An update from Steve Burd, managing director of Stagecoach concerning Stagecoach Midlands revised X17 and X18 service changes with effect from the 16th September 2017.
Iwould apologise for the problems that some of the residents of Wellesbourne have experienced with the re-routing of service X17 and with the time keeping and reliability of certain journeys on this service since the start of the new College/University academic year.
The issues largely resulted from a further substantial worsening of traffic congestion across the Leamington / Warwick / Stratford / Evesham area since the start of September. Indeed our contacts at the University of Warwick, Warwickshire College and Warwickshire County Council, have all independently commented to me about how much worse general traffic congestion has been this term compared to the 2016 winter term. Since June 2016 when my Company added an extra bus into each of our service X17 and X18 operational cycles to provide an extra 30 minutes and an extra 15 minutes running time respectively on each return round trip , we have had to alter our service X18 timetable four times to address reliability issues on certain journeys and we have similarly had to revise service X17 three times, with further changes registered for 7th January 2018 , which I will explain to you in more detail later in this e-mail and which are designed to overcome the current issues in Wellesbourne.
The 16th September X17 / X18 changes followed lengthy discussions with Warwickshire County Council regarding the introduction of a fast half hourly Coventry – Leamington – Warwick – Stratford – Evesham service , which route X18 has now become, satisfying this long held County Council and Company transport link aspiration. This , however, necessitated the withdrawal of route X18 from the Barford – Wellesbourne – Charlecote – Tiddington area in order to speed up and straighten out service X18.
The X17 journeys between Coventry and Stratford have been diverted to replace service X18 around Wellesbourne , which does provide a number of beneficial new direct links eg to Warwick Hospital and Kenilworth. It also retains the previous 30 minute service to Stratford with equivalent journey times and also a half hourly service to Coventry , Leamington and Warwick albeit significantly slower. Passengers can , however, catch service X17 from Wellesbourne to Warwick and then change on to service X18 to Leamington and Coventry with no fares penalty on single, return, day and season tickets from Wellesbourne to these locations .As you you may be aware a few years ago, the old fast direct hourly service X15 between Wellesbourne – Bishops Tachbrook – Leamington – Coventry was withdrawn due to its very poor financial performance and passenger usage levels, in comparison to then hourly service X18 from Stratford-Wellesbourne to Barford-Warwick-Leamington and Coventry, which was increased to every 30 minutes at the time.
The frequency to Dovehouse was increased from hourly to half hourly as part of these changes, but the results of this service enhancement were very disappointing with only a relatively small increase in passenger numbers. being achieved.
As part of the 16th September service changes the previous running times on the section of service X18 between Warwick – Wellesbourne and Stratford, which had been working reasonably reliably over the course of the summer of 2017, were transferred onto the new diverted service X17 route between these points, with some additional time being added on certain peak journeys. Unfortunately there was insufficient running available within the new service X17 operational cycle for the route to serve both Charlecote and Dovehouse on each half hourly extension to Stratford, given the running time required on the rest of the route. To have done so would have required the provision of an extra bus and at least two drivers a week, which would have simply not be economic, given the level of revenue generated by both locations.
Unfortunately these are challenging times for the bus industry. As you may be aware Johnsons has reduced its local bus fleet from 42 to 30 in the last nine months and Country Lion, another very reputable independent operator in Northampton, has just withdrawn 4 of its 6 routes. Regrettably Stagecoach Midlands is not immune to these problems and we have been working very hard to try to maintain as much of our network in the South and Central Warwickshire area as possible on a commercial basis, given the decline in the local authority direct funds available to support local bus services.
It was, therefore, decided to run one bus an hour via Charlecote and one via Dovehouse, following discussions with the County Council. This regrettably currently means that the routes these two service X17 journeys take through Wellesbourne are also different and I am aware that this arrangement has caused significant confusion among some Wellesbourne passengers, as well as initially to a minority of our Leamington drivers, despite appropriate training / guidance being provided..
At the present time service X17, therefore generally, operates every 15 minutes between Coventry and Warwick Bus Station, with two buses an hour extending via Chase Meadow Estate – Barford – Wellesbourne -Alveston – Tiddington to Stratford. Of these two journeys one bus an hour runs via Dovecote and the other via Charlecote. This mixture of a higher frequency on part of a route and a lower frequency on an extended section of the service is common in Stagecoach Midlands networks and at many other bus companies. Likewise the diversion of specific journeys on the same service via different routes on part of the service also occurs on other routes. Service 19 between Kettering and Desborough for example, follows the same route every 20 minutes to the edge of Desborough and then runs hourly via three different routes around the town.I do , however, recognise that it would have caused less confusion in Wellesbourne if journeys via Dovehouse had been numbered service X17 and those vis Charlecote service 17 for example.
I had made arrangements for such a service number differentiation to be implemented from 7th January 2018, but we will now be introducing a better alternative solution from the same date, which will involve restoring a common half hourly X17 service through Wellesbourne – Dovehouse – Charlecote. This has been achieved through dialogue with the County Council, so that section 106 developer monies can be accessed to fund the provision of the extra bus required to make this standard route possible and to also put further additional time into the service to hopefully address the large majority of the present running time issues. Between an extra 5 and 10 minutes are being added to the majority of service X17 journeys between Stratford-Wellesbourne and Warwick. My Company will, however, be closely monitoring the performance of the new X17 timetable throughout January and February to ensure that it is achieving the required standards of punctuality. Further corrective action will then be taken on any journeys where it is identified that issues still exist.
The standardised X17 route through Wellesbourne / Dovehouse from 7th January heading towards Stratford will be -the A429 -Charlecote Road -Bridge Street – Chestnut Square- Stratford Road -the A429 -Dovehouse Drive -Loxley Road -the A429 -Dog Kennel Lane -Charlecote.
In the Warwick / Leamington direction the route will be – Charlecote – Dog Kennel Lane – the A429 -Loxley Road -Dovehouse Drive -the A429 -Stratford Road – Chestnut Square – Bridge Street -Charlecote Road – the A429.
One additional benefit of this planned 7th January revision is that service X17 will be linked with service 19 in Stratford to create a direct service from Wellesbourne, to Stratford Railway Station.
In addition my Commercial Department has ensured for the 0735 service 18 departure from Dovehouse Estate / the 0741 ex Wellesbourne Chestnut Square continues to Trinity School and Leamington Parade, without the need to change buses in Warwick.
I trust that the above information will be both self explanatory and assistance. I also hope that it demonstrates that my Company is taking action in January to remedy the difficulties that have occurred in the Wellesbourne area since the 16th of September. I am sorry that this change cannot be implemented any earlier, but all operators have to give 8 weeks notice of route and timetable changes of this type. If you do have any further queries, however, please do not hesitate to contact me.
I will send you a copy of the new X17 timetable as soon as a public timetable version is available.
Apologies once gain for the problems with the late running which have occurred on certain service X17 journeys since 16th September. The revised timetable being introduced on 7th January 2018 should, however, address the large majority of these issues.