Tuesday, 9 August 2022

Demise of Yellow Bus Bournemouth and Food for Thought for Those Wanting to Run a Bus Empire

The demise of Yellow Bus in Bournemouth has been a shock to the transport industry and has attracted comments from bus users and those who have a general interest in transport.
One of our founding contributors who is a regular bus user has commented  

"What I find frustrating about the current situation is that the government is pouring billions into public transport while at the same time routes are being axed everywhere you look because apparently that money can't be spent on existing services"

 "One wonders if those billions will be wasted because they do nothing to help solve the underlying problem which is forcing existing bus passengers to find alternative means of travel: the unreliability of current services caused by the UK shortage of bus drivers.
I saw an advert for train guards (or whatever they are now called). £35000 per year, £12000 more than a bus driver is likely to earn. Billions spent on electric buses and subsidised fares is not going to solve this underlying problem. 
Far more important than modern buses, smiling drivers, WiFi, cheap fares etc etc is a guarantee that the bus is going to turn up at the scheduled time.

I can reach the bus stop in less than 5 minutes. Unfortunately the Stagecoach app cannot be relied upon to give an accurate waiting time!"

Photos above & below by permission of Roger French

A number of areas are pushing for bus franchising and ignoring the opportunity to work with established operators and are selling the idea, based on what London do. Unfortunately  the London model is far from stable and for the past few years has needed more and more money to keep the services running. see our Focus posting dated 22nd July here

The problem with franchising is that no real long term promises are being made by government and the councils that are going down this route are ignoring this fact. 
Also franchising has massive back office costs that will drain the money from the government subsidies on offer and result in council tax increases to pay for the shortfall. 
It is not uncommon to hear the comment "Councils struggle to empty the bins so how can they run the buses"  This might be unfair but councils have no real experience of running buses and will need to pay for people who can play this important part.

The alternative option of bus partnerships has found favour in some areas and can be seen to work successfully, whereby the local bus companies work with the councils to agree service levels. The bus companies bring their expertise to the table and the councils subsidise services that would otherwise be unprofitable as well as improving road access to make the services more reliable.

Roger French has posted an interesting article on his Bus and Train user website where he covers the demise of Yellow Buses and states 

"We haven’t seen the likes of a sizeable bus operator fail in such dramatic fashion in 30 years. Not since National Welsh ceased trading in 1992. It’s a salutary lesson for those who think running a bus company is a sure fire way to make profits and I hope those calling for new municipally owned companies to be set up to stymie so called profiteering “bus barons” in the private sector are taking note"

What Roger doesn't know about running buses isn't worth knowing so those who have grand ideas about having their own bus empire should certainly take note.

Roger's report on how the services have been immediately rescued by the skills and expertise of the Go South Coast team can be read here