Friday, 18 January 2019

Lea Green : A Lesson In Priorities

Today's timetable via the year 2000 version of Lea Green station is very impressive.
From Liverpool, there are two fast Trans Pennine trains every hour (headings D and B with one calling at Lea Green, the other at nearby Newton-le-Willows.

There are two all-stops Northern Trains every hour as far as Earlestown, one turning sharp left and terminating at Warrington; the other continuing via Manchester to the Airport.

A train from Warrington gives Earlestown and Newton-le-Willows two Northern trains an hour to the Airport.

Compare this with the "good old days" of the mid sixties.
Nothing runs to a "clock-face" timetable. The main stopping service runs approximately (very!) hourly between Huyton and Liverpool only but all the other bits and pieces are sporadic throughout the day.

But, significantly, you could still get from St Helens Junction (bottom right) to St Helens Shaw Street (top left) by train.
The intermediate stations at Sutton Oak and Peasley Cross had closed in 1951 together with a limited service between St Helens and Widnes.
So, how might you get from Manchester to St Helens in 2019?

Enquire generally for "St Helens" and the national rail site will dump you at St Helens Junction ...
... with a fare of £9.80 single.
Alternatively ask for "St Helens Central" (the renamed Shaw Street) and you will be routed via Wigan ...
... taking over twice as long including a walk between the two stations in Wigan but with a saving of 60p on the fare.
Rail fare daftness rules OK!

But, of course, Network Rail offers nothing by bus. Asking Traveline for a general "Manchester" departure offers a variety, but from Oxford Road; the best being a stopper to St Helens Junction and bus 35.
Excluding the recommended 17 minute walk (?) the train plus bus takes 39 minutes. Bus 35 runs every 20 minutes ...
 ... from a stop right outside the station.
Nice and easy!

Alternatively, if you are a bit more savvy, ask for a departure from Manchester Victoria ...
 ... taking ten minutes less because you are travelling "fast" with Trans Pennine and changing at Lea Green.

You might, however, be confused by Merseytravel's map ...
... which appears to tell us that only the hourly route 156 calls at Lea Green station. Indeed it does, at a similarly straightforward stop.
But look a few yards beyond the station building and ...
... there be buses on the main road; which, according to Merseytravel, do not call "at the station". But they do; easy-peasy if you are going TO St Helen's ...
... but, avoiding the barriers, a little less convenient if you are coming from.
But there are two twenty minute services from the Marshalls Cross Road stop; service 30 operated jointly by Arriva and Halton ...
... and service 17, Halton alone.
Neither timetable mentions Lea Green Station! Of course, were this France or Switzerland or Germany (for example) the 17 and the 30 would both run into the "interchange" stop.

Commercialism trumps customer service - yet again.

But interchange at Lea Green is pretty good all round. Which brings fbb to what provoked these two blogs. A twitterer posted some piccies of the shiny new passenger information screens on Trans Pennine trains.
But as the twitterer was approaching Lea Green, he was, at first, encouraged to see this ...
... and this.
But there was not a word about buses! Encouragement turns into annoyance.

With all the wonders of today's technology, it would surely be dead easy to put "buses from Lea Green to St Helens as ..." plus the next few departure times.

But then, presumably, the "taxi" info is paid for by some deal with a taxi App provider. When will operators realise that encouraging folk to make integrated journeys is of commercial benefit to all participants?

But here, commercialism trumps customer service - as we all say.

 Next variety blog : Saturday 19th January 

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Lea Green : A Lesson In Geography

fbb must confess, with due apologies to the residents thereof, that he had never heard of Lea Green.
Discovering that it is south of St Helens does not help much, and it certainly does not reveal itself on the above map extract. But if we zoom in to the "tt" of Sutton Leach, we are at Lea Green. It used to have a railway station ...
... a few houses and a substantial colliery,  rail served,  of course.
The site became an industrial estate ...
... and is now a trendy housing estate.
Finding the water is a bit of a challenge but Pendlebury Brook is nearby.

The station has long gone, but the station master's house, much extended,  still stands but in private ownership.
The station closed in 1958.

Notably, Lea Green was a stop on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, arguably the first inter-city railway line that opened in 1830; think Chat Moss and Rainhill Trials. That early station probably looked like this ...
... but photos of the premises that closed in 1958 seen elusive.

An aerial view (Google Earth) shows the minimal remnants.
But then in year 2000, Lea Green rose, phoenix-like from the ashes but located about 1 km to the East.
The red road is the former A570 now replaced by the green St Helens Linkway. The old Lea Green was close to the number 69.

Blog readers might be wondering where this bit of ferroequinological rambling might be leading. It is leading to the new Lea Green and its train services and bus connections.
Currently, the station enjoys an hourly service from First Trans Pennine ...
... and two trains an hour from Abellio Northern.
All will be revealed tomorrow!

