07 July 2014

School Bus Only

One advantage of having all all red livery is that Plymouth Citybus can put their ex London buses out on the road with little attention to the livery. They are though used on schools services, with large temporary destination displays commiting them to specific routes which does seem a bit too restrictive. I belive the plan is to eventually repaint them into standard livery but for the time being they will remain in full Go Ahead London livery. 450 was caught on camera last week by Richard Smith:Plymouth Citybus 450 Plymouth Citybus 450
©Richard Smith

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Continuing Consideration of Cornwall [2] On returning from St Ives it was time for a break. These little Optare buses are not designed for those "broad of girth" and there was a need for a little leg stretching;Continuing Consideration of Cornwall [3] Finding somewhere to turn full-sized buses around was a similar problem for Western National. The company built a two storey edifice almost cantilevered out from the cliffside quite close to the station approach road. Continuing Consideration of Cornwall [4] Advice was willingly and efficiently given and, although timekeeping could have been better, nothing was frighteningly late. Unfortunately the look of the vehicles was poor. Almost all vehicles working in the Penzance area were tired and tatty; some seemed to held together only by the paint as there were so many rattles. Continuing Consideration of Cornwall [5] At no time did any member of First's staff bother to come and tell the remaining waiting passengers what was happening. DISGRACEFUL, 0 out of 10. Not disgraceful because things went wrong, but disgraceful because nobody bothered to explain. A Tale of a Tub [1] The challenge, then, using the resources of the interwebnet, is to find out all about the "tub" bus service. How appropriate for the fat bus bloke! A Tale of a Tub [2] Yes, your knowledge of French may well be enough to spot the word "gratuit". The network of four routes (not pre-book services) is FREE for all residents. The card costs €3. Maybe fbb should stress that the correct phrase is "free at the point of sale"; taxation levels in France are high!
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  1. Lovely illegal destination there.
    These are registered local bus services, registered as normal stopping meaning anyone can use them.
    This will count as a failure to display a destination, which is non compliant operation (or even the non operation if a bus monitor should be watching - no destination means no operation of a service in its basic interpretation) of a registered local bus service, the destination that the bus is going to must be clearly displayed.
    Hope the BSOG team at the DfT see this and order them to repay the BSOG they are claiming for these services that the public cannot use.
    If it's a closed door unregistered service, then school bus pictograms must be displayed. That this does neither is really impressive.
    Remember PCB have tendered for work at the expense of long established operators and expanded somewhat in the last year, it is good to see they're a nice legal compliant operation. Or not.......

    1. More Western Greyhound destinations:
      - a Solo with roller blinds heading towards Callington displaying '576' (in white on black) and no destination;
      - a vario coming into Callington from Liskeard displaying '574 St. Austell'.

      All nice and legal.

  2. In saying that, a lot of Target Travel's buses don't even have a destination blind and the number is very often stuck on the windscreen! My cousin missed the bus the other day as she couldn't see which number it was as it was hand written on the windscreen! Very poor! At least the majority of Citybus' vehicles have working displays!

  3. I always thought, you didn't need to display the destination as long as the route number was on display. This very often happens with target buses and yo a lesser extent Jacketts and western greyhound.

    1. VOSA Bus Service Monitors will record on their monitoring whether a destination is displayed or not. Be that a destination board, roller blind or LED screen. They will even say and record that the bus has not turned up, how would a potential passenger know whether the bus is the one they want? Then the operator is fined for non compliant bus operation because they haven't run to the timetable.......

      Remember, these 'school buses' are registered normal stopping local bus services. They could de-register these at 56 days notice if they wish them to be 'closed' but they appear on the PCB licence as registered services and they are claiming BSOG for them, even though this is clear evidence that they are trying to prevent public use.

      To claim BSOG you must advertise the service to the public, and not in any way exclude public use of the service, by having a different fare structure, or by having 'school bus only' on the vehicle. If PCB has claimed BSOG for these services, they might find themselves having to repay some of it.

