Stagecoach in Devon

Stagecoach in Devon

Infobox Company
company_name =
company_
company_type = Public
foundation = 1994
location = Exeter, Devon
area_served = East Devon
Torbay
Exeter
homepage = [http://www.stagecoachbus.com/devon/ www.stagecoachbus.com]
footnotes = Subsidiary of Stagecoach South West. Brand name for services in the Devon area.

Stagecoach Devon Ltd, part of the Stagecoach Group, is a bus operator serving the East Devon and Torbay areas of South West England. It was formed in 1995 with the purchase of Devon General and Bayline. Its headquarters is in Exeter. It has an authorisation from the Traffic Commissioner to operate 310 buses.

ummary

From a slow start Exeter has become one of the first cities in the UK to have a fleet of entirely low-floor buses after introduction of the buses to the A and H service; a number of radial services are also served with low-floor buses from Exeter such as the X46, 56, Culm Valley 1/1A/1B, the Sidmouth services 52, etc. from late 2006.

History

The original Devon General

The history of the company dates back to the formation of Devon General Omnibus & Touring Co. Ltd in 1919 to operate buses in Devon. In 1920 the Torquay Tramways Company, part of the British Electric Traction group, was facing competition from Devon General and purchased its own buses, and in 1922 purchased Devon General itself. Devon General therefore became part of the BET group. Torquay's trams ceased to operate in 1934. [ [http://www.petergould.co.uk/local_transport_history/fleetlists/tramways/torquay1.htm Torquay Tranways Co. Ltd 1907-1934 by Peter Gould] ]

In 1968 BET sold its bus interests, including Devon General, to the state-owned Transport Holding Company, and thus became part of the National Bus Company when it was formed in 1969. In April 1970 Devon General acquired the interests of the Exeter municipal operation adding another 60 buses to the fleet. [ [http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/EM/exetertransport.html Trams and Buses in Exeter] ] But soon after, in January 1971, the National Bus Company transferred the operations of Devon General to Western National. The Devon General name was retained as a brand name of Western National.

Privatisation

To prepare for privatisation, the National Bus Company split Western National into four new companies in 1983, one of which was Devon General Ltd, operating in the territory of the old Devon General in south and east Devon. Devon General became the first NBC operation to be returned to the private sector in August 1986 under the 1985 Transport Act. The company was sold to its management, who later formed a new holding company, Transit Holdings, which acquired a small portfolio of bus operations in Portsmouth, Oxford (Thames Transit) and latterly in London (Docklands). Devon General from 1984 became a major user of small 16-seat Transit minibuses and replaced all the older big buses with small ones seating up to 29 in the case of buses used on longer runs. By 1996 Devon General had only one double decker, an old PD2 Leyland acquired in open top form from Portsmouth Transport.

In 1996 Transit Holdings, including the Devon General and Bayline operations, was sold to Stagecoach.

Stagecoach

During the late 1990s and early 2000s many of the old fleet of buses were refurbished to get the modern look of Stagecoach: this involved new style seating, exterior and more recently the LED scrolls.

The small minibuses have now been replaced with a mixture of midibuses, double deckers, and coaches, the most recent buses being the Optare Solo, the Alexander Dennis Pointer Darts, Dennis Tridents and Enviro400s, all Stagecoach Group standard bus types. Stagecoach injected some new buses after acquisition of the company including Volvo B6LEs (14), Volvo B10M coaches (6), Volvo B10M buses (7), Dennis Javelins (4) and Mercedes-Benz Varios (16) after which there were few more for some years. Stagecoach Devon's fleet was mostly cascades from other areas. Between 1997 and 2004 only 6 new buses entered the fleet (3 ALX200s for service 56) and 3 new Dennis Tridents for the 373 in January 2003). Since then however the company has invested heavily in new vehicles, taking on a large fleet of Dennis Tridents (21 initially) for the busy service 12 in Torbay and the new Culm Valley Connect services (formally route 54) — another 8 Tridents — and it was the launch customer for the Optare Solo Slimline with 30 going into operation on Exeter city routes. Later in 2006 the Exeter services were replaced with brand new buses; low-floor Alexander Dennis Pointers for the city services A and H displacing Solos onto other routes.

