TransWilts CRP, CIC and Melksham RUG
Public and sustainable transport in Wiltshire

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Melksham to Bath and Zigzag buses - at a turning point?

There are 2 buses every hour from Melksham to Bath, Monday to Saturday daytime - the X72 operated by Faresaver  and the 271 / 272 operated by First.   After an extended series of requests, these two services now have a varied route so providing hourly services from Devizes and beyond, Kingsdown, Bathford and Batheaston (X72) and Melksham Forest, Whitley, Purlpit and Box (271/272) and a service roughly every 30 minutes where they come together - Bowerhill, Melksham and Atworth to Bath.   The 271 / 272 also run some evening and Sunday journeys, extended to Devizes and beyond.     

One of the problems of having 2 operators is getting the services to mesh so that they link optimally for the passenger. 

* We heaved a huge sigh of relief when the "every 30 minutes" actually happened - prior to that, the 2 services had run within a few minutes of each other then leaving a 55 minute gap.  In the short gap / long gap scenario, its probable the that bus running ahead mops up lots more passengers than the bus behind, so it's a natural commercial decision to behave like this - but it causes a significant overall loss of traffic on the combined services from people who will catch a bus if they know there will be one there (and back) when they want it - every half hour.

* A "thank you" is due to both companies at times - something we don't often say.  For example to Faresaver for taking on the daytime Devizes services commercially, and to First for rerouting around Bowerhill and Melksham Forest to provide increased / better links from more parts of Melksham to Bath. I know both were commercial decisions, but never the less - THANK YOU from the passengers.

* We still despair at the lack of ticket interchangeability. If you buy a return ticket on Operator X's services, they're only valid for return on operator X.   Similarly, buy a return on operator Y and they're only valid for return on operator Y.   "The commercial market" you may say... except that it's distorted by 50% of the riders being on taxpayer-paid passes, known as concessions.  And these people can treat the service as half hourly; the resulting distortion means that those who our society feels needs the help of "free" travel are fine, and indeed others who pay get the "vibes" that the buses really aren't intended for them.

There is an exception in to the ticket interchangeability in that the return half of a Faresaver ticket is valid back on the evening buses operated by First.   These buses are subsidised by Wiltshire Council, who insist on the cross ticketing arrangement.   Alas, even that small concession has now been reduced - until recently, it applied to services from Bath at 18:20, 20:00 and 23:20 - after the last Faresaver at 17:40.  But now it has been reduced to the 20:00 and 23:20 services ONLY, and I understand there have been heated arguments at Bath Bus station where a ticket that someone has used for years has become invalid.  Very much a step in the wrong direction, and ironic in light of a meeting I had in August with Wiltshire Council's bus people and a bus operating director, at which they indicated that one of the routes forward on the corridor was to sort out interchangeable fares.   I had hoped they were headed towards cross ticket acceptance, not the other way.

It's a tragedy to see resources that could be having far better use of them being used on this bus route - and on the 234 and x34 routes too - when so much of the talk at TravelWatch SouthWest yesterday was of bus cuts, and of the inability of a route to support even one operator in the light of BSOG cuts, reduced local authority funding, increased capital costs for ever-safer and ever-more-accessible vehicles, and reduced concessionary payments per journey for that 50% that doesn't pay when they take the bus.  It needs active co-operation, and that active co-operation vehicle is available in the form of a Quality Bus Partnership.   That's a mechanism where the operators and local council can co-operate together for the common good of the taxpayer's pocket, the fare paying passengers, and the bus companies without being prevented from doing so by competition law (which in my view doesn't work well for buses because they are in an already distorted market).

I believe that Quality Bus Partnerships can work.   In Manchester and Salford over the last two weeks, I've seen buses with different operators with "Proud to be a member of the quality bus partnership" stickers on them, I've seen combined bus route timetables, and other evidence of co-operation and interchangeability.  Alas - the view from the meeting above, from the bus operator, was "Quality bus partnerships can only work where there is one operator and a local authority involved".   I fear that the two companies are so busy with their fight, and each feels they have the upper hand, so that the zeal to fight to the death drowns the very real good that could be done, the overall larger market that could be service, and the subsidy that could be released to support other services.

One other subject that came up at TravelWatch SouthWest yesterday was consultations, of which we seem to get hundreds.  They have been degraded into "tick the box, we have consulted" exercises much of the time - dragged into disrepute - and I can appreciate that many public inputs are based on emotion and impractical ideas that must frustrate the experts.  However, the suggestion was made that a successful consultation should result in the consultees feel in that their inputs have been listed to and given due consideration, even if the outcome isn't what the respondent requested.

