19 September 2013

First Changes explained. First response by Passengers

First have now released the news that things are changing

A number of changes are being made to the bus network in Plymouth as First seeks to strengthen its local business.

The changes - which see the creation of two new routes and some frequency improvements as well as some route adjustments and withdrawals - take effect on 27 October and affect the following services: 2, 3, 3A, 4, 5, 6, 7, 15, 83, 84, 86, 93, PR1, X80, X81. In addition Services 48 and 81/81A are being altered slightly from 2 November.

Talking about what is happening, Alex Carter, Director for First South West, says: "Over the past few months we have looked at our network in and around Plymouth assessing its performance and its overall competitive edge. The review has shown that some changes are needed to strengthen the business and so we are taking steps to implement these alterations from the end of October.

"We will be changing some existing routes and setting up some entirely new ones. Similarly well be looking at various things we can do to make using the bus easier, while also increasing the value for money for our customers get when using our services. This will include fare initiatives to support the changes being made, the detail of which we'll make public in the coming days and weeks.

"We understand that changes like these can be unsettling and that alterations to routes can have a real impact on our customers lives, affecting their own routines and schedules. Clearly some local people will need to look again at the local bus network, understanding how these alterations impact their ability to get to important destinations. In most cases though, people will find that alternatives do exist for them, and where we can assist our teams will help people find them.

"Over the next few weeks well be doing what we can to ensure that these changes are communicated as widely and effectively as possible. We will be using a variety of tools to do this including putting information on buses and on some billboards, door-dropping timetables to homes in parts of the city and hosting customer road show events."

New timetable information and an updated network map will be available online and in the travel shops very soon.

Specific changes, effective as of 27 October 2013

Service 2 (City Centre - Mount Batten):

The frequency of buses on this route is being improved from the end of October. From this date buses will run every 10 minutes Monday - Saturday (compared to every 12 minutes at present) meaning customers will have more opportunities to travel. In addition to this the route that Service 2 buses take is being amended slightly. From the end of October buses between Plymstock Broadway and Pomphlett Roundabout will follow alternate routes every other journey, with one travelling via Pomphlett Gardens and the next travelling via Oreston. These changes mean that despite the loss of the old Service 6 (see details below), people travelling to and from Oreston will still have access to a bus every 20 minutes during the day Monday - Saturday. Similarly they will also regain an evening service from the end of October. Additionally, most journeys on Service 2 will continue from Royal Parade as Service 3, thus providing links from Plymstock to Devonport and St Budeaux

Service 3 (City Centre - St Budeaux):

The frequency of buses on this route is being reduced slightly. From the end of October buses will run every 10 minutes Monday - Saturday. In addition to this the route is being adjusted with all Service 3 buses set to terminate at St Budeaux from this date. Every other Service 3 bus will, however, continue on from St Budeaux as a Service 3A bus - providing links to West Park, Honicknowle, Peverell and the City Centre (see details below). The changes to Service 3 mean that people wishing to travel to and from Barne Barton by bus will need to make alternative arrangements.

Service 3A (City Centre - St Budeaux):

This new service will provide links between the city centre, Peverell, Honicknowle, West Park and St Budeaux while also giving people the opportunity to connect with Service 3 for onward journeys to Devonport and the City Centre. Buses will operate every 20 minutes during the daytime (Monday - Saturday).

Service 4 (City Centre - Keyham):

The frequency of buses on this route is being reduced slightly. From the end of October buses will run every 20 minutes Monday - Saturday (compared to every 15 minutes at present). In addition the timetable on Sundays is being altered slightly. Customers are advised to check the new timetables carefully to ensure they understand what is happening.

Service 5 (City Centre - Mount Gould):

We regret this route is being withdrawn from the end of October. People wishing to travel to and from Mount Gould will however find that alternative services do exist.