The company faced an industrial stoppage in July 2003 which caused cutbacks in the period afterwards. The company recovered strongly positing excellent growth in passengers and a steadily improving financial position underlined by innovative marketing, engaging in community activities, promotions including telemarketing and this in turn has led the company to be a finalist in the 'Bus Operator of the Year' awards in both 2005 and 2006 (winner both times being sister company Stagecoach West Scotland). The CPT operators' federation stated that PR2 became one of the fastest growing bus services in the country and the company dominated rankings for the 2005 CPT 'On the Move' publication.In this time passenger numbers have grown way ahead of the national average of 7.8%, 5.2% (2005/6) and the company is on track for 20% in 2006/7.

The company has also been a significant winner in the 'Kickstart competition': this is directly government funded to provide an upgrade to services which should eventually become self supporting. Stagecoach Devon won three such bids, the Culm Valley connect services in September 2004, the 12A South Devon College services in September 2005 and the upgrade of Exeter City services in spring 2006. It is quite unusual for a company to do so well from such schemes but they are reported to be doing very well and exceeding projections.

Additionally, the company has been active in gaining tenders outside the traditional boundaries of the Devon General area and has had buses based in Yeovil from 2005 and from September 2006 opened units at Barnstaple, Torrington and Bude after gaining many tenders in the County Council tender round.

The Company has had to deal also with the introduction of free concessionary fares to the disabled and those over 60 as well as the inherent organic growth in the business. This is putting considerable capacity demands on the company which is switching to double deck buses on many routes in order to cope; a series of older double decks have been imported for this purpose. The company has campaigned for a better settlement on the fare concessions and the reimbursement from the scheme is said to be amongst the weakest in the country whilst demand is also amongst the strongest. In six months concessionary demand increased 90% over the previous year.

In June 2008, Enviro400 buses were purchased and partially funded by Stagecoach and Devon County Council at a cost of £12.5 million. These were for use on the new "go"2 service from Exeter to Newton Abbot. [http://www.thisisexeter.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=137015&command=displayContent&sourceNode=136999&contentPK=20955080&moduleName=InternalSearch&formname=sidebarsearch] They were officially launched at Powderham Castle on 25 May 2008.

Changes

In Devon there are regular changes to the bus service, usually to cope with an increase in passengers or the purchase of new - often larger - vehicles.In December 2006 Stagecoach announced that in 2007 The Exeter City Service P will split into two different routes, P1 and P2, due also to requests from residents in Crossmead complaining that the St Thomas health centre was inaccessible following changes in April 2003. Stagecoach spokesperson Mark Whittle said: [cite web|url=http://www.thisisexeter.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=137015&command=displayContent&sourceNode=136999&contentPK=16125120|title=P Just Perfect As Bus Campaigners Are Told Service Will Be Back|date=2006-12-07]

"Details are still being confirmed but there will be a P1 and P2 and they will run in a loop, which effectively means that there will be a P bus running along Cowick Street every half an hour"

But in March 2007, it was announced that the new services would not begin operation until September. [cite web|url=http://www.thisisexeter.com/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=137199&command=displayContent&sourceNode=136986&contentPK=16947473&folderPk=79934&pNodeId=137002|title=Bus Delivery Hold-Up Dashes Bid To Reroute P Service By Easter|date=2007-03-24] Many customers were left in the dark about the changes, and eventually the idea of splitting the route was ultimately scrapped.

Several of Exeter City's services have been upgraded through the past years, ranging from services F splitting into two, the F1 & F2, and service A having the first Dennis Darts with Pointer 2 bodywork vehicles in Exeter.

With the release of new vehicles, Stagecoach continue to purchase them. The Alexander Dennis Enviro400 were purchased in May 2008 for the new 2 route which replaced the 85 and 85a.

