Stagecoach South West
A variety of Stagecoach South West buses at
Exeter bus station in July 2011
|Service area||Devon, Somerset|
|Service type||Bus services|
|Depots||6 (September 2013)|
|Fleet||334 (September 2013)|
|Chief executive||Mike Watson|
|Website||Stagecoach South West website|
The Devon General Omnibus and Touring Company commenced operations in South Devon in 1919 with two bus routes from Exeter to Torquay. In 1922 Torquay Tramways purchased the company, although it was operated as a subsidiary of the National Electric Construction Company (NECC) and the tramway company's motor buses were transferred to Devon General. In 1931 the NECC became a part of the British Electric Traction Group.
British Electric Traction's bus operations, including Devon General, became part of the National Bus Company when it was formed in 1969. In April 1970 the Exeter City Council's buses and routes were transferred to Devon General but the city's unusual use of route letters (as opposed to numbers) continued. In January 1971 the bus operations of Devon General were transferred to neighbouring Western National but the Devon General name was retained as a brand.
In January 1983 Western National was split into four new companies, one of which was Devon General Limited that operated in south and east Devon as the old Devon General had done, but the Tiverton area services became part of North Devon. On 19 August 1986 Devon General became the first National Bus Company subsidiary to be privatised under the Transport Act 1985 being sold in a management buy out led by managing director Harry Blundred.
An experimental high-frequency service using 22 minibuses was introduced in Exeter on 27 February 1984. By the time the company was privatised the minibus fleet had expanded with more than 200 Ford Transits and Ivecos in service, comprising over half the fleet. By the end of 1990 all regular services had been converted to minibus operation using a mixture of 16 and 24 seat vehicles.
In 1992 the operations in Torbay and Newton Abbot were split off to a new Bayline companywhile Devon General continued to operate in the Exeter area. Both companies were sold to Stagecoach in 1996, and in 2003 was rebranded Stagecoach Devon.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s many of the old fleet of buses were refurbished.
Minibuses have been replaced with a mixture of midibuses, double deckers, and coaches, the most recent buses being Optare Solos, Alexander Dennis Pointer bodied Dennis Dart SLFs, Dennis Trident 2s and Alexander Dennis Enviro 400s, all Stagecoach Group standard bus types. Stagecoach injected some new buses after acquisition of the company including Volvo B6LEs (14), Volvo B10M coaches (6), Volvo B10M buses (7), Dennis Javelins (4) and Mercedes-Benz Varios (16) after which there were few more for some years. Stagecoach Devon's fleet was mostly cascades from other areas. Between 1997 and 2004 only six new buses entered the fleet (three Alexander ALX200s for route 56 and three Dennis Tridents for route 373 in January 2003). Since then the company has invested heavily in new vehicles, taking on a large fleet of Dennis Tridents (21 initially) for the busy route 12 in Torbay and the new route 54 Culm Valley Connect services (8 Tridents), it was also the launch customer for the Optare Solo Slimline, with 30 for Exeter city routes. Later in 2006 Exeter services received new Alexander Dennis Pointers for city services A and H, displacing Solos onto other routes.
The company faced an industrial stoppage in July 2003 that led to cutbacks in the period afterwards. The company recovered strongly positing excellent growth in passengers and a steadily improving financial position underlined by innovative marketing, engaging in community activities, promotions including telemarketing.
The company has also been a significant winner in the 'Kickstart competition', a directly government funded initiative to provide and upgrade to services which should eventually become self-supporting. Stagecoach Devon won three such bids, the Culm Valley connect services in September 2004, the 12A South Devon College services in September 2005 and the upgrade of Exeter City services in spring 2006.
The company won tenders outside the traditional boundaries of the Devon General area and has had buses based in Yeovil since 2005, and from September 2006 opened depots at Barnstaple, Bude and Torrington after gaining tenders in the County Council tender round.
