Diamond Bus recently announced that three of their commercially-operated bus services will be cancelled from 15th April 2023, with others up for review, due to them being ‘loss making’ in the current climate.
Diamond Bus are currently reviewing the viability of our Commercial Services operating in the West Midlands County.
Commercial Services are the services which we operate without any level of subsidy. They are funded purely on the income through our ticket sales, the income received though accepting network cards (such as nBus and nNetwork) and National Concessionary Passes.
Unfortunately, all our Commercial Services are loss-making in the TfWM area.
Since COVID we have been working in partnership with Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) in the hope that these services would recover. Since the end of August 2022 we have continued to sustain losses. The decline in viability of these routes is linked to the escalation in labour and operating costs and the lack of income growth. In January 2023, service revisions were put in place to try and align the income and expenditure of these routes and improve their viability.
This alignment has subsequently failed, and Diamond Bus has now reluctantly taken the decision to cancel our 45, 002 and 226 services from 15th April 2023.“West Midlands Service Changes” – Diamond Buses, 9th Feb 2023
It has been a concern of mine for some time, that despite increased costs being faced by all businesses – not just bus operators – TfWM have maintained that tickets/fares will remain ‘frozen’ with no increases until 2025. While other businesses have faced having to increase their prices to consumers due to rising fuel/energy/labour costs, as well as other inflation-related increases, bus operators are ‘stuck’ charging the same prices as a couple of years ago.
Through our partnership discussions, the long-established position was that ‘Low Fare Zone’ ticketing would be phased out and all fares would align to a consistent rate across the whole West Midlands region. In simple terms we were advised that the Sandwell & Dudley Low Fare Zone £3 Day Ticket would align to the current West Midlands £4 Day Ticket.
This is now expected not to happen, which means these services will continue to lose money. Diamond Bus, has therefore been left with no choice but to deregister these heavily loss-making services.
Diamond will continue to work with TfWM, as they assess options to maintain service provision in those areas affected by these withdrawals and we will keep passengers updated with further details over the coming weeks.“West Midlands Service Changes” – Diamond Buses, 9th Feb 2023
Clearly this is a concern for Diamond, who from tomorrow (13th February) are ending m-ticket app discounts and removing the 16A and 50 from the ‘Value Zone’ area.
The discounted ticket offers currently available when purchasing tickets on the Diamond Bus App will end on Monday 13th February.
From this date, M-ticket prices for the following fare zones will align to be the same price as tickets purchased on-board:
- Diamond Value Range
- Sandwell & Dudley Low Fare Zone
- West Midlands Zone
Any pre-purchased tickets will not be affected and will continue to be available in your app wallet and valid for travel.
New purchases from 13th February, will be charged at the full fare rate.“Diamond App Discounted Ticket Offer Ending” – Diamond Buses, 8th Feb 2023
From 13th February, Service 50 Birmingham to Maypole and Service 16A West Bromwich to Birmingham will no longer be included in the Diamond Value Ticket Zone.
Diamond West Midlands Zone fares will apply along the whole route of Service 50 and Service 16A, these are also valid on all other Diamond services in the West Midlands Zone.
Sandwell & Dudley LFZ fares will apply on Service 16A between West Bromwich Bus Station and Sandwell Crematorium, Newton Rd.“Service 50 & 16A Diamond Value Zone Changes” – Diamond Buses, 8th Feb 2023
I don’t blame Diamond for doing what they are doing, it’s also worth noting that they declined to participate in the “£2 max single” offer being promoted by the Government, due to concerns about remuneration.
While I fully appreciate the desire of TfWM to keep bus fares low in order to encourage passengers to return to travelling by bus during this “cost of living crisis”, I am also concerned that this will impact on bus operators faced with increased operating costs, who will face difficult business decisions, especially where previously ‘borderline’ commercially-operated services are now unviable, if the same number of passengers are using them at a ‘lower’ price in real-terms.
And not just Diamond, but any other bus operator who operates commercial bus services without any subsidy.