Saturday, 25 February 2017

Bus Bits Blog (1)

Radical Rebranding Revealed!
News is filtering through about some new names for well known products. Marmite is being renamed Starburst as per this rough mock-up of the new label.
To avoid too much confusion, Starburst sweets will now be known as Snickers. Here is a Starburst Fruity Twist packet with the new name added.
Surely an utterly ridiculous idea?

Of course it is - it's just a fanciful and artistically pathetic fbb paste-up. But it would never happen. Even when Marathon ...
... became Snickers, the colours and lettering on the wrapper maintained the style.

So First South Yorkshire might (perhaps?) be excused for changing the X78 Steellink ...
... (complete with seat-back branding) to X1 Steellink.
This was to promote the (not much) improved service to Rotherham; improved by taking it away from Tinsley where people needed it and sending it via Meadowhell already served more than adequately by the former Steellink X78.

But it gets worse. Having re-rebranded Steellinks's shiny new(-ish) buses for the X1 ...
... the closure of Rotherham depot as meant that most have moved to Olive Grove in Sheffield (once called East Bank when fbb was nobbut a lad!). Thanks to Sheffield correspondent Roy we can now enjoy pictures of the X1 at Walkley ...
... and pictures of the X1 at Lodge Moor.
A very slight mitigation is provided by the removal (above) of the X1 text itself. But surely that should mean that the unbranded bus would be allocated to the X1 between Sheffield, Rotherham and Maltby?

Get it right, PLEASE!

fbb must finish this blog later, as it's time for breakfast. Your chubby author will sustain his day's frenetic activity with a large bowl of ...
... Daz. Yummy yum yum!

Spring and Spuds Come to fbb Towers
Despite the efforts of Storm Doris on Thursday, the fbbs are thrilled that the Mrs' miniature daffs have survived the winter and begun their flowering on part of the mansion's extensive boundary fence.

All together now - "Aaaaah!"
And on the same day as the daffs bloomed, Mrs fbb returned from their neighbourhood shop, once run by "Jolly Jack" Cohen, with a bag of spuds. fbb was impressed with the very silly label.
Or should they be "imperfectly perfect" potatoes. Or just "spuds with dents in 'em."?

Enigmatic Exeter Explanations
Regular blog readers will remember that Exeter is to get a lovely new bus station to replace the tatty old one.
Internally, it looks nice and shiny ...
... but, following recent conventions in bus station design, it will be too small for the services that want to use it.

If it ever happens? This is the latest headline locally.
What a surprise!

But to add to the good news, here is another recent headline:-
The current Travel Shop is excellent, with helpful staff and racks and racks of useful information. The article does not make it clear whether this is a permanent closure or just for the duration of the rebuilding. It ought to be the latter, but today's "bottom-line" management style (run by accountants who don't use the buses!) means that, if a travel shop doesn't show a measurable "profit", it is for the chop.

They simply ignore the thousands of customers every week who are encouraged to travel with confidence as a result of the staff's care and guidance. Without that support, thy might not travel again.

Where's your bottom line then?

Dastardly Doris Dumps Double Decker
On Thursday afternoon storm Doris was breathing he destructive last over the blasted wastes of East Anglia, A final gust greeted a First Bus bus near Wisbech with decidedly unfortunate consequences.
Thanks to a chum at First Bus, fbb is able to reproduce a genuine report from the scene.
Phew! Could have been so much worse.
And here is "yer actual" bus in happier times.
More bits tomorrow.

 Next bus bits blog (etc.) :  Sunday 26th February 

Friday, 24 February 2017

Navette Autonome (3)

Lyon Demo - Confluence
We visited the "Confluence" district of Lyon many blogs ago whilst looking at Lyon Perrache station. Formerly an industrial quayside, he area has developed into a typical 21st century residential and office district with some crazy new buildings and some adaptations of old warehousing. 

The trial run started at Quai Arlès-Dufoue near the viaduct that carries tram T1.
Navya pods then travelled along the banks of the former quay ...
... before turning left onto the banks of the Saône. Here the huge river cruise boats are parked between trips.
The Sucrière was a 1930s sugar warehouse ...
... and is now a trendy arts and conference venue.
Here a couple of Navyas trundle past.
The Navette Automome terminated near this weird green "thing" which is the offices of Euro News.
As the pictures clearly show, this, again was well away from public roads.

So where next?

Gare de Lyon Demo - Paris
At first glance, Paris looks more promising ...
... a real test between two main line railway stations on opposite sides of the Seine. Here is Gare de Lyon with its celebrated clock tower ...
... and on the south side of the river, here is Gare d'Austerlitz.
There should be plenty of opportunity to see how these little beasties work interacting with traffic between the two. It did look very interesting indeed!

