Team Pennine was go on Sunday 25 July as Transdev Blazefield took over the Yorkshire Tiger business from Arriva. Its new pink-based brand was present in a modest way on the first day in the form of five Alexander Dennis Enviro200s that have been sourced and refurbished by the new owner since the deal was agreed in April.
They are the first obvious part of its medium-term plan to overhaul the Halifax- and Huddersfield-centred business, but much else has been going on in the background in the meantime.
Of the buses that have arrived from Arriva, one third will have been retired by October, says Transdev Blazefield Chief Executive Alex Hornby. Over the first weekend under new ownership, each transferred vehicle received a pre-prepared kit of external and internal vinyls to remove all mention of Yorkshire Tiger from view.
The outgoing orange livery will remain visible for now as repaint and refurbishment of buses that are staying in the long-term proceeds and newer examples arrive. Transdev Blazefield’s tentative plan calls for the Yorkshire Tiger scheme to disappear entirely within two years.
Team Pennine transition will take time, says Transdev Blazefield
Mr Hornby says that timeframe is indicative of the approach that Transdev Blazefield will take to the changeover. While a public event has already been staged to show off the Team Pennine brand, part of the message imparted is that transformation will not occur overnight.
“Our first task is to demonstrate to people that we have arrived and that we have a plan for Team Pennine,” he continues
“But we also need to explain to customers that we need some time to put that into practice.”
Engagement work with staff that have TUPE’d from Arriva is at a more advanced stage. To its credit, the former owner freed several drivers for press and public launch events last week.
Before that, each transferring employee was met individually by Transdev Blazefield managers and provided with comprehensive induction materials, along with new uniform. Only a handful of drivers elected to stay with the core Arriva Yorkshire operation.
In a different policy to that seen at some of Transdev Blazefield’s other operations, Team Pennine will not adopt route-specific liveries. The two-tone pink will be standard across the board, complemented in some cases with route branding. The latter is already in place on the pre-prepared Enviro200s, four of which are adorned for Denby Darts service 233.
“Adopting a single brand for the whole of the Team Pennine operation will give us flexibility for the future,” adds Mr Hornby.
‘Mature relationship’ with other operators in West Yorks
Transdev Blazefield’s CEO believes that some bus services in Halifax and Huddersfield “are yet to fulfil their potential.”
But that is not to suggest that the group is already eyeing expansion for Team Pennine; while it has won five additional home-to-school contracts, space limitations at existing depots at Elland and Waterloo precludes much more growth there.
In any case, members of the West Yorkshire Bus Alliance – among which are both Transdev Blazefield and First, the largest operator in each of Halifax and Huddersfield – have a “mature relationship.” With franchising in the region having been raised by Mayor Tracey Brabin, the focus is now firmly on proving what partnership can achieve.
Team Pennine to include multimodal tickets, says Transdev Blazefield
Such work for Team Pennine extends beyond collaborating within the bus industry. Growing its ticketing offer is a work in progress. Some simpler changes were introduced from the transfer date, including flexible ‘bundles’ for part-time workers or those who no longer need to travel every day.
Dialogue is already open with South Pennine Community Transport (SPCT) to enable inter-availability of ticketing between that business and Team Pennine – an arrangement that SPCT already has with HCT Group. Perhaps most significantly, extending Transdev Blazefield’s existing work with train operating companies is also underway.
“We plan to develop the Holmfirth to Wakefield service. It has good potential for leisure travel,” says Mr Hornby. That will include Holmfirth becoming a ‘virtual’ railway station. Such accreditation will allow customers to book a multimodal through ticket from or to anywhere on the national rail network and use the Team Pennine service to Wakefield to connect with the railhead there. Discussions with rail industry stakeholders to deliver that have already begun.
As part of the wider work on the Holmfirth to Wakefield axis, refurbishment of three Optare Tempos has started.
Seven used current-generation Enviro200s that are due to arrive next month for other services will receive the same treatment.
Six new Mellor Strata minibuses will arrive by October. Mr Hornby says that those of the type already in service with Transdev Blazefield have delivered significantly lower operating costs than the vehicles they replaced through reduced fuel consumption and a minimal maintenance spend.
Local brands have a proven strength for group
Transdev Blazefield now has a significant presence across West Yorkshire. Questioned on why it has elected not to consolidate those operations under one brand, Mr Hornby responds by saying that each has its own strong brand and that there is no reason to waste those. “We are too local to do that,” he adds.
The group does not rule out further bolt-on additions in the North of England. But currently, work is focused on developing Team Pennine and engaging with local authorities on the preparation of Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs).
Among early BSIP aspirations for the group are an expansion of its battery-electric bus fleet in Harrogate and an introduction of the same propulsion method to Keighley.