Bournemouth-based Yellow Buses ceased operations on August 4 with local rival Go-Ahead-owned More Bus quickly working to plug the gaps

Andrew Wickham, managing director of Go South Coast

Bournemouth-based Yellow Buses ceased operations on August 4 after administrator Milsted Langdon admitted it had been unable to find a buyer for the beleaguered former municipal bus operator as a going concern.

The operator went into administration on July 29 citing challenges surrounding the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic and cost inflation. The operator had celebrated its 120th anniversary just days earlier.

The closure of Yellow Buses saw local rival and long-time competitor More Bus, which forms part of Go-Ahead’s Poole-based Go South Coast subsidiary, mounting an almost military-style operation to plug the gaps in Bournemouth’s bus network.

Managing director Andrew Wickham told Passenger Transport his company had created a recruitment production line at a local hotel on the morning of August 5 to process Yellow Buses staff looking to join More Bus.

Those able to start immediately were offered a £3,000 welcome bonus and by the end of the day more than 100 Yellow Buses staff had agreed to join More Bus. A replacement network commenced the following morning with printed timetables available on all buses and at all bus stops.

Meanwhile, the operator also convened a fleet of vehicles, assisted by the early delivery of 15 new buses for the Unibus network operated on behalf of the University of Bournemouth. Go South Coast’s recently redeveloped Bournemouth depot also offered enough space to host the expanded network.

Wickham paid tribute to the Go South Coast team for rising to the challenge of implementing the new network and recruiting a significant number of new staff all within a 48-hour period. He also thanked BCP Council and West of England traffic commissioner Kevin Rooney for their assistance throughout the process.

We’re looking to bed things in now. We want to make sure the running times are adequate and we’re already inserting an extra two buses into the schedules for the new services to get that right

“We’re looking to bed things in now,” explained Wickham. “We want to make sure the running times are adequate and we’re already inserting an extra two buses into the schedules for the new services to get that right.”

He said his priority was to ensure there was enough capacity when the schools return next month and he was also concerned about ensuring that no passengers were left behind. More Bus has not replicated the former Yellow Buses services that duplicated More Bus services and it was these corridors, in particular the flagship M1 and M2 services, that were coming under pressure.

“They were not quite back at old pre-Covid frequencies,” Wickham explained. “They were every eight minutes rather than at every seven and a half minutes each so they will now revert to their old pre-Covid frequency of eight buses an hour from September.”

He also revealed that next year Go South Coast would start thinking about how the existing More Bus network and the emergency network created following the failure of Yellow Buses could be brought together.

“We don’t want to do that before then as we want to get some decent data in,” Wickham said. “It might be we don’t change much, it might be we change a lot – but we don’t know until we have the solid data to hand.”

This story appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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