27 October 2015

Cornwall Transit 022

Last Two Weeks

Notices posted on VOSA over the last two weeks:

St Ives Bus Co 2 [PH1053866.015] Trenwith Shuttle

VOSA Notice
  • PH1053866/15 - 
  • Variation Accepted: 
  • Operating between Trenwith Car Park and Trenwith Car Park 
  • given service number 2 
  • effective from 04-Dec-2015. 
  • To amend Timetable.

First Kernow 101 [PH0004983.360] St Austell Eden Project


  • PH0004983/360 - 
  • Variation Accepted: 
  • Operating between St Austell Trinity Street and Eden Project/ Luxulyan School 
  • given service number 101 
  • effective from 13-Dec-2015. 
  • To amend Timetable

Coming up

Previously announced changes coming up in the next two weeks :

St Ives Bus Co 6 [PH1053866.022] Higher Stennack Porthmeor Beach

VOSA Notice

  • PH1053866/22 
  • Variation Accepted: 
  • Operating between St Ives Car Park, Higher Stennack and St Ives, Porthmeor Beach 
  • given service number 6 
  • effective from 02-Nov-2015. 
  • To amend Timetable.
  • No new timetable found, no real surprise there

First Kernow fleet news

It seems that repaints have slowed down a bit. 69218 69223 69226 are the latest reports I have seen

First Kernow

There is a nice post on their Facebook page at the moment giving some more background to their brand consultation:

Brand Consultation

Thank you to everyone for all the feedback and comments so far. We're still open for further comments feedback and suggestions, but now is a good time to pick up on some of the general feedback and reply to some of it.
We're very conscious that some customers have had to contend with some cancellations and disruption over the Summer and we're really sorry about this. We've struggled a bit for staff since Western Greyhound suddenly went into receivership on 13 March. We had to take a view on how much service we could run across the summer season with both the staff and buses we could muster. We could have played really safe but took the decision to operate as much as we possibly could manage with the expected staffing and vehicles available to us, and that has been challenging.
As well as finding drivers, it's fair to say that some who joined us from Western Greyhound drifted off across the summer, probably having decided that our style of operation wasn't for them.
Now we're into the Winter timetable the staffing situation has improved, and we're busy recruiting for the future. It takes about 4 months from starting to advertise for new drivers until they are working alone, so this is an ongoing process. It was also a fair few years since we had operated in the Newquay area, and we only really now have experience of summer traffic delays and running times, so we'll be looking to use this experience to make our timetables more robust for next summer.

On the vehicle front, we are now in the process of changing over around 90 vehicles with newer low floor ones and that is a bit of a challenge as we bed the newer ones in, but will provide better buses in the medium term.

So onto the branding...

Firstly, buses have a hard life, and generally need reprinting every 3 to 4 years, so a fair number would be due a repaint over a relatively short timescale. In truth many are long overdue in Cornwall, so we're not looking at lots of unnecessary cost
One of the key reasons though to adopt a new brand s d colours is to better market our buses to new customers and visitors. By investing a bit of money in better marketing we get more customers like any business. More passengers travelling means a sustainable business that can invest in better buses, more buses etc., so it's as much about increasing the viability of our business as spending money on painting. In terms of a new brand, we aren't planning on suddenly reprinting the fleet though. We see the initial rebranding and colours being applied to new and refurbished buses, which would probably introduced where possible on a route by route basis. It would be part of a plan to give specific routes a bigger overhaul, including things like the information at the bus stops, and looking to improve the timetables themselves on the route.
So finally for now - the concept bus...
...we've considered all sorts of colours over the past year. Black and white are not easy colours to keep clean. Metallic colours are more difficult to apply but also more time consuming and specialist to repair.
We've been encouraged by all sorts of people to use green, but we're still very open to which greens, what colours could give a contrast and the layout.
Thanks for reading all of this and please feel free to continue to offer your thoughts...

