13 May 2016

Webberbus Withers

The current First South West operation is a game of two sides with the Cornwall fleet operating at a profit and due 30 brand new Enviro 400 MMCs later this year, the biggest single investment in new buses in Cornwall for years. The Buses of Somerset fleet though is a very different story and part of that struggle has to do with the serious competition it has been facing in the region with Webberbus being an aggressive competitor in particular.
Many passengers will have only been too happy to let the tired worn out old First buses (even after their smart repaints) to wait for the nice new buses operated by Webbers. However, many industry observers and enthusiasts have been watching and wondering just how Webberbus has been making any money. Well it turns out they weren't.
Somerset County Council:
Please be aware that we have been informed that one of the main bus companies in Somerset has ceased to operate today (Thursday 12 May), affecting a number of services.  We have responded immediately to this difficult situation and our staff are working hard to arrange for other operators to pick up these services where possible. We are confident that all services taking students to schools and colleges will be covered by replacement services from tomorrow morning. There should also be cover for the public routes where there are no other reasonable alternatives. On routes already covered by other operators, they will be doing their best to fill the gaps.
Below is a list of the affected Webberbus services, and replacements where they have been arranged. We will keep this page updated as replacement services are added or changed. We apologise for the disruption that this has caused.
Public Service Routes
  • 10 Minehead – Porlock First are providing a replacement service.
  • 12/15 Wellington – Taunton – Bridgwater Use First services 21/21A/22/22A, extra capacity will be provided where necessary
  • 16/24 Minehead – Bridgwater Please see First service 15 for Minehead/Carhampton/Williton/Watchet/Nether Stowey to Bridgwater College  First service 14 and X14 operates between Bridgwater and Cannington
  • 18 Minehead – Taunton Use First service 28, extra capacity will be provided where necessary
  • 19 Bridgwater – Street First will replace journeys previously operated by WebberBus
  • 26 Wells – Weston-super-Mare Use First service 126, additional capacity will be provided for Easton to Wells Blue School journeys
  • 27 Creech – Taunton Use First service 29
  • 34 Yeovil – Bridgwater Hatch Green service 16 is available
  • 37 / 375 Bridgwater – Street – Wells First will reinstate service 37/375 and provide additional capacity where necessary
  • 38 Taunton – Street – Wells Use First service 55
  • 62/66 Weston/Axbridge – Bridgwater College Crosville Motor Services will provide these services
  • 67 Wells – Burnham-on-Sea First will provide replacement service
  • 75 Weston – Burnham – Bridgwater Use First routes 20/21/21A, additional capacity provided where necessary
  • 76 Weston – Burnham Use First service 20
  • 101 Minehead Town Service First will provide this service
  • 623 Wellington – Bridgwater College First will provide replacement service
  • Bridgwater Town Services First will provide replacement services
  • Taunton Town Services Use existing First Taunton Town services
School services are detailed on the Somerset web site.
The number of services list above with alternative First Services already in place shows how many of the services affected were in direct competition with First, some running a few minutes in front of First buses on the same routes. This can also partly explain the whole mess!
Whilst not on the same scale as the efforts required after the collapse of Western Greyhound, this will mean a busy evening for many First staff making sure all the additional buses required are available first thing this morning. The company were quite rightly applauded for their handling of the WG collapse so there is every reason to be confident that things will work out just as well this time. In the long term it should also be a great help to the First business and maybe even allow some more investment in the fleet to take place.


  1. Webber bus had lot Money problems before for long time own £1.4 million in debts.

  2. So... does Somerset County Council not acknowledge that First now trades as Buses of Somerset? Most odd given all the effort put into rebranding the business over the last couple of years. Let's hope the ex-Webber passengers are not as confused!

    1. The Somerset notice is odd in so many ways - It does not even mention the name of the company that has gone under - until it links to affected Webberbus services!

    2. Somerset people use First for short or Green Ones in Yeovil or Wells to distinguish between First Wessex and First West of England. The 3 First groups are in practice very different.