So I'm going to highlight, as an example of a GOOD consultation consideration - and that's the one that relates to the linked issue of the zigzag bus and its future - http://cms.wiltshire.gov.uk/ieDecisionDetails.aspx?ID=858

There's a summary of the main points raised, with written officer's responses.  There's an analysis of responses.   There's a modified draft timetable to be offered for tender, and indeed an option on offer to both bus companies who run commercial services that parallel much of the route (you can guess which two!) to suggest something that will allow their commercial services to be tuned to take in the overall subsidised and commercial elements with a proper network approach rather that singling out and handling each service as if it's isolated in terms of both vehicles and potential passengers from other very close routes.

I have to say... I applaud Wiltshire Council's to hold the August meeting, and then again to offer the possibility to both companies within the tender.   From the consultation response report...

Quote: A suggestion was received through the consultation for an alternative approach involving the revision of other (commercially operated) bus services in the area so as to replace the south end of the Zig Zag service with a regular service running Trowbridge   [82][ac] •Ü Bradford - Holt   [82][ac] •Ü Melksham   [82][ac] •Ü A350   [82][ac] •Ü Chippenham, and the north end with a regular service running Bath   [82][ac] •Ü Corsham   [82][ac] •Ü Whitley- Melksham   [82][ac] •Ü Bowerhill. This could only be achieved with the agreement and active co-operation of the operators of the commercial services, and although meetings were held, this was not forthcoming. An option will however be included in the Zig Zag tender for operators to propose alternative ways of delivering the proposed Zig Zag service, which could include diverting or amending their commercial services.

I hope that one of the two bus companies who are in a position to do so (having commercial services) will take the view that this is worth doing, rather than the inevitable shrinkage of routes at higher subsidy than is needed.   If one of them does,  we'll try to make sure that they get far far more out of it for their company than just a vote of thanks.   If both do, happy days.   If neither does, then that's confirmation that their interests are their own company's gain dominantly over the interests of the public and passengers.
(written 2013-10-06, updated 2013-10-12)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Z408 - TravelWatch SouthWest
  [1560] HST Power Car TravelWatch SouthWest - (2008-03-01)
  [1966] Background to the TransWilts Train Fiasco - (2008-12-29)
  [2438] Listening to The Minister - (2009-10-05)
  [2664] Oliver Cromwell at Bristol Temple Meads - (2010-03-06)
  [2666] Random thoughts on Melksham Town Planning and development - (2010-03-08)
  [2748] Monitoring the success and traffic of your web site - (2010-05-01)
  [2954] Railway meetings, trips and meetups this autumn - (2010-09-12)
  [3194] Buses - what they cost and their future direction in the SW and in Wiltshire - (2011-03-06)
  [3221] How long is a speech? - (2011-03-29)
  [3677] Some advise for guest speakers at meetings - (2012-03-31)
  [3882] Community Transport - Pewsey, Taunton, and the whole picture too - (2012-10-06)
  [3904] Want to help us improve transport in Wiltshire? Here is how! - (2012-10-26)
  [4040] Report on the last year - Melksham Railway Developement Group for Melksham Without Parish Council - (2013-03-11)
  [4173] Train and Rail Travel - who runs it and where do I ask questions? - (2013-09-13)
  [4185] TransWilts Trains - running a successful campaign talk - (2013-10-05)
  [4188] Extended Weekend - but not a quiet one! - (2013-10-07)
  [4397] TransWilts / Press and Publicity report for AGM / 30th January 2015 - (2015-01-17)
  [4424] Looking Forward - TransWilts Community Rail Partnership and TransWilts CIC - (2015-02-12)

