22 August 2015

First are the most social

If there is one thing that First do well, its their engagement with customers through social media, especially on Facebook. They are on their most days giving updates and usually answer complaints and questions left on the site. All of this is done in a friendly manner which really does them credit.  I know many managers hate Facebook but the trouble is passengers these days expect answers to their questions and expect at least some basic interaction with operators.

This last week has shown both the worst of First and also the best in how they dealt with the aftermath..

The problem

The extra buses promised for the Fireworks Championship didnt turn up, at least, very few of them did and passengers were not happy.

one hour forty minutes waiting for PR2bus, six policemen to keep the peace. Elderly ladies, expectant mums, and young children in push chairs, waiting till midnight. Then three buses come all at once. Someone in the management organisation needs his a**e kicked. Not the drivers, who were doing a great job

What happened this year!!!!! Last years organisation worked well, so why change it? There were staff to let you know which queue to go in & they kept moving. Why change what was working. The shambles at the bus stop ruined the evening. Took the police to do YOUR jobs. I was told it was because Argyle were playing....so what....This event happen every year & the fixture list was out before the event. If you advertise a service there should be enough staff and vehicles to cover it!! A response/apology from first would be good to acknowledge that there was in fact a problem.

The bus service last night was a complete shambles after the fireworks. No organisation at all where to queue for buses, 2 x First people stood by and watched doing absolutely nothing and then disappeared. Very few buses arriving with not in service on the front and no one knowing where it was heading. In the end it took the police to sort things out and City Bus to step in.
This is not the first time Plymouth has held this event so no excuses really. All it would have took would be some basic signage, separate the two bus stops PR1 & PR2 one at top of Royal Parade and one at the bottom and some staff that had a clue what they where doing on the ground. Oh and perhaps some extra buses because we got to the shambles of queue at 2230 and I counted 4 PR1 buses until we go on a City Bus at 23:45.
Chance to get it right tonight perhaps ?

The response

Plymouth Park & Ride service for Fireworks – Tuesday 18 August
We’ve received a few complaints about our service delivery last night. While we don’t wish to make excuses (we know there were a number of issues) we would like to try and explain a bit further, and of course say sorry.
Following the sale of the Devon business, a number of staff members who would have covered these extra evening services have left (when the extra bus trips were registered we weren’t aware of the sale). We’ve done our best to find other staff to cover the trips (and keep within driving hours regulations) but have struggled. Not good enough we know but we’re trying to be honest. Those who did volunteer were just that ‘volunteers’ – most were not getting paid to drive or supervise. Customers who were there will have seen that our staff had to deal with a minor few who were very rude spitting and swearing at them – we appreciate that people were angry and tired but there is never an excuse for such abuse. There were also instances of queue jumping which our staff did their best to deal with; again when the actions of a very few start to get threatening the safety of our staff is important to us. Of course the majority of our passengers were – although understandably frustrated – tolerant and polite and we thank them for their patience.
Lastly with the weather being so good last night (and forecast to be still raining this evening) it also meant that there were a lot more people attending last night than we would have expected.
We are very grateful to Citybus who helped clear the big queues at the end of the evening (and they have, naturally, sent us their invoice!)
So once again we apologise for how long it took to get you home last night. And hopefully this evening will run more smoothly – if a little wetter!

A further clarification followed:

For those commenting on not being paid and volunteering, this referred to a number of staff like myself who are administrative in our daily work and do 9-5 type hours. We usually volunteer as I did the last two nights to help to cover the extra work, this means we have less issues with our driving staff and drivers hours etc. We are obviously paid but as mostly salaried there is no enhancement and we still have our normal work load to do and catch up on. Sadly a number of these loyal work force are going to be made redundant as a result of the sale to Stagecoach, some have found alternative employment already. Hope this clarifies the situation

Running the local operation for a national group that clearly didnt want to be here is hard enough. Running it for the last few weeks when its been sold is probably even harder although I am sure there are already plenty of Stagecoach people on hand to make sure the switchover is as painless as possible for passengers at least.

As I said at the start, First have been excellent on Social media and have a good web site which is pretty easy to use. I have to be honest I much prefer the new First web site now in use by First Kernow to the new Go Ahead design now used by Citybus. Its nice on a mobile but poor otherwise especially the timetables.

Stagecoach however continue with a very poorly designed web site which has been set up for national operational convenience rather with the user in mind. You shouldnt need to go through various drop down lists just to find the timetables you want. As for social media – well forget it!

There have been rumours that a new web site is on the way, well I really hope so. I doubt it will arrive before Plymouth starts up so a lot of local passengers are going to be faced with the prospect of searching for timetables etc. Good luck to them!


Meanwhile an even coming up with should help…

Have your say on Plymouth’s bus services and find out more about upcoming changes at a special event being held at the Big Screen on Wednesday 26 August. Whether you think buses are brilliant or delays are driving you mad, head to Armada Way and hop aboard the Chatterbus anytime from 9.30am to 3.30pm. You can chat to staff, make a suggestion or complaint or pass on a compliment, as well as find out about changes being made to bus services next month. Or, if you just need some general information, there will be plenty of timetables, route maps and promotional leaflets to take away. Stagecoach will be on hand to explain their plans for the city’s bus network following their takeover of First Devon and Cornwall in Plymouth, Tavistock and Dartmouth on 6 September. They will be joined by representatives from Plymouth Citybus, Target Travel, Jackett’s Coaches and Plymouth City Council. You can also get an early look at new buses being introduced soon by Plymouth Citybus and Stagecoach.

Councillor Brian Vincent, Cabinet Member for Streetscene, said: “September will see some pretty significant changes in the city’s bus network, with the takeover of First’s operations by Stagecoach, a revised network from Citybus and our two new bus shelters on Royal Parade coming into use. If you travel by bus, come along to the Chatterbus on 26 August and find out more about how these changes will affect you.”

The ‘Your Bus Matters’ event is being organised by the Council in partnership with Bus Users UK and local bus operators.


  1. Stagecoach SW are very active and responsive on Twitter, hope this will also cover Plymouth :)

  2. Maybe doon south. But up in Scotland Stagecoach leads the way with Social media. So its all swings and roundabouts. At least First Devon and Cornwall made a real effort here.


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