Following Monday morning’s news of Buses Excetera ceasing trading, their six previously commercial school routes were covered by Surrey County Council (SCC) ready for Tuesday. The two main service bus routes took slightly longer. As of today though all are now covered by new operators, so bus services will resume between Guildford and Epsom from tomorrow after four and a half days of no service.
On the school side, three operators took two routes each. The 43 (Godalming College to Cranleigh) and 45 (Rodborough School to Busbridge) were taken on by Safeguard Coaches. I believe these routes are interworked. The four remaining routes all serve St Andrew’s School in Leatherhead. Cardinal Buses have taken on the 617 to Banstead and 619 to Lower Kingswood, whilst Go-Ahead London General have taken on the 618 to Walton-on-the-Hill and 668 to North Cheam. I understand that these arrangements are expected to continue until at least the Easter holidays.
As the three new operators of the school services began their first full day on their new routes on Tuesday, it was announced that Falcon Coaches would be taking on the 28 (Guildford to Woking) from the following day. Running to the same timetable as Excetera, two overall white Enviro 200 MMC vehicles arrived to operate it – 8.9m SK68 LZL and longer 10.8m YW68 OVT. The operator says that they will spend the next two weeks ‘reviewing’ and ‘understanding’ their “new commercial service”. Being a route that has been reduced in frequency to the point it is now more frequent on a Sunday (as a contracted extended route 91) than any other day of the week, it is a real relief that it was taken on so soon. What changes may be needed to try to make/retain viability is something we shall just have to wait and see, but good on Falcon for taking on the challenge so quickly!
The main route operated by Buses Excetera was the 479 between Guildford and Epsom. After four and a half days of no service, it was finally announced today (Friday) that a new operator has been found. The route will resume operation tomorrow in the hands of Arriva. Buses will run to the same timetable, and period tickets issued by Buses Excetera will remain valid and continue to be accepted through to Friday 5th April. Looking at the timetable images the operator tweeted today, it would appear the Monday to Saturday service now receives at least some level of council support. This now sees two major operators sharing the route, with Stagecoach having previously won the tendered Sunday service from Excetera, commencing last September. It’s not the first time Arriva has operated the route, although in the years since it has seen several operators – Countryliner, Sunray Travel and Buses Excetera. Epsom Coaches Group-owned Quality Line did also very briefly operate alongside Sunray Travel between 12th and 16th October 2012, in the immediate wake of Countryliner’s demise.
Now that all routes are covered, I’d like to wish the five operators all the best with their new ventures, and acknowledge the council for working to get replacement operators sorted as quickly as they could.
Arriva on the 479 back in May 2001 – MICHAEL WADMAN
Falcon’s YW68 OVT in Woking on the 28 – NWSBUG
Falcon’s SK68 LZL in Knaphill on the 28 – NWSBUG