This year’s instalment looks at the Dorset seaside town’s bus routes
I have stayed in some seaside towns where most of the buses finish for 6pm, despite being as big as Ashton-under-Lyne. I have stayed in some places where a regular bus service is a daily return journey. This year, thanks to a fine Lancastrian coach operator, my summer stay was in Bournemouth.
Unlike Falmouth and Gairloch, Bournemouth has a comprehensive bus network. With a population of 183,491 (almost twice the size of Oldham’s 96,555) there are only two principal bus operators: morebus and Yellow Buses. By contrast, Oldham has First Greater Manchester, Stagecoach Manchester, Stott’s Tours, and MCT Travel running into the town centre. If you add Saddleworth and the surrounding areas that make up Oldham Council, Nexus Move comes into the equation.
With Oldham town centre, Manchester, Rochdale, Uppermill, and Ashton-under-Lyne form part of its trunk route. For Bournemouth, there is only one corridor: Poole to Bournemouth [Square] with frequent extensions to Castlepoint retail park and Christchurch. Another significant corridor links Bournemouth with Swanage (via Sandbanks). That is served by morebus’ 50 route with extra short journeys to Sandbanks operated by Yellow Buses.
During our visit, the Sandbanks to Shell Bay vehicle ferry was closed. With its ironwork being fractured, it has been sent for repairs in Southampton. Therefore, the 50 service’s temporary timetable sees a lengthy yet scenic diversion via Poole and Corfe Castle.
Besides its two main corridors, you can get a limited stop service to Salisbury. The 737 takes you to Bournemouth Airport, albeit infrequently to reflect the airport’s traffic levels.
Bournemouth’s bus routes
The bulk of Bournemouth’s local routes are operated by Yellow Buses. In the last month, the operator was sold to its employees by its previous owners RATP. The French company owns Selwyns Coaches and, prior to being succeeded by KeolisAmey, operated Greater Manchester’s Metrolink trams. Before RATP’s ownership, Yellow Buses was Bournemouth’s municipal operator, privatised by the borough council.
The other significant operator is morebus. Part of The Go-Ahead Group, morebus came about when Wilts and Dorset‘s operations were restructured. This saw the integration of Damory’s bus operations and the sale of bus stations in Amesbury and Salisbury. In Salisbury, Wilts and Dorset’s operation is branded under the Salisbury Reds name. Wilts and Dorset was formed in 1983, when the National Bus Company restructured its operations. After bus deregulation, Wilts and Dorset was sold to its management in 1987,
Outside of the morebus/Yellow Buses duopoly, Discover Dorset Tours (unfortunate choice of initials!) operates a premium price sightseeing service between Bournemouth and Poole via Sandbanks. Their tour is a once hourly service with open-top vehicles in the summer months.
The fourth operator in Bournemouth is the Bear Cross Bus Company. They operate a Sundays only service to Hengistbury Head. Instead of state-of-the-art single deckers with a Best Impressions livery, they operate restored Bournemouth Corporation Transport buses. Their fleet includes a dual-door Leyland PD2/3 double decker from 1950 with two staircases.
National Express also have a sizeable presence in the resort. There are coach services to Weymouth, London airports (Gatwick and Heathrow), Blackpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Plymouth.
Yellow Buses routes:
- 1: Poole – Bournemouth – Christchurch;
- 1a: Bournemouth – Christchurch – Somerford – New Milton;
- 1b: Bournemouth – Christchurch – Somerford;
- 2: Bournemouth – Boscombe – Hospital – Castlepoint;
- 3: Westbourne – Bournemouth – Castlepoint – Hospital;
- 4: Bournemouth – Moordown – Castlepoint – Yeomans Way;
- 4a: Bournemouth – Moordown – Kinson – Bearwood;
- 5: Bournemouth – Charminster – East Howe – West Howe – Kinson;
- 5a: Bournemouth – Charminster – West Howe – Kinson;
- 6: Bournemouth – University – Wallisdown – Bearwood – Merley – Wimborne;
- 6a: Bournemouth – Charminster – University – Wallisdown;
- 6b: Bournemouth – University – Wallisdown – Bearwood;
- 12: Boscombe – Bournemouth – Alum Chine – Sandbanks;
- 18: Bournemouth – Canford Heath – Broadstone;
- 19: Bournemouth – Tower Park (Saturdays only);
- 33: Bournemouth – Hospital – Christchurch;
- 36: Talbot View – Bournemouth – Kinson;
- 46: Throop – Avonbourne School;
- 737: Bournemouth – Bournemouth Airport;
- N1: Westbourne – Bournemouth – Christchurch;
- N5: Bournemouth – Bournemouth University.
