Friday, 21 July 2017

Some Blupdates With Caveats

The Dorset Debacle
Several comment writers have informed fbb that the silliness with Damory, First and the X12 is explained thus. Damory (GoShead group) won the contract for all services to Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester whilst First won the contract for the X12/187, called 12 by First. But the timetable agreed with First included some school variants for Thomas Hardye School. Damory were not happy.

So Dorset Council have agreed to continue the contract with Damory for the original services X12 and 187 with First taking over on Monday September 4th, the start of the autumn term in these parts.


Maybe not.
Could it be that the reason First's 12 remains resolutely on their web site is that the company has decided to run it anyway, as a commercial venture and without subsidy until taking over at the end of the summer hols?

Still registered, apparently, are the odd X12 journeys which Damory has opted to run commercially before this kerfuffle erupted.
So fbb's parting shot from Yesterday remains "on the table". How many buses, and operated by whom, will be leaving Dorchester at 0936 on Monday. fbb predicts at least two, one painted off white and puce and the other a rich dark blue.

Still crackers.

Remember that First has run its service 5 (Weymouth - Crossways - Dorchester) whilst Damory continued to run its 101 over most of the same route. There is precedent for "doubling up"

Wessex Wails Whinges and Walks Away
In Bristol, Wessex started a competitive service 90 "attacking" First Bus.
First responded with a significant increase in frequency. So Wessex (Rotala Group) registered a cancellation from 21st August.

So far it all makes some sort of sense. But then this tirade appears on the Wessex web site.

We have tried to bring in competing services to new areas within the Bristol area, in doing so we have put together special offers and ticket prices far below our competition.

In the case of the 90 we have watched the service change over the last couple of years, this has seen a big re-launch in October 2015 (photo on-line, not included in the Wessex page) ...
... and then over the last 12 months the new vehicles introduced have been removed and the frequency of services reduced

We registered our services to help fill the gaps of the frequency reductions and to introduce lower fares to the area, however within one week our competitor decided they could increase the frequency on the service and as a result flooded the service with buses. In addition to this, since our service 90 has been introduced several of our drivers have been victims of verbal and physical abuse.

Whilst fbb does not, in any way, condone bad behaviour by any of the warring factions, he has to ask, "What do you expect". Along comes Wessex seeking to pinch another company's trade and other people's jobs; some reaction is very likely.

Turning the other cheek is the only option and if the abuse in, indeed, one-sided, the Police must be called.

In response to the fierce competition from our competitor and continuing daily driver abuse we will remove our service 90 from 22nd July.

So what has happened to the 8 week notice - AGAIN?

We would like to thank those who travelled with us and supported our service 90 during the short time of operation.

The route end on Saturday but full publicity, as partly illustrated above, remains on-line.

Meanwhile on the Other Side of Bristol
The seemingly never ending saga of route 18. In January 2013 fbb penned a [iece about the ups and downs of this service (read again).
Now it seems that First is giving up today's version of the 18 ...
... and Wessex have registered a replacement. fbb does not (yet) know whether the Wessex version is commercial or subsidised. No doubt somebody will put the old man right!

Jurassic Mule Goes Lame?
This weekend cheery chappie Derek Gawn ups his two hourly open top bus tour (based in Seaton) to an hourly frequency. For this he will need two buses. The single decker has been giving sterling service on and off ...
... but the double decker is poorly. Some bit of wodgit that turns the drive through ninety degrees sort of stopped doing it.
Repairs are under way and recovery may well be quite quick.
The bits are in there somewhere!

fbb is well aware of that sickening feeling when (a) you lose a vehicle (b) and have to dig very deep to pay the bill. OUCH and double OUCH! Been there, done that, got the tee shirt!

On-line chat suggests that Seaton should expect a First Kernow Atlantic Coaster branded vehicle as cover for the VR's absence. fbb has yet to spot the furren substitute.
Probably because it hasn't yet appeared on service - and Del-Boy is not telling!
The header to these twits quotes a registration number of S637 SEU but this is a slip of the brain, pen or keyboard. The vehicle is L637 SEU which was part of the City Line Fleet in Bristol.
It then lost its roof with the help of  a low railway bridge in Falmouth and became OT in Barbie's colours.
Finally it was adorned with the new Atlantic Coaster livery as a promotional bus as it can no longer be used on stage carriage services.
The Jurassic Coaster is not a bus service - it is a tour.

