Oxford rationalisation - but keeping single company tickets!

johncrossley

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Routes in Oxford are going to be rationalised. Roughly speaking, Oxford Bus or Stagecoach will withdraw from certain corridors so that only one operator runs all services on that corridor instead of both companies running alternate buses.


Oxfordshire County Council has been undertaking a detailed review of the Oxfordshire bus network with the major operators, which includes Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel. This follows a clause in the National Bus Strategy that encouraged local authorities to work with its operators to try and remove as much ‘wasteful duplication’ in the network as government spending on buses increases - both through recovery funding and the Bus Service Improvement Plan.

After extensive negotiations, we’re pleased to say that this network review has now been concluded and it will be introduced by Oxford Bus Company, Thames Travel and Stagecoach from Sunday 2nd January 2022.


The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on travel habits within the county since March 2020. Whilst we have welcomed many of our customers back, we recognise that the return of bus use in Oxford has been slower than we are seeing in many other parts of the country.

As recommended in the government’s National Bus Strategy, Oxfordshire County Council has worked proactively with bus operators to identify opportunities for greater efficiencies through the reduction of unnecessary duplication in the network, with the aim of placing the network on a more secure financial footing while minimising impact on passengers.

Oxfordshire County Council worked closely with Oxford’s main bus providers on the review, which was prompted by lower than usual passenger numbers, a reducing Government funding, and a national shortage of driving staff. It looked at how best to balance the available resources with the areas of greatest need.

The consultation has led to an agreement to change how we operate parts of the network and has allowed Stagecoach to start to make changes to reset our network for the future. In doing so however, this means we will have to say goodbye to some of our customers, which has been a difficult decision to make. Our drivers, some of whom have driven the same routes for most, if not all of their working life at Stagecoach, will also be sad to say goodbye to their regular customers on some of our Stagecoach services.

This all sounds very sensible, but bizarrely if you look at the ticketing advice it seems quite clear they are planning to keep single company tickets! This seems contrary to what is intended under the new regime.
 
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Man of Kent

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Routes in Oxford are going to be rationalised. Roughly speaking, Oxford Bus or Stagecoach will withdraw from certain corridors so that only one operator runs all services on that corridor instead of both companies running alternate buses.

This all sounds very sensible, but bizarrely if you look at the ticketing advice it seems quite clear they are planning to keep single company tickets! This seems contrary to what is intended under the new regime.
Except that the legislation still makes this very difficult to achieve. In essence competition law still applies, so price-fixing is not possible except in very limited circumstances.
 

Busaholic

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Routes in Oxford are going to be rationalised. Roughly speaking, Oxford Bus or Stagecoach will withdraw from certain corridors so that only one operator runs all services on that corridor instead of both companies running alternate buses.







This all sounds very sensible, but bizarrely if you look at the ticketing advice it seems quite clear they are planning to keep single company tickets! This seems contrary to what is intended under the new regime.
Cornwall was supposed to be the 'pilot' for introducing a countywide bus ticketing system eighteen months ago following the formation of Transport for Cornwall by the unitary authority partnered by Go-Ahead operating tendered services. These were meant to interlock with First Kernow who operate the majority of buses in the county on a commercial basis. The introduction of a new form of unified cheaper ticketing was suspended because of covid (supposedly) but its continued non-appearance suggests that agreement between the operators is no nearer, despite the millions that Cornwall Council were promised by the government to instigate it. Local elections were held with a certain political party making grandiose claims of sunlit uplands!
 

johncrossley

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Except that the legislation still makes this very difficult to achieve. In essence competition law still applies, so price-fixing is not possible except in very limited circumstances.

In "Back Bus Better", it was made clear that more expensive multi-operator tickets are undesirable.


Limited cooperation In a busy seaside resort, there are two sizeable rival bus networks that don’t acknowledge each other’s existence. They: • publish separate city maps, showing only their own services, giving potential users including visitors the impression that some areas of the city are completely unserved; • they use the same route numbers for entirely different routes; and • on the busiest routes, served by both operators, there can be overcapacity at certain times of the day. There is a multi-operator ticket, but it is more expensive and hard to fnd out about.
 

