Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Colours of Confusion or Confidence (1)

Simple Frequent Service Or Not?
Sheffield's superb tram service was so frequent, seven days a week, that it did not need a timetable. Most services ran every four minutes. The network grew by extension, but did not really change very much. A couple of lesser used routes disappeared quite early (Petre Street and Fulwood via Broomhill) and there were later extensions via Prince of Wales Road and Abbey Lane.

But trams ran from Crookes ...
 ... to Handworth as unchanging as the Laws of the Medes and Persians.
When buses supplanted trams, they, too, ran from Crookes ...
... to Handsworth much as before but now with route number 52.
Part of the service was extended to serve newer housing at Ballifield ...
... where the Everest Inn still trades!
A further extension in the mid sixties (?) took the 52 bus to serve new-build "council" housing on Badger Road ...
... and on to a terminus at what was optimistically called Woodhouse Station; Woodhouse Station approach road might be better!
But, broadly speaking, the 52 was a "straight line" route (with plenty of wiggles) from Crookes via the City Centre to Woodhouse Station.

Then along came Yorkshire Terrier to mess things up. Their 52 continued from Crookes down the hill via Walkley to Hillsborough and, at the Woodhouse end, took a completely different route ending up at Woodhouse village. Stagecoach endorsed the appropriated route number when they bought out Terrier!

It was confusing and VERY difficult to show on a map!
The net result was that you could catch a 52 travelling westbound along Badger Road into Sheffield Centre (First 52) OR you could choose a bus travelling eastbound along Badger Road into Sheffield Centre (Stagecoach 52).

But along comes the Sheffield Bus Partnership and made about the only positive decision it has ever made - namely to renumber First's 52 as 52a.

The Sheffield Network map explains things reasonably well.
The farcically bad "Underground" style map is less helpful.
Neither route serves Orgreave and you simply cannot work out which way the two different routes actually go. And the red is a different, more dismal, shade!

Now, wait at the eastbound stop on Waingate in the City centre and enjoy (?) the information in the frame.
Both routes are merged into one straight line and the colour is now blue.  The departure list is OK if you know where the buses go ...
... but totally mystifying to a newcomer. Yes, there are explanatory notes beside each time but they really don't tell you anything useful.

Now lets cross the roads and look at the 52 in the opposite (westbound) direction. One feature of the Sheffield Bus Partnership was that First Bus (now 52a) was extended beyond Hillsborough Interchange to Wisewood. Again the network map is OK.
The Underground monstrosity map is, exceptionally, right!
So let us wait on the opposite side of Waingate and observe the bus stop information for the 52 to Crookes, Hillsborough and Wisewood.
The 52/52a is not bright red anymore; the 52/52a is not dull red any more; the 52/52a is not blue any more - it has, for no reason at all, turned green. There is a line of route map (not photographed) which is a wiggly version of the straight line in the graphic above.

Neither explains the difference between a 52 and a 52a. The departure list is even less helpful:-
The tiny little notes beside the times tell you which company operates that bus; z Stagecoach, y First .

The red text says this:-

Bus times shown in bold red terminate at Hillsborough or Worrall (no mention of Wisewood at all - there are a few schoolday trips to Bradfield School at Worrall)

Certain journeys within the frequency section may (may?) also terminate at these locations. (What exactly does that mean to Joe Public?)

So how do you find out where your bus is going?

Visit travelsouthyorkshire.com to view the full timetable or ask the driver for more infromation. Whatever you do, do NOT rely on this notice because it will not tell you what you want to know.

Pathetic nonsense on a pole - up the pole in fact!

Is there a better way?

You bet there is.

 Next confusion blog : Wednesday 18th July 

Monday, 16 July 2018

W.O.B.B.L.E.S.

Weariness Obligates Brief Blog
on Limited Expedition to Sheffield
The trip was to visit lorry-driving Dave in hospital, OUT on Saturday and BACK on Sunday. This blog is not the place to delve into Dave's debilities, but suffice it to say he has undergone a long period of surgery and recuperation, the last "op" being on Wednesday 11th. So the trip was exhausting, emotional and extremely hot; far too hot to be bothered with pictures of buses or trams.