The 1, 2, m1 and m2 are Bournemouth’s principal routes. West of Bournemouth to Poole, Yellow Buses’ 1 faces competition with morebus’ m1 and m2 services. During the daytime, the m1s and m2s alone see buses every three minutes – service levels expected in Central London and akin to the Wilmslow Road corridor in its competitive pomp. Whereas the Yellow Buses 1s are half hourly along that stretch, east of Bournemouth town centre, they are every 7 minutes in the daytime.
The 1a continues to New Milton whereas the 1b continues to Somerford. The former route is every ten minutes to Somerford with hourly daytime extensions to New Milton. This is augmented with half hourly 1b buses to Purewell with some part route journeys from Somerford to Christchurch.
The 2 offers a frequent link to Bournemouth Hospital and Castlepoint via Boscombe (every 15 minutes, every half hour after 7pm). This follows the 3 service which originates at Westbourne. They run every 10 minutes, and every 15 minutes after 7pm (half hourly on Sunday evenings). Taking another way to Castlepoint is the half hourly 4 service via Moordown. After 7pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays, once hourly – more akin to your typically dross Greater Mancunian evening frequencies. Its sister route, the 4a, every hour on Sundays but half hourly by daytime and every two hours after 7pm.
The 5 and 5a Kinson routes combine to create a 7 minute daytime frequency during the daytimes. After 7pm on weekdays and Saturdays, a respectable every 15 minutes. On Sundays, the same frequency as weekday evenings in the daytime but every half hour after 7pm.
The 6 is a more fidgety proposition: unlike the aforementioned routes, you will need a dead tree or pixellated timetable for this one. Most of its journeys terminate at Bearwood outside the suburb’s Co-op store. They all serve the Mountbatten Arms in Wallisdown with some evening part route journeys terminating there. From 0620 to 2004 it runs all the way to Wimborne.
During weekdays and Saturdays, every half hour for the most part from 0620 to 1810. The last bus from Wimborne is 2004. From Bearwood, 2310, though the penultimate bus from there is 2104! Its Sunday and Bank Holiday journeys terminate at Bearwood. Again half hourly, though with a more awkward evening timetable. These are augmented by journeys on the 6a and 6b, timed with Bournemouth University students in mind.
The 12 service is a more straightforward affair: every half hour from Bournemouth Square from 0857, and Boscombe Bus Station from 0938. This is a half hourly service which sees open-top buses in use. Terminating at Sandbanks Ferry Approach, it is one of a few services in Bournemouth that finish before 8pm.
The 18 to Broadstone (via Canford Heath) is one of the few Yellow Buses routes to not have a Sunday and Bank Holiday service. Once hourly from The Broadway, it has an early finish: 1745 from Bournemouth (arr. 1835) and Broadstone (arr. 1843).
Even more infrequent is the 19 service to Tower Park. On Saturdays, buses run every 90 minutes from Bournemouth to Tower Park via Branksome. Being a surefire candidate for Yellow Buses’ most circuitous bus route is the 33 service. This takes a convoluted way to Christchurch via Hengistbury and Bournemouth Hospital. This route operates on a once hourly basis with an early finish. The last bus is 1735 from Christchurch to Bournemouth Square, then followed by a 1835 part route journey to the hospital. There is no Sunday service.
Similarly infrequent to the 33 is the 36 from Talbot View to Kinson. Once again, a once hourly service with an early finish and no Sunday service. Largely mirroring the 36 is the schooldays only 46 service from Throop to Avonbourne School. This is a return journey where the outward leg leaves Throop Church at 0713, arriving at its final destination for 0805. Its return journey leaves at 1545, arriving in Throop for 1637.
If the joys of Bournemouth and its hinterland aren’t enough, the 737 service could take you to sunnier clines. Departing from Bournemouth Square it offers six return journeys to Bournemouth Airport. On Saturdays, three return journeys with two return journeys on Sundays.
Yellow Buses also operates two weekend Night Bus Services (another rarity in Greater Manchester these days!). The N1 begins at Westbourne departing at 0030 for Christchurch. In the opposite direction, 0100. Thereafter, N1s run every half hour till 0400. Its nocturnal stablemate, the N5, departs from Bournemouth Square to Talbot Heath (for Bournemouth University). Again, half hourly: quarter to the hour and quarter past the hour from 0045 to 0345.