Z511 - Public Transport - Road
  [119] PHP course. Come by train. - (2004-11-15)
  [187] a popular bus number - (2005-01-23)
  [459] Kiss and Ride - (2005-10-09)
  [474] Vintage Bus Day - (2005-10-23)
  [764] Journey planning - Xephos v Transport Direct - (2006-06-16)
  [818] Heard, yes. Considered, no. The case for the train. - (2006-07-30)
  [1085] Lawrence Webb's Melksham Taxi service - (2007-02-18)
  [1125] Train service - petititon reply - (2007-03-31)
  [1254] Comparing bus stops - (2007-07-01)
  [1315] Two years of campaigning for a train service - (2007-08-22)
  [1428] Travel Across Wiltshire - the game - (2007-11-11)
  [1511] Buses from Well House Manor, Melksham, to Bath - (2008-01-18)
  [1567] Melksham - Swindon. Train v Bus v Car - (2008-03-07)
  [1668] Talk on TransWilts train service to Green Party - (2008-06-07)
  [1723] Bath - Melksham - Devizes. Bus route changes, new timetable - (2008-07-26)
  [1777] The Rise and Rise of First Bus Fares - (2008-08-29)
  [2075] Supporting Parkinsons and Trains - (2009-03-11)
  [2083] Do you support a decent train service? Please sign up! - (2009-03-15)
  [2268] Westbury Bypass Refused - looking forward - (2009-07-04)
  [2328] Melksham - no trains, no southbound buses through the town - (2009-08-08)
  [2372] Public Transport from (and to) Melksham on Sundays - (2009-08-23)
  [2431] Moving busstop! - (2009-09-30)
  [2515] Why we have two buses an hour - but not a half hourly service - (2009-11-28)
  [2522] Integrated public Transport - what could be done for Melksham - (2009-12-01)
  [2533] Five guests, three groups, one car - (2009-12-11)
  [2662] Is Melksham public transport actually used? - (2010-03-05)
  [2672] Dear Planners, please provide viable alternatives - (2010-03-11)
  [2771] Melksham to Calne by public transport - (2010-05-20)
  [2789] Melksham to London (Heathrow, and Central London) - (2010-06-02)
  [2791] Bath to Melksham buses - times - (2010-06-03)
  [2857] Park and Ride at Batheaston - will it solve Wiltshires Ills? - (2010-07-06)
  [2903] Bath to Devizes bus via Melksham - changing again in September - (2010-08-04)
  [2919] London to Calne, Corsham, Melksham, Bradford-on-Avon, Chippenham by public Transport - (2010-08-13)
  [2933] Bath - Melksham - Devizes buses from September - (2010-08-23)
  [2958] What do these road markings mean? Could Confusion Kill? - (2010-09-17)
  [2982] Travel, Transport and Tourism - A vision for Melksham, 2026 - (2010-10-03)
  [2983] Strong arm tactics in the bus industry? Poor result for the customer! - (2010-10-03)
  [3126] Car Parking in Melksham - thoughts on the proposed scheme, and wider thoughts too - (2011-01-09)
  [3290] Changes (and no changes) at Melksham bus stops - (2011-05-15)
  [3301] Using public transport - USA style - (2011-05-25)
  [3404] Buses on the Cambridge Guided Busway - (2011-08-24)
  [3471] Vintage Bus Running Day in Warminster. An example of good bus practise. - (2011-10-09)
  [3486] How important is public transport to people in the Melksham area? - (2011-10-19)
  [3487] Public transport - road and rail - (2011-10-19)
  [3504] Coaches from Trowbridge and Melksham to London - (2011-11-01)
  [3523] When competition is not a good idea - Melksham Bus Absurdity - (2011-11-16)
  [3564] I wish I was not a special case - (2011-12-29)
  [3579] Transport in Cambridgeshire - seen by an outside observer. What can Wiltshire learn? - (2012-01-15)
  [3580] Melksham Area - buses, trains, cycles, and roads. Meeting, 17.1.2012 - (2012-01-15)
  [3631] Getting around Dublin by public transport - some observations - (2012-03-01)
  [3699] Bristol 50? Bristol 25? - (2012-04-17)
  [3849] New bus times - Melksham to Bath - (2012-08-25)
  [3850] Bus times - Chippenham Station to Melksham, with London connections - (2012-08-25)
  [3866] Celebrate! Buses from Meksham to Bath - (2012-09-18)
  [3877] Public Transport Services - from and to Melksham - (2012-10-01)
  [3879] Mixed mode travel - Information systems - (2012-10-03)
  [3893] Public Transport across Wiltshire - a new map - (2012-10-13)
  [3929] Melksham Bus Issues - to be raised at First Bus Customer Panel - (2012-11-21)
  [3937] Agenda for Wiltshire Link Travel groups meeting, Saturday 1st December 2012 - (2012-11-27)
  [3938] A long overdue meeting - a steeping stone towards coordinate transport user inputs - (2012-12-02)
  [3951] Christmas Bus Schedule for Melksham - First Bus - (2012-12-14)