  3. I hear all the time what a good fleet first Kernow have yet whenever I'm down that way all I see is stepped deckers (mid Cornwall anyway) there has to be a serious investment due soon as they will be unable to use these next year,

    1. The investment is under way with more low floor double deckers due from elsewhere in First shortly as well as the 30 brand new double deckers due in the summer. The Olympian fleet will all but dissapear very soon.

  4. 'The tired worn out old first buses'.
    Is there really any need to embellish things to that extent to try and create your story line.
    Yes there are some older vehicles there but the worst went last year.
    Corre t me if I'm wrong, but they have 8 Streetlites, 9 E200s, 6 recently refurbished Tridents, the refurbished B6s from Devon, refurbished B7Ls from the Plymouth P&R...

    It may not be new stock - and clearly their strategy to survive against the shiny new rented buses worked - but where is your evidence of customers 'choosing to let them go by to wait for a Webberbus???
    Surely if you were correct, Webberbus wouldn't have gone bust?
    If you'd stood and watched the 21 for example you'd have seen that the customers voted with their feet and were using BoS not Webberbus.

    1. The reference to the tired old fleet was maybe a slight overstatement but Alex Carter himself described the fleet as needing some improvement as most of the work so far has been a coat of paint to brighten up the fleet. Of course the cost of the competition has meant they cant spend as much as they like on the fleet - something which will hopefully change in the near future.
      You are probably right on the last point, clearly not enough passengers were waiting for Webberbus. My local knowledge is limited and I was going on comments read elsewhere.

    2. Webberbus 15/75 Wellington, Taunton, Bridgwater, Burnham suffered from traffic as much as poor operating and short layovers, making it unreliable. Regulars voted for the BoS 21 and 22 unless you wanted Taunton Hospital. However on the long runs to Minehead older passengers voted for a comfy seat and thus half decent loadings. 12 and 15 in Wellington running empty and in convoy was normal. However having today used the BoS 77 and the bus was incapable of climbing any gradient - the hills were all at walking pace in first gear and we dropped 20 mins - fortunately Wells has a 30 min layover!

  5. I tried on of the webber buses few week's back got to Taunton bus station and sat there for 15 mins after it should of left, Got off and decided to get buses of somerset instead and it shot off soon as I got off.Wasn't gonna use them again

  6. it's the staff, that are worst hit, hopefully they find new jobs. i can see forsee a few more going this year, theres one in Plymouth that comes to mind, when i worked there, it was run on a shoestring, maintenance was cut so much so, that buses were sent out un-roadworthy, bald tyres being commonplace, the school buses, well i feared for the childrens safety. sometimes though a closure could be seen as a good thing, for safety, but never for us drivers, i am waiting for a Targeted response to this

  7. As an ex customer it is a pity First colud not have hung around in Plymouth and did the same to Citybus that they have in Cornwall and Somerset to WG and Webbers

  8. I think to be honest that if First hadn't taken their eye off the ball so much then Webberbus wouldn't have spotted an opportunity to enter the bus market in Somerset back in 2007 and started their 15. First at the time were consistently getting it wrong locally.
    The '9 E200s' represent the sum total of new vehicle investment (way back in 2008-9) in the former Southern National operations which First acquired back in 1999. A record that is perhaps best forgotten. There has been no new vehicle investment since then, even with the FSW team in charge. Let us hope they will now invest in their operations and acquire some new vehicles for their best routes.
    To say First were disinterested 10 years ago puts it mildly. Yes, they have massively pulled their socks up since control moved to FDC but to be honest they needed to. The BoS rebrand and values were exactly what was needed to shake off the stale image First have presented in Somerset since 1999. Credit to the FSW team for taking a long hard look at their operations and doing something about them. I hope you build for the future now and invest in new vehicles for the 21 and 28.