      A printed, laminated sheet of A4 with the route number and the destination showing in the windscreen would be sufficient, takes all of 5 minutes to do, you could even issue the 2 bits of paper to the driver in the morning when they signed on. But having the inclination to do these things is often where people fall down.

      If PCB is claiming that these are 'school buses' then where is the officially recognised sign, as per the highway code, to tell other road users that this is a school bus? If VOSA or the police stop these vehicles for a roadside check the driver or the operator risks an on the spot fine.

      Another smaller Devon operator just had their licence revoked on their first call up to Public Inquiry.
      Clearly PCB are asking for a trip to the Traffic Commissioners. Will she revoke their licence too?

    2. No - the opposite is true. It is the destination which must be shown, not the service-number. After all, there are still small operators who do not use service numbers.

    3. What are you on about, the Devon company you are on about sounds like Carmel Coaches which had their licence taken away for unsafe buses

    4. No it is not wrong, operators have been to Public Inquiry for these issues. Even where a route number is not displayed - all services do have a number, even if it is allocated by the county council. Traveline references from service numbers. Even where operators have traded for years, the successor operations have registered county council service numbers as part of their registrations. Issues like this combined with a few PG9s will bring an operator to PI. It is a failure to operate as registered.

      PCB should decide what they want their 'school' services to be, and then run them in the correct way. Before the Traffic commissioner makes you or stops you running them. If a non registered closed door route, display the officially recognised signs, otherwise you will be subjected to enforcement, as is happening in other counties.... I imagine First have this evidence and have already alerted VOSA.

    5. I don't expect First are in the slightest bit bothered or likely to complain! Why would they?

    6. Re: Anonymous14 July 2014 23:33
      First would seek to make life as difficult for PCB as is possible, so reporting on 'illegal' operation is something they would very much take an interest in. The competitive battle is fought on many fronts. If an operator was running non compliant services, then I would make sure the authorities were made aware of that, as competition should be a level playing field where people run properly. Go Ahead would, you will find, do the same.

      The law is the law, and why should PCB get away with illegally running services?
      It is a failure to run a service as registered, and something a TC will take an extremely dim view of together with all their other issues such as not operating services 'because there is no driver'.

      Carmel had never been to PI before this year, yes they have issues, but a lot of people are sad they have been treated so badly by the TC - the TC must act proportionally to the issues, and she is guided by case law, which as usual she has failed to follow, so that alone paves the way for the appeal against revocation. Plenty of companies have been revoked for 'unsafe buses' as you put it , but those companies were at PI, two, three or four times and were given chances to get it right. Why hasn't that been applied in this case? Carmel have operated for over 30 years, 25 of them compliantly, and that should also count for something. Could they demonstrate they can run at a smaller level? Why has the TC not reduced the number of discs to let them run a smaller fleet compliantly? Why not suspend the licence for a period of time, to allow for training staff and getting their house in order? These are sanctions that have been applied to other operators. Even First DC have had the discs reduced in the past.

      As Carmel have been given 6/7 weeks from the date of the decision, to the actual revocation, clearly the fleet is not unsafe as another commenter puts it. The TC has the power to immediately revoke a licence, before a PI is heard on safety grounds, and that has not been applied.

  4. @ Keith do you ever put any other company down or is it just WGL as all your posts at the minute are all negitive ones about WG

    1. To be fair, he's got a point about WGL!

    2. No - I am sure I can put down First or Citybus - or Target Travel or Jacketts - if you wish! I can also be positive if the wind is from the south and there is not an 'r' in the month.

      I am going on about WG because their standards have slipped so badly in such a short space of time. Fifteen or so years ago Cornwall County Council had rural transport officers based in the districts and I remember one of them told me of a meeting she went to where contributor after contributor was praising the local bus service - she was so used to a barrage of complaints. This was in North Cornwall and the operator was Western Greyhound. They took the trouble to get everything right - exemplary roadside displays kept up to date, bus stop flags - where used - with a neat London-style label showing the service number, smart vehicles, well turned-out and helpful drivers, destinations correctly displayed, good timekeeping and so on. They got it all right and won a number of national awards.