  [4022] A request for all of Melksham transport groups to work integrated - (2013-03-01)
  [4023] Melksham to Chippenham (Station) bus services - times and routes - (2013-03-01)
  [4032] Easier public transport from Melksham to Bristol Airport - (2013-03-06)
  [4108] The painful cost of local travel to Melksham - (2013-06-01)
  [4111] Zigzag bus - forward for the future, or decaying service? - (2013-06-09)
  [4113] Wiltshire and Melksham Transport - what is going on? - (2013-06-09)
  [4123] New timetables from 28th July - bus routes 271 and 272 - (2013-06-24)
  [4124] Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge bus changes next month - (2013-06-26)
  [4143] Bus times - Melksham to Bath from 28th July 2013 - (2013-07-25)
  [4149] Bus changes to Bath - good idea, but I despair at information available - (2013-08-08)
  [4150] Melksham Regular Public Transport Map - as at August 2013 - (2013-08-09)
  [4152] Why are bus fares so high? - (2013-08-18)
  [4171] Mapping road accidents in Melksham and elsewhere too - (2013-09-12)
  [4179] Changing transport and destinations - looking forward to a good future - (2013-09-19)
  [4181] Grumbling about trains? Buses can be far worse! - (2013-09-29)
  [4190] A radical proposal - a cheap and effective way to provide home to city commuter transport - (2013-10-11)
  [4191] Getting people to and from Melksham Station - not 20 but 700 times a day - (2013-10-12)
  [4192] A positive progress behind the scenes - (2013-10-14)
  [4194] TransWilts Link - meeting notes from 19th October - (2013-10-20)
  [4228] Mallory Place, The Spa, Wellington Drive, Melksham - a Christmas present for you - (2013-12-26)
  [4240] Melksham Rail Link - (2014-01-27)
  [4247] You wait a long time - then buses come in threes. It's timetabled that way! - (2014-03-09)
  [4257] Over a pound a kilometre - my bus in Weston-super-mare - (2014-04-06)
  [4263] Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge, public transport over Easter (2014) - (2014-04-12)
  [4286] Reaction in Radstock to new First bus prices - (2014-07-12)
  [4290] National Express replaced by train and by Megabus from Chippenham to London - (2014-07-16)
  [4425] A Welsh valley - what the transport looks like in 2015 - (2015-02-14)
  [4500] The TransWilts Community Intergrated Transport Corridor - (2015-05-29)
  [4546] Is the RUH hopper a limited, duplicate service running unnecessarily and at high cost? - (2015-10-18)
  [4547] RUH Hopper - experience and thoughts forward - (2015-10-20)
  [4592] A comparison of the public transport alternatives to the Royal United Hospital, Bath - from Melksham. - (2015-12-06)
  [4615] Questions for First (West of England) - (2016-01-05)
  [4619] Buses - not about the buses, but about the people who use the buses - (2016-01-10)
  [4624] Campaigning for a sensible bus solution and not against anyone! - (2016-01-17)
  [4629] Making travel time useful time on public transport - (2016-01-22)
  [4631] What would the Wiltshire Council bus cuts mean for Melksham? - (2016-01-25)
  [4636] Rail user groups worried about what is happening on the buses - (2016-01-31)
  [4639] Working out the costs of running a bus service through the day - (2016-02-06)
  [4648] Why is bus funding a much hotter topic than a new set of traffic lights? - (2016-02-16)
  [4654] Getting to the Royal United Hospital - the Hopper and the alternatives - (2016-02-24)
  [4660] What is happening on the 231 bus? What are you going to do about it? - (2016-03-04)
  [4664] Mallory Place bus stop - services to Bath - (2016-03-25)
  [4667] Wiltshire Supported Bus consultation - final few days - (2016-03-30)
  [4670] The end, or the start? - (2016-04-05)
  [4683] Saudi Arabia or Weymouth? - (2016-05-22)
  [4690] Buses in Wiltshire - potential changes and where we stand at the moment - (2016-05-30)
  [4692] How are bus support payments currently calculated? - (2016-06-07)
  [4703] What do people use the bus for in Wiltshire - survey interim results. - (2016-07-11)


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Who are we - Lisa, Graham, Gypsy and Billy
Not treading water, but not risking the ship for a 0.5th of tar either
Melksham to Bath and Zigzag buses - at a turning point?
A fond memory
Reaching a hotel standard where 99% of guests would return - and maintaining that standard
Welcome to Salford and Oldham
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