All-change on ‘farce’ bus service

Oxford Mail: PETITION: Steven Neill, left, with his parents Jess and Alex Neill PETITION: Steven Neill, left, with his parents Jess and Alex Neill

BUS services in Witney have been labelled a “farce” after passengers were left stranded due to overcrowding.

Go Ride, which took over Stagecoach services at the start of the month, have had to call taxis as its 16-seat buses could not fit enough people on board.

The Abingdon-based not-for-profit operator has now promised to add two additional services after complaints from passengers.

Jess Neill, who lives in the Madley Park estate with her husband Alex, said she has been left stranded on about five occasions waiting for a bus and had to get a taxi provided by Go Ride into the town centre.

She said: “We don’t think the bus company went into it properly from the beginning.

“It’s a farce and they didn’t realise the needs of people. It’s a long walk into Witney and we need a bus – I’ve never heard of a bus company having to get a taxi before. When you do get on the bus it’s squashed.”

The changes were made after Oxfordshire County Council reviewed its subsidies for routes in the district.

Eight subsidised services were taken over on a commercial basis by operators Stagecoach, Go Ride and the Villager community bus service to save the council almost £300,000. The Stagecoach 213, 214 and 215 services were transferred to Go Ride, which renumbered them as W1, W1A, W2 and W3.

Mrs Neill, 75, uses a walking stick and said it was also difficult to get on the bus because it can’t be lowered and there was no bell.

She said: “For people in wheelchairs, elderly people who have their shopping trolleys and mums with buggies they can’t get on the bus. It’s just horrendous and so many people have complained about them.”

Mrs Neill’s son Steven, 42, has set up an online petition and is planning on collecting signatures in the town centre asking the county council to take the service away from Go Ride.

He said: “You expect a bus to complete its route without leaving anyone standing.

“It just seems like the cheap option with the shortest route, the quickest they can do it and using the smallest buses.”

Witney Town Council member Brenda Churchill, who lives in Wenman Road on the Smiths Estate, said: “The 215 bus was very well used by people in the Smiths Estate but it only came once an hour so it’s horrendous that it’s been replaced by a minibus.

“It’s not good if people have an appointment at the doctors and they get left behind.”

Go Ride director Danny Douglas admitted buses had been overcrowded and said additional services will begin on Saturday, June 28. The additional services will be for the W3 routes, with a 9am service from Monday to Saturday that will include the Cogges Estate and a 9.55am service on a Thursday.

Go Ride hired a taxi to follow its W1, W1A, W2 and W3 services at 9am on 10 days so it could pick up excess passengers.

Go Ride director Danny Douglas said the company had received 10 complaints from passengers. These included concerns about overcrowding and timekeeping.

Mr Douglas said: “We’ve got to do better but we’re much more on top of the situation now.”

“In the meantime we will be operating some taxis along with bus services to make sure everyone can get on board.”

Comments (10)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

11:27am Sat 14 Jun 14

Dilligaf2010 says...

"The Abingdon-based not-for-profit operator"...........

........give them a chance, they're obviously not in it for the money, so why would they want loads of half empty buses on the roads, it wouldn't be financially viable.
I'm sure now they know the problems, they'll deal with them, although if people want a gold star service from the offset, I'm sure they'd be complaining about the prices......
"The Abingdon-based not-for-profit operator"........... ........give them a chance, they're obviously not in it for the money, so why would they want loads of half empty buses on the roads, it wouldn't be financially viable. I'm sure now they know the problems, they'll deal with them, although if people want a gold star service from the offset, I'm sure they'd be complaining about the prices...... Dilligaf2010
  • Score: 14

8:32pm Sat 14 Jun 14

the wizard says...

Quote,

Eight subsidised services were taken over on a commercial basis by operators Stagecoach, Go Ride and the Villager community bus service to save the council almost £300,000. The Stagecoach 213, 214 and 215 services were transferred to Go Ride, which renumbered them as W1, W1A, W2 and W3.