OLD Service 6 (City Centre - Staddiscombe):

The existing Service 6 bus route is being withdrawn but a new Service 6 is being created at the same time (see details below). People who used the old service 6 will find that part of the previous route - that which runs between the city centre and Plymstock Broadway - will be covered by the revised Service 2 (see details above). People wishing to travel further into Staddiscombe will find that alternative services do exist.

NEW Service 6 (City Centre - Efford):

A brand new Service 6 route is being created which will provide journeys between the City Centre, Lipson Vale and Efford. Running every 15 minutes during the day (Monday - Saturday) buses will follow the same route in and out of the city, travelling via North Hill, Lipson Vale, Torridge Way and Pike Road in both directions.

Service 7 (City Centre - Elburton):

We regret that this route - which has under performed for a number of years - is being withdrawn from the end of October. People wishing to travel to and from Elburton, Plymstock and the City Centre will however still be able to use our improved Service 93 (Plymouth - Dartmouth) to make local journeys.

Service 15 (City Centre - Derriford - Rodborough / Woolwell):

The route of this service is changing from the end of October to provide additional connections with Tavistock services travelling via Roborough and Woolwell. As a result of this change though Service 15 buses will no longer call at Estover or Mainstone from the 27 October.
The frequency of buses is also changing: from the end of October they'll run every 20 minutes Monday - Friday and every 30 minutes on Saturdays.
Additionally, on arrival in the City centre, most Monday to Friday journeys will continue as a Service 4. This means that customers wishing to travel from Roborough / Woolwell towards Keyham can do so relatively easily at these times - they simply board in Roborough / Woolwell, staying on the same vehicle in the City Centre, before being taken to Keyham on a Service 4 journey.

Service 83 (Plymouth - Yelverton -Tavistock):

The timetable of this service is changing in October. Specifically the frequency of buses is being increased so that there is one bus every 20 minutes during the peak period (compared to every 30 minutes at present) In addition to this, journeys to and from Tavistock are being scheduled to connect with Service 15 arrivals and departures in Roborough. This will enable those people wishing to travel to or from Derriford and Mutley Plain to do so.
In addition to this some Service 83 journeys in the morning and evening will be extended to start and finish at Whitchurch - this change compensates for the loss of Service 84 (see details below) and means that commuters in this area will still be able to travel.

Service 84 (Plymouth - Derriford - Tavistock):

In order to better match resources against the level of demand for services, this route is being withdrawn from 27 October. In its place changes are being made to Service 83 to add in extended journeys to and from Whitchurch in the morning, while connections between Service 83 and Service 15 are also being put in place.

Service 86 (Plymouth - Derriford - Tavistock):

The route that Service 86 buses take around Derriford is changing. From the end of October buses will travel via Derriford Roundabout, Derriford Hospital, Plymbridge Road, Marjon's, Runway Road and the A386. In addition to this the timetable is being tweaked slightly: buses will continue to only operate during the Monday - Friday peak period.

Service 93 (Plymouth - Kingsbridge - Dartmouth):

The timetable of this service is being amended to provide some additional short journeys running between Elburton (Elburton School) and the City Centre, to provide a bus every half hour This change is being made to compensate for the loss of Service 7 journeys. The longer journeys between Plymouth and Dartmouth are unaffected and remain as they are. From the end of October Service 93 buses will depart from Royal Parade (Stop A8), sharing the stop with Service 2 - which means that buses travelling the same direction will leave from the same place.

Service PR1 (George Park and Ride):

The timetable of the PR1 Park and Ride Service is being altered. From 27 October buses will run every 12 minutes during the daytime (compared to 10 minutes at present).

Service X80 (Plymouth - Ivybridge - Totnes - Paignton - Torquay) and Service X81 Dartmouth - Totnes - Paignton Torquay):

These two services are being withdrawn from 27 October. People who use the route should not be concerned though as another " almost identical - service has been registered by Stagecoach. This means that people should still able to get from A to B easily. To ease the transition from one operator to the other, First has also made arrangements for season tickets, and particularly scholar passes, to be honoured by the new operator for a set period of time.

