Buses in Milton Keynes
Buses in Milton Keynes comprise a network of urban and rural routes run by a mixture of operators. These services have a varied history involving five different companies. At the foundation of the 'New City' in 1967 and for some years afterwards, Milton Keynes was served by a rural bus service between and to the pre-existing towns. Apart from a small-scale experimental service, urban buses arrived on the scene with deregulation in 1986. Since April 2010, most services have been provided by Arriva Milton Keynes. Long-distance services also serve the city, often via the nearby Milton Keynes Coachway located near Junction 14 of the M1 Motorway.
- 1 Urban Services
- 2 Long-distance services
- 3 Milton Keynes Coachway
- 4 History
- 5 Ticketing
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Urban services in Milton Keynes have been operated by several companies under a wide range of names since the city's creation in 1967. Since 2010, the principal operator has been Arriva Milton Keynes, managed as part of Arriva Shires & Essex, who acquired the independent MK Metro in 2006. The operation was initially branded as Arriva MK Star. A number of other operators also provide services within the urban area; principal among these are Z&S, Red Rose and Vale Travel. Some of the longer distance routes detailed below also provide journeys within the urban area, such as Stagecoach routes 89, 40 and 52 and Centrebus route X31. Uno currently operate service C1 to Cranfield and Bedford in competition with Stagecoach service 52.
Bus services within Milton Keynes are complemented by a frequent train service between the major centres of Wolverton, Central Milton Keynes and Bletchley, operated by London Midland. A less frequent hourly train service also links Bletchley to Fenny Stratford, Bow Brickhill and Woburn Sands between Mondays and Saturdays.
A few long-distance services to Milton Keynes city centre are operated by Arriva Shires & Essex, with others provided by Centrebus and Stagecoach East. Other long-distance services run by National Express use Milton Keynes Coachway as an interchange point for the city, whilst Megabus services call at Kingston District Centre on the eastern edge of the urban area.
Arriva Shires & Essex
Arriva Shires & Essex run route 150 to Aylesbury at a frequency of up to half-hourly. A pattern of operating a non-stop service 100 alongside a slower 150 via Leighton Buzzard began in February 2009; prior to then only route 100 had operated over the entire length of the route, with an hourly frequency. Prior to September 2007 the route had been numbered X15; in the 1980s this had operated as a through service between Reading and Northampton, and was run jointly by Luton & District and Bee Line. It was shortened to terminate at Milton Keynes in 1986, and the Aylesbury – Reading section was abandoned in 1994 following Bee Line's withdrawal from the route. In April 2013 service 100 ceased operating with service 150 returning to a route similar to the X15, due to a withdrawal of funds by Buckinghamshire County Council.
Arriva Shires & Essex also operate the hourly route 70, which links Milton Keynes to Luton via Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable, and the hourly route 32 to Buckingham, which extends to Tingewick once a day. Arriva formerly operated local service 33 to Northampton, but this has since been taken over by Z&S.
Stagecoach operate four express routes, three local services and one school service into Milton Keynes. These are run by the Stagecoach in Bedford or Stagecoach in Northamptonshire divisions of what was previously United Counties Omnibus.
Route X5 links Oxford and Cambridge via Bicester, Buckingham, Milton Keynes, Bedford and St Neots with a half-hourly service seven days a week. It serves both Central Milton Keynes and the Milton Keynes Coachway for onward connections to north-south services. The route was launched in September 1995 and used the Cross Country brand. New Plaxton Panther coaches were introduced to the route in March 2009.
Route X4, which is part of the Stagecoach Gold brand and was formerly branded as Cross Country, runs from Milton Keynes to Northampton, Wellingborough, Kettering, Corby and Peterborough. It was introduced between Peterborough and Northampton in 2000, with the extension to Milton Keynes introduced in 2004 to replace existing slower routes. The service between Northampton and Milton Keynes became half-hourly with the extension of the Leicester-Northampton service X7 to Milton Keynes in October 2012, bringing direct links to Market Harborough, Brixworth and other areas of Leicestershire.
