Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Cartographical Contemplations

Consistency isn't Considered!
fbb acknowledges information (and title!) from our
Bristol correspondent : with many thanks.
We know (from recent fbb blogs) that times they are a-changing for services to The University of the West of England [UWE] campi at Frenchay and Bower Ashton, Brizzle. It would appear that First have stepped in to compete vigorously with Rotala's Wesssex company. But this frenetic competition has just a hint of co-operation about it. See earlier bogs "Wessex may Grizzle with changes at Brizzle" episodes [1], [2] and [3]. Click on the episode number to re-read the blog.

We also know that First have route maps on each of their UWE service leaflets ...
... which combine simplicity, helpfulness and accuracy. On the other hand the Wessex Bus cartographical offering was ...
... complex, unhelpful and geographically ludicrous. Also, it did not include any of the "Wessex Red" routes designed specifically for UWE!

There have been developments.

First has produced a map showing all of their services that impinge on UWE sites. Mostly this is at Frenchay ...
... but it also includes the X2 and X3 ...
... which serve Bower Ashton Campus every 15 minutes on their way to Portishead. Wessex runs every 7/8 minutes from city to Bower Ashton!

fbb is uneasy about First's map style. The "names on roads" design has been a feature of London Transport's maps for years, but those names can be hard to read, and even harder when burdened with lines of multiple colours. This makes the area round UWE itself very muddled. Bearing in mind that there is, effectively, only one stop at the Frenchay Campus, a "simplified geographical" map, like those in the leaflets, would have been better.

Then there is the offering from Wessex!
It now includes both Wessex Bristol ("normal") buses and Wessex Red** (UWE buses) but retains the coarse diagrammatic style which is ...

... awful!

Now one might have thought that the promoters of better bus services to the Frenchay Campus, "The Only Way is Wessex" campaigners, might have pushed for one intergrated all-operator map for the University. Indeed, perhaps the Uni authorities could have commissioned one. fbb is ready and willing, for a fat fee!!

We could, in theory, turn to the Bristol Area network map for combined information ...
... but that excellent production has not yet been updated to show the revised services, so is utterly useless for Filton, Frenchay and UWE!

Yet again, First produce their own network map. Is it geographical, like those on the leaflets or the area creations as above? Of course not, don't be silly; that would be far too easy. No we have what purports to be a London Underground style diagram complete with all the disadvantages that concept brings to a bus network. Taking liberties with scale and geography might be OK for the sun-less and view-less bowels of our Capital, but it is not very helpful when you are peering anxiously out of the window of your bus!
As a useful guide to where buses go, it isn't.

But our ever helpful Bristol correspondent has been furnished (door to door) with an even more ludicrous piece of cartography; not, this time, for UWE, but for neighbouring Filton.

Travel West [TW] is the marketing arm of CUBA (Counties that Used to Be Avon; sadly not an official epithet!). TW is busily promoting bus travel with leaflet drops and a campaign entitled "What's Your Number?"
On-line it's not much of a campaign, merely directing enquiries to a variety of other data sources.

What's my number?
Not sure what bus you need to get to the cinema, the gym or the seaside? Or need to get a timetable so you know when to head to the bus stop?
Use Traveline's journey planner to explore the possibilities.

Where does my bus go?
Want to find out the route your bus takes, and when the next bus leaves?
Use our timetable checker to find out.

When will my bus arrive?
If you have a smart phone you can use our Buschecker app to get real time information and know exactly when your bus will arrive.

The leaflet is worthy of sniggering note ...
... and obviously trendy. It contains a generous offer ...
... with a list of all bus routes serving the area.
No timetables, not even a list of frequencies. The X74 starts "Sept 2014" but with no actual date; the potentially useful local 555 circular is shown with an incomplete route and, apparently, doesn't go to Parkway Station. Oh, yes it does! Oh, no it doesn't! Oh, yes it does! ... (etc.)

But the highlight (lowlight, so low it has almost vanished light!) is the map. Take a look at this.
Click on the above to enlarge.
You must really take it all in!

As our contributor says, "a six year old could do better!"

Now if Travel West really want to promote bus travel in the Filton area, then they should publish a multi-operator area timetable book with route diagrams for each service and a geographically near-accurate network map. Distribute this house-to-house with a page or two of special offers/vouchers and something good might happen.

fbb is, as ever, available to deliver!

If that is too expensive, too complicated, or too stressful then PLEASE DON'T BOTHER AT ALL!

 ** More on Wessex Red branding tomorrow  

 Next bus blog : Thursday 28th August 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

fbb's Steyning Day; NOT Stenning, Ray. [4]

Sounds a bit American? In the UK "transit" has been used, historically, for the action of "crossing", as in "the transit of Venus" describing the passing of the planet across the face of the sun. One of the first uses as a pseudonym for "transport" was Cleveland Transit ...
... which was a merger of Middleborough and Stockton Corporations with the erstwhile Teesside Railless Traction company. A more "trendy" version followed.
More logically, of course, we had the Ford Transit from 1965 onwards. [Hopefully someone will do a big celebration thereof in 2015; 50 years!]
Be that as it may, this is what Southern Transit says about itself.

Established in 2003 as a small independent bus company based near Brighton in Sussex, we started out by operating sightseeing tours on behalf of Guide Friday City Sightseeing & Railway Replacement Services on behalf of Southern railway.

We now also provide a Park and Ride Service to Brighton and Hove Albion FC Amex Stadium on behalf of Brighton and Hove Bus & Coach Co as well as operate school bus services on behalf of West Sussex County Council.