On the Buses

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Cornwall was supposed to be the 'pilot' for introducing a countywide bus ticketing system eighteen months ago following the formation of Transport for Cornwall by the unitary authority partnered by Go-Ahead operating tendered services. These were meant to interlock with First Kernow who operate the majority of buses in the county on a commercial basis. The introduction of a new form of unified cheaper ticketing was suspended because of covid (supposedly) but its continued non-appearance suggests that agreement between the operators is no nearer, despite the millions that Cornwall Council were promised by the government to instigate it. Local elections were held with a certain political party making grandiose claims of sunlit uplands!
Incorrect. Alignment of prices age ranges and validity is agreed such that inter operable ticketing will commence with a target date set. The low fares pilot can then follow on from that.
 

APT618S

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The multi operator bus ticket in Oxford, the Smart Zone ticket, whilst being slightly more expensive does have different validity being valid for 24 hrs from purchase.
Currently it seems there is:
Stagecoach Dayrider at £3.80
Oxford Bus Company Cityzone day ticket at £3.90
24 Hour Smart Zone at £4.30
Depending on the times when you travel the Smart Zone could actually be the cheapest if travelling over only two days.
 

py_megapixel

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The day SmartZone tickets in Oxford are quite good. Unfortunately the weekly ones are a bit rubbish because of how hard it is to buy them.

When I was in Oxford I went to the travel shop at Gloucester Green. Despite having a valid smart card they would not issue a smartzone ticket until I paid them an extra £5 for a new smartcard in a different colour, because apparently GoAhead are not allowed to issue tickets on Stagecoach cards. I was advised by the man behind the counter in the travel shop just to buy the ticket on a Stagecoach bus to avoid the £5 charge.
When I tried to buy one on a Stagecoach bus, the driver could not find the ticket in his machine. After a radio call to their control centre (or whatever) it was established that Stagecoach cannot, in fact, issue weekly SmartZone tickets on the bus!

I could have ordered one online, but that requires me to provide all kinds of personal information and then wait for it to be posted to me, which is ridiculous.

All of this is compounded by the fact that Oxford Bus Company, in their infinite lack-of-wisdom, insist on calling the SmartZone product a "topup" - which it isn't - while Stagecoach continue to call it a ticket.

That OBC can't issue tickets on Stagecoach cards despite them using the same technical standards; that OBC staff are apparently not aware that Stagecoach cannot issue a particular ticket; and that they can't even be bothered to decide to call it the same thing all represent a huge lack of joined-up thinking in Oxford.

So you'll forgive me for not being entirely surprised at the poor availability of inter-operator ticketing.
 

Jozhua

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This always sends me crazy - bus companies are competing over a small (and generally shrinking) market share, when they should focus on creating a service competitive with driving.

I know Oxford has a number of decent bus lanes, so the infrastructure is there - literally just ticketing and basic network planning that needs sorting. It's so frustrating because splitting by operator means that you reduce the effective frequency of your network where multiple operator routes could take you to the same destination...

It's really sad because I genuinely think buses are fantastic - incredibly flexible, can cover a wide area with high service frequency and good speed (with bus lanes & signal priority). Just a shame we get it so wrong in the UK. A lot of the things that would allow buses to flourish are very cheap + easy wins that would actually being in more revenue.
 

Man of Kent

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Yes, but what government says and what government does are two different things. I'm currently trying to prepare an Enhanced Partnership (EP) agreement, which includes a "Competition Test" (Schedule 10) in accordance with Section 138 of the Transport Act 2000, for which I have to refer to not quite up-to-date documents issued by the Office of Fair Trading, to show how competition isn't (or in certain limited circumstances, is) adversely affected by the proposals. When the EP is nearer being ready, the Competition & Markets Authority is a statutory consultee. Should they decide to investigate, they charge you for the privilege.

The relevant OFT notes are 393, 439 and 452. Sorry I can't provide links for them.
 

johncrossley

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Yes, but what government says and what government does are two different things. I'm currently trying to prepare an Enhanced Partnership (EP) agreement, which includes a "Competition Test" (Schedule 10) in accordance with Section 138 of the Transport Act 2000, for which I have to refer to not quite up-to-date documents issued by the Office of Fair Trading, to show how competition isn't (or in certain limited circumstances, is) adversely affected by the proposals. When the EP is nearer being ready, the Competition & Markets Authority is a statutory consultee. Should they decide to investigate, they charge you for the privilege.

