any changes.
The 81C has certainly been cut back with a reduction at the Derriford end of the route at least. I know the 16:12 from Derriford is no more which is a shame as I do catch that one from time to time. The other thing I notice is that it seems that most Torpoint services have been taken out of Bretonside Bus Station and are just serving Royal Parade. I can see that catching a few people out next week, although I hope that First will have plenty of notices up and staff at hand to direct passengers.
Timetables from next week:
Monday - Friday, Saturday, Sundays.
First 32759 WA54OLN (by didbygraham) 
Service 181
Its not actually mentioned by First (see below!) but the 181 ceases to be as from 27th September. The reason can be found by checking in on Western Greyhound:
Following a recent retendering exercise, we are delighted to announce the commencement of the 581 on 27th September 2009, which replaces Service 181 run by First Devon and Cornwall. Developing the existing route, the 581 will serve Liskeard station for passengers requiring onward travel by train. Our new timetable has also been designed to interwork with First Devon and Cornwall services from Torpoint going into Plymouth city centre and Derriford Hospital, however we cannot guarantee that their times will remain the same or all connections will be made. We look forward to welcoming passengers aboard the new service.
New timetable
It is interesting that the times are totally different with First leaving Torpoint at 0900 1100 and 1300 while WGL will be leaving Torpoint at 1000 1200 and 1400 Lets just hope that the passengers are being made aware that their bus will be a different colour and travelling in the opposite direction if they try using the old timetable next week!

One final change by FDC that does not appear to be highlighted anywhere on their web site, although the new timetable is available online is the 82 which I guess reverts to the winter timetable with just two runs in each direction (Sundays only).


First did indeed have full notices of these changes on their web site - I just clearly missed them! (I thought it was unusual as they are very good these days of announcing changes):

Service 181 Liskeard to Torpoint will no longer be operated by First.

Service 81/81A/81C Derriford Hospital - Plymouth - Torpoint - Cremyll
The timetable for this service has been completely revised. Buses will continue to operate every 15 minutes Monday to Friday between Plymouth and Torpoint. Following requests some journeys will now operate via Union Street to provide quicker journeys to the City Centre. Also following requests more buses will now serve Great Park. Buses to Cremyll continue to operate roughly every hour, and buses to Derriford Hospital will now operate every 2 hours. Customers with FirstDay tickets however can transfer on to Ugobus services 7 and 15 on Royal Parade that provide 8 journeys per hour to Derriford Hospital.
Service 82 Plymouth to Exeter across Dartmoor. The Winter operation of this service has been introduced. Notice

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23 September 2009

The dog takes over this weekend

"Due to objections raised by First Devon and Cornwall…

PlymTransit on Twitter
Futurology (fascinating)
BBC News reports today:
Bus users in Cornwall have been given less than a week to familiarise themselves with timetable changes to bus services across the county. Cornwall Council announced the changes on Monday, six days before they come into effect, with some bus users concerned by the short notice. Steve Nicholson, public transport officer, said: "Some of these changes have to be done near enough at the last moment because of the scale of the thing. Phil Tonks, from Bus Users UK, said: "I don't think a week is really enough notice. I'd certainly hope to see these sort of things given at least three to four weeks in advance, maybe even longer."
I am not really sure why passengers are only being given a week's notice by Cornwall County Council. I don't really understand the Transport Officers comment about the changes being done at the last moment as most of them have been available on the bus company web sites for some time now, and indeed there is a minimum amount of notice for registering any normal timetable changes (although this can be less in certain circumstances).
Most of the routes being changed are in deepest Cornwall with a lot of extra work for Western Greyhound who must be close to being the main operator in Cornwall. From a Plymothian Transit perspective there are a couple of changes of note. Today we start by looking at the Callington - Launceston - Bude corridor and tomorrow we look at the Torpoint route changes.

First 76 Plymouth - Callington - Launceston

A revised timetable will operate on this service. Passengers wishing to travel beyond Launceston can purchase a through ticket which can be used on other operators services travelling beyond Launceston. Unfortunately, we are unable to accept tickets purchased on other operators services for travel south towards Plymouth. Timetable information is available from Traveline on 0871 200 22 33
The new timetables are available here (Monday - Friday) and here (Saturdays)
From Plymouth there are now only 4 runs through to Launceston each day less than half of what there used to be. The First timetable makes no mention of connections to Bude although it does state through fares being available from Plymouth to Bude (although not the other way round!). There is no mention of any Sunday service whatsoever on the First site. First 42438 P438ORL (by didbygraham) The 'other operator' mentioned by First is of course Western Greyhound. They have posted their new timetable for the service here
Western Greyhound 576 Bude - Plymouth via Launceston and Callington
With the timetable change on 27th September 2009, we are delighted to commence running of the 576, a new Western Greyhound service which replaces Service 76 run by First Devon and Cornwall. Due to objections raised by First Devon and Cornwall, however, we are currently unable to implement this service as previously advertised. Daytime journeys from Callington to Plymouth, enabling through travel all the way from Bude to Plymouth, will now operate from the 8th November 2009.
When the full timetable is implemented it will make the Plymouth to Bude run a lot easier.
As it stands it appears that there might be full on competition between Plymouth and Callington unless FDC are withdrawing from the route completely?

