Exmoor Explorer – a shadow of its former self

This past weekend was spent conducting on the Service 400 ‘Exmoor Explorer’, running two trips from Minehead seafront each day.

As regular readers will know, this service lost its County Council subsidy earlier this year and the operator, Quantock Motor Services, decided to continue with a shortened season on a commercial basis. The service has been running at weekends, Tuesdays and Thursdays during the school holidays. The adult return fare went up from £7.00 to £10.00, which is a huge increase on last year but I presume this was done in order to at least break even.

The loadings so far have been disappointingly low, by all accounts. This weekend was no exception. The weather of course is a significant factor but even so, we only carried 5 people on the first trip on Saturday and one of those got off at Exford!

VDV752 high on Exmoor with an empty lower deck

The sun came out at lunchtime and drew in a few more passing punters but even so, we only carried 26 on the afternoon trip. In previous years we would be almost full on a day like that. The round trip is still great fun, even though my driver gave us quite a rough ride. He tended to lift the clutch very sharply and banged the gears in noisily when he couldn’t be bothered to wait for the engine revs to fall away. Such a shame, when I know how much more smoothly it can be done.

Sunday was nearly a repeat performance although numbers were slightly up, carrying 37 on the afternoon trip. This was definitely a loss-making weekend as I only took about £100 on each day in fares. Only just enough to cover the cost of fuel!

One bonus for me on Sunday – not bus related – was the appearance of Peppercorn Pacific 60163 ‘Tornado’ on the West Somerset Railway.

60163 Tornado at Minehead

The popular loco is currently enjoying a summer holiday on the railway and was posed next to Minehead’s turntable before taking out the next service train.

In my next post I will look at ways of potentially boosting trade for the 400, should it ever run again!

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