Kernow Fox on Facebook

Many of you will be wondering when Kernowfox will commence operations.
As some will know The Government has announced that from 2018 Cornwall Council will be able to Franchise Bus Services in the county. In effect this will put Cornwall onto the same basis as London in that commercial services will be abandoned and the County will specify the services and issue contracts only for those services it deems necessary and for which it has funding.
The main issue here for us is that if we spent the next 3 years developing a network in Cornwall it could be for nothing and our investment and work would be lost maybe to another operator. Any investment in new vehicles which would require years to recover the capital cost would also be lost.
From the passenger point of view this is bound to lead to 3 years of less than needed development of the Cornish Bus network. When the Council does franchise there is no guarantee that the existing successful services in the county would be retained or that there would be an improvement. Indeed most of the cuts to the network have been the result of Council spending cuts of supported services.
We would reiterate that this is NOT just a Kernowfox issue it affects all bus operators within Cornwall- However Kernowfox was at a point where it had to take a decision whether to invest in Cornwall's services- we had delayed that decision because following the demise of Western Greyhound some settling of the replacement network of First Kernow, Plymouth Citybus and Stagecoach South West was deemed right and needed for the first year.
The franchising announcement happened as we were considering which services would have been introduced. Following the announcement of Franchising we have decided it is not prudent to spend our resources unless we can be sure of a reasonable chance of making a return.
Passengers should now consider if they think the bus services will remain as good as they are (and we know that in some areas they are far from frequent) under Council control or whether the present system is more desirable. Information on those services the council supports can be found in the front of First's current Timetable booklet, There are a good number of First Services which are commercial and those services could be changed reduced in frequency etc under these measures.
For now at least Kernowfox will not invest in developing a Cornish network, and for that we are deeply disappointed.

I am sure that this will come as a shock to so many of you out there…


  1. I think franchising should at least be trialled on a county basis to see if it works. The PLC's have long held their passengers to ransom with high fares, service cuts when the routes arent making a profit etc.

    Perhaps the bus services could then be operated to connect to other services and those of train and ferry services. This could be a unique opportunity to make things work and have an integrated transport network similar to European countries as long as this isnt government cuts in disguise.

  2. Beware what you ask for Anonymous. the level of subsidy in most (all?) other European countries is massive. In some areas the ticket price is only about 25% of the real cost of the journey. Franchising will NEVER reduce fares. It will either reduce services or increase subsidy (aka Council Tax). See how much London taxpayers are shelling out for their, admittedly excellent, bus services.
    Integration - no hope without much higher subsidy. the numbers simply don't add up.

    1. I agree entirely - and that as a Cornwall ratepayer.

      As far as service-level and creating a network, Western Greyhound got it right - an integrated network of, mainly, hourly services connecting with each other at key points, very much in the way that Southdown worked fifty years ago. Until it all started falling apart, passengers heaped praise on the company because of their reliability and the helpfulness of their staff.

      Whether franchising works in Cornwall will depend on whether the current officers in the council public transport section have sufficient understanding of how bus operation works, whether councillors will let them get on with their job and, of course, whether the money, either from the DfT or from council tax, is there to support it all.

      In London, bus companies tender to provide the service, but do not keep the fares - and, anyway, very few fares are collected on the bus now. This would mean standard fares throughout Cornwall, probably on a zonal system - and almost certainly some form of smart card payment equivalent to London's Oyster Card. It could open the possibility, too, of integrating the trains with the buses, using the same fare scales; that should not be too complicated as one company runs nearly all the trains - and, now, a lot of the buses.

      A significant difference from London is the level of car use - a car is not practical in central London, so buses are used by a much wider cross-section of the population. In Cornwall, buses are less often used by people in higher-income groups and not at all by people who live a long way from a bus route or for whom the bus does not offer them the destination they want. An hourly service, anyway, is not convenient for people who need to get to work at a fixed time - if you start work in Truro at 9.00 and the buses reach the bus station at five past the hour, do you get to work late or kick your heels for 45 minutes? But then I imagine this is why franchising is being trialled in a rural area.

      It could work out really well, but only if there is the will to make it work - at all levels.

  3. It depends really on how Cornwall Council want it to work, it would be nice to see a link between Launceston & Bodmin and then a fast to Truro, so the 27 could become the slow version. The question is will it see newer buses being brought in or just refreshed buses that look new for a few years.

    1. Johnny, I'd refer you to fbb's repsonse above which hits the nail very neatly on the head. Your phrase 'it would be nice.....' is very relevant as there is a very real danger with all of these wonderful-sounding ideas that they become a means for council empire-building and pet projects that soak up money and don't actually deliver what the passengers *need* but what the councils *think* the passengers need and what would be nice to do or have.