Ticket Travesty
The very nice man at Axminster Station offered fbb "split ticketing" using five legs of off peak returns ...
... and issuing fbb with twelve bits of tangerine and pale green cardboard with a saving of £18 on the normal through fare. Of course such "deals" on a Saturday and Sunday have no time restrictions and fbb's plans to travel by Arriva (Deutsche Bahn) were fixed in stone, so no stress about the two-day schedule.

Why not simply reduce the price of the through ticket to match? Wasn't the "Rail Delivery Group" supposed to be sorting this out?

Diverted via Swindon
(click to enlarge the map)
CrossCountry could not whizz straight "up" (northbound) from Bristol because part of the orange army was doing something exciting to the tracks at Bristol Parkway. Rather than use buses, the clever people at Notwork Rail had arranged for trains to divert via Swindon between Bristol and Cheltenham. CrossCountry trains, as taken by fbb, do not serve Gloucester; the above is a GWR map.

This gave fbb the delights of Bath ...
... Box tunnel, and some of the remaining evidence of Brunel's "Railway Town" of Swindon.
But what ruffled the fbb feathers more than a twitch was this ...
... the really ugly, desperately over-engineered overhead structures that accompany the unfinished (never to be finished?) Great Western electrification. Surely all this metalwork is overkill? Compare it with the former standards on the Birmingham Cross-City line ...
It is no wonder that DaFT have declared that electrification is "unaffordable"!

But journeys both ways via the mega diversion were on-time.
The return run had the bonus of being an HST on a very leisurely schedule; with 30 minutes to enjoy the view of the platforms at New Street station ...
... and a further 15 minutes "waiting time" at the slightly more picturesque Bristol Temple Meads.
Exciting, eh?

Despite elongated timings, a thoroughly acceptable set of journeys. Once again the UK's railways were doing an excellent job under complex and difficult circumstances.

Hospital Horrors OR ...
If you thought Public Transport Information was rubbish ...
fbb entered the campus at the bottom right, having arrived on a service 88 (Stagecoach) at the Barnsley Road entrance to the Northern General Hospital.
Spot the mistake on fbb's first draft underground-style map!
David was in the "High Dependency Unit" (HDU) for recovery from surgery.

But there is no HDU on the map and no HDU on any direction signs! Help!

A very nice lady directed fbb up the "blue-grey" road towards the dark blue block. "When you get there," she advised, "ask someone to direct you round the outside, you'll get completely lost if you try it inside". But there was no one to ask; it was, after all, Saturday afternoon when. as a general principle, the NHS doesn't really like you to be ill.

fbb went inside and (entrance 11 - white on green blob) met another very nice lady who directed him back down the long yellow corridor towards here he had started; and advised, "when you get to the very end you are almost there".

Almost there, but sign-less.

Another nice man. "You've come too far! Go back up the (yellow) corridor, turn left past the lifts and you want Vickers.

Help! That seemed to be the whole of the purple area - absolutely huge!

But, after two further enquiries of very nice people he found himself at the end of a corridor.

"You just go up the stairs and ask in reception." was the final piece of advice.

And there, at the bottom of the stairs was THE VERY FIRST (and very last) sign to the HDU.

Thanks a bunch! All this peripatetic perambulation was in an atmosphere slightly more heated that the surface of the sun. fbb thought he might end up IN a bed, not alongside one.

The HDU, it turns out, is part of the Critical Care Unit - everybody knows that, of course.

fbb came out at exit 24 (or maybe 22 - they are not numbered on the building) with no idea where he was but, using his consummate sense of direction and his encyclopaedic knowledge of Sheffield's road network (i.e. by a pure fluke!!) made his was to a completely different entrance to the hospital.
It makes Sheffield's atrocious public transport information seem positively welcoming and helpful by comparison.