The £300k saved is by using smaller vehicles not up to the task, so in fact no money is being saved at all, as the operators of mini buses are having to hire taxi's. Thames Travel, remember them, went to the wall because they could not make the rates and routes pay, so the council drops its subsidy again and lures more operators into the same trap. The council should leave the fares to the operator to decide then the service provided will pay for itself or not. Luring operators into contracts that are not appropriate is misleading and ethically wrong, and the council should be made to renegotiate the contracts at a realistic subsidy so the correct vehicles can be purchased by the operator. If Stagecoach can't make it pay then its doubtful anyone can.
Quote, Eight subsidised services were taken over on a commercial basis by operators Stagecoach, Go Ride and the Villager community bus service to save the council almost £300,000. The Stagecoach 213, 214 and 215 services were transferred to Go Ride, which renumbered them as W1, W1A, W2 and W3. The £300k saved is by using smaller vehicles not up to the task, so in fact no money is being saved at all, as the operators of mini buses are having to hire taxi's. Thames Travel, remember them, went to the wall because they could not make the rates and routes pay, so the council drops its subsidy again and lures more operators into the same trap. The council should leave the fares to the operator to decide then the service provided will pay for itself or not. Luring operators into contracts that are not appropriate is misleading and ethically wrong, and the council should be made to renegotiate the contracts at a realistic subsidy so the correct vehicles can be purchased by the operator. If Stagecoach can't make it pay then its doubtful anyone can. the wizard
  • Score: 5

7:14am Sun 15 Jun 14

Myron Blatz says...

The issue here directly relates to yet more cost-cutting measures by Tory-run Oxfordshire County Council - official 'toadies' to the Tory-run Coalition Government led by that bloke Dave, from Witney. The minibus solution to getting regular public transport for more rural and out-of-town areas isn't a bad one - but does mean that on some routes, either greater frequency or a larger bus is vital to operations at times of greater bus-user demand - such as people going to/from work, school or market days. The minibus is also preferable on country side roads, and even some urban and suburban routes where either the roads are narrow, or parking is an issue for the much larger standard single and double-deck buses. For all that, nobody has yet explained why two bus operators run virtually identical services every four minutes to and from Blackbird Leys?
The issue here directly relates to yet more cost-cutting measures by Tory-run Oxfordshire County Council - official 'toadies' to the Tory-run Coalition Government led by that bloke Dave, from Witney. The minibus solution to getting regular public transport for more rural and out-of-town areas isn't a bad one - but does mean that on some routes, either greater frequency or a larger bus is vital to operations at times of greater bus-user demand - such as people going to/from work, school or market days. The minibus is also preferable on country side roads, and even some urban and suburban routes where either the roads are narrow, or parking is an issue for the much larger standard single and double-deck buses. For all that, nobody has yet explained why two bus operators run virtually identical services every four minutes to and from Blackbird Leys? Myron Blatz
  • Score: -9

9:34am Sun 15 Jun 14

King Joke says...

Myron, the BBL service is profitable, even at 4 min headways, so runs as such. Is that a problem?
Myron, the BBL service is profitable, even at 4 min headways, so runs as such. Is that a problem? King Joke
  • Score: 2

7:42am Mon 16 Jun 14

King Joke says...

Can I clarify some points please?

I am pleased to say, Wizard, that Thames Travel are still going strong albeit now as part of Go Ahead Group. You may be thinking of RH Transport who went to the wall a couple of years ago. Conventional wisdom is they won a number of County contracts on the basis of very low bids which under-cut larger operators, but couldn't make them pay. The County did not 'lure' them into making what turned out to be reckless bids, they did it willingly. THe County is legall obliged to take the lowest bid, subject to due diligence. It is the due diligence which may be called into question but not accepting the bid.