      If there was a genuine need for a bus service between Launceston, Bodmin and Truro, then surely we would have one already? Bus companies have become very adept over the last 30 years at developing services where there is a demand. If there isn't a demand, then someone has to pay the difference in order for such a service to run - that's no different under a deregulated model or a franchised model. I fail to see why councils believe they can do a better job than experienced bus industry professionals. However much money they have to play with, it will only stretch so far and the councils are always, always, always going to come under pressure to rejig budgets and switch money elsewhere, and the provision of bus services is never going to be at the top of the list of priorities even under a franchise model.

      New (newer) buses are something of a red herring. Yes, operators need to buy new buses to maintain an appropriate age profile across the fleet (which can be done nationally as First tends to do, as opposed to locally within each subsidiary) but remember that buses are built to last for 15-20 years. They're expensive to buy and designed for a long life, so older buses have to run somewhere. The key isn't so much age, it's how they are maintained and presented that's important, a lesson that some operators *still* haven't properly learned, particularly with regards to interior standards.

    2. ....Or none of the above ?

      For a Council that is having to save £192 million, I wouldn't bank on many improvements !

    3. To Anon, I get what your saying, but the thing is nothing has ever been trialled between Launceston & Bodmin, and the link between Launceston & Wadebridge has been axed following the loss of the 510. To Petras409, part of the devolution powers is that Cornwall Council has to franchise routes and create a better transport network which connects buses with trains or ferries etc. that is why their getting a large subsidy to cover this. CC are not allow to just store it in the bank.

    4. The trouble with something like Launceston to Bodmin is that there is very little in between, so to be a viable route any passengers would need to be travelling the whole route between the two towns - do you really think there is any genuine demand for that? 22 miles along an A-road with few, if any, stops does not make for a sustainable bus route and that's before you even consider the ENCTS reimbursement issue for long journeys. It might be a 'nice to have' but I can't see CC supporting something like that even under franchising; they certainly haven't done to date and they could have funded it through the tender regime if they had any belief that such a link was socially necessarily let alone 'nice'.

  4. There are two fundamental issues with current franchising proposals that supporters conveniently ignore:
    1. There is no going back, a lot of people argue we should give it a try and see what happens as we haven't tried it before (conveniently ignoring London which tried both minimum subsidy - result very poor service with old buses & unreliability - & high quality - result very heavy subsidy and an unresponsive network) seeming to think that they can just go back to what it was before if it fails. If it fails the old operators won't exist anymore and the people who are likely to be contracting specialist with little grasp of commercial needs of fixing a failing system. In case anyone thinks this is unlikely, at the recent enquiry into QCs in Tyne & Wear Nexus themselves said there was a 30% risk of them running out of money (not just overspending but doing so to a point no more money could be found to support the network) and when asked what happens if they can't afford to continue they said they would just go back to deregulation despite having put most of the local operators out of business (so a couple of years of chaos, 10 years of no changes at all and then back to having to rebuild a network that wasn't broken until the PTE messes with it).
    2. Bus routes are commercial assets with a value, when a business is purchased there will be an allowance for 'goodwill' which is basically the route operation. No proposal for franchising appears to make any financial allowance for compensating operators for the loss of their business, which aside being unfair is illegal seizure of private assets by the state - if these local authorities have to pay for the operations they plan to take on they would not be able to afford to start the process.

    1. I wreckon we will see some operators pull out, we've already see Kernowfox, although that was never going to happen in the first place. Somehow I don't think we shall see Go-Ahead in Liskeard soon.

    2. Good points indeed but to me, there's a significant third issue and that is who is going to bid and does the Council really have any idea of what level the bids are likely to be pitched at? Cornwall has one major bus operator at the moment, two other PLCs just over the border (but neither having any significant depot infrastructure in the county, and a handful of sizeable independent operators who could perhaps bid at individual route level or for the smaller parcels of work.

