Southern Vectis

Southern Vectis

Infobox Bus transit
name =

logo_size = 250

image_size =
image_caption = Southern Vectis Dennis Dart/Plaxton Pointer 301
company_slogan = "the island's buses"
founded = 1929
headquarters = Newport
locale =
service_area = Isle of Wight
service_type = Rural and Urban bus services
destinations = Everywhere on the Isle of Wight
fleet = 103 vehicles in total
operator = Go-Ahead Group
ceo = Marc Morgan Huws
website = []

Southern Vectis Omnibus Co. is the dominant bus operator on the Isle of Wight. It later spawned off and formed the Eastleigh and Southampton bus company Solent Blue Line.cite web|url=|title=Solent Blue Line - "Who we are"||accessdate=2008-10-09] It was purchased by the Go-Ahead Group in in 2005. It employs 309 staff, with 93 single deck, double deck and open-top buses.cite web|url=|title=Go-Ahead - Southern Vectis company profile||accessdate=2008-10-06] Southern Vectis has depots at Newport and Ryde.

April 2006 saw a simplified network and timetable, and a new livery of two shades of green. Subsidised fares were introduced to encourage more people to use the buses. In May 2006, Southern Vectis reported a 16% rise in passengers from May 2005. [Percentages taken from on board bus information and news (June - July 2006)]

The company runs 15 regular routes covering most of the island. School services are in place on designated routes, (most routes are numbered 60 and up)cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis - School bus Guide||accessdate=2008-10-08] however most school services are covered by Wightbus. Timetables are updated twice a year, sometimes more often, with a winter and summer timetable. The summer timetable includes open-top tours and road trains to cater for tourists.


The company was formed in 1929 when Southern Railway united with Vectis Bus Company to form the Southern Vectis Omnibus Co. In 1986 it was purchased by its management and has become the almost exclusive supplier of timetabled buses on the Isle of Wight.cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis - Who we are||accessdate=2008-10-08] In late 2002 the first low-floor buses on the Isle of Wight were bought by Southern Vectis, 7 Plaxton President bodied Volvo B7TLs and a single Plaxton Mini Pointer bodied Dennis Dart.cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight County Press - "Low-floor buses for island"||accessdate=2008-10-08] This was later followed by an order for seven Mercedes-Benz Citaros in January 2007 to upgrade high floor buses on route 9.cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight County Press - "£1M new buses for Ryde route"||accessdate=2008-10-08] In July 2005 it was acquired along with Solent Blue Line by the Go-Ahead Group bus and rail company.cite web|url=|title=Go-Ahead - Southern Vectis company profile||accessdate=2008-10-06] Since late 2005, the company has had the same directors as Solent Blue Line, and Go-Ahead's Wilts & Dorset operations, as part of the Go South Coast division.

One of the first actions taked under its new ownership was to establish a new network using Newport as a central hub, with most routes linking to it. Although this involved axing major old routes such as the Island Explorer, it has largely proved a success. Within 18 months since April 2006 when the new network was introduced passengers have grown by 45%, with a 14% increase in fare paying customers.cite web|url=|title=Go-Ahead - Southern Vectis company profile||accessdate=2008-10-06] This was one of the highest inceases in the UK and continuing growth has since occured.cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight County Press - "Island feels strain of rise in bus use"||accessdate=2008-09-24] Seventeen Scania OmniCity double-deckers arrived in July 2008 to replace older double deck buses on routes 2 and 3, and single-deck buses on routes 4 and 14 and add to the companies number of low-floor buses. Eleven more are due in Easter 2009.

Current operations

tandard services

Southern Vectis operates 15 standard bus services.cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis route list||accessdate=2008-10-06] The most frequent is route 1, running every 6 minutes.cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis route 1||accessdate=2008-10-06] The most recent timetable came into operation on 1 September 2008.

