Thursday, 1 May 2014

Change and pay again at West Meon Hut

Passengers between Winchester and Petersfield on schooldays will soon have to change buses and risk being stranded for 2 hours at West Meon Hut, the junction of the A32 and A272, with only a petrol station and a gastro-pub which has mixed reviews for company. The actual village of West Meon is one and a half miles to the south. The situation in the Meon Valley highlights a lot that is wrong about the way buses are run and regulated in this country. Let me explain...

Today, route 67 connects Winchester with Petersfield, serving many villages along the way. It is currently a through route operated by Velvet with most journeys being subsidised by Hampshire County Council.

Extract from Hampshire County Council's bus map

But Velvet are pulling the route as of 12th May. This is the notice on their website:

What happens next? Stagecoach have chosen to run a few commercial journeys, but only on schooldays and only between Winchester and West Meon Hut. Maybe they were gambling that Hampshire County Council would give the (for now) temporary contract for the rest of the route to them. If so, it hasn't paid off for anyone. HCC have awarded the contract for the rest of the route to Xelabus.

This contract is for full journeys for much of the time, including Sunday journeys funded by the South Downs National Park, a big step forward for the route. But it has to leave gaps for Stagecoach's commercial weekday service, which only covers part of the route. This means through passengers on most daytime journeys on weekdays will need to switch at West Meon Hut between a Stagecoach and a Xelabus. The new situation is explained very clearly by Velvet and Xelabus, both coincidentally based in Eastleigh.

This is from Velvet's advice PDF:

So Stagecoach tickets will be accepted by Xelabus, but Xelabus tickets won't be accepted on Stagecoach. If competition legislation is the cause of this situation, surely it's time that legislation was changed. 

A schoolday passenger from Petersfield will now need to pay Xela to get to West Meon Hut and then pay again on the Stagecoach bus in order to continue towards Winchester, certainly costing more than if they could get one through bus. There's no multi-operator ticket to fall back on: Solent Travelcard's zone excludes the 67's route.

Philip Blair, Xelabus's Managing Director has acknowledged on our sister blog, Southampton Bus Update, that the situation isn't ideal, but highlighted that Xelabus will be accepting return tickets issued by both Stagecoach and Brijan Tours (who operate the 17 service, two days a week between Petersfield and Bishops Waltham via West Meon).

This situation occurs against a general background of Velvet withdrawing routes, with Xelabus stepping in to replace them. Xelabus were ready to buy Velvet back in March, but pulled out at the last minute. Read the full story on that episode over on Southampton Bus Update.

The state of the 67 could well change again from 30th August, as the contract between HCC and Xelabus is only temporary.


  1. Why don't Xela register their own journeys on the Stagecoach commercial section & then passengers could go all the way on Xelabus?

  2. Quote from Phil Stockley in the local rag:

    Mr Stockley said he had hoped to increase the buses in the area from two to six or seven and even establish a local depot. “It is disappointing but we will go back to being a bit smaller,” he said.

    Really quite sad what is happening to what was until recently a fantastic little operator, I even had somewhat unrealistic visions of Velvet taking over Winchester - then I woke up of course.

  3. Tony Walmsley2 May 2014 at 02:27

    If Velvet and Stagecoach were both willing to agree to accept through tickets, the guidance from the Office of Fair Trading ("Block Exemption for Public Transport Ticketing Schemes") gives a very clear method for doing so which does not infringe competition legislation.

    It seems that too often, competition law is cited as being the reason for a lack of interavailable ticketing when, in many cases, it is the attitude of one or more potential partners to an interavailable ticketing scheme that is the problem.

  4. It does look like Stagecoach are playing games with this service. There is no logic to running a commercial service that goes Winchester to West Meon Hut (or rather a layby that currently isn't a bus stop and in the middle of no where). Stagecoach messed up the 67 service back in 2011 when they changed the route of service 64 and withdrew from the Itchen valley, forcing HCC to redirect the 67 through the Itchen valley with an increase in total journey time. Stagecoach said they couldn't operate the old 64 journey commercially.
    Now apparently they can operate a commercial journey on the route! It's a complete mess and only the passengers are going to lose out to Stagecoach's games - not only a change of buses in the middle of the journey, a possible increase in fares, no through ticketing and yet another increase in journey time. Just 3 years ago it was possible to travel from Petersfield to Winchester in something like 55 minutes, which is long enough when compared to road, in 2011 it increased to around 75 minutes and now it will be more than 80 minutes...

  5. Interestingly, there's no mention on Stagecoach's website of the changes to the 67 service, although on their Twitter feed they seemed to say they would be running the service, but couldn't give the punter asking any information on the cost a ticket....

