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[1] 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.

[1] For values of “always” exceeding my time in the area, since I returned from Italy to the UK in the late ’90s.

Posted on November 10, 2007, in plymouth, tavistock, travel. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Overall it’s a definite improvement and I would agree with your analysis of the changes.

    From what I can recall, four buses per hour is more than this service has ever had before. I don’t use it much now, although my other half uses it regularly, but I used to use it a lot as a child (several decades ago – don’t ask when!) and it was always three an hour max. It’s not entirely true to say that the service had been gradually reducing prior to this funding. Example: For many years there was no bus service at all between Tavistock and Okehampton, despite the fact that Okehampton is West Devon’s second largest town, and was cut off from Tavistock by public transport following the closure of the railway in 1968. As a schoolboy, I recall sweating and grunting my way across the moor on my 3-speed Raleigh Wayfarer to visit a girlfriend in Okehampton because there was no public transport service! The 86 bus service filled that gap, but was only introduced quite recently (long after those “epic” bike rides).

    I’m actually in favour of the mailshot too. I hate junk mail, but don’t mind receiving stuff that’s relevant to the locality and trying to promote something that’s potentially beneficial to most people. Too many people are completely ignorant about public transport, so if this helps to generate a few more users, thus sustaining the enhanced service, that’s fine by me.

    It’s a sad fact of modern life that in order to get funding you have to brand something. Why? ‘Cos that’s what bureaucrats – most of whom would never be seen dead on a bus – seem to think will turn on the masses. All I want (and I guess most users are the same) is a clean, reliable bus that runs safely and on time, and for a sensible price.

    They’ve done these paint jobs on other routes, and they only serve to confuse. If you’re a traffic manager getting the buses out at 5 in the morning, and one of them doesn’t want to start, then you get whatever’s available in the depot to run that service instead. Result: Branded buses on the “wrong” routes confusing hell out of the regular users. Perhaps we could have a contest to see how far “Tavy Linx” buses stray from their designated routes – I doubt they’ll beat the Cambridge Park & Ride branded double deckers that I saw running in Exeter last week! Still, the bureaucrats and paint manufacturers are happy (actually they might be vinyl transfers, but we won’t get too technical here)…

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