Friday, 11 September 2015

Premium bus services in Britain

Ever since Britain’s buses were deregulated in 1986, we have seen bus operating companies providing services which contain audio-visual announcements, free Wi-Fi internet, charging points for people to charge their electrical devices, CCTV, leather seats and frequent services.

Emphatically, the private operating companies wanted to provide first class luxury services in order to gain more customers to their services.

I'll list the operators which do provide that type of service.

Stagecoach Gold

Originally called Goldline, Stagecoach Gold was launched back in 2007, their aim was to provide luxury services to attract ‘middle class’ passengers with extra features like Wi-Fi (on some services,) leather seating and CCTV. I have found though that they do not contain audio-visual announcements. They have fewer enhancements than Arriva Sapphire provide, but they do have leather seating, high frequency service and quality staff giving quality service. Their charter states that if the service is delayed for more than 20 minutes within their control, they refund passengers with a voucher for a local dayrider.

You can visit their website here and their Customer Service Charter. Also Stagecoach have written about their campaign on their website.

The bus types they use are the Alexander Dennis Enviro300, Alexander Dennis Enviro400, Optare Solo, MAN 18.240 and Scania N230UD.

The list of operators for Stagecoach Gold are:
·         Stagecoach Chesterfield
·         Stagecoach East
·         Stagecoach East Kent
·         Stagecoach East Scotland
·         Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancashire
·         Stagecoach Midlands
·         Stagecoach Oxfordshire
·         Stagecoach South
·         Stagecoach South West
·         Stagecoach West
·         Stagecoach Merseyside and South Lancashire

Taken from their website, the areas they serve are:
·         Aldershot, Farnborough and Camberley
·         Bicester, Gosford, Oxford
·         Canterbury, Folkestone & Hythe
·         Carterton, Witney, Eynsham, Oxford
·         Cheltenham & Gloucester
·         Haverhill, Linton and Cambridge
·         Leamington & Warwick
·         Lower Tuffley to Cheltenham
·         Milton Keynes, Northampton, Peterborough
·         Perth
·         Sheffield - Chesterfield - Matlock
·         Swindon to Oxford
·         Selsey to Chichester
·         Raunds - Wellingborough - Northampton
·         Torquay - Paignton - Totnes - Plymouth or Totnes - Dartmouth
·         Whitehaven to Carlisle

The number of routes they operate are 21.

Information about Stagecoach Gold can be found on Wikipedia.

Arriva Sapphire & Max

They first launched in April 2013 starting off with 4 luxury services around Britain. Their service provides Wi-Fi, audio-visual announcements, comfortable leather seating, CCTV and charging points which enable users to charge devices such as a smartphone. They also provide frequent buses every 10 minutes and their customer charter provides refunds for those who are unsatisfied with the service.

You can visit their website here and view their customer charter.

Some of Arriva Sapphire’s bus fleet use existing buses which have been refurbished and operate on the route with a mix of new buses.

Their bus current bus types are:
·         Wright Pulsar bodied VDL SB200
·         Alexander Dennis Enviro400
·         Wright StreetLite

The operators for Arriva Sapphire are:
·         Arriva Buses Wales
·         Arriva North East
·         Arriva Shires & Essex
·         Arriva Southern Counties
·         Arriva Yorkshire

Taken from their website, the areas they serve are:
·         Ashington to Newcastle
·         Durham to Sunderland
·         Durham to Hartlepool
·         Darlington to Durham
·         Easington to Middlesbrough
·         Whitby, Loftus and Lingdale to Middlesbrough
·         Hall Green to Leeds
·         Chorley to Wigan
·         Wigan to Bolton
·         Crewe to Macclesfield
·         Wrexham to Chester
·         Chester to Connahs Quay
·         Rhyl to Llandudno
·         Huntington and Holder Drive to Walsall
·         Tamworth to Birmingham
·         Stenson Fields to Derby
·         Oadby to Leicester
·         Aylesbury to Oxford
·         Hemel Hempstead to Rickmansworth
·         Watford to Luton
·         Dartford to Valley Drive
·         Gillingham to Maidstone

The number of routes they operate are 16.

You can see more information on their Wikipedia page.

Arriva also have another luxury service which is Arriva Max.

According to their article, they operate a luxury express service with the same features that Arriva Sapphire provides. They operate 15 express services in various areas of England which are the North East, Yorkshire and the South East. Arriva Max were founded in September 2014 in order to attract more passengers to their service.

The bus types they operate are the Mercedes-Benz Citaro and VDL DB300/Wright Gemini 2.

The operators for Arriva Max are:
·         Arriva Buses Wales
·         Arriva North East
·         Arriva Shires & Essex
·         Arriva Yorkshire

You can view more information from the Wikipedia article.