The relevant OFT notes are 393, 439 and 452. Sorry I can't provide links for them.

If it is impossible to scrap single company tickets due to competition law then that is a farce. If that's the case, surely the existing Oxford partnership is already in breach of competition law? For about 10 years, they have abolished competition on the major corridors and integrated timetables. If that isn't anti-competitive, I don't know what is!
 
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NorthOxonian

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Interestingly though, these rationalisations don't seem to affect all corridors. For example, it doesn't seem like Stagecoach is cancelling their 1 service to Blackbird Leys (they're only losing the more marginal city routes like the Greater Leys service). Nor is there any change to the Headington services 8/9. These are almost certainly the busiest routes in the city, so I wonder if it was simply too difficult to decide which one company would operate them?

Wantage seems to win big - they keep 3 Stagecoach buses an hour to Oxford (but now all on the S9), but also gain a new X1 route to replace the S8. But the population there is due to increase dramatically so it makes sense that their services would improve.
 

RT4038

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If it is impossible to scrap single company tickets due to competition law then that is a farce. If that's the case, surely the existing Oxford partnership is already be in breach of competition law? For about 10 years, they have abolished competition on the major corridors and integrated timetables. If that isn't anti-competitive, I don't know what is!
I don't think that is quite right. For about 10 years they have co-ordinated timetables so buses run at approximately in between each other, as part of a Quality Partnership brokered with the Local Authority. There has been a (well used) multi-operator ticket, but also company specific tickets at a cheaper rate. Passengers who want the convenience of being able to travel on any bus (i.e. double the frequency and to all areas of the City) can buy the multi operator ticket. Competition was still there. The driver of the Quality Partnership was the LA wishing to reduce bus congestion, nuisance and pollution, by reducing rather than eliminating competition. I am not sure how the public would have been served better by only having the multi-operator ticket available, as this would have robbed people of the chance of a cheaper ride by restricting them to the operator of their choice. Presumably people would pick the operator that they like the best (for whatever reason) hence the competitive element.

What you want is the multi operator ticket at the single operator price. Not sure that is realistic. The more choice and validity, the higher the price?
 

johncrossley

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I don't think that is quite right. For about 10 years they have co-ordinated timetables so buses run at approximately in between each other, as part of a Quality Partnership brokered with the Local Authority. There has been a (well used) multi-operator ticket, but also company specific tickets at a cheaper rate. Passengers who want the convenience of being able to travel on any bus (i.e. double the frequency and to all areas of the City) can buy the multi operator ticket. Competition was still there. The driver of the Quality Partnership was the LA wishing to reduce bus congestion, nuisance and pollution, by reducing rather than eliminating competition. I am not sure how the public would have been served better by only having the multi-operator ticket available, as this would have robbed people of the chance of a cheaper ride by restricting them to the operator of their choice. Presumably people would pick the operator that they like the best (for whatever reason) hence the competitive element.

What you want is the multi operator ticket at the single operator price. Not sure that is realistic. The more choice and validity, the higher the price?

The government stance is quite clear. They don't want single company tickets.

What is so special about the colour of the bus that means different tickets should be valid? It is about as logical as having different tickets for odd and even numbered routes. If you want to use both odd and even number routes then you could get a more expensive 'all number' ticket. If you proposed that, people would think you were insane.
 

Busaholic

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Incorrect. Alignment of prices age ranges and validity is agreed such that inter operable ticketing will commence with a target date set. The low fares pilot can then follow on from that.
I'm very pleased to hear that, but I'll still believe it when I see it, which is not meant as a criticism of either of the two bus companies, albeit one of them is very bound up with the council.
 

Stan Drews

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The government stance is quite clear. They don't want single company tickets.