Stagecoach also operate the 99 coach service linking Milton Keynes Central railway station with Luton railway station and Luton Airport. It was formerly named VT99 and used dedicated coaches in Virgin Trains livery. However the route is now operated as a normal Stagecoach service.
In addition to the express routes, Stagecoach operates route 89 from Northampton to Central Milton Keynes via Blisworth, Towcester and Stony Stratford, route 40 to Bedford via Newport Pagnell and Bromham, route 52 to Bedford via Cranfield and Kempston and the schooldays only route 83 to Silverstone via Wolverton and Buckingham.
Centrebus operate route X31 from Milton Keynes to Luton via Dunstable. The route operates three to four times per hour on the section between Luton and Dunstable, extending to Milton Keynes via Hockliffe once an hour. Other workings on the route extend to Hemel Hempstead or Toddington. In response to concern in 2010 that the route would cease to operate, Centrebus and Milton Keynes City Council that the service will continue to operate in full.
Centrebus also operate service 90 to Yardley Gobian and Cosgrove, as well as service 148/149 from Kingston District Centre to Leighton Buzzard via Woburn.
Milton Keynes Coachway
There has been a coach interchange at the junction of the M1 since at 1989. The current (replacement) building opened in December 2010.
From 1967 until 1986, services between the major centres in Milton Keynes were run by United Counties Omnibus. Depots in Bletchley and Stony Stratford were used until 1983, when they were replaced by a new depot in the city centre. The services were operated with a mixture of double-decker buses and some large single-deck vehicles according to the historical rural bus service model. Although they were relatively frequent and ran for most of the day, buses could not easily serve new developments as the roads were not wide enough. When it was designed, the city had been intended for every household to own a car. Bus priority schemes did not exist, and stops were often sited away from population centres, although no house was more than 400 metres from a stop. New services were often poorly used in their early years as development in each area of the city built up over time, and such routes required significant subsidies. This was partially offset by the low running costs encountered when running on the trunk roads around the city.
One area in which operations were successful was fares. A zonal system was operated with five single fares. A multi-journey ticket named Quad was offered, offering four single journeys of any length at a lower cost, and by the early 1980s was the most popular ticket in the city. Around 60% of tickets were sold off-bus. Subsidies for loss-making services were provided by Buckinghamshire County Council and Milton Keynes City Council. In its later years, the operation traded under the Citybus name. A new depot and bus station close to Milton Keynes Central railway station were built in 1983 at a combined cost of £6.5 million. However, the depot proved larger than required for the fleet, and the bus station was rarely used as it was not well sited for the city centre.
In 1986 United Counties was split into smaller divisions in readiness for bus deregulation, and Milton Keynes depot formed a new company, Milton Keynes Citybus.
Milton Keynes Dial-a-Bus
To deal with the impracticality of a conventional staged bus service in the low-density new districts, Milton Keynes Development Corporation decided in 1973 to adopt and adapt the American Dial-a-ride concept, initially in Woughton Parish. According to this system, users who needed transport could call a central dispatch office and have a nearby (radio-controlled) Mercedes-Benz mini-bus diverted to the caller's street. The service began in 1975. Operation of the service was contracted to the incumbent operator, United Counties, which chose to operate it under its existing agreements with drivers. The service did not survive long.
Milton Keynes Citybus
Milton Keynes Citybus (initially Milton Keynes City Bus) was formed in January 1986 to take over the Milton Keynes depot of United Counties. It was privatised on 7 August 1987 and introduced a policy of operating minibuses in an unusual two-tone grey livery. It took over a small independent, Johnson's of Haslope, in 1990 and initially retained this as a separate operation. Other brandings introduced in 1992 were County Line and Buckinghamshire Road Car; all were run with a mixture of full-size vehicles and minibuses.
