TransWilts CIC and TransWilts Community Rail
Public and sustainable transport in Wiltshire

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Questions for First (West of England)

Yesterday, I was invited to send (by this evening!) any questions / matters I would like First Bus to answer at the forthcoming Customer Panel meeting in Bath. Normally I would cast around for questions too, but with just 24 hours to ask, receive answers and collate I have stuck with known issues.

Some of these have been asked before - indeed are likely to be answered in the same way as before. However, I missed the last meeting so this is my first in six months - and in those six months the number of major towns you can get to on First buses (each weekday through the day) has been slashed from four to one - services no longer run to Frome, to Chippenham or to Trowbridge, and only the Bath service is left. And further the company has re-organised its customer facing team, and we have a new contact, with a new job title, and (early correspondence indicates) a more "PR" attitude to panel members. So - assumptions not being made - I'm asking the old questions along with the new. I expect the same answers; I would be delighted to get better, and if I get worse - well - at least we will know.

1. Background: Last summer, Bath railway station was only accessible in one direction by train, and First Bus rearranged its bus services during that period to cover rail replacement duties, with services left after the rail works being significantly fewer than had been running before the works started. For example, before the works Melksham had regular services during the day and evening Monday to Saturday at least to Bah, Chippenham and Trowbridge, but after the works only the Bath service remains. Great Western Railway has briefed us that once again this year (in April this time) there will be a significant period when Bath railway station is only available in one direction, with a substantial rail replacement bus service in operation again.

Question: Are First Bus planning any significant changes before, during or at the end of the 2016 partial closure of the railway line at Bath which will leave a significantly different bus service in the area covered by their Bath and Westbury depots afterwards? If so, what are those changes?

2. Background: There are two buses per hour from Melksham to Bath for much of the day - First and Faresaver. First •[99]s timetable changes in August broke what was roughly a half hourly service into a service that has intervals of 42 minute and 18 minutes between buses. As was hoped for, the buses are indeed more reliable on their new timings. Concessioary pass holders are able to use either bus into Bath, then either bus back, but with passengers who have to pay their own fares, they need to plan to come back on what is essentially an hourly service, or buy two single tickets at a much higher cost. A half-hourly service where customers could use any bus without ticket and pricing complexities, with joint marketing, would provide significant

Question: Are their any plans for First or for Faresaver to change their timetables to provide a true  •Ü30 minute •[9d] service, or for common route pricing, ticketing or marketing on bus routes catering for the Bath to Melksham passenger flow (271, 272, x72 and x76)

3. Background: Most journeys are made from home to work, or home to leisure destination - and many require a change of transport along the way. In Melksham, many of the journeys are from homes in Bowerhill, Melksham Forest, and Queensway - which in a positive service change in 2013 are far better served via a new loop route on the 272 through the town. Some of those journeys are to the town centre and to Bath - a direct service - but many journeys are also made to the towns of Chippenham (6 miles) and Trowbridge (6 miles). Until August 2015, these journeys were possible via a connection to another First bus in the town centre of Melksham, with the journey covered on a Bath outer zone ticket. That journey can still be made at the same price, but now involves a much loner and slower journey with a change onto the 231 or 265 in Bath. Journeys from these areas of Melksham to Chippenham and Trowbridge by bus are still possible but using the service of another operator who dos not accept the Bath outer zone ticket, and are also possible using trains operated by First from Melksham Station, where the trains pass over the road bridge just beyond the end of the platform. Passenger services at Melksham station have improved since your 2013 service changes on the 271/272, and passenger numbers using the train have doubled in each of the last two years. However, bus and train times sen un-coordinated, there in no through ticketing arrangement ( •ÜPlus Bus •[9d]?) available in Melksham, and the bus stops nearest the station aren •[99]t ideally placed for the station and aren •[99]t signposted / named as  •ÜMelksham Station •[9d]. They also lack information on services  •æ

Question: Are there any plans in the pipeline for improved connections, timing, information or ticketing for residents of Bowerhill, Queensway and Melksham Forest to use bus services to reach the nearby towns of Chippenham and Trowbridge, or any plans to market or help market such journey opportunities, or to implement PlusBus in Melksham now that the ail service is useful.

4. Background: A draft bus bill is currently being drawn up (draft to be published next month) with consultations on what it should contain having been undertaken at the end of last year. A copy of the latest bus bill update from the DfT (17th December 2015) is attached at the end of this email.

Question: What is First (West of England) •[99]s view of the proposals, suggestions and issues raised in this bus bill, and your thoughts on being prepared for changes that many come about from them, with especial reference to customer service and integrated public transport for the mutual benefit of passengers, operators,and the economy of the area being served? Do you see it as helping you (for example) sorting out some of the issues mentioned in other questions posed in this set of agenda items?

5. Background: Staring next week, Wiltshire Council are running a "Public consultation on the future provision of subsidised bus services in Wiltshire •[9d]. Subsidised bus services in Wiltshire include route 271, and also some services on routes 231 and 265. Furthermore, changes made to the operation and subsidy regime in Wiltshire could provide both challenges and opportunities to bus operators. I am aware that Wiltshire Council have invited / briefed existing operators on this consultation and the wider review of which it forms a part. Draft questionnaire copy attached.

Question: As we all want a successful, and cost effective bus service, are there any inputs that First (West of England) would like to make to passengers / passenger groups concerning this consultation and the questions therein?

6. Background: The TransWilts CIC / CRP has produced a mini-guide for public transport services along the Swindon - Westbury corridor, including trains operated by First (Great Western Railway) and parallel buses operated by StageCoach, Favesaver and First (West of England). Draft copies of the mini guide were circulated to all transport providers, and with one exception, useful feedback was received. The guide is now available at tourist information centres, town halls, stations, etc along the corridor - some two dozen outlets. There are also branded rocket holder available free of charge. Consideration is being given to further mini guides / timetables in the series, in particular looking at the (Devizes) - Melksham - Bath - (Bristol) flow, where there are no fewer than six possible transport combinations. Electronic copy attached - note - larger that A4 for printing!

Question: Should such guides be produced for this second flow, would First Bus be able and willing to assist us - as a minimum with proofing your services, but better with help in providing base electronic information such as advance timetable spreadsheet, sponsorship, help with widely distributing the guide to a far wider audience than just current bus users.

7. Background: There were road works near the stop at Mallory Place, Melksham in early December, and although the bus stop clearly stated  •ÜBuses for Bowerhill and Bath stop here •[9d], there was at least one incidence of a bus driving straight past the passenger who was indicated he wanted it to stop. A question was raised with customer service who responded (26 days later) to indicate that the driver had correctly driven past the potential customer as there is a standing instruction not to stop within light-controlled road works, nor to stop  •[98]just up the road •[99] from a stop. The customer did get into Bath (though not from that stop - overtook the bus on one of its Melksham loops!), but was dropped off at the stop later in the day, after checking with both the Bath bus station team and the diver that it would stop. It was noted that the same bus did make calls on its inward journey to Bath away from the stop at Snow Hill, as that was occupied by other vehicles. As a separate but related matter, during several months of road works on Spa Road in Melksham, services 271 and 272 were diverted and not calling. Some of the stops were labelled to this effect, but others were not and anyone standing waiting would have been there for a very long time indeed.

Question: How can customers establish whether a bus stop is in service during road works?

8. Background: Until August, passengers returning from London to Melksham in the evening had a final train service at 20:45 which connected into a bus at Chippenham giving a 22:45 arrival in Melksham. That bus service has been withdrawn; the final service of the day remains the 20:45 with a connection at Bath into the final service 271 (22:12 to 23:20 in Bath), giving a Melksham arrival time of just after midnight - that •[99]s a journey time up from 120 minutes to 200 minutes. The following train (21:45 from London) reaches Bath railway station at 23:17 which isn •[99]t sufficient time to transfer to the 23:20 bus.

Questions: How long should passengers allow to transfer between a train arriving at Bath Spa station and a bus departing from the bus station? Would First Bus give consideration (or have you done already?) to running the 23:20 service a few minutes later / cutting perhaps 50 minutes off the London to Melksham journey, and allowing cinema / theatre go-fers a few more minutes in Bath too - as it can be a rush at the end of long film.

9. Background: Wiltshire customers visiting the Royal United Hospital in Bath an travel on the 231 / 271 / 272 / 265 / other operator •[99]s buses into the centre of Bath and the transfer onto a No. 14 service to the hospital. However, for people who are unwell / less mobile, this change of vehicle in a busy location is not ideal - to then extent that some use taxis, and there •[99]s a whole independent service (Connect 2 / Hoppa) which runs Monday to Friday daytime only from the Wiltshire Catchment direct to the hospital. This  •ÜHoppa •[9d] service attracts a significant subsidy from Wilshire Council, which is currently being reviewed; the long term future of the service is far from certain.

Question: Looking ahead to the Hoppa review outcome, has First Bus considered extending buses on routes 231 / 265 / 271 / 272 to the RUH, in place of some (roughly alternate) no. 14 services, with the alternate buses on route 14 from Odd Down turning round at the Bus Station? This would seem to offer though services from Wiltshire to the hospital 7 days a week rather than 5 (and the hospital is a 7 day operation - so better than current service) with no extra bus mileage, but extra passengers ...