"bayfast" Service

In August 2008, Stagecoach announced a trial for a possible new service from Torquay to Brixham using a 138 seat catamaran. [http://www.stagecoachgroup.com/scg/media/press/pr2008/2008-08-11/] Following this, Stagecoach released a leaflet explaining the details of the tral - between the dates of 29 August and 27 September of this year. [http://www.stagecoachbus.com/devon/index_5330.html]

Cooks takeover

In May 2007 Cooks Coaches of Wellington were purchased by Stagecoach. However, in July 2007 the "Cooks Coaches" logos were removed from the buses, and replaced with the "Stagecoach" logo. And more recently some brand new 07 registration buses in Stagecoach Livery have appeared on Cooks routes especially Seaton Town Services. They are still being operated by the Cooks ex. staff. In mid 2008 they started operating some ex-Stagecoach Devon bus such as ex Hong Kong Citybus Dennis Dart and Volvo B10M/Alexander PS and also one ex-Stagecoach in Hampshire Northern Counties Paladin on the 60/61 route and are now coming under Stagecoach Somerset.

Branding

The fleet is branded as "Stagecoach" sometimes with the additional "in Devon". "Bayline" is still used in Torbay to brand low floor services (e.g. Bayline 12, Bayline 32) and "Cityline" is the low-floor brand in Exeter (Cityline A, Cityline H etc.) All services are colour coded and this follows through into all publicity including Torbay Council's own guide. In Northern Devon, most low-floor buses are branded with either "Atlantic Townline" or "Atlantic Coastline" depending on whether the bus in operating services within Barnstaple or out on rural routes

Controversy

Free fare scheme

In 2007 it was reported that Stagecoach Devon drivers were issuing more expensive tickets to those holding free bus passes. The effect of this would be in increase the amount payable to Stagecoach Devon by the Local Authorities within the county wide scheme. Whilst not affecting the current amount paid to Stagecoach Devon by the local authorities future negotiations over fare reimbursement will be based on these longer, more expensive, journeys [cite web|url=http://www.thisisexeter.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=137015&command=displayContent&sourceNode=136999&contentPK=16125120|title=Mystery over free bus tickets won't be solved till May |date=2007-04-18]

2007 Route Changes

After several changes to routes in Exeter in September 2007, causing the service T to cease, and R and S to only run during daytime, caused outrage amongst residents of the affected areas. [http://www.thisisexeter.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=137015&command=displayContent&sourceNode=136999&contentPK=18525496&moduleName=InternalSearch&formname=sidebarsearch]

Following this, in October 2007 , Devon County Council announced that they would fund Stagecoach until March 2008, so they could run a partial service T and resume the R and S service in the evenings. This was due to the council receiving in excess of eighty letters from customers. [http://www.thisisexeter.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=137199&command=displayContent&sourceNode=136986&contentPK=18696178&folderPk=79934&pNodeId=137002]

The services are due to resume partially in late October [ [http://www.stagecoachbus.com/devon/serviceinfo_3033.html Devon - Marks & Spencer Bus 26th January ] ] and fully in November [ [http://www.stagecoachbus.com/devon/serviceinfo_3964.html Devon - Timetable change - service 308 ] ] , before Devon County Council will review the service's usage once again.

Routes

Stagecoach Devon operates hundreds of different routes in Devon. They are classified in five different sections: Rural services, Stagecoach Cooks/Somerset services, Exeter city services, School services & Rural school services.

Rural services

Exeter school services

Other school services

Stagecoach Devon also operates some school services in other Devon areas.

Future

Later in the 21st century, Exeter is expected to have laser guided buses operating via two bus-only bridges crossing the River Exe. The plans have been drawn up for some months now. In 2005 the plans were halted, as funding was not available. However in December 2006 the plans were back on track, and work is due to start in 2007

References

External links

* [http://www.stagecoachbus.com/devon Stagecoach Devon website]
* [http://www.travelline.org.uk Traveline]


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