What is so special about the colour of the bus that means different tickets should be valid? It is about as logical as having different tickets for odd and even numbered routes. If you want to use both odd and even number routes then you could get a more expensive 'all number' ticket. If you proposed that, people would think you were insane.
I don’t know why you keep peddling this non-sensical comparison of single operator tickets with odd and even route numbers? It is nothing like that, as has been pointed out several times!
Its actually very simple. If you only wish to travel on a smaller number of routes in a particular town/city/area, usually provided by one operator, then this is likely to be cheaper than an all encompassing ticket cover all routes in the same area. If you never (or at least rarely) need to use other routes, why should you have to pay for them?
If the government wish to provide the all operator tickets at the lower cost of operator only tickets, then it’s likely that some funding will be required to fill the revenue gap. That doesn’t appear to be forthcoming ...as yet.
 

TheGrandWazoo

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The government stance is quite clear. They don't want single company tickets.

What is so special about the colour of the bus that means different tickets should be valid? It is about as logical as having different tickets for odd and even numbered routes. If you want to use both odd and even number routes then you could get a more expensive 'all number' ticket. If you proposed that, people would think you were insane.
I'm sorry but you are quite wrong. What Bus Back Better clearly says is:

We want to see multi-operator ticketing everywhere, covering all bus services at a price little if at all higher than single-operator tickets, then to extend this to tickets that cover all travel modes (bus, light rail/metro, rail). Approximately 75% of places do now have multi-operator tickets allowing travel on all bus services in the area but they are not always well advertised and can be signifcantly more expensive than singleoperator tickets.
That clearly says that they'd prefer a multi-operator ticket and that if a single operator ticket exists, the price differential needs to be lessened.

At no point do they say they don't want single operator tickets.
 

JamesT

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The multi operator bus ticket in Oxford, the Smart Zone ticket, whilst being slightly more expensive does have different validity being valid for 24 hrs from purchase.
Currently it seems there is:
Stagecoach Dayrider at £3.80
Oxford Bus Company Cityzone day ticket at £3.90
24 Hour Smart Zone at £4.30
Depending on the times when you travel the Smart Zone could actually be the cheapest if travelling over only two days.

Despite the naming, the single operator tickets are also valid for 24 hours from purchase, the only difference is being tied to a single operator. Though by default the bus driver will sell you a Smartzone ticket if you ask for a day ticket.
 

johncrossley

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I don’t know why you keep peddling this non-sensical comparison of single operator tickets with odd and even route numbers? It is nothing like that, as has been pointed out several times!

Because people still seem wedded to this crazy idea. If splitting by operator is fine, why not split in other ways?

If having multiple tickets in each area is such a good thing, why don't operators who have a monopoly in that area split their routes into groups to offer a discount for those who don't need all routes?
 

Stan Drews

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Because people still seem wedded to this crazy idea. If splitting by operator is fine, why not split in other ways?

If having multiple tickets in each area is such a good thing, why don't operators who have a monopoly in that area split their routes into groups to offer a discount for those who don't need all routes?
In your opinion it might be crazy, but many others do not share your opinion, so tickets that better meet people’s requirements are available - and usually very popular. If they weren’t, then they probably wouldn’t exist. That’s market forces for you!
If the government has a desire to reform the way that the industry is regulated, they have to accept that appropriate funding will have to be available to meet those desires.
 

TheGrandWazoo

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why don't operators who have a monopoly in that area split their routes into groups to offer a discount for those who don't need all routes?
Because that's what they often do. For instance,

First West of England has a full network ticket at £7.00, a Bath area at £4.50, a Bristol area at £5.00 and a Weston one at £2.50 though there are slight discounts for buying online of about 20p to 50p, depending on the ticket.

They also sell and accept the multi-operator Rider tickets that are:

Avon area (so not as big an area) - £7.00, Bath at £4.50, Bristol at £5.00 and Weston at £2.50

I mean, they could have a ticket just for services that serve London Road in Bath but that's what normal tickets are for.
 

johncrossley

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Because that's what they often do. For instance,

First West of England has a full network ticket at £7.00, a Bath area at £4.50, a Bristol area at £5.00 and a Weston one at £2.50 though there are slight discounts for buying online of about 20p to 50p, depending on the ticket.

To be comparable with Oxford, First would have to offer at least three tickets in, for example, Bath. One covering all routes in Bath and two or more covering some routes in Bath (but each ticket covering at least two routes i.e. in addition to single route singles)

Splitting geographically is of course perfectly sensible.
 

carlberry

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Because people still seem wedded to this crazy idea. If splitting by operator is fine, why not split in other ways?