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22 September 2009

Topless homecoming

"what promises to be a spectacular family day out”

PlymTransit on Twitter

Plym Valley Railway

Malta 2009

Cremyll accident

Tom Pearce
WJY758 collection
Sunday saw the return of another Plymouth Atlantean to Milehouse. Former 458 WJY758 is now part of the growing Plymouth City Transport Preservation Group collection. Thanks to Ralph Delbridge and Tom Pearce for the photos...
ex Plymouth Citybus 458 WJY758 (by didbygraham)©Tom Pearce
ex Plymouth Citybus 458 WJY758 (by didbygraham)©Tom Pearce
Finally safely back at Milehouse...
ex Plymouth Citybus 458 WJY758 (by didbygraham) ©Ralph Delbridge

To keep up to date with the PCTPG please visit their web site and consider joining the group to help support their work. Only £1 a month!
You can of course see and ride some of their small fleet this weekend. See this post...

21 September 2009

Kingsbridge or Bust

"It was going to be a great day out…”

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The Kingsbridge Vintage Bus Running Day was probably the event that I was looking forward to the most I arranged to take my son Zak and a good day was planned. We arrived at Bretonside in plenty of time, only second in the queue so Zak could get a front seat. The sun was shining. It was going to be a great day out. Things went rapidly down hill from there!

I had already pointed out a Trident double decker across the bus station as possibly being our bus. Sure enough five mins before it was due to depart our driver walked across to his bus. Ten minutes later he was still there. He soon came across to tell us all that his bus was leaking oil so he waiting for a phone call back from the garage. Ten mins later a fitter arrived in his van and then shortly after that a Mayflower Link Trident also arrived. Eventually it came to our bus stop and started to load. Bit of a shock that it was going to cost over £10 for the day out, but never mind - it would be worth it. We eventually left Bretonside over twenty mins late.

All went well then and we both enjoyed a trip through the South Hams country side. The 93 is a lovely route. We came to a halt at Churchstow(?) just two miles out of Kingsbridge. We were soon aware of a rapid evacuation of the bus as passengers at the back saw smoke coming out from the engine bay! It soon settled and it was clear that the bus had lost a lot of fluid of some sort from the rear end. R0033631 (by didbygraham)
We were sat at the roadside for about twenty minutes before we were finally rescued by another Trident, actually the next 93 which should have been one hour down the road from us. I know passengers tend to exaggerate things but there were quite a few regular passengers expressing the view that this was a regular occurrence and that these old buses were not up to the job! The driver was a lot more diplomatic than that and did keep us all informed so full credit to him. We finally arrived at Kingsbridge at 12 noon. A lot less time for bus riding!
After the required 'pit stop' we went for a ride on the wonderful Western National DOD518 which took us to Salcombe. R0033646 (by didbygraham) This was just about the last photo I managed to take on the day as it seems my camera has died. It certainly wasn't happy and seems to have lost any ability to capture colour, or indeed almost anything. It is due to be replaced later this year, along with a new computer, but I was not happy to miss out on so many excellent photo opportunities. As I write this up on Sunday evening it seems to be working again so I am even more confused now!
We did get another ride on the Tally Ho liveried Bristol LH which gave us both our favourite ride of the day. How he got that bus through the route in one piece amazed us both. Thanks to Terry P for the recommendation!

Thankfully the 93 home was uneventful and we arrived home in time to catch the 50 back to Estover. Probably the worst ride on a Citybus Dart I have had. I don't think the driver managed to get the rear wheels around a single corner without hitting a curb. Most unusual for Citybus.

Thanks to the internet I have seen some great photos from the day so I will try and post a few to give a flavour of the event later this week. Thanks again to Terry Partridge and his 'gang' for a great day(not withstanding all the above!)

