Today I 'pass the pen' onto our reader from South Wales, Daryl Charles, who very kindly has written a special report on the bus activity in his local area. A big thank you goes to Daryl for writing such an interesting and well written article.
|Stagecoach Enviro300 28640 CN12AWO (Daryl Charles)|
It gives me great pleasure to write this article examining the bus scene in South Wales. It’s a privilege to be involved with such a successful and popular blog! With so much worth mentioning, it’s been difficult trying to choose what to include and what not too. I’ve tried to give a detailed and wide ranging view of the transport network both in my home county of Gwent and the surrounding areas. In this part of South Wales Buses, I will be looking at the dominant operator and their competitors. Without further ado, let’s begin!
Despite recent large scale funding cuts, Stagecoach in South Wales remain the largest and most dominant operator in the area. Since the acquisition of Red & White Services in 1994, the company has expanded its network by purchasing several of its smaller rival operators. These include Rhondda Buses (1997), Glyn Williams (2006) and most recently Islwyn Borough Transport (2010). Despite its many successes, the division seems to have fallen on hard times. Last year, the responsibility for the closure of Brynmawr depot, loss of 77 jobs and withdrawal of 14 services was placed firmly at the door of the Welsh Assembly due to their radical funding cuts.
|South Wales' equivalent of Norfolk's Olympians (Daryl Charles)|
While the fleet was reduced by 10% last year, Stagecoach in South Wales currently operate around 303 vehicles across a network of 109 services (excluding Megabus routes) using six depot’s and two outstation’s. While the fleet largely consists of the ‘standard’ Stagecoach Group vehicles (Enviro’s, Solo’s, Dart’s and Premiere’s) some rarer buses can be found throughout the South Wales valleys. Blackwood depot is home to four MAN 14.220’s and two Stirling bodied MAN 14.190’s. A 62 seater Plaxton Verde can be found at the divisions Head Office in Cwmbran. There are also ten Wright Streetlite’s (which many of you may remember from the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay) working out of Tydfil depot. They remain the only Wheel Forward versions in the entire Stagecoach fleet. Sadly, the number of Volvo B10M/Alexander PS vehicles left in service has decreased over recent years. Only two remain operational with a third having been donated to a Cardiff based preservation group.
|Harris Coaches operate a fleet made up of predominantly Optare|
Solos (Daryl Charles)
While Stagecoach may take the Lion’s share of business in South Wales, they are certainly not without competition. The long established family run business of Harris Coaches have served the people of Caerphilly County Borough since 1921. The company took advantage of De-regulation in 1974 and began operating its first bus services. Today, with a fleet made up mainly of Optare Solo’s, the independent operator runs services across three counties. Following the July 21st 2014 Stagecoach service changes, they were able to save four routes which would otherwise have been axed entirely.
Another highly regarded independent operator is that of Phil Anslow & Sons Coaches. Formed just over thirty years ago, the company currently operate eight bus services alongside their private hire fleet. In September 2000, Stagecoach Group purchased half the company and integrated it with their South Wales division. The remaining half was acquired during November 2004 and rebranded as Red & White Coaches. The Anslow family eventually bought back what remained of the company and continue to manage it today. Last year, they were able to take over a Stagecoach service which was due to be withdrawn.
|NAT are one of a small handful of operators who took delivery of|
the MAN CitySmart (Daryl Charles
In recent years however, no company seems to have been more successful than the ever expanding New Adventure Travel (N.A.T Group). Created in 2008 with a fleet of just four vehicles, the company was able to expand its operations following Veolia’s withdrawal from Great Britain. Today, they run a vast network of bus services spanning eleven counties as well as an excellently maintained private charter coach fleet. In April this year, they acquired the business of Select Bus and Coach of Neath. This follows their purchase of Merthyr Tydfil based VR Travel in 2013. Such expansion has enabled the company to launch its own premier Chauffer service, Silverfox Cars. With the fleet now standing at over 75 (and comprised of almost every possible vehicle), they are one of the largest independent operators in Wales, if not the United Kingdom.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading part one of South Wales Buses. I’ll be bringing you part two next month where I’ll examine the latest deliveries, most popular services and the preservation groups.