24-hour Buses

From the timetable change on 20 April 2008, 24-hour buses only run on Friday and Saturday nights.cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis - Who we are||accessdate=2008-10-08]

Previously, (30 September 2007 to 20 April 2008), buses ran through the night to most island towns, for the first time ever. Prior to 24-hour buses running, Night buses ran on Friday and Saturday nights. Buses featured an 'N' before each route number to show it was a nightbus service, for example N1.

* [ 1] : NewportCowes
* [ 3] : NewportVentnorShanklinSandownRyde (took the main road, not through Merstone)
* [ 9] : NewportRyde

This was a "development project", with a view to making them commercially viable. However, with worries over the subsidies fares scheme, Southern Vectis decided they could no longer afford to operate the services.

Open-top buses

Southern Vectis runs four open-top routes during the summer,cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis, Island Breezers - Open top tours||accessdate=2008-10-06] usually from early April until September/October. All of the routes are circular, operating in one direction. Designed to serve tourist attractions, each route is operated under the "Island Breezers" brand, introduced in 2007 with orange and blue livery, replacing the orange and yellow "open top tours" version. Most notable is the Needles Tour along the cliff top road (the only vehicles allowed to do so) to The Needles Old Battery.

Road Trains

In addition to the four open top services that Southern Vectis run in their summer timetable, road trains are run in three island towns, designed for tourists visiting the island.cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis - Road Trains overview||accessdate=2008-10-08]

* Ryde: Linking the Esplanade with the beaches at Appley and Puckpool.
* Shanklin: Linking the Esplanade with Queens Road, The Old Village, Town Centre and Railway Station.
* Sandown: Linking the Pier and Esplanade with Dinosaur Isle, Isle of Wight Zoo, and the beach at Yaverland.

Island Coaster

The summer "Island Coaster" service introduced in 2007 runs between Ryde and Alum Bay, with two journeys each way, aimed at tourists. To avoid residents using it for local journeys, it charges £10 for an all-day ticket.cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis - Island Coaster||accessdate=2008-10-08] The route serves attractions such as Freshwater Bay, Blackgang Chine, linking with Ventnor, Shanklin, Sandown and Ryde. To get between Blackgang Chine and Brighstone, the service uses the Military Road, which, until the service was introduced, had been unserved since the 2006 network revision.

The 2008 service began on the 15 March, ahead of the main timetable change, with a number of amendments. The route number of "X40" was dropped (although still displayed on buses), leaving the service only with a name, similar to the open top tours, and the route no longer serves Bembridge Coast Hotel or Sandown Esplanade.

Other services

Southern Vectis school services take students to school together with Wightbus. These services are available to the public but they only run when schools are open. The times are shown in the school bus timetable leaflet.cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis - School bus Guide||accessdate=2008-10-08] However from September 2008, foreign students will have to be educated in bus queuing etiquette after complaints from residents about being 'pushed away' while trying to board the bus.cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight County Press - "Queue here for an etiquette lesson"||accessdate=2008-09-29] On 16 March 2008 a new school bus timetable came out with several new routes shadowing some of the Wightbus school routes, with some controversy.cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight County Press - "Stop ridiculous ghost bus waste"||accessdate=2008-07-01] However these routes were axed for the latest school bus timetable on 3 September 2008.

The company made national news in 2003 with the launch of a pink punishment bus nicknamed 'The Pink Peril' designed to take badly behaved students to and from school.cite web | year = 2007 | url = | title = Iwight - pink bus press release | publisher = | accessdate = 2008-05-18] cite web | year = 2007 | url = | title = - Ride on pink bus drives unruly pupils to behave themselves
publisher = | accessdate = 2008-05-18
] The vehicle was the oldest in the fleet, an Iveco minibus fleet number 283. The scheme initially proved a success but was later scrapped.