20 September 2009

Sunday Best: Western National on the 93





"what wasn't in my view the best livery Western National had”

PlymTransit on Twitter

see all of 2009 Sunday Best featured photos:
Sunday Best Vol 1

Sunday Best Vol 2

Western National Bristol VR  ECW 1141 AFJ706T (by Retrobus) ©Retrobus
"Western National Bristol VR ECW 1141 AFJ706T waits at Dartmouth in the short lived Western National / Cornwall Busway's livery which wasn't in my view the best livery Western National had ,this bus has a Advert on the front for ' torex hire most thing's ' which was a common Advert at the time on a lot of the Cornwall Buses" .
Chosen as The Sunday Best today as yesterday we had a ride on the 93 to Kingsbridge for the running day. Sadly it wasn't a VRT though.(I am writing this on Friday evening but I think I can safely make this prediction!)

19 September 2009

The Battle For Preston Part Two

"OFT is concerned that this may have a negative impact on price and service levels for bus users”

PlymTransit on Twitter
We continue our look at Preston to see if what happened there could possibly be of interest here...

31 January 2009 LEP: One week later...
Routes will be axed and timetables changed in a massive shake-up of bus services in Preston. Five services from the bus station will be cancelled and a dozen will have changes made to their route and timetable in proposals announced by Stagecoach. Chris Davies, of Travelwatch North West, said the move could prove "unpopular" with passengers. He added: "Some passengers do suffer. But they (Stagecoach) are there to make a profit on the network and it isn't always in the best interests of passengers."

6 February 2009 LEP: Fares rise for some...
Students will have to pay more for monthly bus tickets in Preston. Stagecoach, which has taken over Preston Bus, has replaced the old bus company's fare system, meaning students now have to pay £32 a month for city centre bus travel instead of £28 – a rise of 14.2%.

10 March 2009 Transport of Delight: Meanwhile...
Last Thursday saw a shock announcement by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) that astonished the bus industry: it plans to undertake a full investigation into local bus services. The catalyst for the investigation, says the OFT, is the recent spate of take-overs and mergers that have involved the 'big five' operators in the UK and details of whether or not this has been detrimental to the public will be examined and reported on.

28 May 2009 Office of Fair Trading:Bombshell for Stagecoach...
The OFT has referred the acquisition of Preston Bus Limited by Stagecoach Bus Holdings Limited to the Competition Commission. Both Stagecoach and Preston Bus provide local bus services in Preston and, as a result of this acquisition, Stagecoach has become the predominant provider of commercial bus services in this area. Given the absence of any evidence of likely entry in the short to medium term by other bus operators, the OFT was concerned that this could result in higher prices or decreased service quality to local bus users.
The OFT was made aware that Preston Bus was in significant financial difficulties prior to its sale, and carefully considered whether it could be characterised as a 'failing firm'. However, while it is possible that Preston Bus may have failed and gone into administration had it not been sold, the OFT was not confident that all the failing firm conditions were met to the standard required for a first phase investigation. Specifically, it considered that there could have been a more competitive alternative to the merger: given the interest in Preston Bus expressed by other bidders, the OFT could not rule out that Preston Bus' assets could have been used by another operator to enter the market and compete against Stagecoach.
Amelia Fletcher, OFT Senior Director of Mergers, said:
'Stagecoach and Preston Bus were very close competitors, as demonstrated by the so-called 'bus wars' that took place in Preston prior to the acquisition. This merger has removed competition between them and the OFT is concerned that this may have a negative impact on price and service levels for bus users.'
25226-02 (by ian.simpson223@btintern et.com)©Ian Simpson Stagecoach In Lancashire Optare Versa 25226, PX08 FMV at Preston bus station.

3 September 2009 Law Central: Bombshell for Stagecoach...
Two weeks after the OFT referred the sector to the Competition Commission, the CC today released provisional findings on Stagecoach's acquisition of a small operator in Preston. The bottom line? Stagecoach may have to divest part of Preston Bus Limited, which it bought in September 2008, after the CC concluded that the acquisition had restricted competition and potentially harmed the interests of passengers.
Without the merger, we believe the potential or actual competition each company would have faced from the other would have ensured that they maintained or improved their services in order to attract passengers. We are now considering a range of possible remedies to deal with our concerns. A spokesman for Stagecoach, one of the UK's largest bus and coach firms, said it did not agree with the CC provisional findings. "Under our ownership, we have given local people access to a more integrated, sustainable, comprehensive, high-quality and affordable bus network," he said. "We saved the jobs of Preston Bus employees from an uncertain future and agreed to secure their pensions when no one else would make that commitment. "Passengers have responded very positively to our investment in local services and more people have been attracted to bus travel." The CC is inviting responses before publishing its final report on the merger in November.

So all that effort to take over Preston Bus and its now looking like they may have to sell it, or at least accept stringent conditions. A further post on the OFT will follow in the next week…

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