      Cynically, you could perhaps see First bidding very high to compensate for point (2) above and if they don't win, shrug their shoulders, move the buses up-country, sell the depots for redevelopment and pay everyone off unless TUPE kicks in for the bidders who do win. Any new players would surely have to bid high as well to make it worthwhile setting up a depot and operation from scratch and that's without even knowing if they'd actually win enough work to make it viable in the first place. It's not like when tendering started in London where there was 10 ready-made (and state-owned) operators already in the area and plenty more independents and ex-NBC companies around the periphery who could be tempted in. Cornwall doesn't have that at all; it's a very different scenario and could easilly cost far, far more money than they expect not just to get it up and running but to keep it running year after year after year - see the point dwarfer1979 makes above in relation to Nexus (and that 30% chance of going broke remember is Nexus's own figure, which many people would suggest should be a lot higher). It can all sound wonderful in theory but when you start thinking about the practicalities and the potential consequences, it really gets quite scary.... and you can see why Stagecoach has threatened instead just to pull out of the North East completely.

    3. Does anyone know if its a franchise route by route, or a franchise for the whole of Cornwall's bus services for a period of term(like the railway system)

    4. That is up to the authority concerned in how they want to go and apart from Nexus no other authority has given any details of their plans, reports are that Cornwall were somewhat surprised to get the offer and not entirely sure they wanted it (has anyone at any of the authorities offered these powers actually confirmed they intend to take them up?). Nexus intend to fairly sizeable batches of routes grouped together for the main, normal bus routes with things like schools and the being offered in much smaller packages. London did try area packages but found they really struggled to manage them and get them to work and switched back to individual route tendering - Europe, however, makes the big packages work so there is no inherent reason why it wouldn't but if you go for big packages you limit who can bid as many small & medium sized businesses wouldn't have the funds to manage such packages (especially if things like cost or income aren't as expected).

      The other question is over whether the councils have the competence to manage the planning and implantation of such schemes of this size (most councils I have dealt with or worked in, even at PTEs, only really have one staff member with any planning skills and even then they tend to rely on the bus companies for more original plans & development ideas). When Metro in West Yorkshire were looking at QCs they considered how they would deal with this issue and they said that the planners would TUPE from the operators in the area ignoring the fact that these people would be the ones leading the tender bidding (and as, at the time, one of the staff who would have been caught in this suggestion I would not have been willing to transfer in any circumstances and as someone who was based outside the county but scheduling one of the larger operators half my work was not in West Yorkshire - as would have applied to half the major operators & the other major operators had significant work outside the county - so TUPE wouldn't have applied or been reasonable). You do wonder how resourced these councils could be to actually manage & develop a network like this, it looks like a bonanza for consultants.

    5. Some good points dwarfer1979. Of course Cornwall is a rather different scale to London, no routes there of 30+ PVR running 24/7, and that brings its own challenges.

      We tend to do a mix of "area" and "route" tendering whereby a number of routes will come up at the same time, along with the schools in the same area. That way operators can bid for 1 or 2 bus contacts if that is their wish, or they can combine work, for example 2 x 2 bus, 3 x 1 bus as one local operator did. Then they also bid for some schools to provide a couple of drivers to cover meal breaks on the main network, and a shopper's or two to fill in the rest of the day. But equally, one of the big national groups could have decided that a couple of the routes would have fitted nicely as bolt-ons to their network, and been quite happy to cover breaks from the driver resources at one end of one of the routes. Likewise the local coach operator with just a few of vehicles could, and did, pick up some schools.

      Sometimes operators say they like to bid for a package (often the "little guys" come from an engineering background rather than a schedules/operations one and can't see how to link work if its offered bus by bus), other times they are very well aware of the opportunities to add to their existing work by picking up contacts which are a good "fit". Obviously it is important to get best value from tenders, and sometimes a degree of second guessing of operators is necessary to get the best result. Sometimes they bite, sometimes despite best efforts their plans are misjudged and the council doesn't get the result it wanted.

      It will be interesting to see how Cornwall pans out. But one has to wonder, rather like the concessionary bus pass scheme, is "Cornish Devolution" a political quick fix, issued without much thought of the implications or practicalities? After all, just look at how many buses there are in Whitehall and passing Parliament, and look how modern that fleet is; if it works here, it'll work in rural Cornwall... Or perhaps not, Sir Humphrey!

  5. Not sure that tenders will be the way this operates in Cornwall. I suspect that CCC will draw up a timetable for a bus service between A and B they will then say that they will pay the franchise owner £x to operate that timetable. If this is how it will work there may be a bidding war where operators will claim to be able to operate at less than the advertised rate. I emphasise the word if as I have no detailed knowledge of how CCC will proceed, I am just supposing to encourage debate.
    So you could end up with a timetable produced by a clerk in an office using Google maps and a calculator. How will the proposal be properly timed? Will allowances be made for peak period traffic? Will the route be checked for vehicle suitability? Etc, etc. Mr operator will then be told we can only pay you £x to run this timetable, oh and by the way we have attached some serious quality control measures which you will struggle to meet, and when you fail we will fine you in order that some of the franchise money can be reclaimed. Is it any wonder operators are not keen.

