This isn’t a sponsored post.
Previously I was given a one-month Swift Card and have paid for a monthly Swift Card since June 2018.
By Dave Massey twitter.com/BrumHour
The 146 to Birmingham
aka SAVE MY BUS SERVICE
The 146 bus route I take into central Birmingham is under threat! In June, route operator Diamond Buses announced there simply aren’t enough bums on seats to support this hourly route at the moment (read the announcement here). This is a real shame as this service is a lifeline for quite a few older people. There are several reasons why I think this route is underused (Clues: pricing visibility and customer service experience) but I’ll get to these later.
The current 146 Diamond Buses bus route personally saves me nearly 15 minutes in journey time each way in regular traffic into Birmingham and 25-40 minutes in peak time compared to getting a National Express West Midlands 45 service. (Over two hours saved every single week!)
Since creating BrumHour in December 2013 I’ve been lucky enough to be able to work from home as and when I need and only work out of my base at Brum Radio in Digbeth one or two afternoons per week. As a result, I moved to West Heath in very very south Birmingham in late 2016 and have been here ever since. I’m living in my grandparent’s old house on the edge of the city and I don’t drive. I’ve got monocular vision which means I don’t see things in 3d, not very helpful when it comes to dealing with other cars on the road.
For much of my first year here I took a National Express West Midlands 45 Bus to Birmingham and back for commuting and this service takes a minimum of 40 minutes in peak time and sometimes I’ve been sat on this bus for over 1 hour and 10 minutes to make the nearly 8 mile journey which doesn’t include the 10 minute walk in total at either end.
In May 2018 I was given a one month Swift Card for a company doing a trial with West Midlands Combined Authority, and after that ran out I carried on using Swift. This currently costs me £66 per calendar month using direct debit for nBus and works out at about £1.90 for the journey into Birmingham and back. Compared to £61 for National Express West Midlands and National Express Coventry buses only.
The 146 is currently operated by Diamond Buses who have since the end of June removed the first and last service each day. The 146 service runs from 0615, starting in Redditch until 1635 Monday to Saturday and you’ve read that correctly. The last bus now gets into Birmingham at 4.35pm! Leaving Birmingham Smallbrook Queensway. The first bus departs at 0835 and the last hourly service at 1740. There is no Sunday service.
So why is this bus failing? I believe:
Lack of clear pricing on the sides of the buses for casual users:
Every single National Express West Midlands Bus has a huge sticker by the door saying the prices. The current cash prices being £2.40 per journey and the maximum daily cost £4.50 per day peak £3.90 off-peak.
The Diamond Buses have the price on the website here but only once have I spotted the prices on the bus. For cash, they are pretty much the same £2.40 for a single journey £4.20 peak and £3.90 off-peak. But can casual users spot this?
An inconsistent customer service experience delivered by drivers:
It can’t be easy being a bus driver, sitting in traffic and getting earache about the slightest thing especially if the cricket is causing delays. Some Diamond Buses 146 drivers are pretty reasonable and others… aren’t. This is 2019 and reasonable customer service should be across the board. I’ve had older users of this service complain directly to me that some drivers can appear rude!
Whilst I don’t expect this piece will have a big impact on the future of this bus, just writing about it when I’m lucky enough to have a bit of a voice is useful. I hope any future operator considers reviving this service should it be taken off. This service has the potential with the right publicity to be every half hour from 6am to 11pm at least six days a week.
Also, if you are going to have big stickers on sides of any bus that say FREE WIFI… put some wifi on the bus. Thanks!