The Occasional Dorset Bus—from the Omnibuses Blog

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

No Flight of Fantasy

They awaited the conclusion of the Bournemouth air show before making the announcement. Yesterday, we learnt (officially) that Yellow Buses will soon “swoop” in on the Bournemouth to Bournemouth (Hurn) airport service. It gave the headline writers an opportunity to “soar”. Said the press release that “winged” its way to Omnibuses’ Air Traffic Control, “Yellows fly high after landing airport bus contract”. Ouch.

Every silver lining has its “cloud”, though. As Yellow Buses enters full “flight”, it means that from mid-November Discover Dorset will no longer operate the service once called 747 and 757 but now, perhaps in deference to its recent past, A1.

Discover Dorset’s “piloted” the contract since September 2007. From what I’ve seen of Discover Dorset, this unexpected and small otherwise minibus operator’s made a very good fist of the operation, seven days a week, 362 days of the year: punctuality of which Mrs Bell would be proud and vehicle presentation that’s always been excellent, certainly when I’ve witnessed it (unless you know differently). As part of the deal, it committed to a brand new Versa, something that at the time was an untried vehicle (though based on the Solo, of course).

No new bus for Yellow Buses, though, at least not straightaway. Instead, it recycles its Jubilee-liveried Enviro 200. The benefit is that we can expect the service to be a little more integrated into the Yellow Buses network.

The Yellow Buses contract started in 1999 to transfer Ryanair Dublin-bound passengers to and from Bournemouth Town Centre, and was for many years operated under the Yellow Coaches brand with a now long-departed Mercedes 614D, as service A1. It returns to Yellow Buses in the autumn, following a six year gap.

Monday, 29 July 2013

A New Site

Damóry is at last set to launch its own, new website tó gó with its new image. To date, information about Damóry services has been tucked away under the rural services section of the Morebus website (the majority of which are Damóry), with most timetables pointing to Dorset PDFs.


Even before that, Damóry’s Go South Coast masters felt it was not their responsibility but that of Dorset Council, to publicise supported services. This was a reasonable view, given the nature of the relationship between council and client. But it isn’t where passengers would necessarily expect to look first.


The good-looking Go South Coast coaching fleet website features just about every sub-brand bar Damóry—although this picture shows two vehicles under the Damóry name


The new Damóry site site is currently under construction and it features the standard printer/web developers’ mark-up nonsense Latin “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet…” plus some familiar pictures of the Isle of Wight. Expect something more original in the finished version, because Damóry Country has a lot to offer photogenically, including some chalkland & chalk cliffs of its own.



Searching Facebook for Damóry Coaches brings these up...

 
... but not the official page

Meanwhile, if this will end the confusion over where to find information, perhaps Go South Coast might consider Facebook in parallel, as seems likely. Currently, there are three Damóry Coaches pages, none of which seem official, and a Damórybus page that is—but doesn’t appear to have seen an update since September 2012.


i http://damory.goahead.live.pancentric.net/

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

No Room for Sentiment

There can be no room for sentiment within the commercial bus industry in this updated post.


Classic Yellow Buses operated the 2008 season's Seafront 12
 

Even so, when we heard the news that in 2009 there would be no yellow open tops that season, it came as a disappointment to free travelling nostalgists and holiday makers alike. The reality was that the Bournemouth open top coastal service was not commercial. We looked at some of the reasons why and the nation's changing open top habits today on Omnibuses.


The 2006 season was marketed on a use it or lose it basis. It operated from the rail station in a bid to attract more tourists. In 2007, TYB reverted to a fuller service, from Hengestbury Head to Sandbanks, albeit using the same two of three vehicles at a less than attractive 90-minute frequency.

In 2008, Classic Yellow Buses took on the mantle in partnership with TYB. Using refurbished heritage stock including memorably an ex-Bournemouth Corporation vehicle, the partnership offered a frequent shuttle service between the two piers. The service was extended into the autumn with a promise of an Easter 2009 restart. This was pushed back to high season and, eventually, not at all.

One of three TYB convertible open tops with lid on, when on the Poole-Somerfords
 

Readers on the south coast may recall 2008's poor weather. Numbers on the 12 never quite matched expectations and traditional family visits were down (even though overall numbers were up). There was nevertheless much talk of 2009 being a second and more successful year of operation. The recession seems to have put paid to that, in spite of promised good weather and more people holidaying at home.

In pre-Transdev times, the traditional 12 rests at Alum Chine
 

And, of course, TYB at the time itself could ill-afford to 'waste' up to two of its three convertible double decks when they were needed, lids on, on the network itself. To do otherwise would be purely sentimental.