- 13: Bournemouth – Ferndown – Wimborne;
- 16: Poole – Alderney – Bournemouth;
- 17: Poole – Alderney – University – Bournemouth;
- 20: Poole – Bournemouth – Castlepoint;
- 32: Poole – Broadstone – Merley – Kinson – Winton – Bournemouth;
- 50: Bournemouth – Sandbanks – Swanage;
- 70: Poole – Canford Cliffs – Bournemouth;
- 702: Charminster – Bournemouth – Kingston Maurward College;
- 755: Bournemouth Station – Bournemouth Grammar Schools;
- m1: Poole – Bournemouth – Castlepoint;
- m2: Poole – Bournemouth – Southbourne;
- U1: Bournemouth Station – Bournemouth University;
- X1: Bournemouth – Lymington;
- X2: Bournemouth – Lymington;
- X3: Salisbury – Ringwood – Bournemouth;
- X6: Poole – Ferndown – Verwood – Ringwood – Bournemouth;
- n1: Poole – Bournemouth – Castlepoint;
- n2: Poole – Bournemouth – Southbourne.
If you fancy a trip to Wimborne, Yellow Buses’ 6 route isn’t the only game in town: the 13 offers a half hourly service. On weekdays and Saturdays it finishes late enough to warrant a longish distance beer themed bus ride away. On Sundays and Bank Holidays, your last bus is 1820 from Bournemouth or 1920 from Wimborne Minister.
Whether you prefer the ‘as the crow flies’ m1/m2 family of routes or the circuitous 16 route, morebus appears to have had the Bournemouth – Poole corridor sewn up. The 16 takes in Alderney prior to reaching Branksome and Westbourne. This is a straightforward half hourly service by day with a once hourly service on evenings and Sundays. Its sister route, the 17 has a similar frequency, albeit reaching Bournemouth via the university.
Continuing along the hotly contested Poole – Bournemouth corridor is the 20 route. Once hourly, it largely follows the m1 and m2 routes. From Bournemouth, it continues to Castlepoint via Winton. This has an hourly frequency and an early finish, and lacks a Sunday service.
Whereas morebus’ flagship routes take half an hour to get from Bournemouth Square to Poole, there is one service which takes 96 minutes to complete the same journey. How? Their 32 route takes in Broadstone, Merley, Kinson, and Winton before reaching Bournemouth. Its first bus leaves Poole at 0913 with its next and last journey leaving at 1213. From Bournemouth Triangle, 1130. The next journey at 1400 from there terminates at Merley (arr. 1508). There is an earlier pensioner friendly journey from Oakley at 0930 which arrives in Poole for 1015.
Other than their m1/m2 routes, morebus’ most famous routes are their Breezer branded open-top services. From Bournemouth, the 50 service takes you to Swanage. Normally, this is a straightforward journey which includes a ferry crossing from Sandbanks to Shell Bay with a half hourly frequency. After 7pm, once hourly. With the ferry being repaired, my journey was diverted via Poole and Corfe Castle which made for a stunning journey on the Breezer.
Following part of my diverted 50 route is Bournemouth’s other Breezer: the 70 route from Bournemouth railway station to Poole via Sandbanks. This one has an hourly frequency and an early finish, taking in Canford cliffs. It also has a Sunday service. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative to the sightseeing bus, go for morebus’ 70 route instead.
Alongside the glamorous Poole – Bournemouth corridor, morebus operate a couple of school services. One, the 702, begins at Charminster (dep. 0657) before finishing at Kingston Maurward Dorset College of Agriculture. The journey time: three minutes short of two hours. The return journey leaves at 1700 before arrive in Bournemouth for 1800 and Charminster for 1837. Quite a difference.
Much shorter is the 755 which link Bournemouth with the Bournemouth Grammar Schools in Charminster. Leaving at 0703, the outward journey arrives at the boys’ school for 0810 and the girls’ school at 0815. Its return journey, 1540 and 1545 from the girls’ and boys’ schools respectively before returning to Bournemouth for 1635.
As I have found in Bournemouth, you literally couldn’t move for Bournemouth – Poole buses. So much so that you wouldn’t need a car if you lived in Westbourne or Branksome. The most ubiquitous routes along that stretch are morebus’ m1 and m2 routes. Both routes combine to create London Underground style frequencies – every 2 to 3 minutes by day. Then a staggering eight buses per hour after 7pm – putting the 10 minute frequency of the 192’s evening service to shame!
Unsurprisingly, the loadings on the m1 and m2 services are amazing. Not an empty bus in sight, albeit with state-of-the-art single deckers and the odd refurbished double decker.
With loadings like those on the m1/m2, is it any wonder why Bournemouth is a popular place for students? If you thought that wasn’t enough, morebus’ U1 offers another option. A university shuttle bus from Bournemouth railway station to the university village in Talbot Heath. This provides a weekdays only shuttle with a fifteen minute frequency from 0809 to 1743.
