Lynx after the Stagecoach saga

My first ever journey with Lynx in early January 2015
The first time I travelled with Lynx I was impressed. It was January in their first week of service and if memory serves me correctly had four buses. Today, I spent the day on the North Norfolk coast - where Lynx have temporarily blessed the beautiful scenery after a what I like to call "the Stagecoach saga". After claiming the Coasthopper was not viable to run over the Winter, Stagecoach said no to running it until next Summer, following this a tender was awarded to Lynx to run an hourly service through the Winter period subsidised by Norfolk County Council... At this point, Stagecoach decide they will be running the Coasthopper - but it's too late to get all sections registered, so Lynx temporarily ran the service between Hunstanton and Sheringham - with the section as far as Cromer left bus less, and Stagecoach only operating as far as Wells. With all this placed upon a brand new operator, after today I am simply amazed. Notable is that for the first time ever, Sanders had the Norwich to Holt via Aylsham, Cromer and Sheringham section to themselves with no interference whilst Stagecoach sorted their registrations with the Traffic Commissioner out.

A friendly message sent to the bus via the iTicketer system
After a journey on the Stagecoach X29 from Norwich to Fakenham and 29 from Fakenham to Wells via Walsingham, I boarded an Eastward headed Lynx Optare X1060 Tempo 7 YJ58CEY, which was the first vehicle I travelled on on Lynx's Coasthopper service - whilst onboard I posted a photo onto the blog's Twitter account (See right sidebar) from the inside of the bus and less than ten minutes later (Being the only passenger on the bus), the driver announces "Are you from Norwich Buses Blog", holding a ticket in his hand. On it read "Welcome aboard to Norwich Buses Blog from everyone at Lynx.", sent via the impressive iTicketer system which integrates an office and depot to vehicle communication system within in. It was such a kind gesture, and one which is really appreciated. On Lynx 7 I travelled to the wonderful a Cley-Next-The-Sea for a few photographs among the beautiful village surroundings. All of Lynx's Coasthopper liveried Optare Tempos were acquired from Rotala Plc owned Diamond Bus North West, the former operation of South Lancs Travel.

Lynx 8 PF10MDX at Cley-Next-The-Sea Delicatessen
A wave to a Sanders driver I know on the rural 46 service and a few more photos later, and Lynx 8 PF10MDX arrived heading Westwards to Hunstanton. 8 is immaculate, smelling and looking as if it's just been driven off the forecourt, and an equally beaming smile greeting me from the very friendly lady at the wheel. I was going to travel as far as Wells and head home the same way I came, but was so content and thought as it was Lynx's last week on the Coasthopper I would continue all the way through to Hunstanton. What I cannot help but notice is that many former Stagecoach/Norfolk Green drivers have moved to drive for Lynx in recent months, and they are all among who I remember to be the friendliest and most approachable from the Stagecoach services.

I next travelled on to King's Lynn on Lynx service 35, another immaculate vehicle and another top class driver. I've travelled on the 35 three times now, and each time there's been a group of passengers all talking about why the chose to travel with Lynx. Much like what I have said, their most commonly used words are always "cleaner", "friendlier" and "more reliable". Furthermore, changes to Stagecoach's Coasthopper between King's Lynn and Hunstanton has made Lynx's competing service the quickest option between the two towns. The 14:25 journey I was on was nearing full leaving Hunstanton, rather impressive for an operator taking on a big national company for less than one year.

Could we see red buses return the cost in the future?
So what is next for Lynx? Their network has already grown around the 35, with a fast X35 college journey direct along the main road and a special 35B journey to and from the College of West Anglia and Hunstanton. Coasthopper service 36 is not entirely withdrawn from next week. What will remain is a morning School and College journey from Wells to Hunstanton, to connect with an X35 for the College of West Anglia. In the afternoon, a 15:08 departure from Smithdon High School to Burnham Deepdale will operate and a 17:27 Hunstanton to Burnham Market (Continuing to Wells by request), which continues on from the afternoon service 35B from the College of West Anglia. From what staff at Lynx have told customers, Lynx appear to be hoping to return to the North Norfolk Coast again, so keep your eyes peeled!
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About Kieran Smith

Norwich Buses Blog was founded in December 2013 by Sam Larke after he left another popular blog, Norwich Bus Page. Since it's launch, the site has grown dramatically, especially whilst written solely by Kieran Smith during 2015. The blog is now in it's third year and we look forward to more success and growth in the future. If you think you'd make a good writer for Norwich Buses Blog, please do get in touch via email: samuel.larke@gmail.com
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5 comments :

  1. Typical stagecoach trick, next they will go to the council saying they cant make it pay after all, hows about a top-up payment. Done it loads of times.

