Wiltshire Day Rover: 28th April 2016
Welcome to my first post! This first trip report covers my Wiltshire Day Rover (WDR) travel on the 28th April 2016, and also covers a bit of info on the rover as well.
It isn’t my first day out using this rover, as I’ve done a couple before as I am trying to do all the routes covered by the rover ticket, and it’s not that easy to do!
This is however my first spotting trip, having recently purchased PSV Circle’s Wiltshire fleetlist. At £9.99, it not only covers the bus and coach operators, but has all the non-PSV vehicles too, so that’s minibuses registered for schools, community travel, clubs, groups etc. You can get one for each area of the UK, and I highly recommend their books.
The rover not only covers Wiltshire, but expands over the boundary too, and can go out by some distance too. For instance it is valid on Stagecoach route 66 from Swindon to Oxford, even though only a short distance of the route is actually in Wiltshire. It is also valid to places like Southampton,Bristol, Bath and Hungerford, although you can only travel to these places on certain routes.
As for operators, it is accepted on a lot of operators, there isn’t many operators that it isn’t valid on, but there is information on the Wiltshire Council website which lists what operators it is valid on.
I always carry the WDR leaflet in case a driver doesn’t know what the ticket is, and believe me it does happen! (I once almost got refused travel on a bus because the driver was adamant that it wasn’t valid, but thankfully I had the leaflet to prove otherwise!)
I also have it on my phone as a PDF. This is a more updated version provided by Wiltshire Council, the reason being that their leaflets they supply are out of date, as it not only shows long gone operators such as Hatts Coaches and Levers Coaches, but it shows the old price of £7.50 instead of £8.50, and the map shows that Swindon to Fairford is valid, but actually it is no longer valid on that route.
I do wonder how many people go to the Tourist Information Centre for a leaflet and not know of the changes without going online, you could go on a bus from Swindon to Fairford, and claim that it is valid, as the information you are provided with shows it is valid?
I will also mention that it isn’t that easy to buy either, although you can apparently purchase it from any bus driver, that very much depends on who knows how to issue one. If you try to get one from Beeline or Libra Travel, in my experience, they have no idea how to sell one (in fact most drivers have never heard of it). First bus apparently don’t have it on their machines, despite publications stating that you can buy the ticket from any operator. I wonder how many people actually purchase this ticket? With out of date leaflets with mis-guided information and operators not knowing how to issue one, it is quite poor compared to some other day riders, which have clear information and is widely advertised.
I had a rough plan set out, which is essential when it comes to covering routes that only run once a day, or is very limited. The plan basically covers the northern part of Wiltshire, including Bath and Swindon.
I set out from home at 0730 for the walk to the town centre, making a visit en-route to the County Hall to see what Wiltshire Council minibuses were parked up. Having noted these, I went to the town hall to get the 08:06 bus to Chippenham.
This is on the X34 route from Frome to Chippenham operated by Faresaver (J.V Pickfords), which used to shadow the 231 route operated by First S&A until they pulled out in 2015.
SN65 OFP, an Enviro200 Dart, appeared on the X34 from Frome, and was only a minute late. The ticket was successfully purchased and I got a seat, which surprised me as I expected it to be full of school kids, but I suspect most of them are on school coaches.
The interior was in a good condition in my opinion, and on my previous Faresaver journeys I’ve found their interiors to be in good condition, compared to some major operator’s buses which are sometimes dirty.
Having poodled around Trowbridge, we were on our way to Melksham, having only stopped a couple of times to let people off. Progress was going well as was time keeping, but that was soon over when we reached Melksham town centre. The traffic was clogged up, with a mix of commuter and school run traffic. What doesn’t help is the two set’s of traffic lights and a mini roundabout all in a short distance from each other. This particular service is given tighter timings than the other services outside of the rush hour, which I find rather odd. It’s given 8 minutes to do Semington to Melksham, and in the middle of the day, when it’s quieter, it’s given 12 minutes. It took us around 15 minutes to do Semington to Melksham. I also noted a couple of bus stop flags that still have ‘First’ on them, on part of the route where the 234 used to operate, but they pulled out of the route in 2015.