Only the Navette doesn't run between the two stations. This is the Pont Charles de Gaulle ...
... normally busy with one way traffic travelling north-east-bound towards Gare de Lyon. It has wide footpaths, a segregated cycle lane and, on the far right, a bus lane.
Now look at these screenshots from a video of the "Navette Autonome".
Here is a little shed in which to park the pod overnight and then all you have to do is to block off the bus lane on the bridge with gert slabs of concrete and off she goes.
In the middle of the bridge is a passing place and ...
... at the Gare de Lyon end, another little shed.
Disappointingly then, the little driverless cabins only run from one side of the bridge to the other. The route display on the screen inside shows that you have to walk several hundred yards from Navette station to big railway station at each end.
For the Paris demonstration, a different "marque" of "pod" is in use. The company is "EasyMile", based in Toulouse, France.
The cabin is slightly smaller than the Navya but the concept is similar. Like Navya, EasyMile has been on view world-wide ...
... with a particularly crazy livery for an exhibition in Darwen, Australia.
Wacky for a demo, but please, please, PLEASE; no contra-vision for real passengers.

In all the demos that fbb has researched so far, the driverless pods have been kept well clear of reality, whether on a specially secluded bit of off-road road or well protected from all the hazards that make any form of road transport challenging.

But there is one Navya experiment that goes quite a bit further. A report on this version of the Navette Autonome also appears in the current issue of Buses magazine.
fbb's investigation will follow after the weekend.

And, back in Lyon ...
... there's a wacky orange building as well!

 Next Navette Autonome blog : MONDAY 27th February 

 Next bus bits blog : Saturday 25th February 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Navette Autonome (2)

Compass Centre Demo
It is a huge office block off the A4 but accessed by Heathrow's private roads network, thus ignored by Google Streetview.
The building sits in a sea of car park on the northern perimeter of the Airport. When Heathrow first opened in 1946 there was nothing but fields and a few ex-Military sheds along the A4 ...
... with a collection of huts and marquees as the terminal buildings.
Even after the new central area buildings were opening in the mid 1950s, some intercontinental flights still left from this "North" terminal. everything is just a bit bigger now!

The Compass Centre was originally conceived as speculative offices for Lynton plc, which was the property development division of Heathrow Airport Ltd. British Airways was a prospective but not necessarily a sole tenant. The airline decided to consolidate its scattered operations into the Compass Centre. In August 1992 on-site construction began. The building was completed 15 months later. 
When London Heathrow Terminal 5 opened on 27 March 2008, British Airways staff, including crew check-in staff, relocated from the Compass Centre to Terminal 5. A refurbishment of the head office was completed in September 2009, after Heathrow Airport Limited (then BAA) moved into the building.

Now that the Compass Centre is the HQ of the airport administration, it was a logical place to witness a demonstration of a new and exciting form of public transport; namely a driverless bus. Although the airport has yet to make a commitment to the new technology, there might be opportunities to transport passengers and staff in autonomous vehicles.

Enter the Navya Arma!
The demonstration between 24th and 26th January was covered by an excellent article in the current "Buses" magazine.
As well as the usual PR "hype", author Alan Millar gives some financial facts which may be "food for thought".
It is in the last sentence above that the crunch lies. It is likely that, initially at least, vehicles like this will be used on services which currently do not exist, simply because they would be too costly to provide using conventional vehicles.It makes direct comparison very difficult, but it ios hard o see how a service as proposed could ever be commercially justified.

It is also clear that there is a world of difference trundling round a closed and very quite car park in demo mode compared with real street running with all its complications.

Las Vegas Demo
The Buses article continues ...

A more ambitious demonstration, from 11th to 20th January, saw an Arma operate on a public highway in the Unites States, on a 400 yard stretch of Freemont Street ...
... in downtown Las Vegas, where it offered free rides from 1100 to 1500.
But was it?
Notice the heavily coned piece of road ...
... with the Las Vegas van and police "black-and-white" blocking off the 7th Street intersection.
Compare this with the Streetview street view of the same locations above.

In a real sense this was no more a public road than the Compass Centre car park; everything was very tightly controlled to keep the worst bit of the public, namely their unpredictable vehicles, well away from the shiny little Navya Arma. 

Tomorrow we go to Lyon and Paris where these pods have been in operation, In Lyon the demo took place last September: in Paris the demo is running today!

 Next Navette Autonome blog : Friday 24th Februray