As is very apparent in Plymouth at the moment that First have been concentrating their resources on the routes into Barne Barton, and Plymstock/Elburton, in a fight to win back 'their' territory. Of course this stems back to Western National days, and First are currently trying to regain control in these areas that they lost out in, during the bus war in the run up to the sale of Plymouth Citybus.
The 3, runs parallel to PCB's 26 (well really, its the other way round, the 26 was changed to copy the 3), to Barne Barton, and since it was changed to cover the same route, with the frequency increased, Plymouth Citybus have done very well with winning over customers along this popular stretch. The fact they use the Ex-London Volvos has also been a plus, in that they simply stand out that bit more. The bus itself is the company's biggest promotional tool, and PCB did well to put these out on the 26 to win people over. Although the B7s do still prominently work the route, in recent weeks it hasn't been that uncommon to see Darts on the route. But anyway to the point, to try and win back customers FDC has upped its frequency to every 7-8 minutes, and has reduced the fares so they are cheaper than PCB. Interestingly, as I found out last week, if you catch an 81A along the same stretch from Royal Parade, to the top of Ferry Hill by Parkside school, the fare is £1.35 extra for exactly the same journey. True its a different route, but you would have hoped they'd bring it to the same price level as the 3. People in this area of Devonport, and along Union Street have no preference as to whether its a 3 or an 81A, and they could be paying a lot more for the same journey, just as I did! The journey is £1.10 on a 3, but £2.45 on an 81A! Ludicrous quite frankly. But anyway, last Saturday I was in St Budeaux waiting at the stop for a 3. There was a Leyland Olympian on the next trip, so I thought I'd hang on for that, while another 3 sat at the stop at St Budeaux Square awaiting time. The driver thought I might be waiting for a 26, so duly notified me to the fact that First was now the cheaper alturnative on the route, which I was very impressed with indeed! Its really nice to see the drivers are trying to encourage passengers onto the service, and letting people know that they are the better option. Hopefully word will then spread, and things will start to return to 'normal' on this corridor. When I exclaimed "Oh don't worry, I'm just waiting for the Olympian behind you!", he was quite puzzled by it, but then enquired about what I was upto, and then proceeded to have a nice little chat about the hobby itself, and the network in Plymouth! I must admit, nothing pleases me more on bus services than great customer service like this. Just having someone there to interact and be friendly with is possibly the greatest asset that a bus company could ask for. It was an interesting topic of conversation on the Omnibuses Blog last week (LINK HERE) about the public thinking generally bus drivers had a bad attitude, but it was certainly right in demonstrating the fact they simply can't make a good impression in the amount of contact time they have with customers. This is why its so nice at Torpoint, with it being a small depot you do get to know drivers by name, and vice versa over time. In larger depots this is of course not practical, or efficient, but it is still an interesting topic to discuss.
Unfortunately, the trip I did was not operated by such a fine vehicle as K804 ORL! Anyway onto the Ugos again and the other new force to be reckoned with is the new 7. 7 is now the express service to Elburton, and has actually been doing very well! It seems that an express service is exactly what they wanted, many of the passengers don't want to be fussed with going round the Broadway and Plymstock, and just wanted a direct service into town. Now that they've been given this, they do seem to have responded very well. And of course if they do need to do some shopping or other activities in Plymstock, the 6 is still there to cater for these people. A perfect combination. While talking to the driver at St B, he said that 7 had indeed been carrying good loads. On the service I sampled at 11:40ish, even the outbound journey carried a good number of passengers. Some said they were mad running this service, but it so far really does seem to have worked a treat.