From Melksham, it was well loaded with college students. The service now runs fast to Chippenham, one of the only northbound services to skip out the village of Lacock.
We arrived into Chippenham Town Bridge around 10 minutes late. I was going to take it to the bus station, but got off here as we were late and didn’t want to miss the 09:20 town route. Turns out it was 09:20 after all though. I got the time from Traveline South West, however the timetable at the bus stop suggested it was 09:30 for the route 44A.
The Faresaver operated Optare Solo turned up at 09:15, and the driver got out, and got back in at 09:25, so obviously it is 09:30 then!
Faresaver YJ10 MGX at Chippenham Town Bridge on the route 44A town circular service
I told the driver I’d be going round the whole route, just to save him asking me where I am actually going (which has happened to me a lot of times in the past) but I was the only one getting on, which is no surprise really as I can’t imagine many people going home already.
We went round a few estates that I haven’t even heard of before (and I used to be a pizza delivery driver in the area) but we certainly picked up a few passengers, mostly using bus passes. I felt like the odd one out, everyone knew everybody on board, dishing out the gossip about who passed away and who did what at number 12. We came back to town 12 minutes later with a load of around 12 passengers.
I jumped off for a power walk up to Chippenham Bus Station for the 09:55 route 35 to Castle Combe.
The vehicle was another Faresaver Optare Solo. Loading’s were light with only a couple of passengers onboard. I didn’t do the whole route, I was only taking this to Willowbank on the outskirts of Chippenham, the nearest stop to Bumpers Farm Industrial Estate. I went here to visit the Faresaver yard to see what I could spot and to see what was knocking about, as Faresaver also operates as NextBus, leasing out and buying/selling buses.
Former Sunray East Lancs Myllenium vehicle at Bumpers Farm Industrial Estate, now stored out of use
So after a brief visit and logging of sightings, I set back to Willobank for the return 35 to Chippenham Town, formed of the same Solo I got off earlier.
It was then time to leave Chippenham and board the 11:05 X31 Chippenham to Bath Faresaver service. First operations have only just ceased in this area, as they scrapped the 231 route, leaving Faresaver to operate the route. Vehicles vary on this route from Optare Solo’s to ALX400 decker’s. I was kind of hoping to try out one of their MCV eVolutions, but the 11:05 was formed of MAN Wright Meridian FJ09 NZK.
The X31 basically follows the route of the former 231 route, which it always has been with just a couple of minor variations. One could assume the ‘X’ means express, or direct, however the route divert round the housing estates of Corsham, and pulls away from the A4 at a couple of places. It is booked to take 1 hour and 12 minutes to do the entire journey, if you took the train it would only take 18 minutes. Not many people on this bus were doing the entire journey though, the bus is always handy for serving the towns in between where there is no train service.
Arriving into Bath, we pulled into the bus station rather than stopping outside, with the absence of First’s 231, this leaves a bay free for Faresaver to use. There was an hour free in Bath, which I built into the plan for a PNB and lunch break, so me and my mate wandered around to the coach park and stocked up on food. The Riverside coach park is considerably smaller to what it used to be, and nowadays is a drop off/pick up point.
We then headed to the Grand Parade to pick up the X76 service. This route is a one-a-day return service from Marlborough to Bath and return, operated by AD Rains. In the school term, It’s a school vehicle which after dropping at the Marlborough schools, it does a round trip to Bath, and returns in time to do the afternoon school run. Last time I did this, it was a S724 KNV, an SLF Dennis Dart.
This time it was Jonckheere Modulo bodied Volvo B7R FL02 ZYA.