    Just another note here, what a change to have some intelligent debate on the blog based around what is in the main factual, or at worse best guess information. So much more worthwhile reading than the constant operator bashing. Thank you

  6. The big change will come in December 2018 when theoretically the Cornish main line will get a regular half hourly service. Then at last it should be able to provide consistent connections with all the bus services.

  7. There's some excellent intelligent debate here about franchising. The Buses Bill has yet to be published and I still don't think it's a shoe-in that it will ever be introduced in Cornwall - I believe it's been made clear all along by the government that the areas it's been offered to have a choice as to whether they exercise the powers. One thing is certain, though. The Cornish network will not remain as it is now. If the current deregulated environment is retained then the supported part of it will gradually disappear due to funding cuts. Whether franchising could reduce the scale of the cuts through spreading resources around I don't know. A crude example: with the Cornish main line going half-hourly use that to reduce the 14/18 to 4bph and use the savings to fund a "loss-making" route elsewhere. I'm not saying that's a good idea - but it's the general theory.

    Personally, although I do think there are areas that would benefit from franchising, these are some city regions where there is sustained wasteful competition along some corridor and stared services along others. This is not Cornwall! The biggest benefit that could come to Cornwall would be integrated ticketing involving all operators, but I'm sure that's already available for the council to impose through the 2008 Act.

    Just on one point made by "Johnny", Go-Ahead is the largest operator in London, which indicates that they're very comfortable with franchising. Should it come to Cornwall I can see them pitching in with the bidding, not pulling out.

  8. Indeed, some intelligent discussion! Of course, in terms of what we know about franchising there is little fact, and much presumption.
    The overall situation is that the Dft hasn't even drafted the 'Buses Bill' yet which will set out not just the parameters for franchising, but also the rigorous five point business case test that any local authority would need to demonstrate it was able to pass before it could move ahead with franchising. The Buses Bill is not just about franchising though, it will also set out new guidance and powers to develop stronger partnerships between councils and bus operators - indeed the Dft are making the point that strengthening the powers for partnerships will probably be the most important and most utilised part of the Buses Bill.
    It is very clear that there is no extra money to support the provision of bus services for councils who manage to pass the test and who then franchise. This is particularly relevant, as unless local operators are making a profit margin so much higher than the return expected on a franchise award, or unless there is widespread head to head competition on significant routes, then franchising will deliver no additional money for extra services, reduced fares, newer buses, information provision, or indeed anything else people may wish for.
    Indeed, if the status-quo remains in terms of funding, then the simple transfer of revenue risk from commercial bus operators to the council should be enough to make any council run towards partnership at some considerable speed!!!
    The Dft are at pains to say that the Buses Bill will require any local change to benefit the passenger, so the test will have to demonstrate that the passenger will be better off, not simply be a political decision by politicians about taking control of bus services.
    Even if a local council moves to franchising after all the tests, we know that there will be years of very expensive legal wrangling in the European Courts before anything ever comes to pass.
    So to Cornwall...the Council was told it can have franchising powers by the Treasury - but the Dft hasn't written those enacted powers yet. They will come in the Buses Bill. Cornwall doesn't get some sort of bye - it would still have to pass the five point business case, demonstrate that it would deliver better outcomes (with no extra money) for passengers, and be confident that it could produce a better revenue stream from a franchise than First et al can.
    Indeed, at the Cornwall Expo where First displayed their concept livery, Cornwall Council told the Secretary of State for Transport that their preferred way forward was a formal partnership with First for the mass of Cornwall that they operate across, not franchising...

    1. Thanks for all of that background, it clarifies a lot - I guess many of us had assumed that CC had asked for franchising powers.

      The Tyne & Wear proposal has now been comprehensibly kicked out and Nexus has been given quite a hammering by the Review Board over its conduct and its financial assumptions. This will make any further proposals around the country much harder to get through, I'm sure.

      Details from Stagecoach's site:


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