 

Hands up who can remember those pretty convertible Alexander bodied open top Fleetlines of yesteryear, on the 11s and 12s? Both these routes, each operating every half an hour, required a PVR of nine out of 12 vehicles. The 11s and 12s provided a regular 15 minute headway between Southbourne, Boscombe Pier and Bournemouth Pier, the 12s running from the early May and the 11s joining them from late June.

It was no exaggeration to say that they would be bursting at “peak” times. By “peak”, we mean summer school holidays, generally except Saturdays. On a hot summer’s afternoon, there would be a full load upstairs and not a small number down. However, a dull or drizzly and windy day would result in much poorer loadings. Like many things on the coast, open tops were dependent upon the weather.


Tastes change. In general, open top services in the UK tend to be in decline. The number of routes operated is fewer, the frequency less and the span of operation contracting towards summer school holidays, added to which there's been a marked decline in traditional seaside holidays in many coastal areas. The exceptions are the burgeoning sightseeing tours in historic cities, of course, but the fact is, an open top running along the seafront will not, of itself, pull the crowds like it once did.

Whereas 5 or more years ago families would jump an open top simply for the ride as part of the holiday experience, these days there needs to be a reason for the trip (hence the success of urban sightseeing open top tours).

And this may explain why More from Wilts & Dorset’s open tops are doing well. Using them on the Breezer means that MfW&D can offer something different on an inter-urban corridor that can grow the market by offering seats for non-leisure use as well as visitors. It's a longer journey for those who want the ride and for those who aim for Swanage it's an added bonus. What better way to beat the traffic to Swanage and Studland at Sandbanks than on the highly visible queue busting 50.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Living Life to the Max?

So, Yellow Buses is buying some Streetlite Maxes. What’s interesting about that?

Well, for one thing, these eight aren’t from Optare. They might’ve been, because at Yeoman’s Way of late, Optare’s been être la coqueluche du moment, with all recent new single deck or midibus deliveries since Transdev Yellow Buses being either Tempos or Versas. Thdere are a half dozen or so secondhand Solos, too. Wright Gemini double decks have featured, too, but the fulfilment of this order is definitely 1-1 in the battle between Versa and Streetlite.

And for another thing, Yellow Buses may as well buy Streetlites, ’cos they’ve got just about every other type of contemporary bus known to man. Imagine the size of that parts bin. The fleet profile’s certainly diverse:

And another thing. These are 11.5m long, seating 45, so they’re as big as they get. They’re also medium-weights, so expect fuel consumption to be better. They also seat one more than the equivalent longest Versa.

And another one. They’ll be used for a specific purpose. But what? If I were to say then I’m possibly compromised so it’s best to wait just before they enter service. But if any reader knows, that would be different.

These aren’t the first Streetlites for the conurbation, as Britannia Parking purchased two in 2011, both now moved on. Early Streetlites also had a little bit of a reputation, so I hope Yellow Buses knows what it’s up to. But this is Wrights we’re talking about and I believe the initial problems are now sorted. Unless you know differently.

Perhaps it’s unfair to say so but Streetlites nevertheless always seem to look a little flimsy to me but I really shouldn’t judge till they’re in service. It’s this that makes their arrival exciting. Some may already have left Ballymena by the time you read this. All should be on the road in anger by 8th July.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Best Impressions Count

Blandford- and Pimperne-based Damory (Coaches) is rebranding (again) its local buses and the first vehicles in its new service bus incarnation are already turning up. Note the darker blue, new Damóry (sic) logo and new strapline,

“Dorset’s Great Local Bus Company”...

...in something of an effort, perhaps, finally to put past problems behind it. At the same time, Damóry is said to becoming more competitive in terms of private hire rates, as the end-of-year school private hire season hots up. Presumably, most schools have already booked, though.

Perhaps Damóry will now also enjoy a better cyber-presence. To date, its timetables can still be found on the More from Wilts & Dorset site under “bus times” > “rural routes”. Many point to printer’s proof pdfs of Dorset council timetable booklets. That was an improvement on the previous situation. Go South Coast had previously taken the view that under the terms of its contract it was up to Dorset not Damóry to publish such information.

Damóry did start its Facebook page, though, in November 2011. There’s a damorycaoches.co.uk address registered but this points nowhere (and is used for email). And, confusingly, there’s also a damory.info page that looks official but actually isn’t. Spot anyone on it you know?