In the case in the story, the services previously ran with a subsidy but Go Ride have said they don't need the subsidy as they can make the services pay. The reason for this is that the minibuses have sixteen seats and do not need a driver with a PCV licence - although of course GR's drivers are trained professionals. So it might be possible to increase frequency (although you'd have to fill the extra vehicle all day to make it pay) but you won't get larger vehicles. We can see this lower capacity has caused problems which I hope can be overcome, but in these straitened times we should commend GR for coming up with an innovative solution to providing services which otherwise may not run.
Can I clarify some points please? I am pleased to say, Wizard, that Thames Travel are still going strong albeit now as part of Go Ahead Group. You may be thinking of RH Transport who went to the wall a couple of years ago. Conventional wisdom is they won a number of County contracts on the basis of very low bids which under-cut larger operators, but couldn't make them pay. The County did not 'lure' them into making what turned out to be reckless bids, they did it willingly. THe County is legall obliged to take the lowest bid, subject to due diligence. It is the due diligence which may be called into question but not accepting the bid. In the case in the story, the services previously ran with a subsidy but Go Ride have said they don't need the subsidy as they can make the services pay. The reason for this is that the minibuses have sixteen seats and do not need a driver with a PCV licence - although of course GR's drivers are trained professionals. So it might be possible to increase frequency (although you'd have to fill the extra vehicle all day to make it pay) but you won't get larger vehicles. We can see this lower capacity has caused problems which I hope can be overcome, but in these straitened times we should commend GR for coming up with an innovative solution to providing services which otherwise may not run. King Joke
  • Score: 4

12:32pm Tue 17 Jun 14

icba1957 says...

I'm afraid Wizard and Myron have totally misunderstood the situation.

Go Ride offered to take on the Witney routes without subsidy. The county council cannot stop them, and is legally forbidden to run a competing subsidised service on either the same route or at the same times. If Go Ride get it wrong, you cannot blame the county council, there's nothing they can do.

Nobody has been "lured into" doing anything by Tory or any other "toadies", so there are no contracts to renegotiate, and the council does allow operators to retain all fares revenue, so the simple fact is, if it doesn't pay they wouldn't run it.

Similarly, the buses to Blackbird Leys are run commercially (and would soon stop running if the bus companies weren't making a profit).
I'm afraid Wizard and Myron have totally misunderstood the situation. Go Ride offered to take on the Witney routes without subsidy. The county council cannot stop them, and is legally forbidden to run a competing subsidised service on either the same route or at the same times. If Go Ride get it wrong, you cannot blame the county council, there's nothing they can do. Nobody has been "lured into" doing anything by Tory or any other "toadies", so there are no contracts to renegotiate, and the council does allow operators to retain all fares revenue, so the simple fact is, if it doesn't pay they wouldn't run it. Similarly, the buses to Blackbird Leys are run commercially (and would soon stop running if the bus companies weren't making a profit). icba1957
  • Score: 1

3:13pm Tue 17 Jun 14

goridebus says...

Hello,

Go Ride CIC, which is a not for profit company which reinvests operating surpluses into more services for passengers, decided last autumn to take on the operation of the Witney town services on a commercial basis once the contract with Stagecoach expired. The County Council were paying Stagecoach about £45k per annum to operate these services, but because of our lower costs and greater income potential our analysis showed these services would be commercially viable for us.

There were several contracts on offer from the County Council which we could have operated commercially, however we decided not to do so because the number of passengers travelling on individual journeys was too high for our 16 seat minibuses. We made the decision to take on the Witney town services based on Council-supplied survey data which indicated that the vast majority of journeys could be successfully operated with smaller vehicles.

In order to cater for the few journeys that did carry over 16 passengers, we split the former service 215 into two - W1 and W1A - and added an extra shopping-time journey from Madley Park on the former 213/214 route. In our opinion these changes were sufficient to cater for the passenger numbers we had identified. At the same time we took over former route 233 from The Wychwoods and expanded the service to take in Chipping Norton and boost the frequency from every 90 to every 60 minutes, together with keeping the Sunday service (which the County Council had withdrawn funding for) on a commercial basis. The Deer Park and Smith's Estate now also have a Sunday service which they have not had for many years, if ever. So I don't think anyone can accuse us of not trying to do the right thing.

However, on taking over the services it rapidly became apparent that passenger numbers were higher than expected. We are therefore making some further relatively minor changes to the timetables from 30 June which we hope will boost reliability and cater for more passenger journeys.