Feedback on the meeting to follow ,,
(written 2016-01-05)

Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter for individual articles
Z511 - Public Transport - Road
  [4703] What do people use the bus for in Wiltshire - survey interim results. - (2016-07-11)
  [4692] How are bus support payments currently calculated? - (2016-06-07)
  [4690] Buses in Wiltshire - potential changes and where we stand at the moment - (2016-05-30)
  [4683] Saudi Arabia or Weymouth? - (2016-05-22)
  [4670] The end, or the start? - (2016-04-05)
  [4667] Wiltshire Supported Bus consultation - final few days - (2016-03-30)
  [4664] Mallory Place bus stop - services to Bath - (2016-03-25)
  [4660] What is happening on the 231 bus? What are you going to do about it? - (2016-03-04)
  [4654] Getting to the Royal United Hospital - the Hopper and the alternatives - (2016-02-24)
  [4648] Why is bus funding a much hotter topic than a new set of traffic lights? - (2016-02-16)
  [4639] Working out the costs of running a bus service through the day - (2016-02-06)
  [4636] Rail user groups worried about what is happening on the buses - (2016-01-31)
  [4631] What would the Wiltshire Council bus cuts mean for Melksham? - (2016-01-25)
  [4629] Making travel time useful time on public transport - (2016-01-22)
  [4624] Campaigning for a sensible bus solution and not against anyone! - (2016-01-17)
  [4619] Buses - not about the buses, but about the people who use the buses - (2016-01-10)
  [4592] A comparison of the public transport alternatives to the Royal United Hospital, Bath - from Melksham. - (2015-12-06)
  [4547] RUH Hopper - experience and thoughts forward - (2015-10-20)
  [4546] Is the RUH hopper a limited, duplicate service running unnecessarily and at high cost? - (2015-10-18)
  [4500] The TransWilts Community Intergrated Transport Corridor - (2015-05-29)
  [4425] A Welsh valley - what the transport looks like in 2015 - (2015-02-14)
  [4290] National Express replaced by train and by Megabus from Chippenham to London - (2014-07-16)
  [4286] Reaction in Radstock to new First bus prices - (2014-07-12)
  [4263] Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge, public transport over Easter (2014) - (2014-04-12)
  [4257] Over a pound a kilometre - my bus in Weston-super-mare - (2014-04-06)
  [4247] You wait a long time - then buses come in threes. It's timetabled that way! - (2014-03-09)
  [4240] Melksham Rail Link - (2014-01-27)
  [4228] Mallory Place, The Spa, Wellington Drive, Melksham - a Christmas present for you - (2013-12-26)
  [4194] TransWilts Link - meeting notes from 19th October - (2013-10-20)
  [4192] A positive progress behind the scenes - (2013-10-14)
  [4191] Getting people to and from Melksham Station - not 20 but 700 times a day - (2013-10-12)
  [4190] A radical proposal - a cheap and effective way to provide home to city commuter transport - (2013-10-11)
  [4186] Melksham to Bath and Zigzag buses - at a turning point? - (2013-10-06)
  [4181] Grumbling about trains? Buses can be far worse! - (2013-09-29)
  [4179] Changing transport and destinations - looking forward to a good future - (2013-09-19)
  [4171] Mapping road accidents in Melksham and elsewhere too - (2013-09-12)
  [4152] Why are bus fares so high? - (2013-08-18)
  [4150] Melksham Regular Public Transport Map - as at August 2013 - (2013-08-09)
  [4149] Bus changes to Bath - good idea, but I despair at information available - (2013-08-08)
  [4143] Bus times - Melksham to Bath from 28th July 2013 - (2013-07-25)
  [4124] Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge bus changes next month - (2013-06-26)
  [4123] New timetables from 28th July - bus routes 271 and 272 - (2013-06-24)
  [4113] Wiltshire and Melksham Transport - what is going on? - (2013-06-09)
  [4111] Zigzag bus - forward for the future, or decaying service? - (2013-06-09)
  [4108] The painful cost of local travel to Melksham - (2013-06-01)
  [4032] Easier public transport from Melksham to Bristol Airport - (2013-03-06)
  [4023] Melksham to Chippenham (Station) bus services - times and routes - (2013-03-01)
  [4022] A request for all of Melksham transport groups to work integrated - (2013-03-01)
  [3951] Christmas Bus Schedule for Melksham - First Bus - (2012-12-14)
  [3938] A long overdue meeting - a steeping stone towards coordinate transport user inputs - (2012-12-02)
  [3937] Agenda for Wiltshire Link Travel groups meeting, Saturday 1st December 2012 - (2012-11-27)
