First Hampshire and Dorset are introducing a new livery for the popular X53 Jurassic Coast buses. The first bus in the new colour scheme appeared on view to the public in July 2013. As well as an exterior repaint, the interior has been refurbished too with new leather seats.
The X53 bus route is very popular and is one of the longest (85 miles) and most well-known in Britain. It currently operates between Poole and Exeter with most of the buses based in Weymouth. It is regarded as one of England's most scenic bus journeys and is the only one travelling the length of a World Heritage Site.
The route started in October 1998 using a Rural Bus Subsidy Grant. In those days the operator was the Southern National Bus Company and the buses used were small single deck coaches. There were only about 3 services daily Monday to Saturday, and the route was only between Weymouth and Exeter. Passenger numbers grew strongly, increasing from 29,797 in the first year of operation to 52,972 in 2001/2002. The service also became one of the principal services in the developing World Heritage Site transport strategy.
In 2002 a new project was started called CoastLinX53. The First Group had now taken over the Southern National bus company and were operating the X53 route. A joint application for funding was made by Devon and Dorset County Councils and the First Group to Round 5 of the Government's Rural Bus Challenge. The project called for increased frequency to every two hours, provision of double-deck buses, a Sunday service, and extension from Weymouth to Wareham in the summer, all to start in June 2003.
The bid provided for refurbished second-hand double-deck buses, but the nature of the route required new vehicles and the First Group secured funding for four new double-deck Scania Omnidekkas and a single-deck bus. The new buses were delivered in May 2004, but from June 2003 until 2004 First Group secured four new single-deck buses on loan to operate the service.
After a successful first year it was agreed that the First Group would extend the route to Poole on a commercial basis, with some journeys operating through to Bournemouth. A big marketing campaign was undertaken with branding of the route to include the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site logo. Passenger numbers grew from 56,000 in 2002/3 to 125,000 in 2004/5. Market research showed that these were split approx 50/50 between visitors and residents.
In 2008 new Volvo Eclipse Gemini buses were introduced to the route and the Scania Omnidekkas were moved to the 31 route which overlaps the X53 route in places between Weymouth and Axminster. The Scanias were then repainted in a new livery of blue and cream especially for the service 31.
With the introduction of the English National Bus Pass in 2008 the X53 has become even more popular, with residents and visitors enjoying a “free day out”. This has resulted in overcrowding on some services. In 2010 passenger numbers reached approx half a million.
In 2013 the First Group took over the X53 route commercially and it is now operated without subsidy from Devon and Dorset County Councils.
After an absence of nearly a year and a half, Condor Ferries resumed their sailings from Weymouth to the Channel Islands on Wednesday 17 July 2013 with the departure of Condor Vitesse at 11.30.
Defects in Weymouth's harbour wall ferry berth were detected in February 2012 forcing Condor Ferries to move all their UK sailings to Poole.
The ferry berth dates back to 1931. It was widened at the time to provide freight facilities for the Great Western Railway, who operated the ferries to the Channel Islands for many years. British Railways took over the service on nationalisation of the railways after the war. Later they became Sealink. Sealink was privatised and continued to sail from Weymouth until 1986. British Channel Island Ferries took over in 1987 but they themselves were taken over by the parent company of Condor Ferries in 1993. In 1993 Condor Ferries started the first high-speed catamaran service for cars and passengers from Weymouth to the Channel Islands with their vessel Condor 10.
Condor Ferries currently operate three identical high-speed catamarans, named Condor Express, Condor Vitesse and Condor Rapide, together with a conventional ferry Commodore Clipper, which sails from Portsmouth. They are looking for new tonnage and a larger high-speed ferry is on their shopping-list.
The recent harbour repairs in Weymouth have cost in excess of £4m and have been carried out by Balfour Beatty.
The ferry service brings in several million pounds per annum into the local economy (shops, hotels, supplies etc) and has been very much missed during its 18 month absence.
Weymouth has always been the traditional departure point in the UK for ferries to the Channel Islands. It is the shortest crossing, and Condor Ferries estimate the move to Poole cost them over £1m in extra fuel.
The train at Corfe Castle
Today South-West Trains ran one of their diesel multiple unit trains from Wareham to Swanage and back.
The train, which had started out from Salisbury depot and run via Southampton, Bournemouth and Poole, was testing platform clearances in readiness for when a regular train service is restored to Corfe Castle and Swanage.
The line closed as a through line to passengers in 1972 and the track was lifted soon after.
Volunteers have spent the last 40 years restoring the track and stations with the ultimate aim of running through trains from the mainline at Wareham to Corfe Castle and Swanage.
Their goal is getting nearer, and last weekend new points were laid by Network Rail at the mainline junction at Worgret, near Wareham.
At present, regular trains, many steam-hauled, run from Norden Park and Ride to Corfe Castle and Swanage, but there's about another 5 miles to the mainline that does not see a regular service.
The train leaving Swanage and passing the steam locomotives on Swanage shed.
Many travellers do not realize how simple it is nowadays to get RTPI on their computers or mobile phones. For many years the railways have led the way with Live Departure and Arrival Information for all stations in Britain. From the comfort of your home or car you can see whether, for example, the 10.59 from Bournemouth to London Waterloo is on time or running late.
Now the bus companies are slowly catching up, and in areas like the Bournemouth/Poole conurbation and also Weymouth/Dorchester, the necessary equipment is in place on most buses to track their position and report that to waiting passengers. That information is shown at bus stops but is also available on your computer or mobile phone.
For smartphones there are several apps available to provide that information, or you can simply type the following URL into your web browser on your PC or mobile: http://www.mytraveline.mobi/ Where an actual time is shown, RTPI is not available for that bus, but where the time of the next bus is shown in "minutes", that bus is being tracked by RTPI equipment and should arrive within the number of minutes shown.
If you need help accessing these services, post a COMMENT on this blog and we'll get in touch.