Diamond Bus and West Midlands Bus Partnership Agreement
02 July 2021
Diamond Bus has given notice to Transport for West Midlands (“TfWM”) to exit the current partnership arrangements on the 31/32 Walsall to Mossley & Lower Farm, 40 West Bromwich to Wednesbury, 42 West Bromwich to Dudley and 43 West Bromwich to Bilston services. These arrangements will terminate on 28th August 2021.
The decision was not an easy one to make. We believe in working collaboratively for the benefit of the passengers we serve.
Prior to the COVID pandemic the financial performance of the services involved had declined; and this decline was discussed with TfWM as part of a conversation about reforming the then Partnership services in late 2019 and has been part of subsequent conversations since.
The current arrangements allow each operator(s) tickets to be accepted on the other operators services with the exception of the Diamond monthly ticket. In our opinion on reflection - supported by leading Transport Economist Oxera - the ticketing initiatives, route branding, and the premium attached to NBus, which we have never supported, have re-inforced the National Express business. The ticket sales over time have moved away from Diamond to pre-paid National Express tickets, especially on the back of Mobile Phone app initiatives.
In Manchester we are the second largest operator, and the Mayor of Manchester is following a franchising route. His target is to make multi operator ticketing easier and without premium. We support this desire, but it can be delivered without franchising and our expressed view to TfWM is that they should have the same aspiration in delivering this for bus passengers in the West Midlands.
Without this, and in a world where passenger levels are not expected to recover to pre COVID levels, the existing arrangements clearly mean the current services - without reform - will be heavily loss-making for our business, and hence our decision to terminate the partnerships.
Diamond Bus will continue to operate independently on the majority of these routes from 29th August, offering a new regular service timetable. Passengers will still be able to enjoy the same enhanced onboard Diamond services such as next stop screens and passenger Wifi, that were provided within the agreements and will be offered the best rate fares available on the Diamond Bus network. Diamond Bus will also be introducing a new range of Tap&Go fares. With Tap&Go passengers can travel flexibly, by just tapping on and off with their contactless payment card each time they travel and the best value fare for journeys they have taken will be calculated.
The regulation for changing bus timetables requires a 70 day notice period. We have submitted our revised independent operator timetable proposals to TfWM. The first submission has been rejected by TfWM and consequently we will need to reduce the timetable. When we have the final timetables approved in due course we will promote them through our various media channels.
You can find our more about our plans to operate revised independant services here