Specific changes affecting services in Plymouth, from 2 November

Service 48 (Wembury - City Centre - Burrator):

The timetable of this service is being changed slightly. Specifically the winter timetable - applicable until Easter 2014 - will take effect from 2 November, meaning that the timetable for journeys on Sundays will change. Specifically the last bus from Burrator, terminating in Plymouth City Centre, will be at 1605 hours, while the last bus to Wembury from Royal Parade will depart at 1519 hours. The last bus from Wembury to the City Centre will depart at 1555 hours. These changes are being made at the request of Plymouth City Council who fund the service. Customers should note the changes only affect the Sunday timetable. Journeys running Monday - Saturday remain as they are.
Service 81/81A (Plymouth - Torpoint - Insworke): To coincide with changes being made elsewhere in Cornwall at the same time, Service

81/81A is being altered from 2 November.

Specifically the timetable is being simplified. In addition the route is being altered so that all buses follow a standard route within Plymouth. From 2 November they will travel via Devonport and Union Street and will not call at Stoke or Milehouse. Customers are advised to check the new timetable carefully before travelling to ensure they know what is happening.

For more information about all the changes being made, to view new and existing timetables or to find out more about First, log onto www.firstgroup.com/devon. New timetables will be made available online and in hard copy format - available from Travel Shops very soon.
First is on Twitter and Facebook, at www.twitter.com/FirstBus_Devon and www.facebook.com/FirstDevonandCornwall. First also has a smartphone app (for apple and android) phones, which can offer people access to timetable and route information while they are on the move. The app, which is free to download, can be found online by searching for 'First Bus App'.

Current News Release First Group

Archived copy (PDF)

I will be looking at all these routes over the coming weeks in more depth as there are some quite big changes here, some of which are going to be very unpopular with at least some passengers.A hint of this has already made the front page of the Evening Herald

Oh, and Bob Crow has a few words to say as well...

Gerard Fletcher over on the X1 Blog reports that the first examples from the batch of 22 new Alexander Dennis Enviro400s for First's X1 route between Peterborough and Lowestoft are due to be delivered in the next week or so Andys Bus Blog

So, between Sutton and Lichfield we have five buses every two hours instead of one, and via Clarence Road, four buses an hour instead of two. Public Transport Experience

Though Omnibuses launched just as general blogging had reached its peak, we also like to think that it was something of a trendsetter, itself spawning interest from the industry and the enthusiast community, who discovered an accessible medium that gave them the confidence to write, to show their worth Omnibuses

To complete the "refurb" a shiny new station building was built over what was, latterly, an "abandon hope all ye who enter here" subway of gloom and doom. Publie Transport Experience

Ellman calls for penalties for bus operators that fail to provide accessible routes when advertising them The Information Daily

This embankment is all that remains but, oddly, the nearest village is Chacombe (no "L"). Perhaps the Great Central management couldn't spell? Or couldn't care? Public Transport Experience


  1. It's still not clear what route the new 6 will take. No mention of Laira or a loop, all it says is the same route out and in. From this I think we have to assume that it's not doing the loop that 8/9 do, it's going to turn around in Efford and come back out through Efford Lane too. My bet is that it will turn around outside the co-op at the Mannifold Gardens quadrangle.
    If this is correct, at a service interval of 15 minutes that would actually be a better service than CityBus who provide a 20 minute gap on the 8 and the same on the 9. Of course the 8/9 are interleaved but if you're travelling from Torridge Way to the City Centre you would be spoilt for choice with 7 buses per hour.

    1. From what I've heard the new 6 will basically copy the 9 to the bottom of Pike Road. It will then turn left to Laira Roundabout and come back on itself back up Pike Road, effectively returning to the City Centre as a 9.

