Newest Review: ... current one are a credit to First Bus, being curteous and well mannered and generally on time. however, on my homeward journey to-night ... more
I'm certainly not going to be First in line to use their service.
First Group Buses
Member Name: kiwiii85
First Group Buses
Advantages: They take you to your destination - most of the time.
Disadvantages: Dirty, unreliable, late, don't cover some popular routes
First bus are an international company that runs buses throughout the UK. This review will concentrate on the services they claim to offer in Aberdeen and the actual truth in what they do offer simply because this is where my main experience of them has been. It may differ in other parts of the country and my views are based on someone that uses these services several times (sometimes as much as 8 buses a day!) so I do have experience of them.
~~ Routes ~~
First bus offer several routes throughout the city but these have recently changed in order to make the company more money - I would go about it and say it's to make the company more efficient and bla bla but we all know that it's cost saving. How do I know this? Well the buses no longer run through certain popular routes and they've made existing routes even longer for customers. For example, a route has been taken away from a route popular with OAPs that would have taken them from their door to the nearest supermarket. They now have to either get on two buses (crossing a busy dual carriageway to get to the second) or they have to walk to the nearest stop which could take some OAPs a good 20 minutes, if not longer. This change certainly hasn't been done to benefit the customers.
In all fairness to the bus company, times are hard and with the rise of petrol prices we can't totally blame them for trying to reduce their costs, but I'm sure there are other ways rather than inconveniencing older customers. (I should probably point out they chose this route as OAPs get free travel on all of their buses so they weren't exactly making a fortune from it.)
The routes do cover most of the city and start from around 6am ending at around 11pm. However, you will find that the routes change depending on the times of the day so it's well worth checking with the driver that the bus is going where it says it's going. This is where I would praise First for using their initiative - they change a route to go round an industrial estate at peak hours only when most of the customers will use it. This has cut costs and saved other users 10 minutes on their journeys. It also allows customers to get on a bus from outside their workplace rather than walking to the nearest residential area.
The routes also include the gorgeous Aberdeen parks, the main shopping street, the hospitals and most residential areas so they do cover the city well where other buses don't.
~~ Times ~~
This is where First let the company down completely and the reputation up here is appalling. Not so long ago, they made a big push in their advertising where they showed a lot of their routes to be every 10, 15, 20 or 30 minutes at peak times. My route at the time was every 10 minutes and it took me straight to my University which I thought was fantastic. The University was the other side of the City and generally took an hour to get there given the traffic. However, it was soon rather obvious that every 10 minutes had been a very naive target for First and on several occasions I would find myself waiting more than 40 minutes for a bus home again - at least 3 buses missing from this every 10 minute travel. Needless to say First had an excuse every time you questioned them and more often than not it would be the traffic. It stayed like this for months with First wrongly advertising buses every 10 minutes until they had so many complaints they had to do something about it. What did they do?
They changed the buses on that particular route to every 12 minutes to allow for the traffic. Fantastic I thought, a whole 2 minutes to make up for 30 minute gaps? Needless to say I was sceptical and I was proven right. Now you can wait for an hour on bad days for a bus to finally turn up and more often that not it would have to turn customers away. The service is a bit more reliable because most buses do make it every 12 minutes, but certainly not all of them. Yes, there is traffic but First know this and should take it into account when assembling their timetables.
Most of the services still operate between 10 and 30 minutes at peak times and the service has been improving lately, but it certainly isn't worth paying the prices they ask. The service that I'm on currently operates every 10 minutes and at our end is usually on time. However, you can still be waiting upto 30 minutes for your bus and with a buggy to get on and a bored little girl, it isn't much fun!
~~ Services ~~
So what can First Buses do for you? Well, most of their buses are now wheelchair accessible as they have installed low floors that come with ramps incase the driver can't stop in an appropriate place. This is fantastic for Wheelchair users as I know most of the country buses around us aren't wheelchair friendly so it's a lot more convenient for those users. First also allow buggies to use the wheelchair spaces when a wheelchair isn't on the bus on the condition that you either fold your buggy or get off if a wheelchair user wants to board.