Maybe fbb will take his brolly out today and have a look.

 Next weekend "stuff" blog : Saturday 22nd July 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Stagecoach Waterloo .... Interrupted ...

... For Damory Dorset Daftness
But A Bit Of Stagecoach First:-
fbb's survey of SouthWest Trains timetable for the August Waterloo upgrade begins with Chessington, where was now know that trains are replaced by buses. Here is the normal timetable; a short extract thereof.
Note that here are to trains an hour from Guildford via Leatherhead and on from Dorking. There are two trains an hour from Chessington and it takes 37 minutes to get from Chessington South to Waterloo.

Now here is what is provided during August.
the whole caboodle is wrapped together to provide just two trains an hour. there would normally be SIX on this service group from Motspur Park into Waterloo; here there are only two.

Passengers from Dorking have alternative routes to the Capital but need to change trains to reach any station on the South West Trains line which means that the 51 minute full-length journey time increases to 1 hour and 27 minutes.

Instead of Chessington's journey of a few minutes over half an hour, these poor folk, using train and bus will toil laboriously for nearly and hour and a half.

What of Hampton Court? First normality. Peak hour trains between 0623 and 0923 have been omitted to allow fbb to show the standard repeat pattern.
Southwest Trains have graciously retained the through trains at peak ...
... but off-peak you get turfed out at Surbiton to wait for something else that may well be jammed to the roof with sweaty travellers who themselves have lost over 50% of their trains. Journey time increases from 37 minutes to 49 minutes.

Here is the usual service on the Portsmouth Line.
Notice that there are two "fast" (i.e. "less slow") trains every hour, taking approx 1 hour 35, augmented by one nearly-all-the-way stopper and a short working from Haslemere. That gives a train every 15 minutes from Guildford to Waterloo.

Now for the August squash!
Again the whole lot is glued together to offer just two trains an hour all the way (hooray) by taking about two hours (horrors). A short run stopper picks up the hordes of passengers at Witley and Milford.

Those campaigning for some form of price reduction or automatic compensation would seem to have a point. SouthWest Trains says that the usual compensation regime will remain in place, but therein lies the cunning plan. Compensation is only paid if the train runs significantly later than the timetable says it will.

If all trains are timetabled to run more slowly no bunce is paid.

fbb would have explored further but at this point in his preparation came some really daft news.

Damory Delivers Double Daftness
And A Bit of First Second!
The story so far - but briefly. Damory (A GoAhead company) goes backwards in Dorset by cancelling ALL its registrations from the end of the school summer term. That's tomorrow! Dorset County Council assembles a package of revised routes serving (their quote not fbb's!) 90% of the passengers carried by the previous network. The other 10% can, adopting the policy of Boris The Tousled, go whistle for a bus!

These routes are put out to tender and Damory wins almost nothing.

First Bus wins the tender for services between Dorchester and points north-east as heralded on the company's web site.
It is explained in a text block:-
There is a complex map for a typical local authority service that tries to do everything ...
... and the timetable is equally complicated.
But at least folk along this corridor have some buses.

There is one little niggle. Damory have registered a journey and a half in each direction (unsubsidised) as an X12.
Probably Damory have a school bus sitting around and they thought the driver might like a pleasant ride in the country.

So far, so good.

Then this note pops through fbb's electronic letterbox from his Dorset correspondent.
These look like the services given up by GoAhead's Damory and replaced by Firsts 12. Here is the X12 ...
... which currently runs on Saturdays as well. And here the 187 (not Saturdays)
These are NOT subsidised and start on Monday 24th, the same day as First's 12. It seem unlikely that such rural wanderings could ever be profitable, but Damory obviously thinks they can be OR (surely not?) is plying the spoiler game against Dorset and First.

