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Stagecoach & other operators

Bringing the Story Up to Date

The final chapter of the Stroud's Buses book concluded in 2003 on a rather upbeat note. What has happened subsequently?

January 2004 Upheaval

Stagecoach's integrated network from 2002 where many buses arrived and departed at ..10 and ..40 past each hour (with through fares) collapsed when roadworks particularly along the Golden Valley caused reliability and punctuality problems. On top of this, several expired but extended school contracts that helped to sustain off-peak services were thrown back by Stagecoach following what they claimed were poor annual inflationary increases.

Olympians in Stripes or otherwise

Former Swindon-based Olympian 105 was the first vehicle at Stroud to receive Stagecoach's so-called beach ball or swirls livery, surrounded by buses with the same chassis but the more traditional livery.

In any event, the changes introduced largely in 2002 were over-optimistic. By the autumn of 2003, Stagecoach reported serious losses, resulting in variations and cancellations effective from January 2004, including deregistrations to certain journeys on the 8, 21, & 22; to many journeys south and east of Stroud on the formerly hourly 92/92A; and withdrawal of the 36 & 54.

Subsequent Gloucestershire County Council contracts were awarded not to Stagecoach but to an ever-expanding Ebley Bus, the effect of which on the 8/8A, 21, 22, & 92/92A was to see what may best be described as a timetable as tidy as an unmade bed, with Ebley augmenting thinly provided Stagecoach journeys to the south-east or, in the case of some of these routes on Saturdays, Ebley being the sole operator. Changes to the 92/92A were particularly significant. The hitherto hourly service between Stroud, Minchinhampton & Tetbury was replaced by a handful of irregular journeys again augmented by Ebley Coaches particularly as 228 (with parts of the 254/255 also relevant to this corridor) and although the council's chosen numbers had a certain traditional feel to them, they did not foster easy passenger recognition.

Ebley Bus augmented the 8/8A

New to Warrington is this Carlyle-bodied Dennis Dart being made ready for departure on one of Ebley Bus' journeys on the joint service with Stagecoach (though ticket inter-availability was not permitted)

It was no doubt Stagecoach's intention to seek to retain the tendered work to reconstruct reasonable services, perhaps even using de minimis funding. In the event, this proved impossible. There resulted a loss of network connections and benefits, as non-Stagecoach local journeys no longer fed into routes at Stroud to Gloucester & Cheltenham. While Stagecoach continued selling discounted through tickets, the unavailability or use of tickets on the other operator's journeys further threatened the core network, as fewer passengers, unwilling to pay twice, travelled no further than Stroud. Gloucestershire placed no requirement on Ebley to accept commercial tickets. This, coupled with a paucity of publicity, caused major concerns for passengers.

It is also noteworthy that service 36 (Rodborough/Kingscourt) passed in its entirety to Ebley Coaches as 236, but to a reduced timetable. This was the direct descendent of two GWR motor bus services in Stroud in 1927. Stagecoach took the opportunity off peak on Mondays to Fridays to abandon the unpopular hourly France Lynch/Brownshill loop and reintroduce half-hourly services between Stroud and Eastcombe, buses then bifurcating to either of France Lynch or Brownshill. Saturdays were hourly, with a bus every two hours to each outer termini. The loop remained at peak times.

Service 620 (Tetbury-Bath), formerly Stagecoach's, passed initially to South Gloucestershire Bus & Coach and then in February 2004 to Ebley Coaches, while the 628 (Stroud-Nailsworth-Bath) was withdrawn without replacement.

The total effect was to reduce Stagecoach's Stroud driver requirement overnight by about a fifth. Stagecoach bravely maintained a no-redundancy policy and consequently some Stroud drivers found themselves temporarily working at other depots. For example, for a while Cheltenham minibus services P (Ewens Farm) and Q (Station-Town Centre-Ryeworth) were worked by two surplus Stroud drivers, greatly helped by the fact that that by this time Stroud's drivers were the only ones still being trained to operate stick shift, manual buses (for the Mercedes 709s and 811s still in use). These services became a figure of 6, from 18 July 2004.

Stroud Bus Station

Bus Station no more

The site of the former bus station. It's still possible to imagine where the platform once was

Meanwhile, Stroud Bus Station finally closed for redevelopment in March 2004. The replacement facility, designed initially as 'temporary' but looking increasingly permanent, resulted in shelters dotted on either side of the busy A46 Merrywalks itself, outside where the bus station had been. It's hard to imagine where services would otherwise terminate, given the town's street plan—and the antipathy (even hostility) towards buses in the town centre.

(/3/09 0645; rev 8/3/09)

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