The company takes part at events including the Isle of Wight Festival and the Bestival. Additional buses are brought to the island – usually fellow Go-Ahead buses – for the extra visitors. During the Isle of Wight Festival, extra shuttle services are run from Lymington to Yarmouth Wightlink ferry terminal, from the Southampton to East Cowes Red Funnel ferry terminal, and from the Portsmouth to Fishborne and Portsmouth to Ryde Wightlink ferry terminal and Fastcat passenger boat terminal, with a buses meeting every crossing.cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis - Isle of Wight Festival additional shuttle services||accessdate=2008-06-13]

An Open Top Christmas Lights Tour is run during December until early January every evening (excluding 24, 25 and 26 December). One of the company's 'Island Breezer' buses takes a route past the most illuminated houses. This normally includes going through towns such as Brading and Newchurch.


* Passenger journeys – 6.87m
* Passenger vehicle km travelled – 5.92m
* Total vehicle km travelled – 6.36m
* Per cent of low-floor buses – 31%
* Size of bus fleet – 93

Average age of fleet (years):
* Southern Vectis – 9.7
* Government industry target (max) – 8.0

VOSA PSV vehicle pass rate test:
* Southern Vectis – 84.0%
* National average – 85.7%

Scheduled km operated buses:
* Southern Vectis – 99.69%
* Industry target – 99.50%cite web|url=|title=Go-Ahead - Southern Vectis Environmental and Social Report 2007||accessdate=2008-09-29]


During 1989-2002, Southern Vectis released a series of summer timetables, one per year with a cartoon of an island location, normally featuring a Southern Vectis bus.cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis bus timetables 1989 - 2002||accessdate=2008-10-06] The winter timetable booklet was normally less unusual, featuring a photograph of a bus on the cover. Other timetables released include plain covers.

Southern Vectis is the primary operator of timetabled buses on the Isle of Wight, the only other operator being Wightbus. Prior to 2006, Southern Vectis' timetable booklets showed buses run by all operators, Island Line train services, ferry times and connecting mainland trains. However, when Southern Vectis introduced their revised network in 2006, all third-party timetables were removed. Isle of Wight Council produced an "Isle of Wight Public Transport Handbook" which reinstates most of this information.

The summer timetable normally consists of seasonal services such as the X40 "Island Coaster", the Island Breezers open top tours and the Road Trains, so aren't shown in the table below. Southern Vectis have previously charged for timetables, normally 50p, however since 1 October 2006, they were given away free in an attempt to increase awareness of bus times to potential passengers. Bus timetables are delivered to 93% of homes across the island.

In June 2001, timetables appeared online. After the network change in April 2006 a timetable was added to each bus stop. With the new website in 2008, a text service was launched to allow passengers to find out when their next bus would be coming from bus stops across the island.cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis - text to ride||accessdate=2008-10-08]

As well as this, routes are altered, changing the route the service takes or to increase frequency. [Previous bus timetables used (after 2006 network change)]


The company has a fleet of 93 buses, although when ancilliary and other vehichles are included this increases to 103. Much of the fleet is in either the new two-tone green livery, or the 2005 two-tone green livery. Exceptions include older buses, and 'Island Breezer' buses, which are mainly in Island Breezer livery. Southern Vectis uses single and double decked buses.cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis Unofficial Bus Enthusiasts' Website - Current bus fleet list||accessdate=2008-09-29] cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis fleet list - Correct to 6 January 2008||accessdate=2008-09-29] The main types of vehicles used include:

* Single deck buses: Iveco minibuses, Darts and Mercedes Citaros
* Double deck buses: Leyland Olympians, Volvo Olympians, Volvo B7TLs and Scania OmniCity

ubsidised fares and routes

Southern Vectis runs a fares review at the turn of each year. On 6 January 2008, most standard fares rose 20p per journey.cite web|url=|title=Ventbag - Southern Vectis Bus fares increase on the 6th January||accessdate=2008-09-29] Rover and Freedom tickets were frozen. Southern Vectis blamed increases in fuel and wages.cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight County Press - "Bus fares rise by up to 15 per cent"||accessdate=2008-10-06]