Crazy or what?

But, fbb hears you cry, "don't you have to give eight weeks' notice if you want to run a bus route?" This appears to be less than a week? Why has it been allowed?

So First's response. The 12 is cancelled according to Traveline.

But, fbb hears you cry, "don't you have to give eight weeks' notice if you want to cancel a bus route?" This appears to be less than a week? Why has it been allowed?

It was all still on the First Wessex web site at 2200 last night - not a word about cancellation.

The big question is, "What will turn up at Dorchester at 0936 on Monday?" Two buses, one bus or none at all?

There is something very fishy going on here. Somehow, somebody is pulling the Traffic Commissoners' strings. Normally these splendid folk are punctilious in applying the rules unless there is a real emergency.

There is no emergency here, just plain daftness.

 Next sanity blog (?) : Friday 21st July 

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Stagecoach Meets Its Waterloo .... (Part 1)

... But First Group Gets The Blame!!
In January 2017 London's Evening Standard was full of doom and gloom ...
... accompanied by a picture of Waterloo during a "typical" disruption.

The Times thundered pessimistically back in May.
Also, a couple of months ago there was a powerful rumour afoot that the Waterloo work, due to affect train services in a few weeks, might have to be postponed. Notwork Rail, it was suggested, would not be ready, hadn't ordered enough nuts and bolts and didn't have enough workers to do the job. Despite the rumours things have been happening at London's busiest terminus with revised timetables starting very soon.
The work will be split into two huge projects. Firstly, the former Eurostar platforms have been brought into full use as part of the main station. This was not as easy as it might seem to an observing amateur. Those who travelled to Europe descended into a "bear pit" which led to ticket and passport checks before ascending back to the platforms.

This necessarily indirect route has been replaced (as per the artist's impression) by direct level access the the new platforms 22 to 24.
Significant changes to the track at the outer end of the station have been engineered to reconnect the largely independent Eurostar tracks with the traditional Windsor Lines. This work continues apace, but the basics needed to be ready to cater for the other chunk of Waterloo upgrade as explained in this helpful video.
On-line publicity includes downloadable timetable leaflets matching the "normal" SouthWest Trains productions but for Mondays to Fridays only.
fbb is currently attempting absorb the "flavour" of the timetable changes and hopes to report further with some sample line-by-line reviews. But there is no doubt that regular "commuters" will find their travel more frustrating; with fewer trains, busier trains and slower trains.

Not everyone flees from the Capital during most of August!

Indeed the peasants are revolting! This from an on-line new source.
A South West Trains commuter has slammed the operator's "ridiculous" decision not to offer discounted fares during London Waterloo upgrade works in August. NHS worker Chih-Kai Huang pays £280.40 for a monthly ticket from Hersham to London Waterloo. On renewing his ticket for August, Mr Huang was appalled his ticket price remained the same.

"I think it's ridiculous, surely the fare should correlate with the service that is being offered?" the 34-year-old said. South West Trains (SWT) is not providing the full service but it is asking for the full fare."

Mr Huang said that during the upgrade work the amount of trains traveling from Hersham during the peak morning time will be halved. In addition, the commuting time will be increased from 26-34 minutes to 45-55 minutes as the trains call at more stations.

"It's half a service, with an increased journey time, for the same fare," he said. "I'll have to leave home for work an hour earlier."

"I don't think my holiday should be dictated by SWT," Mr Huang said. "I'm really annoyed by the whole situation, it's absolutely ludicrous, am I the only one to think this is absurd?"

A petition has been started by Alison Bunce in reaction to what she says is the "grossly unfair" decision by SWT not to offer compensation to passengers during the works, especially to season ticket holders."

It is not clear how strong this feeling is; but bear in mind that First takes over the franchise on August 20th just in time to take huge amounts of flak. The newly appointed GM may have his hands full right at the beginning of his tenure.
Most recently, Andy Mellors has been responsible for leading the transformation of the GWR rolling stock fleet both through the introduction of new electric trains in the Thames Valley, and the imminent entry into service of the Intercity Express Trains – the first major intercity fleet to be introduced on the UK rail network for many years. This experience will be vital given the exciting plans for a brand new fleet of 90 trains, consisting of 750 carriages on the franchise, plus a refurbishment of existing rolling stock.