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  2. It should be noted that Lynx did not offer to run the winter service commercially but were quite happy to take taxpayers money probably however at a lower cost as they got the contract.
    Someone in Stagecoach made an hasty decision to cancel the Wells - Cromer registration resulting in the situation when someone saw the mistake that had been made.
    If Lynx are serious why have they not registered a commercial service during the winter.
    Still no doubt that they will be back to cherry pick the summer service

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  3. Stagecoach were also quite happy to take taxpayers money until Lynx tendered successfully for the winter service. Stagecoach only has itself to blame by gaming the market and losing the tender. How nice of them to decide that a route needing subsidy is suddenly commercial once it's lost on tender. Pull the other one.
    Stagecoach have form for completely screwing up acquired independent businesses by implementing their centralised structures on the business. In Norfolk Green's case, the only new buses have been some Solos this year. Everything else brought in has been cascaded from the group disposal list. Allocating hand me down vehicles will doubtless affect morale amongst those who have to drive them. Consider this level of investment against the independent Norfolk Green. Lots of new buses every year, and amongst them some double deckers for routes that had grown.
    I guess playing dirty is something Stagecoach hasn't really forgotten despite what the enthusiast community likes to think about how wonderful they are. To have a once motivated workforce going on strike within 2 years of taking over suggests some serious failings in management. Stagecoach will no doubt bring in the strike breaking scab labour to maintain the services. Just like they always do.
    Remember they were hated in the 1990s for their tactics of flattening any competition and screwing over the drivers wages and conditions. Nothing much has changed really. They'd just like you to think the bad old days have gone.

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  4. I think the comments from Anonymous on 19 November are ill thought out due to perhaps a bias against Stagecoach.
    Where I do agree is that Stagecoach should have seen what was coming when the winter Coasthopper service was tendered.
    Local management then committed the sin of possibly allowing another bus company to establish themselves on their route until the realisation of what they had done reached the higher echelons and instructions were forthcoming.
    With regard to unions Norfolk Green is unusual other parts of Stagecoach in that it is represented by the RMT which I think could be a result of former Eastern Counties drivers who came with the Kings Lynn routes.
    The unions are entitled to strike for what they believe in but also must understand what they are doing as any employer has the right to protect its business.
    Could it be that they see a big company as a cash cow which Norfolk Green was not.
    With regards to comments about lack of new buses, it is a tribute to Norfolk Green that they had one of the most up to date fleet around for an independent including some brand new buses, not lots, but mostly fairly modern hand me downs which good enough for Norfolk Green but it would appear not good enough for Stagecoach to do with five year old buses but OK for Lynx to cherry pick with hand me downs and so lower costs.
    It is still fresh what Stagecoach did years ago but today they would not be allowed to do it.
    They took advantage of the deregulation regulations at a cost to the taxpayer.
    With regards to subsidies Norfolk Green themselves as an independent required subsidies to run two Sunday services but continued with the service when the subsidies were withdrawn so this is nothing new.

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    Replies
    1. Whereas your comments presumably come from a perspective that Stagecoach are wonderful. Maybe you work for them? If you worked for them, then perhaps you'd see what they're like to work for. Some people enjoy working in that culture, others do not and move on quickly.
      It is a group where people go for a few years, then move onto other things. I am not alone in counting former colleagues. There is a lot of talent the group has lost to other companies.
      If you buy a leading independent operation such as Norfolk Green then you need to maintain the momentum and quality of an operation that was rightly up there as the model of how to run buses. You need to maintain the investment and not throw the baby out with the bathwater by trying to run an independent business as part of a large structure remotely. Transferring 10 year old Darts and Solos from the group disposal list (usual disposal would be to a dealer outside of group) is I suggest perhaps not the investment in 'quality' that the operation was known for under it's independent days.
      You lose the advantage by abandoning the principles that made the business what it was (and presumably why it was such an attractive proposition for Stagecoach in the first place).
      Adding in big group costs and structures to independent businesses seldom works out well. Go Ahead have done this with Konectbus and this prompted the founders to leave the business.
      Lynx are ideally poised to take advantage of the vaccuum being created by remote management and central decision making of such a well respected business. The Norfolk Green new investment since 2013 has been noticeable by it's absence until just a few new Solos this year.
      If you have drivers who are RMT members, through historic reasons (because perhaps that's who First recognised as their union) then the way to achieve change is not by de recognising the union and refusing to negotiate, it is through talking to people. Then perhaps you don't have a strike to contend with.
      The thing is, is that the best people will leave the business and join the competition. It's a drivers market now as opposed to an operator's market. If drivers don't like the terms and conditions on offer then they'll go elsewhere. I bet Lynx has a waiting list of drivers now?

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