    2. I think it appears to be that the service will operate as service 9 to the bottom of Pike Road,turning left and using the mini round about before turning right back onto Pike Road and returning as per service 8.

    3. I agree - it is really confusing and not clear!

      You would think that it was the normal Efford Lane - Torridge Way - Pike Road loop. But the press release blurb specifically talks about following the same route in both directions and makes no mention of Efford Lane.

      At face value, I interpret that as meaning that the new 6 is going to avoid Efford Lane and instead go up the back-way via Laira, Pike Road, Blandford Road, and do a u-turn at the top somewhere near the shops. Then run back down on the same route.

  2. The bus turns at Laira roundabout and returns over the same route

  3. It,s going to the second roundabout at the bottom of pike road then coming back up Pike road and down Efford Lane

  4. New lower fares announced by First start 22nd September.. First Day £3. First Week (PLYMOUTH) £11 First Month PLYMOUTH reduced from £60 to £40. First Day PLUS includes Tavistock £4.50 First Week PLUS £20 and First Month PLUS £60. Represents some pretty big savings here... Can Citybus match this with their new swanky buses and increased operating costs ??? They will need to but watch their little profit margin disappear !!! They could regret starting this war at Milehouse soon.

    1. How long do you think firsts greedy shareholders will put up with this!

    2. I don't know, but GoAheads shareholders have been promised an increase in bus profits from £70m a year to £100m in four years, now revised up to £105m. That's the problem of course with GoAhead registering directly competing routes to First to Tavistock and Torpoint - it's fine if you think it'll make First pack their bags and leave town, but no such a good move with hindsight if First decide to stay put and meet the competition head on is it!

  5. That's this week's announcement! Just the start - one announcement a week on fares for the next few weeks apparently. Seems like the competitive actions by PCB have finally jolted First into a complete review of everything the do, how they brand it, and what they charge to use it.

  6. PCBs Tavistock fares were announced as £4.50 SINGLE and £6.10 return (First have been £6.20 return). So First are going to be every 20 mins and £4.50 return - PCB are going to be every 30 mins and £6.10 return. Both using leather seated E400s? That could be interesting!!!

    1. Inner Zone is zone 1, outer zone is zone 2 (includes Torpoint). Zone 3 is north of Woolwell Roundabout.

      All prices below are for Zones 1 2 and 3. (Tavistock).
      Dayrider - Adult £6.30 Child £4.80
      1 Week Adult £22 child £18
      4 Week Adult £80 Child £64
      13 Week Adult £235 Child £188
      1 Year Adult £820 Child £660

  7. if first wanna price themselves out of business faster, let them get on with it!

  8. First have run at a loss in Devon for years..their shareholders etc have put up with this,, I think First have played a blinder here...lower fares mean more customers normally...they are running the buses anyway so having more passengers paying less means more revenue, basic common sense really. Citybus wity the new more expensive to run fleet wont be able to compete on price. £6.10 return to Tavi will mean empty buses on that route whilst they loose customers in stongholds like Efford and Honicknole with Cheaper than Citybus fares here as well. They could have scored own goal ere and helped First rebuild.

  9. if first can hold there nerve then i think city bus could be in a bit of trouble lower fares cuold mean more passengers making more proffit then comes new routes to take on city bus think city bus too much too soon to agressive in there actions now its first turn to attack my prediction is no won will win both sides will be forced to withdraw also keep an eye out for stagecoach who will be watching closely poss buy out of first plymouth

  10. Surely bums on seats is what it's all about, & at those prices, how can they fail? PCB have new buses to pay for. First don't. Very interesting!

  11. First aren't looking like a company closing down with these announcements, great to see. Sad to see though the local media focusing more on the First changes/ cancellations, than the frequency cuts/ school bus cuts to some areas Citybus are imposing in the next few months.