In November 1992 Milton Keynes Citybus was taken over by Cambus Holdings Ltd. The three offshoots were merged under the Road Car name, and the operation was expanded at the expense of the main company. New liveries were also introduced in 1993, with Citybus becoming red and cream and Road Car green and white. The company was officially renamed MK Metro in 1994, but this was not used as a fleet name.
Cambus Holdings Ltd was acquired by Stagecoach Group in late 1995. An investigation by the Office of Fair Trading concluded that this had led to an unacceptable monopoly of bus operations in Cambridgeshire, Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering, Wellingborough, Bedford and Mid Bedfordshire. Stagecoach was ordered to sell the Milton Keynes and Huntingdon operations to avoid the deal being referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. The OFT also stipulated that both depots must be sold to the same buyer.
Milton Keynes Citybus was purchased on 2 May 1997 by bus entrepreneur Julian Peddle, using a new Premier Buses Ltd company both to operate in Huntingdon and as a holding company with which to purchase Milton Keynes Citybus. The Milton Keynes operation was rebranded as MK Metro with a bright yellow and blue livery. Peddle was unable to fund new vehicles for both companies, and sold Premier to Blazefield in 1998.
In the nine years that MK Metro was owned by Peddle ridership increased by 120% and the company became profitable. Between 1998 and 2003 passenger numbers rose by 63% following the introduction of new buses and ticketing schemes. It became part of his Status Bus & Coach mini-group – an attempt to co-ordinate the resources of small independents to save money – at its formation in 1999, but the group proved largely unsuccessful and had broken up by 2004.
In February 2006, the operations of MK Metro were purchased by Arriva for £5.6 million, and operational control transferred to the Arriva Shires & Essex division. Peddle cited disagreement between authorities as a major factor in his decision to sell the company. The purchase was considered by the Office of Fair Trading for possible referral to the Competition Commission, but it was decided not to do so.
The Milton Keynes operation continued to use the MK Metro name until April 2010, when they were rebranded as Arriva Milton Keynes (temporarily using the brand name MK Star). The change of name coincided with a number of controversial service changes. Some services were in fact improved in frequency as part of the rebranding but others were reduced or even eliminated, and some journey times were increased.
Since bus deregulation in 1986 there have been some competing companies in Milton Keynes, although it has seen less competition than most cities. London-based R&I Tours began competing with Milton Keynes Citybus in 1992 using the trading name Inter MK. They operated 10 single-deck buses, mostly Leyland Nationals in a two-tone blue livery, on a small number of routes in the city. They withdrew from the city in 1994 and were subsequently taken over by MTL.
In November 2009 a new competing route 44 between Central Milton Keynes and Lakes Estate was launched by coach company On a Mission. It was later extended across Milton Keynes to Wolverton, and also included a single school bus journey. However, the company collapsed on 2 August 2010 and the route no longer operates. The school bus journey was replaced by a tendered route.
EasyBus, an intercity express coach operator founded by entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou, ran a service between Milton Keynes and London between August 2004 and February 2006 using 19-seat Mercedes-Benz mini-coaches. Tickets were predominantly sold over the internet. Its parent EasyGroup first announced its intention to operate no frills express services in 2003. In August 2004 EasyBus launched its first service, connecting London and Milton Keynes. To keep costs down EasyBus originally used Hendon Central station in north London as its terminal point, with a journey time of 65 minutes and a single fare of £5. The threat of competition forced National Express to offer its own discounted fares to and from London, culminating in the introduction of a £1 single fare between Milton Keynes and London which Stelios claimed was intended to make his service non-profitable and force its withdrawal.
In Spring 2005 EasyBus changed its London terminus from Hendon to a more central location in Baker Street. The service to Milton Keynes was withdrawn in February 2006, although services from London to other destinations including Luton Airport continue to operate.
In June 2012 Milton Keynes council introduced a new multi-operator ticket, MK Moove. As of September 2013[update] it is valid on all services of nine participating operators within the borough, with the exception of Stagecoach's X5.
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