      This was at a time when when First in Cornwall were retreating from large areas and providing a poor service where they remained. First Kernow seem now to be getting their act together.

      WG staff are almost certainly still good - but the rest of it has just gone downhill. I have gone on about roadside publicity and destination displays, but the other day I saw two of their Solos with paint peeling. Something has gone seriously wrong.

    3. Very true WGL is now very poor, at one point they had mostly brand new buses 2 E400s and several solos and solo SRs. I know they had that awful fire, but surely they could get replacement new buses with the insurance??
      It looks like the owner wants out, so is trying to cash in buying second hand replacements and keeping the insurance money back. I can only predict either First will out them or another company will enter to fight WG out and go against First. Stagecoach probably

    4. Insurance didn't pay out from what I understand, hence buying 'second hand buses'.

      Cut them some slack, they've been through enough and have done well to come out of recent events still afloat.

    5. Except if you look at the First and WG networks you'll realise that they don't really compete. They seem to have get to the point where they pretty much coexist now, with the odd overlap or competitive bidding for specific contracts. No-one is going to start competing with First. First have all their tenders, all won at good money, and a small but decent commercial network that isn't however worth fighting over. Forget competition in First's western end of Cornwall. the real question is what will happen in the east where Go Ahead Stagecoach and WGL all have greater ambitions...

    6. True, I think Western Greyhound will be absorbed in two ways either first and stagecoach fight them and WGL goes bankrupt. OR WGL get sold and the buses maintenance etc. goes to another company either First but probably Stagecoach

    7. "Insurance didn't pay out from what I understand, hence buying 'second hand buses'.
      Cut them some slack, they've been through enough and have done well to come out of recent events still afloat. "

      You're quite right, but the fire was 14 months ago. 14 months is an acceptably long time to sort things out, especially when the vehicles have been in traffic for over 6 months in various states of acquisition. They've only just removed the Stagecoach fleetnames from buses bought 8-9 months ago.
      Sorry, but how hard is it to spend money on proper LED screens, pay for controllers to programme flip dot screens, or pay Hanover to fix them if they aren't working. There are companies that offer repainting as a service, but all of the above requires money to be spent, and it is very clear that the owner is not interested.

      I'll close by asking a couple of leading questions. Why has Go Ahead, who are known to attack weak competitors and destabilise them with a view to expansion, not gone after Western Greyhound on the routes out of Plymouth with the intention of forcing it out of business? Why, in the recent Cornwall tenders, have Go Ahead not bid for WGL work below cost to expand at WGLs expense with a view to getting the competitors' business more cheaply as they've done elsewhere?

      WGL services like Plymouth to Launceston or Plymouth to Liskeard, happen to be right on PCBs doorstep, that can easily be operated from Milehouse, all noticeable by PCBs absence during the tendering process. Some of them might be commercially viable or a means to expansion at First's expense with a view to sticking the price up later when the competition has been disposed of.

      Mark is in his mid 60s and has more than earned the right to retire. Perhaps there is some negotiating taking place between Go Ahead and WGL.... no doubt we will discover who the 'new owners' will be in due course. There's only two possible owners, and one of them is Go Ahead, the other is Stagecoach.

  5. I know its out of this area but there is a programme on Channel 5 at 8pm titled 'On The Yorkshire Buses'. Might be worth watching, Its not often that we get Bus programmes on the box.

  6. I suppose the problem is for WG that they put themselves on a mantle. They liked to tell everyone that they are award winners, and spent a few years doing the circuit in the bus industry telling everyone what made them so special. They are very quick and uninhibited in criticising Cornwall council, who just happen to be their biggest and most important customer. On the back of that the deterioration of the fleet, the lack of even basics such as destination displays, and the abandonment of social media can be seen as a rush towards the bottom. The criticism is fair.

  7. I could see go-ahead buying them up, they have bought smaller company's and they would retain there local identity,


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