  12. With those new prices I think they will be successful in Efford. Clearly a lower income area where everyone is price conscious. With the average size of houses in Efford being large semi-detached there aren't too many OAPs with free bus passes either. The only problem is that you can't get everywhere on a First Dayrider. Citybus have much better coverage on the city as a whole. Alexandra road and Lipson vale are going to have an unbelievable level of service. Which brings up another problem. Alexandra road and Lipson vale will become more congested since all the bus stops are in the road with a lot of poorly placed traffic islands, getting around stopped buses is not always possible.

  13. As a First shareholder I'm glad that UK bus is starting to show some balls in getting back in there, PCB were expecting First to roll over and die quietly, not the case I'm afraid! Either way, the customer is the real winner in any price war.

  14. Totally agree re above comments. First new routes cover Efford/Honicknowle/West Park/Pennycross etc all areas that are family orientated with people looking for ways to economise... these new lower fares from First will be very welcome and will entise customers away from Citybus and also new customers onto buses.. rumours are there are further fare reductions to come as well at First and Citybus will not be able to compete on price...when it comes to it most people won't care about brand new buses but will opt for low fares. With First being so much cheaper on Tavistock routes as well, they could killl Citybus off here stone dead whilst launching more low cost routes in Plymouth in 2014 to the likes of Whitleigh etc. Citybus expected First to roll over but it looks like they are going to get one hell of a fight from First now. This could backfire on them here.

  15. prediction first will inflict damage to city bus proffits whilst incurring damage to them selves only to be sold to stagecoach who will ride into town and finish citbus off this will happen june july next year the deal in my opion has already ben done

    1. Nonsense. Stagecoach has aleady admitted that they'd looked into buying Plymouth and walked away. Now, if an operator with a proven track-record of turning around troubled businesses couldn't see a future in it a year ago, why on earth would they want it in another twelve months' time after First has "incurred damage to themselves" and so made the business even less attractive?

  16. Lots of pro-First, anti-Citybus comments form the same person? Hmmm.....

    I'm not on either's side but please appreciate that price is not the be-all-and-end-all and there's still plenty of time for Citybus to announce fare changes. With the concession reimbursement system as it is, it's quite possible to run full buses at a loss, so cheaper fares may not bring in more revenue and if First is already losing money, it may be a case of who can hold their breath longest.

  17. Looks more like an interesting debate about the situation, not lots of pro whoever comments. This is a really interesting game of chess in my opinion that is being played out. Citybus had the advantage, pretty much championship point if it were tennis! First were on the point of closing down and Citybus knew because they were negotiating with First for the routes they have now registered instead weren't they? Surely if they had just held on First would have closed up and left giving Citybus the whole city to themselves and a huge financial gain. So what was it that made Citybus suddenly register the Tavistock and Torpoint routes? Maybe they thought Stagecoach registering the X80 X81 meant that they had a tip off that First was closing. that is the story going round. If it was that then perhaps Citybus have made a big mistake. Why has First reacted so strongly. is it right that they were furious at Citybus for something? What now? Looks like First do have a plan. Defend Tavistock and Torpoint at all costs but actually improve these routes now they have had to, chuck in city routes that are losing money and concentrate on the best routes and forget about their traditional city routes. Looks like they have decided to be much more competitive in what they run altogether. Give up the X80 X81 which are rumoured to be big loo makers anyway. Cut the fares everywhere and see if it makes their remaining routes busier. At the same time as hitting Citybus hard with all this give them a real headache by competing with them on new city routes that are very strong for Citybus too. If it doesn't work, they just close the doors anyway, not much to lose. Also says to everyone not just Go Ahead that they can compete with them if they want to? So what about Citybus. Expensive buses on new routes to Tavistock and Torpoint where First will be more regular and cheaper. Now more expensive in the City for day tickets and more fare cuts rumoured from First. And two new routes to damage them in the city. Don't know what Citybus can do. Run more buses will be expensive. Cut fares will cost them lots across their routes. Do nothing will for sure see some passengers move to First. like someone said maybe its now down to if Citybus will take a big risk and hold their fares and hope First don't decide to carry on with lower fares and competing routes. looks like First have changed the whole game now. Citybus were close to getting a monopoly. Now they have their hands tied and First is in the driving seat!?