National Express West Midlands Platinum

National Express West Midlands has recently introduced their new luxury service which is the NX Platinum. This new service provides Wi-Fi, extra leg room with comfortable seats, up to date CCTV system, audio-visual announcements and ‘greener’ buses. You can view their customer charter here.
You can view their page on the NX buses website.

National Express West Midlands are investing £34million on 171 new vehicles in 2015, 18 of which are Platinum-branded Euro 6 Enviro400s.

The NX Platinum service has 5 routes and serves various parts of the West Midlands which are Coventry, Birmingham, Birmingham International Airport and Walsall.

National Express have roots to their former nationalised National Bus Company which served the whole of England except for London.

Bus and Coach magazine have written an article about their launch.

First Platinum

First Group have their own premium service which is located at their Aberdeen branch in Scotland. First Aberdeen have invested £250k to refurbish their route 19 buses giving them more luxury seating, Wi-Fi and a television screen which features BBC News broadcasts and audio-visual announcements.

You can view their webpage here.

The double deck bus type they use is the Volvo B9TL/Wright Eclipse Gemini.

The routes which First Platinum serve are route 12 (Heathryfold, Royal Cornhill Hospital, Aberdeen City Centre and Torry) and Route 19 (Culter, Peterculter, Cults, Aberdeen City Centre, and Tillydrone.)

First Group are consulting to expand their Platinum services to the Greater Manchester area.

Compare it to London Buses

As the bus operating companies have their own premium services it means they have to monitor those services closely in order to gain a good service and reputation. But with London Buses, Transport for London closely monitors their routes which are operated by private companies under competitive tender.

Since London Buses operators are tightly regulated, their fleet should have an iBus which has audio-visual announcements, also tells the time on the display and on newer fleets a 't-loop' audio induction loop system; also provides data for their live countdown system in which enthusiasts innovated the data to make London Vehicle Finder, a website which shows live feeds of buses in London.

Last year London Buses trialled the Wi-Fi service on a fleet of two buses which operated on route 12 and RV1.

The seating is still standard, but with the New Routemaster bus they have old style bench seating with a moquette based from the classic AEC Routemaster bus.

A large fraction of the fleet are hybrid electric buses which help to cut carbon emissions. I think bus operators should invest more for greener buses, but the investment is usually supported by the government and the council under the ‘Green Bus Fund’.

London Buses have no cash fare so passengers need to use an Oyster card and the new way to pay is with the Contactless Bank Card provided by the bank. Each day around 250,000 journeys are paid by Contactless bank cards on London Buses. One in ten contactless transactions in the UK are made on TfL's services, which makes TfL one of the largest contactless merchants worldwide. I think bus operating companies around Britain should adopt Contactless bank transactions which reduce boarding times and speeds up the journeys.

Meanwhile, bus operators around Britain use 'e-ticketing' which means you purchase a ticket from their smartphone app and show it to the driver. Bus operator Arriva demonstrates it on their video.

I am also aware that Green Line Coaches have similar premium features on their fleet of double deck buses. If I've missed any out then please let me know in the comments section.

As a bonus, why not watch the video of the new Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 MMC on London Buses route 498 operated by Stagecoach East London.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Google Plus which is @CLondoner92

Image Attriubtions
"Stagecoach 15932 YN63BXA (14652049679)" by Graham Richardson from Plymouth, England - Stagecoach 15932 YN63BXA. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
"ARRIVA Cymru (ARRIVA Buses Wales), fleetnumber 4405 J500 ABW" by Cleggosw - Taken on my Sony DSLR A200K at Chester Business Park. Edited in Adobe Photoshop CS3.Previously published: Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -,_fleetnumber_4405_J500_ABW.jpg#/media/File:ARRIVA_Cymru_(ARRIVA_Buses_Wales),_fleetnumber_4405_J500_ABW.jpg
"NXWM Platinum bus - no 900 to Coventry - Moor Street Queensway, Birmingham - 6703 - Anna (18119898648)" by Elliott Brown from Birmingham, United Kingdom - NXWM Platinum bus - no 900 to Coventry - Moor Street Queensway, Birmingham - 6703 - Anna. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -,_Birmingham_-_6703_-_Anna_(18119898648).jpg#/media/File:NXWM_Platinum_bus_-_no_900_to_Coventry_-_Moor_Street_Queensway,_Birmingham_-_6703_-_Anna_(18119898648).jpg

"Stagecoach London LT241 on Route 15, Blackwall (16200306373)" by Aubrey Morandarte from Guildford or Coventry, England - Stagecoach London LT241 on Route 15, Blackwall. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -,_Blackwall_(16200306373).jpg#/media/File:Stagecoach_London_LT241_on_Route_15,_Blackwall_(16200306373).jpg

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