    1. They do have a timetable up though - no mention of Xelabus, changing buses or the one sided through ticketing arrangement of course.

  6. It is unfortunate for passengers that the 67 will by run by two operators, but entirely understandable that Stagecoach chose to register part of the route commercially.
    Prior to October 2011 the residents of Alresford (the largest intermediate settlement on the 67 route) had 3 buses an hour on different routes to Winchester, leaving the village at 08, 23 and 30 minutes past the hour - not ideal. Stagecoach made the decision at that time that they wished to improve the Alton to Winchester service 64 to half hourly and better serve the residential areas of Alresford with the 64.
    This left HCC with the option of serving the Itchen Valley with a separate service or incorporating it into the 67, which they did. 67 in the 1990s was only 5-6 through journeys a day, but was increased to hourly with rural bus grant funding. That money has now dried up so the service has reverted back to the sort of frequency one would expect on a rural service, with journeys provided for school and colleges plus shopping journeys between the peaks.
    Stagecoach have obviously decided that the 67 service they have now registered meets most demand from the villages into Winchester and is more sustainable than the hourly service through the Itchen Valley which they previously operated commercially up until 2011. HCC could have negotiated with Stagecoach to extend some or all of their commercially registered journeys to/from Petersfield using 'de minimus' payments, but they chose not to. The result is the current offering. Concessionary passholders will not suffer apart from having to change buses part way through their journey - the entire journey will still be free for them. Those that will suffer will be fare paying passengers needing to cross West Meon on Schooldays, who will need to pay twice, but is that Stagecoach's fault? Why would they accept another operators through tickets on a commercial service?
    Although the new situation is far from ideal, actually very few passengers travel across West Meon Hut - the natural flows have always been from West and East Meon towards Petersfield and from Bramdean and Cheriton towards Winchester.

    1. This is very true - I used the 67 to commute from Petersfield to Winchester from 2009 to 2013 including the period when the service was still hourly with a journey of less than 55 minutes - and I cant remember anyone else regularly making the full end to end journey

  7. Well, you could easily argue, why isn't Xelabus running commercial journeys in competition with Stagecoach over the commercial section? That way passengers could travel all the way on one fare & no change of bus & Xela could poach passengers from Stagecoach. Stop picking on Stagecoach. They made a commercial business decision that West Meon Hut was as far as they'd go without any extra money from HCC. Let them keep to that. HCC decided that in the best interests of passengers they'd not "de-minimus" Stagecoach. HCC could have done that & tendered the Sat service as a stand alone service. If Stagecoach do not want to accept Xela tickets it's up to them. If say Tesco didn't want to accept Sainsbury's money-off coupons no one would bat an eye lid. Remember this is what de-regulation is all about! If Xela & S'coach could reach an agreement re fares then it's a different matter. Xela HAVE to take S'coach tickets as part of the tender contract, not thru the goodness of their own heart.

  8. Probably too much money for a deminimus.

    What if another operator had won the saturday service? 3 operators on the route................. hardly sensible!

  9. Or even the Sunday service, that has just popped up out of no where!! No mention of it on the HCC timetable, but sure enough there it is on Xelabus' timetable "Suday Service subsidised by South Downs National Park"...

  10. It's happened before Waterlooville to Denmead/Hambledon just after bus deregn. Though it was at least one M-F one Sat & one Sun. Or even on Velvet's "A" a couple of yrs ago. It was Velvet daytime (obviously), First in the eves & Stagecoach on Suns. Now on the "A" until the Xelabus 'deal' it is Velvet M-S & First Suns.

  11. May be interested to know that a new Discovery ticket will be introduced on buses across West Sussex, East Sussex, Surrey, Brighton & Hove and East Hampshire from Monday 19th May which will in effect replace the Explorer ticket across these areas. Stagecoach South and Xelabus are part of the Discovery scheme, so this £8.50 ticket for an adult may be useful for journeys on the 67 using both operators.
    More info at

  12. Headaches all round last year with this route! Late buses, no shows, buses on fire, changing providers and overcharging!! This route is now only operated by Stagecoach, however the price rises for parents of school children who use this route are getting out of hand. We have started a facebook page '67 Campaign - Fair Fares for School-kids' to highlight our concerns. Because our children go to a non catchment school (we live in a rural area) the council will not help with our travel costs despite the savings they make on not providing public transport passes for us to the catchment school. Our school is generally oversubscribed and therefore does not offer any incentivised schemes for travel like our catchment school does. We do not expect free travel, we just want fair and equitable travel costs.


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