Southern Transit also provide servicing and maintenance for vintage, preserved buses. We have quickly built up a reputation as a leading engineering provider in the area, catering for class 5 & class 6 MOTs to an exceptionally high level of workmanship.

Southern Transit also carries the specialist equipment required to keep the iconic London Routemaster and RT Buses operational.

The company's yard is at the cement works as featured in yesterday's blog.
This summer, owner Neil Bird ...
... is bravely stepping into the commercial "stage carriage" bus market with a route that, sort of, replicates the Adur Valley branch line as featured in this series of blogs.
He offers five or six journeys on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Monday.
He is using an ex London double decker which have been beautifully repainted and emblazoned with route details etc.
click to enlarge the photo above

The inter-deck decorations shows each station on the former Adur Valley line in the British Railways green "sausage" logo ...
... with the two open stations at the end of the route showing the British Rail arrow zot.

This bus has had a selection of owners and carried a variety of liveries.
Connex, remember them?
Travel London, son of Travel West Midlands, remember them?
And TWM again!

V301 KGW was withdrawn by subsequent owner Abellio London.
not Southern transit's bus, but similar

Route 3 started operation 1 November 1908, when a daily unnumbered route operating between Brixton station and South Croydon was allocated the route number 3. Its termini and route have changed over the years, as has the operating company. Presnet route is from Oxford Circus ...
... to Crystal Palace.
On 2 January 1993 it became one man operated with the AEC Routemasters replaced by 24 Optare Spectra bodied DAF DB250s until 1999, when upon being tendered, the contract to operate the route passed from London Central to Connex, who introduced Alexander ALX400 bodied Dennis Trident 2 low-floor vehicles.

Route 3 was included in the sale of Connex to Travel London in February 2004 which in turn was sold to Abellio London in May 2009.

And you may well have spotted that the featured Southern Transit's bus was used almost exclusively on London Route 3 which, fbb suspects, is the reason that Neil Bird chose 3 for his summer special. He obviously has a deep affection for both route and vehicles.

The other bus is similar Y386 NHK ex Stagecoach London.
This venture represents a very positive initiative and those of us who have started new and innovative bus services will join Neil in some breath-holding anticipation as the ever-critical sums are done to prove (hopefully) that the idea was viable.

Your last chance to enjoy the experience is the weekend of 6th and 7th September. Go on, spoil yourself!

 Next map blog : Wednesday 27th August 

Monday, 25 August 2014

fbb's Steyning Day; NOT Stenning, Ray. [3]

See "fbb's Steyning Day; NOT Stenning, Ray. [2]" (read again)

Next calling point south on the former Adur Valley line between Shoreham-by-Sea and Horsham was Henfield.
fbb's on-line investigations referred to the "Henfield Hub" which sounded like one of the new breed of village and small town transport interchanges, although clearly not with any trains.
But, boo-hoo, it turned out to be the name of the village web site. There was a bit of hooray, however, as the site had a public transport page ...
... which offered links to current timetables. Sadly that to the 106 was less than helpful.
Henfield station was a more opulent edifice than others so far reported ...
... but alas all has been wiped off the face of the earth and replaced by a "petite" housing estate called, with tragic indignity ...
... Beechings.

Even the Downs Link path is diverted from the trackbed ...
... (through trees, left) via Station Road (right hand turn) before regaining its rightful route!

But onwards and southbound and we arrive at ...
... Steyning. Here, not only has the station been wrecking-ball brushed from existence, but so has the track itself.
The Steyning by-pass (A283, green) uses the former trackbed from south of Upper Beeding to just north of the old station site. The Downs Link path is also interrupted north of the town ...
... and is pushed off-l;ine and onto Wyckham Lane ("A") before rejoining the old track at Bramber and crossing the road south of the town to regain the railway formation.
Steyning station was substantial ...
... but is no more; likewise Bramber is a further casualty of the policy of pandering to the motor car.
As our virtual train approaches Shoreham-by-Sea ...
... we notice the huge structure that is/was the cement works.
Quarrying at the site dates back to at least 1751, but the modern demand for cement brough a major rebuilding between 1948 and 1951, the remains of which are still in place today.
The plant employed 250 personnel in 1968 that rose to 330 by 1981. After achieving a production rate of 250,000 tons of cement a year at its zenith (and perhaps surprisingly was still producing lime as well in 1971) during which it ate away a whole hillside, the works finally closed down in 1991.

Works sidings provided good business for the railway ...
... and the site had its own diesel shunter for internal use, which was still in its shed, rotting, in 2012!
The last section of the line runs alongside the river, over the crossing which leadd to the Lancing toll bridge ...
Then there was a steep climb up and over the Old Shoreham Road ...
... where the parapets are still in place.
The junction was a few yards to the west of Shoreham-by-Sea station ...
... and "branch" trains continued to run through to and from Brighton right to the very end.
In 1961 there were grand celebrations for the centenary of the line ...
... but sadly the huge numbers that turned out then did not turn out to travel regularly and closure came in 1966. A few railtour specials ran a short way past the cement works which continued to use rail after closure to passengers, this in 1979.
But, grab your bike or pull on your walking boots and the Downs Link will take you most of the way. No trains, no track but a few bridges and other remnants will, if nothing else, remind you that this was a working railway.

For the record, the Downs Link path and cycleway continues past Horsham and terminates at Cranleigh near Guildford.
But, starting this summer, you could replicate this Adur Valley branch line by bus; well nearly.

Tune in tomorrow, same time, same spot on the dial.

 Next bus/rail blog : Tuesday 26th August