  [3929] Melksham Bus Issues - to be raised at First Bus Customer Panel - (2012-11-21)
  [3904] Want to help us improve transport in Wiltshire? Here is how! - (2012-10-26)
  [3893] Public Transport across Wiltshire - a new map - (2012-10-13)
  [3879] Mixed mode travel - Information systems - (2012-10-03)
  [3877] Public Transport Services - from and to Melksham - (2012-10-01)
  [3866] Celebrate! Buses from Meksham to Bath - (2012-09-18)
  [3850] Bus times - Chippenham Station to Melksham, with London connections - (2012-08-25)
  [3849] New bus times - Melksham to Bath - (2012-08-25)
  [3699] Bristol 50? Bristol 25? - (2012-04-17)
  [3631] Getting around Dublin by public transport - some observations - (2012-03-01)
  [3580] Melksham Area - buses, trains, cycles, and roads. Meeting, 17.1.2012 - (2012-01-15)
  [3579] Transport in Cambridgeshire - seen by an outside observer. What can Wiltshire learn? - (2012-01-15)
  [3564] I wish I was not a special case - (2011-12-29)
  [3523] When competition is not a good idea - Melksham Bus Absurdity - (2011-11-16)
  [3504] Coaches from Trowbridge and Melksham to London - (2011-11-01)
  [3487] Public transport - road and rail - (2011-10-19)
  [3486] How important is public transport to people in the Melksham area? - (2011-10-19)
  [3471] Vintage Bus Running Day in Warminster. An example of good bus practise. - (2011-10-09)
  [3404] Buses on the Cambridge Guided Busway - (2011-08-24)
  [3301] Using public transport - USA style - (2011-05-25)
  [3290] Changes (and no changes) at Melksham bus stops - (2011-05-15)
  [3194] Buses - what they cost and their future direction in the SW and in Wiltshire - (2011-03-06)
  [3126] Car Parking in Melksham - thoughts on the proposed scheme, and wider thoughts too - (2011-01-09)
  [2983] Strong arm tactics in the bus industry? Poor result for the customer! - (2010-10-03)
  [2982] Travel, Transport and Tourism - A vision for Melksham, 2026 - (2010-10-03)
  [2958] What do these road markings mean? Could Confusion Kill? - (2010-09-17)
  [2933] Bath - Melksham - Devizes buses from September - (2010-08-23)
  [2919] London to Calne, Corsham, Melksham, Bradford-on-Avon, Chippenham by public Transport - (2010-08-13)
  [2903] Bath to Devizes bus via Melksham - changing again in September - (2010-08-04)
  [2857] Park and Ride at Batheaston - will it solve Wiltshires Ills? - (2010-07-06)
  [2791] Bath to Melksham buses - times - (2010-06-03)
  [2789] Melksham to London (Heathrow, and Central London) - (2010-06-02)
  [2771] Melksham to Calne by public transport - (2010-05-20)
  [2672] Dear Planners, please provide viable alternatives - (2010-03-11)
  [2662] Is Melksham public transport actually used? - (2010-03-05)
  [2533] Five guests, three groups, one car - (2009-12-11)
  [2522] Integrated public Transport - what could be done for Melksham - (2009-12-01)
  [2515] Why we have two buses an hour - but not a half hourly service - (2009-11-28)
  [2431] Moving busstop! - (2009-09-30)
  [2372] Public Transport from (and to) Melksham on Sundays - (2009-08-23)
  [2328] Melksham - no trains, no southbound buses through the town - (2009-08-08)
  [2268] Westbury Bypass Refused - looking forward - (2009-07-04)
  [2083] Do you support a decent train service? Please sign up! - (2009-03-15)
  [2075] Supporting Parkinsons and Trains - (2009-03-11)
  [1777] The Rise and Rise of First Bus Fares - (2008-08-29)
  [1723] Bath - Melksham - Devizes. Bus route changes, new timetable - (2008-07-26)
  [1668] Talk on TransWilts train service to Green Party - (2008-06-07)
  [1567] Melksham - Swindon. Train v Bus v Car - (2008-03-07)
  [1560] HST Power Car TravelWatch SouthWest - (2008-03-01)
  [1511] Buses from Well House Manor, Melksham, to Bath - (2008-01-18)
  [1428] Travel Across Wiltshire - the game - (2007-11-11)
  [1315] Two years of campaigning for a train service - (2007-08-22)
  [1254] Comparing bus stops - (2007-07-01)
  [1125] Train service - petititon reply - (2007-03-31)
  [1085] Lawrence Webb's Melksham Taxi service - (2007-02-18)
  [818] Heard, yes. Considered, no. The case for the train. - (2006-07-30)
  [764] Journey planning - Xephos v Transport Direct - (2006-06-16)
  [474] Vintage Bus Day - (2005-10-23)
  [459] Kiss and Ride - (2005-10-09)
  [187] a popular bus number - (2005-01-23)
  [119] PHP course. Come by train. - (2004-11-15)

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