My niggle about this? I have an 18 month old daughter that walks most places but I don't allow her to walk around town as it can be extremely busy and when I'm looking for something, I don't want to have to worry about her the entire time. It is for this reason I take the bus with the buggy and try to use the space for wheelchairs. However, most First buses will comfortably fit two wheelchairs on them and I've seen two wheelchairs on at a time without a complaint from the driver but they won't allow more than one buggy on at a time, whether there's a wheelchair user or not. This is a major inconvenience for a lot of bus users as you don't want to spend ages folding down a buggy when your baby is asleep - I should point out the drivers allow you to board with the buggy up but carry on driving as they expect you to fold it whilst balancing a baby in the other hand. If you try to fold the buggy before boarding the bus then most drivers just drive off leaving you standing there - charming! Surely if they can comfortably fit two wheelchairs then they can comfortably fit two buggies so long as you guarantee to fold should a wheelchair user board?
~~ The buses ~~
I saw an article in the paper a while back stating how First were making big improvements to bring in lower emission buses that would be state of the art bla bla bla. Well if they have, I'm yet to find most of them. They have brought in a fleet of new buses but it's very rare you actually see one and it's usually an old banger that comes along making noises that can only imply it's about to breakdown. In fact, I've been on 4 in the last month that have broken down, usually with the drivers saying yes I thought that would happen. Not only that, but the door actually fell off on one of the buses I was on - the driver complaining that he'd have to go back to the depot for a second time as his first bus had broken down. This gives me major concerns about the maintenance carried out - so much that I actually emailed First to ask about the maintenance and why they had so many buses breaking down. That was last week, despite their reassurance of we'll acknowledge your reply within 5 days, I'm still waiting. If I don't have my reply within 14 days, I'll push again because it is worrying and most of the buses don't actually feel safe.
They do have low floor buses, double decker buses and bendy buses throughout the city and most of the double decker buses are new(ish) so are relatively clean. However, most of the older buses are often dirty with seats that look like they need to go in the bin - a good wash wouldn't start to hit the problem.
~~ Prices ~~
This is where I get more and more annoyed everyday. Aberdeen will have the First headquarters but yet it's the most expensive City in Scotland for bus travel. A peak day ticket (before 9am) costs £3.90 for unlimited travel and £3 for travel after 9am. A one way journey costs from between 70p to £2 depending on how far you go - don't be fooled by the lower costs, these only apply if you're going a pathetically short distance.
There are discounts available for students and people with an Access card can travel free (issued to OAPs, people on certain benefits or with certain disabilities). This doesn't draw from the fact they are the most expensive buses in Scotland despite being one of the smallest cities.
I can also laugh at the fact they are very quick to change the price sheets at bus stops when the prices go up, but I'm still waiting for them to change them after the 10p deduction in a day ticket which happened months ago. I wonder how much money they make from people unaware the prices decreased?
Is it value for money? Well no. My explanations above should have helped you to come to this conclusion but you're bascially paying to get on an unrelaible bus that has a chance of breaking down and never getting you to your destination. If you're lucky enough to get there, you've probably been sat on chewing gum the entire way or something else just as delightful and will find yourself stuck to the seat at the other end!
~~ Why do I use them? ~~
I wish I knew! I chose to go on a dream holiday when I was 17 instead of driving lessons and i've regretted it ever since. My partner has just passed his driving test and as soon as I save the money (thank you Dooyoo!) then I'll be taking my lessons too. We will be getting two cars eventually no matter how bad this is for the environment. The government spend so much time pushing the fact people should use buses that they forget just what they expect people to put up with by dumping their cars.
The reason I tend to use First bus over other companies is that they allow buggies on (if you're lucky) and run more frequent than other companies (ie Stagecoach). They also cover more of the City but Stagecoach do provide a much better service so I tend to hop on them when I get the chance!
~~ Would I recommend them? ~~
In Aberdeen, no. You'll probably spend longer faffing about with buses than you would at your destination and believe me when I say it isn't worth the hassle. Hopefully I've covered everything you would need to know in the review, but if I haven't then feel free to comment and I'll fill you in.
First Bus recently won an award for the service offered here and I have to wonder who awarded it - anything to do with the Headquarters being built in Scotland? Just a thought :)
Summary: I wouldn't wish some of these buses on my worst enemy and I'll happily give them up when I get a car
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