Besides the town’s strong local bus offerings, it is perfectly possible to venture further afield by bus from Bournemouth. The X1 and X2 are limited stop services to Lymington. Whereas the X1 skirts along the coast via Milford-on-Sea, the X2 takes a more inland route via the New Forest National Park. Both services are hourly and finish for 8pm. Whereas the X1 has a Sunday service (four return journeys), the X2 does not have one.
Bournemouth’s most frequent express service is the X3: this offers a half hourly link with Salisbury (hourly on Sundays). The journey time is 75 minutes along the full route. Further journeys terminate at Ringwood. Speaking of Ringwood, the X6 offers another option with a bizarre hourly to every 90 minute frequency. From there, X6s continue to Poole via Ferndown. On Sundays, there are just three return journeys: all of which terminate at Ferndown.
Today, few places in the UK have a weekend Night Bus Service. Even fewer parts of our often soggy island have a near daily Night Bus Service. Bournemouth is one of the few places that falls into the latter. The N1 from Castlepoint to Poole has three return journeys: 0113, 0213 and 0313 to Poole, and 0130, 0230 and 0330 in the opposite direction. The N2 from Poole to Southbourne leaves Poole on the hour from 0100 to 0400. In the opposite direction, 17 minutes to the hour from 0043 to 0343. Both routes run daily except on Mondays.
Bear Cross Bus Company:
- 12: Bournemouth – Hengistbury Head (Summer Sundays only).
Discover Dorset Tours:
- CS: Bournemouth – Sandbanks – Poole (Summer only).
Bournemouth’s bus stations
There are two significant bus stations in Bournemouth. One is the collection of stands on Bournemouth Square beside the Lower Gardens (which is great for the shops). Another one is the Coach Station, shared with an ASDA superstore which is opposite the railway station.
Other principal termini include the quartet of bus stops outside the Bournemouth International Centre on Exeter Road. There is also the Triangle, used by Yellow Buses vehicles opposite the town’s library. Also Westover Road, Boscombe Bus Station, and Poole Hill.
Before 1981, Bournemouth’s main bus station was on the site of today’s BH2 development. From 1931 to 1981, the Art Deco style bus station had a depot at street level with the bus station on top of the depot roof. It had a plush waiting area more akin to a ferry terminal.
On the 25 July 1976, a fire ravaged the bus station. This caused some structural damaging leading to its closure in 1981. Demolition began in 1982 with the site becoming a car park. The BH2 development in its place includes a selection of eateries and shops and an ODEON multiplex cinema.
As I have said time and time again on this blog and my social media accounts, bus fares hold some sway in the passenger’s travel choices. In Greater Manchester this has been a bone of contention for several years, as the city region has some of the highest bus fares in the UK.
The difference between single fares in Bournemouth and Oldham is very stark. A single journey on the 409 from Oldham to Ashton-under-Lyne is over £4.00. For another £1 (or 80p via their app) First Greater Manchester’s ticket comes into its own for the return journey and other First buses in Greater Manchester.
Ashton-under-Lyne to Oldham on the ‘9 bus is roughly the same distance as Bournemouth Square to Poole Bus Station on the m1 or m2. The price of a single fare on morebus’ routes? £2.20. Which is almost the price of a child’s single fare on the 409! The child’s fare is £1.50. Plus, morebus offer return fares: £3.20 (or £2.20 for children). To have Bournemouth style fares in Greater Manchester – even in a non-franchised environment – would be transformational and inject more money into the city region’s shopping centres.
As for short hop fares, £1.60 on morebus’ m1/m2 on a journey from Bournemouth Square to Westbourne. A distance of 1.5 miles, a similar distance to the 346’s journey from Ashton Bus Station to Dukinfield (outside The Lodge Hotel). In Greater Manchester, a single fare of £2.50 compared with £1.60 for a similar distance on the m1/m2. For another 10p in Bournemouth, you could do a single journey on the m1 from Poole to Castlepoint.
Away from the Bournemouth and Poole area, the 50 Purbeck Breezer service has more expensive fares. Bournemouth to Swanage is £6.80 (£8.80 return), though that covers the cost of the Sandbanks ferry crossing. If you wish to travel from Bournemouth Square to Salisbury city centre, the same price.
For 36 miles, your £6.80 offers better value for money than a single from Manchester Piccadilly to Leeds on Transpennine Express. It compares well with the £10.00 Daytripper on the X43 to Skipton (and countless other Transdev routes in Lancashire and Yorkshire).
