Sunday, 22 March 2015

Save the 18!

Bad news for the people of Brixham, Hill Head & Kingswear as of Monday 30th March as Torbay Council announce the complete withdrawal of bus subsidies in Torbay, and with it goes the vital Brixham Town services 17/17A and 18 evening journeys. Currently, the last bus from Brixham to Kinsgwear is at 23:00, and 23:20 from Kinsgwear to Brixham. As of Monday, the changes will see the last bus from Brixham and Kingswear at 19:35 and 20:00 respectively. The last number 17 from Brixham to Furzeham is currently 22:40, and 23:00 on return. This will be cut back to 18:30.

With the 120 from Paignton to Hill Head and Kingswear not running after 18:40, Mondays cutbacks result in Hill Head and Kingswear, as well as Furzeham and Wall Park without a bus service after around 7pm, which is actually quite poor. 
A Stagecoach '18' at Kinsgwear Banjo

Not only does it affect the locals, but the holiday parks at Hill Head too! Tourists in the summer won't have any evening links to Brixham, and will likely be put off by this unless they own a car - thus affecting local businesses financially in the Summer months. 

In addition to the evening cutbacks, a pair of early morning journeys on the 18 are also lost. 

Stagecoach South West have announced these changes in far t

oo short notice for people to sort out alternative travel arrangements, whether that be for work, nights out or connections to the Hospital or suchlike, causing outrage.

However, this may not be the end! A "Save the 18" campaign has sprung up online and has caught on very well with the people of the three towns with over 600 signatures on the e-petition! Save the 18 can be found on FACEBOOK - Save the 18 and their online petition at CHANGE.ORG , both of which can be accessed by clicking the links. They can also be found on Twitter! 

Comments from the Public (C) Savethe18
Comments in support of Save the 18 have included awful cases of Job losses, ruined holidays and people having to pay the shocking price of Taxis to get about in the evenings. The people of Dartmouth will also be isolated, with the last X64 departing for Totnes at around 20:00, and no service from Kingswear. I would also expect the visitor numbers at Dartmouth regatta will drop because of the lack of bus service from Brixham. 

Regardless of the councils subsidies, Stagecoach are most definitely in a position to run the evening 17,17A & 18 commercially. If they can invest over £80 million into new buses for the UK, then surely to god they can have a 1 bus working (as it is currently) providing a 2 hourly service for each of the routes in Brixham at night. It's a decision made far too hastily, and without any thought for local people, and businesses. Stagecoach seem to have forgotten that in the summer months, the 18 is running fully loaded on most evening trips! 

Save the 18 logo - (C) Save the 18 online campaign
So for now, get online, and sign the petition to SAVE THE 18! 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The dog is dead! Farewell Western Greyhound...

As I'm sure most know, sad news came about on Friday 13th March when Western Greyhound announced that they had ceased trading. Drivers had turned up at Summercoirt to start their shifts Friday morning when they were given the news of their redundancy. It was later said that here had been an issue with insurance and a shortfall of cash, which gave management no choice but to shut up shop. Inevitably, this lead to all Western Greyhound services not running on Friday.

Cornwall Council worked hard all weekend to endeavour to sort out replacement services, and announced on Friday afternoon that as of Monday 16th March, Stagecoach South West, Go-Ahead and First Kernow would be stepping in. The following changes will take place:

520 & 522  -  St Austell - Truro
Replaced by new First services 520 & 522.

521  -  Newquay - St Dennis - St Austell
Covered by expanded First 21.

524 & 525  -  Fowey - St Austell - Mevagissey - Heligan
Replaced by First 24 and new First service 525.

527  -  Newquay - Eden Project
Replaced by new First service 527.

529  -  St Austell - Bodmin
Covered by expanded First 27.

550 & 551  -  Truro - Tregony – Veryan / St Mawes
Replaced by new First service 550.

555  -  Bodmin Parkway – Wadebridge - Padstow
Replaced by new Plymouth City Bus service 75 running Liskeard – Bodmin – Wadebridge – Padstow.

556  -  Newquay – Padstow
Replaced by new First service 556.

558  -  Newquay - Mayfield – Pentire
Replaced by new First service 558.

584  -  Wadebridge - Port Isaac - Camelford
Replaced by new Stagecoach services 584.

586  -  Newquay - Truro
Replaced by new First service 586.

587  -  Newquay - Perranporth - St Agnes - Truro
First 87 revised to include St Agnes.

593  -  Liskeard - Bodmin - St Columb Major
Partly replaced by new Plymouth City Bus service 75 running Liskeard – Bodmin – Wadebridge – Padstow.  No replacement for Bodmin - St Columb Major section.