We are as disappointed as anyone that the services have not got off to the best start, as it is pretty important to the future of our company that we can keep hold of our passengers. However, we can rule out operating larger buses because this is not part of our business model. There are no barriers to the elderly and disabled using our buses - they have low floors, ramps and no steps. We have a fleet of 10 low floor vehicles now and have never experienced any issues with boarding of disabled or elderly passengers, so there is no reason why this should be any different in Witney.

The petition is unfortunately misguided as the County Council no longer have control over the operation of these services, and I have pointed this out to the petitioner but he is determined to continue. In the meantime we will carry on with the services and we believe that the changes on 30 June will help with some of the issues that have occurred over the past 2 weeks.

Kind regards,

Dave Harrison
Director
Go Ride Community Interest Company
Hello, Go Ride CIC, which is a not for profit company which reinvests operating surpluses into more services for passengers, decided last autumn to take on the operation of the Witney town services on a commercial basis once the contract with Stagecoach expired. The County Council were paying Stagecoach about £45k per annum to operate these services, but because of our lower costs and greater income potential our analysis showed these services would be commercially viable for us. There were several contracts on offer from the County Council which we could have operated commercially, however we decided not to do so because the number of passengers travelling on individual journeys was too high for our 16 seat minibuses. We made the decision to take on the Witney town services based on Council-supplied survey data which indicated that the vast majority of journeys could be successfully operated with smaller vehicles. In order to cater for the few journeys that did carry over 16 passengers, we split the former service 215 into two - W1 and W1A - and added an extra shopping-time journey from Madley Park on the former 213/214 route. In our opinion these changes were sufficient to cater for the passenger numbers we had identified. At the same time we took over former route 233 from The Wychwoods and expanded the service to take in Chipping Norton and boost the frequency from every 90 to every 60 minutes, together with keeping the Sunday service (which the County Council had withdrawn funding for) on a commercial basis. The Deer Park and Smith's Estate now also have a Sunday service which they have not had for many years, if ever. So I don't think anyone can accuse us of not trying to do the right thing. However, on taking over the services it rapidly became apparent that passenger numbers were higher than expected. We are therefore making some further relatively minor changes to the timetables from 30 June which we hope will boost reliability and cater for more passenger journeys. We are as disappointed as anyone that the services have not got off to the best start, as it is pretty important to the future of our company that we can keep hold of our passengers. However, we can rule out operating larger buses because this is not part of our business model. There are no barriers to the elderly and disabled using our buses - they have low floors, ramps and no steps. We have a fleet of 10 low floor vehicles now and have never experienced any issues with boarding of disabled or elderly passengers, so there is no reason why this should be any different in Witney. The petition is unfortunately misguided as the County Council no longer have control over the operation of these services, and I have pointed this out to the petitioner but he is determined to continue. In the meantime we will carry on with the services and we believe that the changes on 30 June will help with some of the issues that have occurred over the past 2 weeks. Kind regards, Dave Harrison Director Go Ride Community Interest Company goridebus
  • Score: 1

7:03am Wed 18 Jun 14

King Joke says...

Well said Dave, hope the new timetable goes OK.
Well said Dave, hope the new timetable goes OK. King Joke
  • Score: 1

12:54pm Thu 19 Jun 14

AndersonSmith says...

If the bus company is not for profit then maybe that is the problem. They do not have an incentive to do things better.

online ticket bus to singapore
http://bus.sgbooking
.com
If the bus company is not for profit then maybe that is the problem. They do not have an incentive to do things better. online ticket bus to singapore http://bus.sgbooking .com AndersonSmith
  • Score: 0

12:58pm Thu 19 Jun 14

King Joke says...

Rubbish, Anderson. If Go Ride don't cover their costs they will go out of business, so they have every incentive to keep the revenue coming in.
Rubbish, Anderson. If Go Ride don't cover their costs they will go out of business, so they have every incentive to keep the revenue coming in. King Joke
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree