Come full circle, get a grant
Today’s junk mail: not quite pure junk. The local bus company has done a rebranding exercise on the Plymouth-Tavistock route, and is leafleting the area about it. In with the junk was a new paper timetable, which I might use instead of traveline (at least until I inevitably lose it).
This particular route has always had an excellent bus service: more like an urban route than a rural one. They’ve been up to 3 buses an hour at peak times, with an hourly evening service up to a last bus back at 23:45. According to the leaflets, that’s now rising to a peak of 4 per hour, with evening services remaining as before.
I had actually noticed the changes, though I didn’t know they were part of a full-blown rebranding exercise. The buses have got new colours (hideous in purple and pink). The timetables had clearly changed: I’d seen a bus at a time I knew no bus goes, and (suspecting a change in those I do use) checked the timetable.
Among the changes, a real improvement. Or rather, one particularly stupid change from a couple of years back undone. We’re back to only some of the buses faffing about in a tedious detour into Derriford Hospital. Now it’s fair that some buses should go there: people going to the region’s biggest hospital are likely to include some with mobility problems. But for any able-bodied person, it’s quicker to walk from the main route to/from the hospital than it is for the bus to make the tortuous detour through heavy traffic. And for the vast majority who have no interest in the hospital, that tedious delay is the biggest single reason not to use the bus!
Another reversal: we’ll again have some buses going Plymouth-Tavistock via the railway station. That could be a welcome change at the end of a long journey, but alas only during working hours, so I’m unlikely to get much use of it. It’s also a mixed blessing: when all the buses took the same route, one could always know where to catch the next one!
The other aspect of this is that they’ve got a grant for this re-branding exercise: three years of public funding. The lesson appears to be, gradually reduce the service until you get paid to restore it. Alas, the grant appears to have been absorbed by consultants and paint jobs: the fares (which are up 50% in the last 3 years) aren’t coming down. Maybe the drivers and mechanics are seeing some benefit, but I don’t expect it’s very much.
 For values of “always” exceeding my time in the area, since I returned from Italy to the UK in the late ’90s.