AD Rains FL02 ZYA in Bath operating the X76 Bath to Marlborough
Last time I did the route on the Dart, it was full with every seat taken, but today’s loading’s was rather light, with only 8 other passengers on board. I told the driver I was going to Calne, as there was no stop bell on the vehicle:
Me: “I’m going to Calne”
Driver: “Oh are you!?”
He looked at my ticket and just shrugged, probably not seen a Wilts Day Rover before. The route is almost direct, and only pulls into a couple of villages. It was non stop from Bath to the village of Bromham (between Melksham and Calne). I thought this fast running would have made us early, possibly stopping somewhere to wait for time, but actually we were only just pushing on time as it was.
The ride itself was rather comfortable, compared to the Dart which got a battering being thrown around along country lanes with potholes. It was surprisingly tidy inside and practically intact, considering it’s used on a school run.
Calne was reached and we arrived at the town hall a minute early after a non-stop run from Bromham. Just as well, as our next bus out was just coming down the road! What was supposed to be a 20 minute wait turned into a 1 minute leap from one bus to another.
We stepped onboard Stagecoach operated route 55. The driver took a look at my ticket, shrugged and said “erm…OK, whatever”. Usually if it’s a day rover printed from a stagecoach machine, you don’t get any puzzled drivers, in fact I’m sure I’ve shown one to this driver before and got on ok, but as this is from a Faresaver machine, he now doesn’t know what it is.
Still I didn’t have to pull the leaflet out, he let us on anyway, still looking bewildered .
The vehicle is E400 bodied Scania VX61 FKE, fleet number 15731, which has Bowood advertising on one side, and Stagecoach standard livery on the other.
We sat at the top front window seat, which was in a bit of a state, worn seats, biscuit crumbs and half eaten biscuits everywhere and the panels needed a bit of a clean! I understand that the food may have been recent, and you can’t expect cleaners to be on the case straight away, but the stains certainly looked like they have been there a while.
I don’t rate the 55 route that much, I do find it quite a uninteresting route, that is my personal opinion of course. I don’t know why, but it might be because it’s not much of a scenic route. When you approach Swindon, the route is far from over. You get the added bonus of a free tour around Swindon’s Council estates.
Swindon Bus Station was finally reached, and there was a 2 hour free time built in to my plan to basically do whatever. My mate went off into town, whilst I headed out on a Thamesdown route 13 to Cheney Manor to see what was around in the depot. The buses were quite full as it was school kicking out time, the worst time of the day I find! Still, it was only a short ride to Cheney Manor, the new home for Stagecoach Swindon. There wasn’t much there, though being a weekday afternoon I’m not surprised but I did manage to cop the two Plaxton Premier training vehicles.
I then headed back to town on another Stagecoach Dart. The plan was to go out and ride Thamesdown vehicles I needed to go on, but with school brats everywhere, people going home etc it was a bit off putting. I find Swindon makes me feel unsafe, I feel like I can’t just whip out the notepad and camera and expect to get left alone.
Instead I found a quiet spot on a wall and jotted down the buses that passed me for an hour. I met up with my mate who was sitting at the end of the bus station waiting for me. He didn’t spend long in town at all, saying it was run down with chav’s all over the place.
I felt a bit safer with someone being with me, and got some phot’s of vehicles leaving the bus station, even got a nice wave from the APL driver on the route 74
APL Optare Solo MX55 BYC in Swindon on the 74 to Lechlade
The bus station is in dire need of a re-fit, probably the worst bus station I’ve been to, but I suspect there’s worst out there that I haven’t been to yet, if you know of any, let me know!
We then got Stagecoach Route 49 back to Swindon with Enviro400 15971. Last time I was on this vehicle was at Cheney Manor, going through the bus wash. Considering it was 17:10, it wasn’t that busy, though the local routes to Highworth etc were wedged.
Even spotted an ex-Fosseway Reeve Burgess bodied Renault on the outskirts of Swindon, now privately owned as some sort of van:
We arrived into Trowbridge on time, and went home via the Chip Shop to finish off a respectively good day out.