The good news is that Service 336 continues to hold pole position as the longest scheduled coach service, though at a reduced 585 miles. The reduction of 93 miles is the result of the route being curtailed at Plymouth, with the section through Cornwall to/from Penzance being withdrawn. Journey times now hover around the 15-hour mark - chicken feed!
Last year, the LEYTR Editorial and a number of Associates undertook our very own John o' Groats to Land's End jaunt that utilised this historic express service south from Edinburgh. Back then, a different operator ran the service, too - First Devon & Cornwall's Cambourne depot, who lost the contract last autumn to Bruce's Coaches of Salsburgh, Scotland.
Pre-Monday, Service 336 was operated as follows:
Day 1: 1300 Penzance - Edinburgh (0730, Day 2)
Day 2: 2130 Edinburgh - Penzance (1600, Day 3)
The coach, upon arriving in Penzance on Day 3 at 1600 did nothing until 21 hours later, when on Day 4 it would head back north at 1300. Add to this the period of inactivity in Edinburgh (Day 2) between 0730-2130, the route was reasonably inefficient. However, in order to conform to EC Drivers' Hours Regulations, First were obliged to afford its crews this period of time off in Scotland's capital city.
With the 336 now commencing at Plymouth, NX have been able to make a strategic alteration that sees no further resource required: the frequency has been doubled. A new Service 532 now operates, ostensibly to the same route as the 336, though during daylight hours. The diagram is now as follows:
Day 1: 0930 532 Edinburgh-Plymouth (2300)
Day 2: 0515 532 Plymouth-Edinburgh (1930)
Day 2: 2130 336 Edinburgh-Plymouth (1240)
Day 3: 1640 336 Plymouth-Edinburgh (0730, Day 1)
Effectively two runs can now be operated in a three-day period, with no turnaround time in excess of 2 hours.
A contact within National Express told LEYTR that the new daytime Service 532 re-introduced a number of connection possibilities that were lost some years ago. Additionally, when the 336 passed to Bruce's Coaches last autumn, they had to operate the service with its 21-hour turnround time in Penzance, despite being based many hundreds of miles north. Bruce's Coaches also now operate tri-axle Scania/Levante coaches on the route and they're not best suited to places such as St. Ives!
Connections to/from Cornwall remain following tweaks to Service 500 (London-Penzance) and having checked the online journey planner, anyone wishing to undertake the erstwhile Edinburgh-Penzance journey can do so by departing Edinburgh aboard the 336 at 2130, though now won't arrive in Penzance until 1730 the following day - an increase in duration of 1.5 hours, though barely noticeable when the overall end-to-end journey time is 20 hours.
Service 588 - Inverness. This is the second-longest scheduled coach service in the UK and is also operated by Bruce's Coaches for NX. Note the Saltire Cross vinyl at the rear of the coach
For those wondering which route is the second-longest, the award stays with National Express - Service 588 (London-Inverness), coming in at 580 miles. LEYTR travelled on this journey as part of our Top 'n' Tail jaunt last year, too. We also 'bashed' the longest bus service in the country (in terms of duration) - Service X53 (Exeter-Poole), operated by First.
Exeter bus station forms the scene for this photo, of First Hampshire's Jurassic Coast Service X53, the longest bus route in the country in terms of duration. The end-to-end fare? £6.
LEYTR's Top 'n' Tail