With the new network from April 2006, Southern Vectis amended many of their fares, making travelling on buses much easier and cheaper. Notably, the maximum single fare was capped at £4. This has remained in place despite general fare rises since. Students under 19, in full time education on the Isle of Wight, receive discounted fares under the "Student Rider" scheme, administered by the Isle of Wight Council. Initially only 50p per single journey was payable.cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight County Press - "Joy on the buses for teenagers"||accessdate=2008-10-06] The scheme can also be used on Wightbus services. It is estimated that around 1.5 million Student Rider journeys are made each year. The success has led to more being paid by Isle of Wight Council to support it. This led to the 50p fare doubling to £1.cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight County Press - "Student bus fares set to double"||accessdate=2008-10-06]

Island residents over 60 or with a disability can travel for free in the council area, under the Government's England-wide scheme. The subsidised fares resulted in a significant rise in passengers, which led to increased services and drivers. During the first year of the scheme in operation, around 2.1 million journeys were made. From 1 April 2008, bus passes are issued England-wide, meaning holders can travel the country free. This is set to increase free journeys to 3.8 million from April 2008 to March 2009. Concessionary travel now makes up just under half of all journeys made on Southern Vectis buses.cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight County Press - "Island feels strain of rise in bus use"||accessdate=2008-09-24] Southern Vectis have made improvements in preparation; for example the Needles tour now has an extra bus rostered to in case of overcrowding.

However, the subsidised fares have been put under threat, particularly the Student Rider scheme. On the 16 November 2007, the Isle of Wight Council proposed to cut the 76 per cent it pays for each concessionary fare down to 48 per cent. It said that if the current rate continued in 2008-09, the company would be making huge profit. However Southern Vectis said it would leave them out of pocket by more than £1 million, and normal passenger fares could have to be risen as much as 54 per cent.cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight County Press - "Bus battle could mean price hike"||accessdate=2008-10-06] The cut was agreed by the Isle of Wight Council in November 2007,cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight County Press - "Cut in bus fares subsidy agreed"||accessdate=2008-10-06] and as a result of this, further rises to fares took place from 1 April 2008.cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis - Changes to fares (1 April 2008)||accessdate=2008-09-29] The cost of concessionary travel in 2007 was £3 million; it was expected to rise to £5 million in 2008.

As a result, Southern Vectis announced that from the new timetables on 17 March 2008 almost all evening, Sunday and night buses would be axed, and some routes changed.cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight County Press - "Weekend and night buses under threat"||accessdate=2008-10-06] cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight County Press - "Bus services under threat"||accessdate=2008-10-06] More details about the service cuts emerged soon after.cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight County Press - "Buses slashed amid subsidies row"||accessdate=2008-09-29] While night buses were cut, there have not been the level of reductions initially implied.

Another consequence was the withdrawal of routes 27, 28 and 29 from 1 September 2008. Originally run under tender to the council, when the over-60s bus pass scheme was introduced, more passengers were carried and Southern Vectis agreed to run them commercially. However, since the cut in subsidy, the services became unviable. The council is providing replacement services with Wightbus routes 29, 30, 32 and 33.cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight Council press release - "IW Council Steps In To Preserve Bus Routes||accessdate=2008-08-31]


XEPHOS, a computerised journey system that Southern Vectis developed, won a national award for technical development at the Bus Industry Awards at the London Hilton. The system is the only service that can provide customers with downloadable and printable timetables for the 12,500 services in its database and offers local and national information on thousands of journeys across the UK. It enables customers to look up any of 70,000 places available in the UK and gives a list of all public transport there, or a list and distance to the nearest services.cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight County Press - "Timetable system earns award"||accessdate=2008-09-29]

In July 2007, a poetry project, involving the printing of poems on buses and engraved poems on plaques at bus stops won the community award at the 2007 Arts and Business Awards.