Before that Mr Mellors was with First Scotrail.

Whether his experience will prepare him from the onslaught of vociferous Surrey commuters is doubtful. Expect more fireworks there, and not necessarily in celebration of the successful completion of the work!

fbb's timetable investigation should, of course, begin with the line to Exeter, passing through his local station at Axminster. But this is what appears in the list of "leaflets" available.

Strange. The usual policy for all sorts of disruption is to terminate the service at Basingstoke thus making fbb's little line a self-contained, albeit lengthy, shuttle between there and Exeter. It would be largely unaffected by the trials and tribulations of the Waterloo upgrade; provided there is sufficient capacity on the connecting services from Basingstoke.

So why the delay?

Maybe the SouthWest Trains and Notwork Rail planners have forgotten about East Devon?
Ooh arr m'dears!

And what about weekend? Still a state secret as this blog was being complied.

Details for train services on weekends during this period, including the Bank Holiday weekend of Friday 25-28 August, will be updated between now and August.

But there are a set of frequency maps which confirm some drastic reductions peak and off peak.
The top number at each station is the existing frequency (morning peak on this map) and the bottom is the number of trains running during the "event".

Norbiton Station is closed completely and the Chessington branch is replaced by a half-hourly bus service. Off peak (and weekends?), Hampton Court passengers must change at Surbiton.

Should be fun (NOT).

 Next SWT blog : Thursday 20th July 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Bargain Hunt?

fbb has always had a soft spot for the long lost Wisbech and Upwell Tramway. Partly this has been encouraged by the enthusiasm of Fearnley junior for the Thomas the Tank Engine books which feature Toby the tram Engine.
To entertain young Archie, fbb bought a "Toby" and constructed his coach Henietta by butchering a German model of a four wheeled passenger vehicle. The results are tolerable!
On Saturday last, fbb was at the Yeovil Model Railway Group open day (of which more in due course) when he espied this volume in a box of "for sale" goodies alongside one of the layouts on view.
The book has been out of print fro some time having first seen the light of day in 1995 with a cover price pf £10.95.
As well as "The Tramway", the book looks at the Wisbech canal which closed in 1922 having been put out of business by the trams!
Within Wisbech itself, this has become a road ...
... with the bay-windowed house on the far right giving some context. Alas, that reminder of what once gurgled by has also been demolished!
Here the canal and road are compared:-

As with all Middleton Press publications, the book traces the line from end to end with a wonderful selection of evocative pictures ...
... one of which is a rare inside view of one of the delightful little tram engines. Imagine a conventional steam locomotive with a wooden box round it and you have a picture of exactly how they worked. fbb reckons it would have been very hot inside, which is why most shots have cab doors wide open.
Amazingly the line survived until 1966 for freight, carrying mainly agricultural produce for trans-shipment to the "main line" at Wisbech. Passenger services ceased in 1927 which may explain why photos of the passenger stock appear only occasionally in the book's pages.
But it is the quirky that always interests fbb. Here is a crudely painted sign at Wisbeck Station ...
... and a ticket for a first class single ride on the full length of the line.
For almost all of its passenger-carrying life there were six return trains a day, Monday to Saturday ...
... but it is hard to imagine what benefits might be gained by paying for a First Class ticket. Maybe it would offer separation from the "common herd" of farm workers, their wives and their "unruly" children?

Delightfully the book is dedicated to Rev Wilbert Awdry, Thomas's creator, and Rev Teddy Boston.
Both rail loving clerics are pictured with Teddy Boston's narrow gauge railway which ran round his vicarage garden.

Copies of the book are on offer at a HUGE range of prices on Amazon, ranging from a modest £8.99 ...

... to a toe curling £56.09!
And cheapskate fbb grasped the opportunity to cough up an utterly reasonable ...
... fiver!

 Next rail or bus blog - Wednesday 19th July