594 & 597  -  Wadebridge/Newquay - St Columb Major - Truro
First services 90,91,92 revised to serve St Columb Major 

595  -  Wadebridge - Camelford - Boscastle - Bude
Replaced by new Stagecoach South West service 595

I would imagine that services will be changed and adapted to fit operators preferences in time. 

As for the drivers jobs, rival operator First Kernow have announced that they have recruited and trained 23 ex-Western Greyhound drivers on Friday, and that they are looking for more. First have also agreed to honour any Western Greyhound passes and tickets for the next few weeks to assist passengers. 

Now - what about the fleets?

Go-Ahead Plymouth Citybus/Go-Cornwall Bus: New route 75 is mainly being covered by the R-OFJ reg Dennis Dart SLF/Plaxton Pointer 2's, which work alongside the ex-Western Greyhound Optare Solo M780SE and M920's. Native '08 reg Alexander Dennis Enviro200 Dart's see use on the Cornish routes too, a nice treat with leather seats and 6 cylinder Cummins ISBe6 engines. Brighton & Hove have sent down two Transbus Pointer Dart SLF's; GU52HKA/B, and there are 9 Transbus Trident/Presidents due to follow, these being PK02RDU/V/Y/Z/RFE/F/J/L. I'm currently unsure weather these are loaned or permanent transfers. 

Citybus 18 R118OFJ out on new route 75.

First Kernow: Quite possibly the most interesting fleet shuffles due to Western Greyhounds demise. Ten ex-Western Greyhound vehicles have been transferred to First, and have had their Western Greyhound logos replaced by First ones incredibly quickly. These are:
5x Optare Solo: 914 PL06TFX,915 PL06TFY, 956 WK56PEN , 816 K50WGH & 817 WK55BUS

5x Transbus Mini Pointer Dart: 204 NA52AWM, 205 NA52AWN , 206 NA52AWO and a further pair which I don't currently have details for.

On top of those, a trio of ex-Lothian Transbus Super Pointer Dart's have been transferred (on loan) from Ensignbus of Purfleet. These are: SK02OKD & SK02OKF. I believe there should be a third at some stage.

Optare Solo 53009 W809PAF has been transferred from Buses of Somerset along with Transbus Dart SLF/Marshall Capital 41490 LT02ZFB from First Bristol (Lawrence Hill). Volvo B10BLE/Wright Renown 62191 X685ADK and 62194 X688ADK have also been transferred to Camborne from Bristol. 

RECENTLY REINSTATED: 34077 S477BWC at Wadebridge
Stagecoach South West: New routes 584 and 595 are currently being covered by Bude outstation. Dennis Dart SLF/Alexander ALX200s 34077 S477BWC and 34092 S492BWC are reinstated, after being withdrawn from Torquay depot in July 2014. Plaxton Pointer 2 bodied Dennis Dart SLF 34115 V115MVX has been reinstated to the service fleet after being in the driving school since last Summer. It's nice to see some old hands being called back into service! Alexander Dennis Pointer Dart 35166 WA56FKT has also been out on the 584/595.
34115 & 35166 at Wadebridge

Many thanks to Laurence Mayhew for the photos of the Stagecoach Dart's and Plymouth Citybus R118OFJ, not had a chance to visit Cornwall myself in recent days.

It will be very interesting to see what happens to the current Western Greyhound fleet in the near future. I would imagine the Mercedes Varios, and some of the Dennis Tridents will be scrapped. The Optare Solos, and majority of Darts will be sold on for use elsewhere. Only time will tell I guess... 
A pair of ex-London Dennis Tridents at Exeter Bus Station

It really is sad to see the well known and respected operator that Mark Howarth and his team built up from 1998 collapse all so quickly. Western Greyhound was sold to Michael Bishop in December 2014, he had also seen Countryliner and Velvet collapse. They have seen many an interesting vehicle operate for them over the 17 years of running, and served Cornwall very well until just before the end. 

I have prepared a tribute video to Western Greyhound, and will try to get that uploaded this week. Please feel free to contact me with any corrections or additions on information I have given. Quite a bit has happened since Friday, so I've not been able to keep up as well as I'd hoped. 

Lastly, before I sign off for the night I would like to wish all the members of staff at Western Greyhound the best of luck for the future, and hope that they can find employment quickly. 

Farewell Western Greyhound, Cornwall really won't be the same without you! 
The Mercedes Vario was the backbone of WG operation - a sight to be missed
 in Cornwall.