  9. It is quiet today without Webberbus and the pastime of counting loadings has gone; normally 0-3. First seem to have been well prepared, but as Facebook said today there were many friends in both camps. From my pre-planned trip to Yeovil and Wells there was probably more concern about the new BoS 55 and 77 routes that replaced the First 375/377 on Monday than the Webberbus demise. The timing is quiet different. Driver route knowledge was an issue with one bus having a second driver and on mine the passengers were shouting directions to the front to get round the Street estates and many suburban stops were over shot. The post 9:30 77 also suffered from over loading. The Webberbus routes were either being run normally by First or you had to just wait for the First alternative - however some of the waiting was 30 mins plus or just 2 mins.

  10. The issue of small operators taking on big groups is a bit tricky.They should try to compement each other cover the the areas not serviced.Here in the Midlands Yourbus tried to take on TrentBarton in its own territory.After a few months even the shiny Citaros would not sway the customers they cut back.

    1. Yourbus are still taking on TrentBarton in their own territory.

      There are still four services in direct competition with TB, and as far as I am aware the only service which was withdrawn was the Citylink service which competed with the Red Arrow service. However, since that time Yourbus have commenced operating the Y4 which competes with TB's Indigo service, so your suggestion that they have cut back is incorrect.

    2. Thats what i meant .Thanks fir pointing that out.

  11. Why are the "f's" showing in bold type?

  12. Don't try and tell me Friday 13th is not unlucky...

  13. Friday 13th is lucky for some. Work available was about 8 college contracts, 5 college journeys - routes 19, 26, 62, 66, 623, all day routes(pvr) 10(1), 16(1), 37/375 (Polden villages specials only)(2), 67(2), 101(1) plus off peak C/F. About PVR 20 plus Private Hire / Contract services. The 16 (no longer linked) and 37/375 (due to First WoE 375 withdrawal on 7th May) have special timetables in the short term.

    The following sadly did not need to be replaced; routes every 30 mins, 12, 15, 18, 75, B, T1, T2, T8 and hourly routes 24, 26, 34, 37(direct), 38, 76, A, E as largely duplicates of Buses of Somerset.

    The First Rail Support group helped organise Friday morning and some drivers from Webberbus were soon back driving. First group and neighbours scrambled. Webberbus timetables disappeared off bus shelters very quickly. Webberbus did have some unique features and linked routes, plus Buses of Somerset has new routes, which now have to be integrated and made efficient. However I bet some of the cheap fare offers soon go. E&OE.

  14. Good to see the Services were put into place Efficiently by Buses of Somerset,let's hope the Network is Re Structured and most of the Weber bus 🚌 Drivers gain Employment out of the Situation, does anyone know where the additional First vehicles came from.

  15. This was posted on the Buses of Somerset Facebook page on Saturday 14th at 09:35 and I think worth repeating;

    We'd just like to stop for a moment and say a few 'thank-you's and a few other nice things to a whole load of people who have helped us to pick the pieces up following the events of the past few days.
    Thank-you to our customers for your understanding and patience over the past couple of days, and indeed over the next week or so while we sort the fall-out from the sudden closure of Webberbus.
    Welcome to those Webberbus customers who are now travelling with us. We're a bit stretched at the moment, but we hope you enjoy travelling with us.
    Thank-you to Somerset County Council for entrusting us to cover the vast majority of the services and school contracts.
    Thank-you to our existing staff who have worked tirelessly to get things organised, to hand out information, to get extra buses on the road at very short notice, to come in at short notice to drive buses, and for being patient with us and our customers.
    Welcome to those drivers who have already joined us from Webberbus, and who after a very quick induction, have been out there keeping the buses moving. We hope you enjoy working with us.
    Thank-you to our sister companies who have sent us buses and drivers to help out - First Kernow, First Hampshire and Dorset, to our neighbours at First West of England who are running the 67 route - to Crosville who are helping out with Bridgwater College buses, and to First Rail Support and their sub contractors who assembled a fleet of coaches overnight to help us out first thing on Friday.
    Sorry to anyone inconvenienced over the past few days or in the coming days
    It's going to take us a few weeks to get everything properly sorted, but rest assured we will.


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