The introduction of free concessionary fares to the disabled and those over 60 and the inherent organic growth in the business put considerable capacity demands on the company, which is switched to double-deck buses on many routes to cope, with older double-deckers being transferred from other Stagecoach operations. The company has campaigned for a better settlement on the fare concessions and the reimbursement from the scheme is said to be amongst the weakest in the country whilst demand is amongst the strongest. In six months concessionary demand increased 90% over the previous year.
In August 2008, Stagecoach announced a trial of a ferry from Torquay to Brixham using a 138-seat catamaran. Stagecoach released a leaflet explaining the details of the trial between 29 August and 27 September 2008.
Stagecoach in Somerset
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In May 2007 Cooks Coaches of Wellington was purchased by Stagecoach.
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From a slow start Exeter has become one of the first cities in the UK to have a fleet of entirely low-floor buses after introduction of the buses to the A and H service. Some radial services from Exeter are also operated by low-floor buses from Exeter, such as the X46, 56, Culm Valley 1/1A/1B, the Sidmouth services 52, from late 2006.
Several Exeter city services have been upgraded, including service F splitting into two, the F1 & F2; and service A having the first Dennis Darts with Pointer 2 bodywork vehicles in Exeter.
Alexander Dennis Enviro400s were purchased in May 2008 for the new 2 and 2A which replaced the 85 and 85A.
Changes to routes in Exeter in September 2007, with the withdrawal of service T, and R and S running in daytime only, caused outrage amongst residents of the affected areas.
In October 2007, Devon County Council announced that it would fund Stagecoach until March 2008 to run a partial service T and resume the R and S service in the evenings. This was due to the council receiving over 80 letters from passengers.
In September 2013 two Stagecoach Gold routes were scheduled to be introduced in competition with First Devon & Cornwall's routes X80 and X81. Running from Torquay to Totnes every 30 minutes they will operate alternatively to Dartmouth and Plymouth.
As at September 2013 the fleet consists of 334 buses and coaches.
- Barnstaple (Benning Court, Riverside Road)
- Chard (Millfield Industrial Estate)
- Exeter (Belgrave Road & Paris Street Bus Station)
- Exmouth (Bus Station, Imperial Road)
- Paignton (Bus Station)
- Torquay (Regent Close)
- Morris, Colin (2006). Glory Days: Devon General. Hersham: Ian Allan Publishing. pp. 15–19. ISBN 0-7110-3128-2.
- Morris, Colin (2006). Glory Days: Devon General. Hersham: Ian Allan Publishing. pp. 23–25. ISBN 0-7110-3128-2.
- Morris, Colin (2006). Glory Days: Devon General. Hersham: Ian Allan Publishing. p. 37. ISBN 0-7110-3128-2.
- Morris, Colin (2006). Glory Days: Devon General. Hersham: Ian Allan Publishing. p. 66. ISBN 0-7110-3128-2.
- Morris, Stephen (May 1984). "Devon General at 65". Buses (Ian Allan Publishing) 36 (350): 212–217. ISSN 0007-6392.
- Companies House extract company no 1673326 Devon General Limited
- Companies House extract company no 1662631 North Devon Limited
- "First NBC operator sold". Buses (Ian Allan) 38 (379): 452. October 1986. ISSN 0007-6392.
- Spencer, Barry W; Druce, Colin (February 1991). "End of an era in Devon". Buses (Ian Allan Publishing) 43 (431): 66–68. ISSN 0007-6392.
- Companies House extract company no 2118422 Bayline Limited
- Lidstone, John G (January 1993). "Fleet News". Buses (Ian Allan) 45 (454): 30. ISSN 0007-6392.
- "Devon companies sold by Transit Holdings". Buses (Ian Allan) 48 (492): 7. March 1996. ISSN 0007-6392.
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- Devon – Marks & Spencer Bus 26 January
- Devon – Timetable change – service 308
- Bus company launches park and ride fleet Exeter Express & Echo 9 December 2009
- Stagecoach Gold is Coming to the South West Stagecoach South West 29 July 2013
- Stagecoach South West Fleet Allocation Period 5 - 2013/14 Stagecoach 15 September 2013
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