Saturday, 3 March 2012

Lanson - Bude bus service is NOT being cancelled

I've been contacted by some very worried local residents who are concerned at the statement being made by Western Greyhound on their website about the 576 bus service between Launceston and Bude.

The statement implies that the service could be ending. However I can reassure residents that the service will be continuing, but with a different operator.

The full story (thanks to the council's top officer on the subject) is this:

The Western Greyhound (WG) website is misleading for the 576 service, and this goes for a number of other services that WG have recently lost at tender. WG’s service will terminate on 31 March 2012 but another provider will continue from 1 April 2012. Services will continue from Bude to Launceston and indeed the service through to Plymouth will be enhanced.

The Launceston - Callington - Plymouth route has seen the two bus companies, Western Greyhound Ltd and First Devon & Cornwall Ltd vying for its patronage for some time.

The current situation (i.e. pre April 2012)

All journeys on the First Devon and Cornwall service 76 and the Western Greyhound service 576 between Callington and Plymouth are operated commercially. The 576 north of Callington plus the journeys to/from Cornwall College Saltash from Bude are operated under contract to Cornwall Council. Some additional journeys over and above the basic two hourly services between Bude and Callington are Western Greyhound commercial additions.

It is the contracted journeys that were offered for tender in the recent round of tendering.

Post 1 April 2012

First D&C were awarded the contract to operate supported services, as part of a significant package of work across the county, albeit with varied journey times to fit their own commercial operation between Callington and Plymouth.

Western Greyhound then advised that they would be registering a commercial daytime service between Launceston and Plymouth, with one journey extended to Bude. This prompted a review of the contract award as daytime journeys between Launceston and Callington could no longer be considered for support (Local Authorities cannot tender or operate supported journeys in competition with a commercial service) and the Council notified First of this commercial action by Western Greyhound.

First D&C were asked to revise their tender package based on the tendered journeys between Bude and Launceston, evening and Sunday journeys (i.e. with Callington to Launceston supported journeys removed).

One week later, Western Greyhound registered a commercial Sunday service between Launceston and Plymouth, to start on 8th April, the first date that the Traffic Commissioner would allow. This prompted a further return to First to ask them to review their tendered price with the Sunday supported journeys removed from consideration.

The decision of both companies to submit commercial registrations has been of benefit to the Council and has resulted in a saving of over £50,000 per annum to the Council over and above that already saved in the tender round. The only journeys now supported by the Council on this service are those First D&C journeys between Bude and Launceston and evening journeys throughout the route after the 1905 Plymouth to Launceston and all subsequent journeys until end of service at 2305 from Plymouth.

Supported services becoming commercial does not always save us money because it can be the case that the journeys that were previously supported were part of a larger tendered package and their removal can in fact increase subsidy costs as the buses serving them are then unable to provide a complete route. I hope this complete information helps to show how iterative planning the bus network can be.

I hope this provides reassurance. If any reader has any queries about this or any other bus services, please get in touch. Thanks to the Council threatening to cut bus services in the past few months, there will remain concerns about the future of services, but I am confident in their assurances that ALL supported services are safe for the next two years. I will remain vigilant, however.

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