    1. I entirely agree with your comments; it does certainly seem Citybus were intending to pretty much have the City to themselves. I think they didn't expect First to come back with such a strong fight, (neither did I and I'm sure quite a few of us to be honest!) A recent comment makes a very good point; Citybus have new buses to pay for, First don't. This could backfire enormously on Citybus who may well regret starting these routes against First. They could find themselves in a bit of trouble here! Will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

    2. I agree with you that it's an interesting game of chess but not on much else!

      It's too early to say that First has reacted 'strongly'. They've reacted, yes, but as none of the new routes (from either operator) have started yet, no-one can judge who's got the upper hand. There's plenty of time for Citybus to adjust their fares if they want to. On the other hand, First may just cut fares too much that it becomes suicidal - they will need an awful lot more paying (as opposed to concession holders) to generate the revenue. Citybus will need fewer for the same revenue. That plus a share of concession holders (who will get on any bus that comes along) may just allow them to hold on and see what First does next. Good marketing, quality buses and reliable service offerings from both operators may also grow the market sufficiently to keep both operators on the routes. Don't forget that Citybus offers a much denser city network for people needing to get elsewhere in the city and that will be attractive to some.

      Citybus is making money and has the scope and resources to experiment and try new routes. First is loss-making and in a hole - getting out and turning the operation around (with a couple of untried new city routes, whilst thwarting new competition on two of your key services) is a much bigger task than that which Citybus has. If Citybus's new routes don't work out, they can just move the buses to one of their other existing routes without much trouble - they might have a bit on egg on their face but they'll not be jeopardising their whole business. If First's new routes and defending of Tavistock and Torpoint doesn't work, surely it's game over? Both operators are going to find it hard to get the new routes off the ground but overall, I'd say it's Citybus who are in the driving seat as they have a lot less to lose overall (and I have no links with either).

      Explain to me why Stagecoach has got off lightly? Okay *if* the X80/X81 is a 'big loss maker', then why hasn't First tried to do something with it previously? There's been next to no marketing, no bold initiatives, no real branding, no investment in vehicles... they've done the bare minimum and let it slide. Why does Stagecoach see such potential in the route that they can justify well-specified, brand new buses even when they were going to be one of two operators on the route? Why couldn't First see some of that possibility? Exactly the same happened in North Devon - First managed decline and did the bare minimum, Stagecoach take-over and quickly are able to justify 21 brand new deckers.

  18. TORPOINT IS NOT HAVING NEW BUSES! where do people get this info from? it is having current fleet vehicles.

    1. Who said Torpoint was getting new buses?

    2. Bush telegraph? Torpoint is a small place, its the most exciting thing to happen since the new ferries!

  19. First and Citybus need to be sensible about fares. A price war will not help either. Okay it will be good for passengers in the short-term but reducing fares too much won't be sustainable. Both operators need to charge reasonable fares and aim, between them, to grow the market. They need to focus on getting more people out of cars and onto buses by offering reliable, consistent, high-quality services with smart, clean, well-appointed buses rather than risk this bout of competition descending into a messy public spat.

    People's comments here are suggesting that FD&C is making a loss in Plymouth. I wouldn't know but if they are, then lowering fares and risking reducing further their already insufficient revenue would appear to be quite a dangerous game to play. They'll need to either cut their own costs operating significantly or attract a lot more paying customers (or ideallly do both) to maintain their income sufficiently to be able to turn a profit. It's a high-risk stategy, so I hope they know what they're doing!

    1. Depends what First's objective is though. perhaps its an investment in teaching competitors that it wont stand by and be rolled over by them - and that it is willing to stand losses in one very small part of its business to protect the rest...You just never know do you


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