OPINION: Reduced service levels from next week?

UPDATE: Some services will be reduced from Wednesday 25th March, see end of article.

I’ve heard a couple of rumours that from next week bus services across the West Midlands could be reduced to Saturday levels of service.

It was announced by the Government this evening that schools across England will be closed from Friday “until further notice”, so it looks like the Easter holidays have started early.

To be honest, it probably wouldn’t be a bad thing to introduce Saturday levels of service during the week, one thing I have noticed certainly this week and last, is the reduced amount of other traffic on the roads.

This is no doubt due to increasing numbers of people either ‘self-isolating’ or choosing to work from home.

The reduced amount of traffic is allowing buses to actually run on time, especially during the normally busy morning and evening peak times, and in many cases buses are having to park up and wait at timing points.

As a result of more people choosing to work from home, or having to self-isolate, there are also fewer numbers of bus passengers. So it is perhaps prudent for bus operators to reduce their service levels, if demand has otherwise dropped off.

This may be a factor behind NX Bus’ reasoning to offer free travel before 9:30am for concessionary pass holders from tomorrow.

So as things stand, I wouldn’t have a problem if Saturday levels of service were to be introduced, and I can appreciate the reasons why.

But at this point in time as I write this, it must be stressed that this is very much still at the ‘rumour’ stage, and nothing has yet been confirmed.

Though following the announcement today of the closure of schools, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this were to be officially confirmed tomorrow.

Update 19/03/2020: NX Bus have confirmed today that some services will have reduced frequencies from Wednesday 25th March.

Full announcement from NX Bus:

We are currently running services as normal and will continue to do so until the last bus on Tuesday 24th March. 

Starting from the first service on Wednesday 25th March, we will be running reduced services on some bus routes. No bus routes are being taken off, we will just be running some of them less often.

  • On all routes, times of first buses will be the same or within a few minutes of current times.
  • On all routes, there will be no change to the timings of the last bus.
  • Sunday services will remain as they are now.
  • Any National Express West Midlands all-night bus services will continue to operate.
  • Dedicated school routes will not be running due to the schools closing.

It is vital we continue to serve our customers and help keep the West Midlands moving, so we are trying to minimise the disruption by taking buses off some of our more frequent services, but not making any changes to routes that run less often.

We will be publishing all the new timetables that will start on Wednesday on this website on Monday 23rd March 2020. 

Please do not contact us about these changes as our teams are working hard to finalise the details and information will be available on Monday.

In response to some comments that have already been left on the WMBU Facebook page, yes, this means that people WILL still be able to travel to work, and it is only going to be the more frequent services that will have service levels reduced, so services that already run at lower frequencies won’t be affected.

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  1. 8 April 2020
    I know that bus operations are the law of the jungle, but the Bus Alliance Board could usefully be made aware of the crazy implementation of the frequency reductions on the Birmingham 16/16A/16W routes operated by NXWM and Diamond.
    I see the need for these to reflect fewer pax during lockdown, but a situation where approx 12 southbound daytime trips/hour is reduced to effectively 2 trips/hour is thoughtlessly sub-optimal and disincentivises bus travel.
    This arises because departures from the stop I use are timetabled at xx04, xx05, xx34 and xx35 – effectively 2 departures/hour, either NXWM or Diamond depending on which shows up first.
    A case for knocking heads together?
    Not sure how this makes bus travel more attractive when 15min intervals would be more attractive and would need the same resources?
    Comments, please?

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