Really Fiddly Stuff
Yesterday afternoon fbb was continuing to prepare his model of the London Leyland National. The idea is that on a visit to the Fearnley home this coming Saturday, thekiddies (Georgina and Archie) will "help" fbb assemble the kit.

Painting the model was deemed too "risky" as was adding the waterslide transfers. The last such fbb ever applied were to a Kitmaster J94 0-6-0 saddle tank ...
... nearly 60 years ago.
Yesterday's job was terrifyingly fiddly ...
... but achieved with comparative success. A coat of varnish will seal the deal - so just the glueing to do on Saturday!

 Next Lea Green blog : Friday 18th January 

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

A Ride on the M1 (3)

Oops; fbb Forgot to Remember
In the debate about the trammyness of the Metrobus M1, proponents of the concept point to the stunning infrastructure at various points on the network. The bus only link road to/from the M32 is both spectacular and very useful for speeding the buses.
On the M2 (Park and Ride) there is another spectacular flyover ...
... but most bus watchers (and many professionals) are astounded by the uselessness of the guided busway which, effectively, makes buses slower than on ordinary roads.

The only infrastructure "improvement" in South Bristol is some sections of bus lane on the fast and stop-less sections of the fast Hartcliffe Way; outbound ...
... and inbound.
Note, again, a stop for service 76 not used by M1.

But on to Cribbs Causeway ...
The M1 uses the M32 "bus gate" to get the the University of the West of England (UWE), arguably the main source of revenue for the route. Three alighted and trotted off to the home on the halls of academe, one boarded.

Metrobus had two hi-viz vested "helpers" on duty.
But they were not overworked. The three catching the bus in front (going IN to town) needed no help, and by the time they had been "helped" the one northbound passenger on fbb's bus was already on-board and content.

fbb did wonder whether it was wise to have buses in both directions using the same stop. With pre-bought or electronic tickets there is less interaction with the driver and more chance of directional errors. On his run back into town a very confused lady "of mature years" was in some angst at the Begbrook stop ...
... as she had already caught an M3 in the wrong direction and was trying vainly to guess where to wait for he bus to Cribbs Causeway.
Monoliths were in place, but, once confused, people cease to trust their eyes and brains and start to panic. Will this happen at UWE?

On sped fbb with just one passenger until (steps back in amazement) ...
... a lady and her three reined-in youngsters boarded at Harry Stoke. Harry Stoke, previously named mischievously and fictitiously by fbb after a local "character" and "man of the road".
The stop, seen below before the road was opened, is in the middle of nowhere ...
... with not a house to be seen in any direction. Where had they come from? The family was going to the Willowbrook Centre, Bradley Stoke's source of local retail therapy.
Significantly, these three were the only "local" passengers not travelling to or from the city centre or UWE. fbb suspects that Bradley Stoke locals will continue to use the 73 which goes much nearer more places where people live ...
... rather than the M1 which zooms down the spine road - limited stop. On Bradley Stoke Way, the 73 shares some stops with the prestigious M1 ...
... but serves additional stops that are 73 only. Confusing, possibly?

The 73 also parallels the M1 on Highwoods Road ...
... where, again, the 73 calls at all stops ...
... with the M1 zooming past, possibly to the consternation of some innocent potential customers?

Part of Highwoods Road is now buses only, relegating access to the houses via a service roads only.
As well as being nice to buses, this bit of traffic management attempts to ensure that flocks of motorists aiming for Cribbs Causeway do not bring horridness to the residential areas.

Although used as the destination, Cribbs Causeway is better described as an area. The shopping mall is named, with astounding originality, "The Mall"!!
"The Venue" is where the entertainment stuff is located. Such thrills do not impinge on life in Seaton; fbb would have to go all the way to Exeter.

And Charlton Hayes?

Charlton Hayes is a major mixed use development on land to the north of Filton Airfield. Planning permission to build 2,200 new homes housing an estimated 6,000 residents was granted by South Gloucestershire Council in 2008.
The Charlton Hayes name comes from the original village of Charlton, which was demolished in the 1940s for a runway extension at Filton to accommodate the giant (and unsuccessful!) Bristol Brabazon plane.
Below is a picture of the village with the white lines showing the line of the runway extension.
Here is where it was, and note that Cribbs Causeway was a causeway (of sorts?).
The new version of Charlton is, however, well to the east of the demolished old.

On arrival at Cribbs Causeway bus station ...
... fbb proceeded swiftly to the food court for a well deserved snack ...
... and a visit to the usual offices. (Aren't KFC pieces smaller than they used to be?).

The plan, then, was to observe arrival and departing loadings on the M1 before catching the aforementioned 73 back to Temple Meads and home.

This report will follow in a later blog, because tomorrow we must go to Merseyside.

 Next Lea Green blog : Thursday 17th January