As well as single and return fares, morebus have the usual selection of season tickets and day rovers. You can even get zonal day rovers if you only travel between a single zone (£4.20), two zones (£6.00), or three zones (£9.00). The three-zone ticket takes you up to Salisbury and Swanage. Like Greater Manchester’s part of The Go-Ahead Group, theKey is morebus’ smart card brand.
Yellow Buses also offer zonal tickets like morebus. Theirs are priced at £4.20 for a single zone (or £4.50 with their mobile app), £6.20 for two zones (£6.40 with mobile app) and £8.00 for three zones (£8.20 with mobile app).
With only two principal operators you may be forgiven for thinking that multi-operator tickets would be a ‘nice to have’ option. For £5.80 (or £5.00 with a smart card), the Getting About day ticket is an answer to your prayers. This covers all bus operators in Bournemouth, Poole, and Christchurch. Swanage is outside the area, though you can use it on the 50 Breezer bus to Sandbanks.
The passenger’s view
Having been used to the erratic experience of bus travel in Greater Manchester, Bournemouth’s buses were a joy to behold. Apart from there only being two operators, on-board passenger information was streets ahead of my locality. Real time updates of bus routes were available on Google Maps as well as on another transport planning app.
Like Greater Manchester, you can pay using contactless methods. Very few passengers from my observations paid with cash. They mainly used the operator’s own smart cards, contactless debit cards, smartphones, or concessionary cards. Which probably had more to do with the average Bournemouth passenger. Mainly under 40 years of age, tech savvy and wielding an iPhone or Android device.
On board, visual displays are used to announce oncoming stops. Audio announcements are also available on morebus’ journeys. WiFi is available on Yellow Buses’ and morebus’ vehicles. From my experience, the connection was erratic. Yellow Buses’ vehicles had better reception in my view.
With both operators, the drivers that ferried me from the Square to The Goat and Tricycle were friendly. Chances are, they may be as friendly as the ones I find in Greater Manchester had I had a longer stay in the resort.
Between Poole and Bournemouth, you are literally falling over buses. Even at 7pm which, contrary to my experiences in Greater Manchester, seemed bizarre. On local services, they were World Class compared with my neck of the woods. What particularly struck me was how one stretch had service levels akin to the Wilmslow Road corridor.
It is also worth noting that all but three of Bournemouth’s bus routes are operated on a commercial basis. The only three tendered routes are the 20, 33 and 36.
Why so few tendered routes? Apart from local government funding issues over the last decade, Bournemouth is good bus territory. Its single fares are half those in Greater Manchester which reflects the high proportion of commercial services. Even their night bus fares are a steal compared with Greater Manchester’s: £3.50 for the N1/N2 routes (which are basically the m1/m2 routes after hours). Interestingly, morebus’ night bus fares are similar to Stagecoach Manchester’s on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
If Bournemouth had Greater Manchester’s exorbitant bus fares, there may be fewer evening journeys and less frequent buses on their main corridors. As for possible improvements to the network, I would like to see a joint zonal Getting About ticket. This should correspond with Yellow Buses’ and morebus’ zones. Ideally, in a more passenger friendly way, this should supersede the operators’ separate zonal tickets.
After spending some time on Bournemouth’s buses, I was envious over the town’s frequencies. Given the hilly terrain, its frequent buses are a godsend and a lifeline for less mobile residents and visitors. Unlike some of the seaside resorts I have visited, Bournemouth’s bus network combines seasonal seaside operations with urban style bus operations. In a nutshell, think Eastbourne meets South Manchester.
If you are a bus enthusiast or a holidaymaker that uses public transport, Bournemouth is a fantastic place. The Square, Sandbanks, Triangle and the BIC stands are good locations for the photographer. In a good way they can drive you to drink, making the taxi superfluous in some cases.
Today’s article is dedicated to the memory of Philip Longden. Under the name of Dentonian, he has commented on numerous occasions on East of the M60. In the last few days we have learned of his death after an illness.
Previously at Transport for Greater Manchester and GMPTE before then, Philip was a walking encyclopaedia on the Tameside bus scene. Particularly around Denton and Haughton Green. He has also contributed to many web forums and the letters page of Buses Magazine. I never got to see Philip in person but his comments and knowledge always made for good reading.
Had we met in the Crown Point Tavern, my father would have probably left Philip and I to discuss the merits of the Northern Counties bodied Leyland Atlanteans. After decrying the demise of the 170 route and any recent cuts made to the 347 route.
Philip Longden, you will be missed; whether online or aboard the 347 to Ashton-under-Lyne. We send our condolences to his family.
S.V., 25 July 2019.