Part 1 here...
12th and 19th April 2010 respectively saw Edwards’ Coaches launch its new 400E and 100E. Edwards hasn’t operated a bus service for 45 years and the deregulated era seems to have passed it by. So, why start now?
Reports from the Valleys allege that even after some four years, Veolia has never quite gotten to grips with its eclectic mix of five former south Wales operators, six if you include the newer plant in southern Powys. It’s reported that services are still occasionally unreliable and that journeys booked as SLFs are often punctuated with step-entrance vehicles. The centralised garage and maintenance facility opened in 2009 at Treforest has yet to make its mark. Over recent years, Veolia has had to cut back the services it has inherited and the over-optimistic frequencies offered. In the public’s eyes, this adds a tinge of regret to the passing of well known names such as Bebb’s. Perhaps Veolia would have been better retaining the name (though there are clear reasons why Veolia should chose uniform brand—provided they can back it up). After all, look hard and you can still just about see the remaining former Bebb’s Solo in its former white livery.
On the other hand, Edwards’s Coaches is synonymous with quality, with a good reputation in high-end coaching. This I can back up first hand: there are often Edwards’s vehicles at Bournemouth’s mid-range hotels sector, on extended tours. All of Edwards’s newly acquired though second-hand Dennis Dart/Wrightbus and MCV Evolutions for the 100E and 400E were smartly repainted & prepared ahead of the launches, with destination equipment correct and working. A number of former Veolia drivers have apparently defected.
Veolia, however, isn’t sitting back. It has relaunched its own 400, at a higher frequency, and rebranded it as The Glider, in a grey and white livery, with a sort of Blackburn “Spot”, in purple. This is the first such Veolia service in the UK to operate intentionally in other than red and it may (or may not) be a forerunner for others. Perhaps deliberately, there’s very little on the vehicle to link the operation with Veolia, with but a tiny fleetname. The existing 2007 VDL SB200/Plaxton Centros have found their home on The Glider and this has reported as robbing other services of SLFs. But the VDLs look well turned out and it’s good to see some pride returning to the Veolia operation.
Edwards’ 400E sounds like a Ford Thames panel van of the early 1960s. In fact, it operates between Cardiff and Beddau every 30 minutes, with a vast array of peak commuter journeys, some presumably positioning workings, arriving in Cardiff Mondays to Fridays at 0702, 0712, 0722, 0737, 0742, 0757, 0833 and 0848. There are also commercial evenings and Sunday journeys, though the evening journeys are a confusing bewilderment of NF, NFS and FS timetable codes.
Veolia operates every 15 minutes, including during the morning peak.
Edwards’s 100E operates between Pontypridd and the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, at frequencies as high as every 10 minutes over the Beddau-Pontypridd section, extending half-hourly to RGH.
This parallels the Veolia 100, itself simplified from last autumn, with Edwards’s departures just five minutes ahead of Veolia from the RGH.
So, what happens next?
With journeys on top of each other on the 100/100E, could this be deregulation at its worst? That might be so, but there have in recent times been quality of service issues. The 100/100E route is nevertheless incredibly over-bussed, with 12 buses an hour in each direction. Is this really sustainable? It’s unlikely Edwards will easily cave in, following its investment. Veolia may be weakened but it won’t wish to capitulate. If anything’s going to blow, it will be on the 100/100E, though.