Sunday, 18 April 2010

One year on...

It's been a year since I started my journey by bus from one end of the country to the other. It feels longer than that, somehow. I thought I'd do one final post to tie up a few loose ends and fill you in on some developments since.

New vehicles

Since my trip twelve months ago, several routes have seen investment in new vehicles. There are new low-floor single deckers on service 4 between Glasgow and Ayr as well as on service 79 between Dumfries and Carlisle. Similarly, there are new low-floor double deckers for service 125 between Preston and Bolton with the promise of more to come for the 40/41 between Lancaster and Preston. New vehicles have replaced the low-floor double deckers on the Coastliner 700 service, which have been cascaded onto other routes such as the 37. And in Manchester itself, there are hybrid vehicles on order for Wilmslow Road corridor and service 42.

The morning 'commuter to Dundee

That Manchester connection

One of the noticeable things on my journey was the number of vehicles I travelled on that used to see service in Manchester, including many low-floor double deckers. Noticeable by their MX prefix registrations, I travelled on one in Dundee, another in the Lake District, yet another in Lincoln and saw one in Basingstoke too. Then there were older step-entrance vehicles in Cumbria and running college day duties in the South Downs. With so many new vehicles having entered service in Manchester over the past few years, it's perhaps no surprise that the local Stagecoach subsidiary was shortlisted for UK Bus Operator of the Year in 2009 – well done to everyone there, and keep up the good work!

Municipals and Preston Bus

You might recall I wrote about fears that Rossendale Transport might be sold off – but the council decided that they'd be better off keeping it under public ownership. Plymouth and Iswlyn were not so lucky, sold to Go-Ahead and Stagecoach respectively – with the total number of municipals now down to eleven – whilst a minority stake in Ipswich could be sold to Go-Ahead. On the other hand, there was fall-out from Stagecoach's competition against and subsequent purchase of Preston Bus. The takeover was referred to the Competition Commission. Whilst Stagecoach is appealing the decision, it looks like they are preparing to sell the company regardless of the outcome – one of the interested parties is an employee buyout, which would have a certain symmetry about it!

Buses and the internet

This winter we've seen some of the biggest snowfalls in the country for many years. Although bus operators struggled with the weather, I'm very happy to report that the use of the internet as a means of communication with passengers really came of age, using websites, Twitter and Facebook to try and keep passengers up to date. Indeed, I even ended up collating a few handy hints on how bus operators could improve their use of Social Media. I've also started a list of UK bus operators who use Twitter – drop me a line (or a tweet) if you know of any more!


Making the connection off the ferry

I enjoyed the Scottish section of my trip so much, the scenery so wild and untamed, that I decided to go back there on holiday in February this year. The only bus of the journey was a Stagecoach Mercedes minibus which collected us off the afternoon ferry to Armadale on the Isle of Skye, and deposited us in Kyle of Lochalsh the following morning. The rest of the journey was done by train, with far less running about trying to make questionable connections.

Thanks to Anthony for the photo of me and the minibus – more photos from our trip here

Final word

Once again, thanks to everyone for supporting and following the project. I hope you're inspired to go out and try this country's public transport system for yourselves! :)

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