If having multiple tickets in each area is such a good thing, why don't operators who have a monopoly in that area split their routes into groups to offer a discount for those who don't need all routes?
I don't see what the issue is. You're quite free not to use single operator tickets if you don't what to, however this shouldn't preclude other people being able to buy them if that's what they want.
 

johncrossley

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I don't see what the issue is. You're quite free not to use single operator tickets if you don't what to, however this shouldn't preclude other people being able to buy them if that's what they want.

The whole point is to avoid the confusion with tickets that harms overall bus patronage.

In your opinion it might be crazy, but many others do not share your opinion, so tickets that better meet people’s requirements are available - and usually very popular. If they weren’t, then they probably wouldn’t exist. That’s market forces for you!

Suppose Stagecoach decided to sell out to Go-Ahead. Would Go-Ahead maintain the two separate ticket ranges? Of course not. Even if the current Stagecoach only tickets are 'popular'.
 
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181

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Suppose Stagecoach decided to sell out to Go-Ahead. Would Go-Ahead maintain the two separate ticket ranges? Of course not.

Opinions may differ as to whether this is a good thing, but Go-Ahead do have tickets valid on Thames Travel only and not OBC, despite having owned both companies for quite some years. To some extent this is a geographic distinction, but it's not a perfect one.
 

NorthOxonian

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To some extent this is a geographic distinction, but it's not a perfect one.
And one which will weaken with these changes - several Thames Travel routes are transferring to the Oxford Bus Company, seemingly as part of this (certainly at the same time). This includes the X39 and X40 - which go all the way to Reading and are geographically far more in line with TT than OBC.
 

Megafuss

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Would it be wise for areas such as Oxford to have either just route specific tickets and also a multi operator ticket.

This way customers have a choice of either just paying for the one route they use in and out of town, or they pay to use can to use everything?
 

Mitchell Hurd

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Routes in Oxford are going to be rationalised. Roughly speaking, Oxford Bus or Stagecoach will withdraw from certain corridors so that only one operator runs all services on that corridor instead of both companies running alternate buses.







This all sounds very sensible, but bizarrely if you look at the ticketing advice it seems quite clear they are planning to keep single company tickets! This seems contrary to what is intended under the new regime.
I'm shocked that a route I've lived on since day 1 almost 29 years ago, run by Stagecoach ever since the 1990's, is being passed to Thames Travel - the S8 that was previously the 31.

What about the S9 though?

Considering the routes are operated by mostly Euro 5 and 6 luxury buses, Thames Travel running older buses won't go down particularly well!
 

johncrossley

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Opinions may differ as to whether this is a good thing, but Go-Ahead do have tickets valid on Thames Travel only and not OBC, despite having owned both companies for quite some years. To some extent this is a geographic distinction, but it's not a perfect one.

That is only possible because they maintain a separate Thames Travel brand. If they removed the Stagecoach brand on acquisition then it wouldn't be possible to a maintain separate ticket range for the former Stagecoach services, unless they went out of their way to specify which routes the tickets are valid on.
 

RT4038

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Because people still seem wedded to this crazy idea. If splitting by operator is fine, why not split in other ways?

If having multiple tickets in each area is such a good thing, why don't operators who have a monopoly in that area split their routes into groups to offer a discount for those who don't need all routes?
I really don't know why you are getting so aereated about this? We all know why operators want to have there own, single company tickets (be they returns or be they multi journey) - they are one of the only ways that an operator can get a passenger to stand back and wait when the first bus that comes is of the rival operator (providing a better class of 'service' on one bus to another has proved to be a cost that passengers are not prepared to wait and pay for).

If a bus company felt there was some commercial advantage to issuing odd and even number only route tickets, and the public voted with their wallets to purchase them, I am sure they would do it. There is a perfectly adequate, and popular, multi-operator ticket in Oxford if you want that level of service. I really don't see the problem. There are vast swathes of the shire counties that do not have multi operator tickets at all, rendering travel involving multiple operators very expensive. I suggest that this problem be addressed first.
 
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