Southern Vectis was shortlisted for an award in the mid-size UK bus operator of the Year category at the Route One Operator Excellence Awards held at the National Motorcycle Museum.cite web|url=|title=Isle of Wight County Press - "Bus firm driving towards new award"||accessdate=2008-09-29]

Southern Vectis was 'Highly Commended' in the Royal Bank of Scotland's Green Business Award, however lost out on winning to AJ Wells and Sons.cite web|url=|title=The Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce, Tourism and Industry - "The voice of Island Business||accessdate=2008-10-06]

Names and liveries


Since the new network and corresponding livery, names have been applied to most of the buses in the fleet. Before this, only two buses in the fleet had received names. Those were CDL 899 (currently fleet number 602) "The Old Girl"cite web|url=|title=FortuneCity - The Southern Vectis Unofficial Bus Enthusiasts' Website - Bristol K/ECW (1939): CDL899/DDL50||accessdate=2008-09-29] and TDL 564K (fleet number 864 before being sold) "Shanklin's Pony".cite web|url=|title=FortuneCity - The Southern Vectis Unofficial Bus Enthusiasts' Website - Bristol RELL/ECW (1971): TDL563-565K||accessdate=2008-09-29] The name of "The old girl" is now official, and has been applied to the bus.

The vehicles concerned do not necessarily run to, or near, the places they are named after. Good examples are fleet numbers 639 & 641, named 'Steephill Cove' and 'Ventnor Cove' respectively; they are open-top buses, and there is no open top bus route that goes within 4 miles of either of those locations. Neither are the names completely unique, as while no bus carries exactly the same name as another, fleet number 740 is named 'Ventnor Bay', the same piece of water as 'Ventnor Cove'. Names are repeated as older vehicles are withdrawn from the fleet and newer vehicles added. For example, fleet number 900 is named 'Cowleaze Chine'.cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis fleet list - single deck buses||accessdate=2008-09-18] Fleet number 1110 is also due to be named 'Cowleaze Chine'cite web|url=|title=Southern Vectis fleet list - double deck buses||accessdate=2008-09-18] when it comes into service later on in the year and bus 900 is taken out of service.


From 2005, new Dennis Dart SLF/Plaxton Pointer single-deck buses arrived in a precursor to the current livery, with many copies of the previous company logo disintegrating into a standard green towards the rear of the bus.

Since April 2006, most buses have been painted with a new livery of two shades of green. It also consists of a newly designed logo and the new slogan "the island's buses".cite web|url=| - Southern Vectis company profile||accessdate=2008-10-29] The company's 7 B7TLs in the fleet were the first to be re-sprayed to this, all from the old Island Explorer livery which they were delivered in in 2002. Prior to full completion of the new two-tone livery, the B7TLs were temporarily used for services with just a lime green livery.cite web|url=|title=Southern England Bus Photographs||accessdate=2008-07-16] There are some exceptions to this new livery. The open-top tours have a blue and orange livery, with "Island Breezers" branding. Coaches and driver training vehicles also carry a number of different liveries. Three of the UVG Darts are still in the "Oxford Blue and Stripes" livery.

See also

* Transportation on the Isle of Wight
* Island Line, Isle of Wight
* List of bus operators of the United Kingdom


Further reading

#cite book |title=Southern Vectis 1929-2004: 75 years serving the Isle of Wight|last= Newman|first= Richard|authorlink= |coauthors= |year= 2004|publisher= Colourprint books|isbn=978-1-904242-24-6
#cite book |title=Glory Days – Buses on the Isle of Wight|last= Kraemer-Johnson and Bishop|first= Glyn and John|year= 2006|publisher= Ian Allan Publishing|isbn=0 7110-3114-2
#cite book |title=Bus Operators 1970: South-West and Southern England|last= Booth|first= Gavin|year=2006|publisher=Ian Allan Publishing|isbn=0 7110-3034-0
#cite book |title=Where in the world are the Southern Vectis Buses?|last= Haines|first= John|year= 2001|publisher= G&K Publications in conjunction with DTS Publishing|isbn=1 900515 35 0
#cite book |title=Southern Vectis: The First 60 Years|last= Newman|first= Richard|authorlink= |coauthors= |year= 1989|publisher= Ensign Publications |isbn=1 85455 025 X

External links

* [ Southern Vectis website] –
* [ Isle of Wight Bus Museum website]

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