Hope everyone has had a great Christmas so far!
OK, so this is just a bit of fun to end this year, but what could be in store for 2024?
More new buses!
So we already know that National Express West Midlands were planning on having 300 new electric buses delivered and in service by the end of 2024, however I suspect that this target is a bit ambitious and won’t be reached. But there are already 50 vehicles in storage ready for delivery to Yardley Wood and Perry Barr garages early next year, provided Zenobe can get the chargers installed!
In order to meet the deadline of 2025 for Coventry to become an ‘all-electric bus city’, NX will announce an order for single deck EVs, to replace the remaining diesel vehicles there. They have already trialled a Mercedes eCitaro and a Yutong E10, and I hope they’ll get an opportunity to try out a Wright Kite Electroliner or ADL Enviro100EV before committing to purchase.
Staying in Coventry for a moment, I expect we’ll finally hear some noises from Stagecoach about ordering new electric vehicles for their Leamington, Nuneaton and Rugby garages, for their services that operate into Coventry. I understand that they expect to have electric vehicles in service late in 2024 on their 148 service that goes to Leicester, so presumably this will be around the same time.
West Midlands Mayor elections are due to take place in May 2024, and I’m already anticipating that Labour’s Richard Parker will be the likely winner, bringing to an end Andy Street’s reign.
I doubt very much that anything significant will change, however I fully expect plans will swiftly be rolled out for bus franchising to happen within the next two years. (In fact, I think this will happen even if Andy Street wins again)
To be honest, this is either going to go one of two ways. Either there will be some announcement about the articulated ‘tram-like’ buses that are going to be ordered and delivered in 2025.
Or what I feel is more likely is that due to ‘cost pressures’, the scheme will be abandoned, and the Walsall to Solihull/Birmingham Airport route will just become the first of the new proposed ‘cross-city’ services, operated with regular double-deck vehicles, and taking advantage of the bus priority measures that have been installed already.
It must be costing Stagecoach a fortune to be operating their TfWM contracted services in Birmingham all the way from their Rugby depot, so I expect there’ll be some announcement on a new site finally being acquired. I don’t think they’ll abandon these services, as I assume they have one eye on future West Midlands franchise opportunities.
I predict that NX will acquire and announce sites for new garages to replace their Birmingham Central depot, one will be somewhere in the Longbridge area for their services in south-west Birmingham, and the other will be in Kitts Green/Garretts Green, for their services in east Birmingham/Chelmsley Wood. (These won’t be operational next year though, probably looking at 2025-2026 I feel)
Despite all the talk of ‘preserving the bus network’, there will undoubtedly be further changes to be made, in particular those lesser-used services that rely on TfWM funding. I expect we’ll see more changes this year, with some services being altered and/or incorporated into others, in order to try and make them more viable.
While ‘economic circumstances’ are still a little volatile, now the nBus tickets are the ‘norm’, something I’d like to see is more operators being prepared to try having a go at adding journeys onto busier routes. Not so much to ‘compete’ with the main dominant operator that is NX, but more to ‘complement’.
Passenger numbers are definitely on the rise again, and it would seem that while NX have a ‘desire’ to increase service levels on certain corridors, they don’t yet have the capacity or resources to do so. Seems to me there could be opportunities for smaller operators, especially now NX don’t have the ‘advantage’ of a cheaper Daysaver offering.
Admittedly that one is a bit more of a pipedream rather than a prediction, but I’d be happy to end up being proved right!
A final pipedream…
All 20 hydrogen vehicles at Walsall to be used all day, all week!
Got any thoughts or predictions of your own for what could happen with buses next year?
Please feel free to leave a comment below!