14 November 2009

Now its your turn!

Now that the news has had time to sink in - what do people think?

Just twenty four hours ago this blog gave the news that Go Ahead was the preferred bidder for Plymouth Citybus. I wasn't the first to announce the news but I did beat This Plymouth / The Evening Herald who only announced it Friday afternoon!

I have just had a look through the comments left on This is Plymouth and there does seem to be quite a positive attitude to those that have some experience of Go Ahead. Most negative comments are really about the fact that the company is being put up for sale in the first place rather than against Go Ahead itself. I don't think there was any doubt that the City Council would sell the company so most people see it as a done deal now.
So what do readers of this blog think? Leave a comment and let us know!

My thoughts? well, if the company has to be sold, and I can see the arguments that it should be, then Go Ahead is probably the best company that it could have gone to. I am still surprised that Stagecoach didn't get it, but am glad that it wont disappear into a corporate fleet that all looks the same, even if it is a good corporate image.

I am also glad that it isn't First, as although I have a very strong regard for the local management and how they have turned things around in Plymouth at least, I am less impressed with First as a national company who seem more determined to cut back operations to the core than the other groups do.

I guess its easy to look on other operators elsewhere with rose tinted glasses as you generally mainly see the positive aspects of operation as an enthusiast, such as new buses, and impressive liveries etc, and less of the route cutbacks which usually only get local coverage. Look back through the Omnibus Blog posts over the past couple of years or so and you will see examples where Go Ahead are not getting such positive press. This is nothing against Go Ahead, but more a symptom of how passengers still see bus services as a public service which should be there for the few occasions when they need them, and not a private enterprise where national businesses make money out of us. We accept this is the case for almost any other 'public' services but we still expect buses not to be run for profit!
Click the leave a comment button below and let us know what YOU think!

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  1. I think you firstly have to forget the various claims about job losses and service cuts that have been muted over the past few months. Then lets look at the potential options available.

    NO SALE - this was claimed to be the preferred option from employees and management UNTIL FDC started their competing services. If the sale is stopped there will be no financial or morale support for PCB during the ongoing bus war from the City Council. With the best will in the world the Councillors on the Board of PCB are merely well meaning amateurs, they have no experience in the industry what so ever, (mind neither have the Council officers on the Board). This makes decision making for the Company Directors extremely difficult as the lack of experience and natural caution of these people makes an instant response to competition and changes in the market impossible. In six months PCB will be worth even less and the whole sale debate will start all over again. In this scenario a sale to the likes of John Preece, or FDC becomes a possibility, (God forbid).

    SALE TO STAGECOACH - I use Stagecoach as the potential buyer because they were the only other operator who it appears made the final cut so to speak. SC have a track record of innovative services and marketing; however we would have seen their corporative branding scheme applied to all of PCBs vehicles. I believe SC would not have continued to run Citycoach as there is no real track record of private hire type operations with SC, only express routes and Megabus. SC would likely have run down or sold off the Car and Commercial department at PCB along with the Tacho test centre. They would have concentrated solely on the core bus business. It seems highly likely that based on past experience in North Devon, and South Devon an extremely aggressive approach would have been taken in Plymouth against FDC and to some extend Target. Whilst this would have seen cheap fares for passengers in the short term, the end result would be reduced journey opportunities and increased fares. Compare fares in Plymouth to SC fares in Exeter or FSA in Bristol to see what will happen when a near monopoly situation occurs.


  2. Continued from above as first post was too big.

    SALE TO GO AHEAD - GA have a proven track record of allowing local companies autonomy to get on with it. Look at Brighton and Hove (Bus operator of the year), and Southern Vectis as a couple of examples. PCB livery and name will likely be maintained, and as they already own some seven coach companies along the South Coast, Citycoach should be safe and would have further opportunities for working alongside these other coach companies. GA own Hants and Dorset trim a major bus and coach repair company so I believe they would be pleased to continue with Car & Commercial department at PCB. This gives potential job security to the people in those departments at PCB. What is more unknown is what GA's response to the competition in Plymouth will be. On that we can only guess but I believe an all out war to be unlikely. There may be some small contraction of PCB routes as GA tend to concentrate on core routes at high frequencies.

    Where the real difficulty lies at the moment is that the Trade Unions and the Labour Councillors in Plymouth are still pressing for the NO SALE option. Why? Because Councillors hate to lose face and having gone to the top in the union the local branch committee now finds itself between a rock and a hard place. The sale process has become a political football and although there is a separate argument about the way the whole sale process has been handled it is my opinion that the sale must now proceed, (I nearly wrote go ahead). Had it not been for the FDC competition I would still be a 100% advocate of the no sale option but as I hope I have explained above, this is no longer an option and the Labour Councillors need to accept that the sale to the preferred bidder is now the only way forward if they genuinely wish to preserve jobs and services. If the Labour party and the local Trade Unions wish to tackle the Conservatives over the sale process they have my support as the process, lack of consultation, and refusal to conduct open debate stinks. Not forgetting that by taking so much time over the sale process the Council gave FDC the opportunity to register competing services and to devalue the asset of PCB considerably, making the sale inevitable. Although does any one reading this excellent Blog actually believe that the Conservatives would have not gone ahead with the sale?

    Graham, it will be interesting to revisit this page in twelve months time to compare predicted outcomes with what transpires to be the actual outcomes. Keep up the good work.

  3. So what does everyone think will the bus war continue between FDC and GA, or will there be a deal over routes etc ???

  4. Go Ahead is a part of the First Group.

  5. @Anonymous, 23:50 - When did that happen? From what I've read, the two are completely separate rival entities.

    As for my opinion, my heart says "no sale", but my brain says that having Go Ahead buy Citybus is by far a better option than Citybus being bought by Stagecoach.

  6. Having just looked at the Go-Ahead web site, I can see no connection between them and First Group, they are two seperate and rival companies, for example in Southampton and Hampshire. Given that the Group seems to have a very good track record in for instance, Oxford, Southampton, The Isle of Wight, Brighton, London and of course Newcastle, the inclusion of Citybus to their group would in my humble opinion be good for both the City and us the passangers.

  7. why does everyone slate first all the time this blog is and has always been very pro anything other than first, i am extremely happy working for a quality company.
    i dont care who buys citybus just as long as someone does there driving standards are awfull, and latley they have been driving very agressivley towards us, so i am certain they will have a shock when another quality company - go ahead take over and bring them up todate with modern bus driving.
    then the people of plymouth should get overall better service as they compete with each other.

  8. I agree with above comment, have citybus drivers been told to drive like morons at the moment in order to try and beat first to the next bus stop? Citybus drivers need to rememeber that first drivers are doing as they've been told to... run this bus to here and back again and collect your wages. First drivers did not decide to run citybus duplicates their boss did. Go Ahead IS part of the First group, it has been since 2007 when they teamed up to bring Greyhound to the UK between Southampton, Portsmouth to London.


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