How many Damory bus liveries can you recall? I reckon 1. Light blue/white with brown-ish & blue vertical stripes 2/3rd back; 2. All light blue; 3. Dark blue over light skirt; 4. Light blue roof & skirt with dark between; 5. A number in all white.

i Photos from a contributor

Monday, 20 May 2013

The Wonder of Woolco

This is Dorset Bus’ 100th post

“Enjoy one-stop shopping at Woolco” screams the centrefold advert within the Summer 1977 timetable. At the time of its construction, Woolco Bournemouth was the largest store in Britain and this F W Woolworth pioneer out-of-town location had been open for nine years by this time, having started trading 45 years ago this year. Woolco was the only advert within the timetable, other than for the Transport Department’s buses & coaches and for council facilities.

Woolco’s location was ideal for buses along Castle Lane West. As such, Bournemouth Transport’s 14, 32, 33, 34 and 40 “pass right outside the door” or near enough.

But there were no route or frequency enhancements because of the Hampshire Centre, the major constituent of which was Woolco itself. The centre featured in timetable’s index of places served (helpfully labelled as “How to Get There”) but could you find it in the individual route timetable matrices or on the route map? No no no.



By 1978, Bournemouth Transport & Hants & Dorset had reached an agreement that modestly reduced the PVR and offered a modicum of co-operation between the two operators. H&D renumbered its Bournemouth routes 1nn and its timetables of the period features Bournemouth Transport’s 1-41 at the front of its books. To empathise tall this, both operators’ buses appeared on the timetables’ front covers. Note the bus-side advert for Woolco>/p>


It wasn’t particularly easy to get to from Bournemouth town centre, with just four buses an hour, departing past each hour at somewhat inconvenient times from The Square at ..03 (ser 32); ..33 (ser 32); ..50 (ser 33); and ..50 (ser 34). Compare that to Bournemouth to Castlepoint today.

The way the 33/4 circulars operated plus the 14 (Boscombe-Throop) and irregular 40 (Bear Cross-Somerford) afforded some suburban travel opportunities but it wasn’t till Charlie’s Cars started in 1987 that the Hampshire Centre got the sort of bus service it really deserved. Even then, demand was shaky and Charlie’s couldn’t sustain a service.

The 14 (Boscombe-Throop) operated every hour. The 32 (Bournemouth-Charminster-Jumpers Corner) was twice an hour; the 33/4 Bournemouth circulars every hour each; and the 40 Somerford-Bear Cross was irregular.



The July 1980 timetable cover shows that Hants & Dorset’s half-cab operation was still four months away from the end. Note the Woolco on the Bournemouth Transport bus and also those for the Bournemouth-based former Portman Building Society and the Busabout ticket on those operated by H &D


Upon Woolco’s closure, it became an Asda. The centre was ripped down ten years ago to make way for Castlepoint, which still sports an Asda but never held a Woolworth.

Woolco was therefore the out-of-town brand of Woolworth. Woolworth had some of a planning battle to win before Woolco could be built. It seems strange that, back then, it was hard for 1960s England and its planning system to understand the American mall concept.

Monday, 13 May 2013

1933-2013

80 years ago today, Bournemouth launched its first trolleybus. 111 years ago, it began tram operation, a system that the “trackless trolleys” would see off. Not the same fuss in Bournemouth as Sheffield, though.
These are a few of the snippets within the “special” Summer 1977 edition of the Bournemouth Transport timetable. Still known as Bournemouth Transport, its cover recognised the reality that everyone but everyone referred to them by the colour of the fleet. This was to distinguish them from the red buses, Hants & Dorset by then having completed its transform from Tilling green to poppy red. It would only be five years till Bournemouth Transport changed its trading name to recognise Yellow Buses more officially.

The timetable’s not a particularly exotic number. It was back in the day when Bournemouth Transport produced cheap-looking A5 timetables filled with low quality paper. Each edition did its job, though, even if, unlike H&D, BT preferred the 12- to 24-hour clock. Over 30 years later, previous editions might have yellowed (excuse the pun), whereas this one actually has slightly heavier paper that’s lasted better. Remember, these were designed to be chucked after a couple of seasons, at most.
AEL405.....
Back to trolleybuses. These were spawned as much by perceived rivalry with neighbour Poole than the need to replace worn-out, inflexible tramway. Trolleybuses started at 12 noon on May 13th, 1933. It was by way of an experiment and the transport department strengthened the existing tram overheads between The Square and Westbourne for the purpose, then at the western extremity of pre-1974 Hampshire. The Corporation used four trolleys supplied by three manufacturers and Sunbeam was the winner. The trial proved successful and there followed a lasting relationship with Sunbeam as the trolley network developed rapidly over the next few years.

Our famed summer 1977 timetable reminds us that the trams finally closed on April 8th, 1936. I recall that this was because Christchurch Borough, in whose area the eastward line terminated, insisted that the trams remain till the trolley network was completed.

i Trolleybuses from the Alwyn Ladell collection, used under Creative Commons