Just opposite were bus stops on Norwood Road ...
... where the old man was able to catch a service 97 (or was it 98?) back into the city, there to dine with the Colonel ...
... before catching a service 24 out to the Travelodge Richmond, which isn't at Richmond - it is not even at the Richmond in Sheffield. But, thankfully, fbb had been before - TWICE!

Despite the frustrations of the Northern General Hospital, the whole visit went well and much chat was had with Dave, albeit weakly from time to time from his and wheezily for most of the time from an exhausted fbb.

Tomorrow we will look again at some of the bus information frustrations in the centre of Sheffield.

Today's blog was not as brief as your author originally intended.

Oh, yesterday's puzzle pictures.
The bus was at Didcot Parkway providing a replacement service to Oxford so that Notwork Rail could work on the cancelled electrification for this route.

The bag, shown below with full multilingual detail is explained below.
Meerschweinchen    )
Cochons d'Inde     ) Guinea Pig
Porcellini d'India )

Futter    )
Aliment   ) Feed (for animals)
Alimento  )

fbb's No 3 son is fascinated by the propensity of the German language to create long concatenated words. Four separate works in French and Italian, just one on German.

 Next Sustainable Information blog : Tuesday 17th July 

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Sunday Snippets

Round About A Roundabout
fbb does not usually comment at length about roadworks, unless they radically affect buses. But a memory from his youth and a bit of trivial news come together to provoke the old man's interest.

In the mid 1960s, a slightly less f, and indeed a slightly less bb, would pay visits to London from his home on Northampton. One such trip involved a visit to Aldgate. For a country bumpkin from Northampton it was a terrifying place. Traffic was whizzing around at great speed;and getting from Aldgate Underground Station ...
... across the road to Aldgate Bus Station ...
... was, frankly, frightening. And this terror was 50 years ago! Think what it will have become today. Sadly, fbb never really new London's trolleybi and, as you can see from the picture above, the old notice (or even a more appropriate modern one!) no longer adorns the blank wall.
But a few days ago, the new Aldgate Square was officially opened with a performance from the local school choir and the usual adulatory speeches.
The aerial view shows how things were until recently.
See the mega "roundabout" (sausageabout) with the underground station in the middle and the bus station opposite. It even looked scary on a streetmap!
So what has changed? The bit of road linking Duke Place with Aldgate High Street has been closed completely to create the new square and traffic now runs in both directions around three sides of the former "sausage".
Apparently the result is that the whole area is less scary and much safer, traffic moves more freely and the buses don't get held up as much as they use to.

Well done whoever had the big idea!
fbb bought this book in the mid 1960s, at about the time he was being scared by Aldgate! At the end of a book full of many revolutionary ideas, the author, Colin Buchanan, suggested as a sort of "envoi" that authorities should try blocking off so-called busy road junctions with sandbags but without warning and "just see what happens".

Not many tried it.

Aldgate would suggest that bigger and whizzier is not always the best.

Another Rebuild Completed
When fbb opened his large tin of green paint to titivate his quarry rock face, he found that its contents had evolved into a slimy green alien life form. It had gone off! Big time.
Did fbb see the beginnings of an evolving eye in there?

Fortunately a brand called "Rustins" ...
... offered 250ml tins at a "reasonable" price (i.e. as expensive as any small tins thereof) and available post free on-line. Thus it was that a tin of Buckingham Green arrived in the fbb mail box.
With a bit more undergrowth at the base of the cliff things will look much better than Mrs fbb's decaying ex-bath towel. Job done!

Northampton Nonsense?
Northamptonshire is in absolute turmoil. Another chief executive has just resigned and has sidekick, the Chief Finance Office has jumped ship as well. The County has, effectively, withdrawn all tendered bus work leaving the rural areas of the county a desert waste as far as public transport is concerned.

With consummate incompetence and last-minute-itis some services have been rescued from the political and financial debris. Publicity? What publicity?

Well there is some!

Service 87, round the little villages to Towcester, was operated (on tender) by Country Lion.
Parish Councils have been emptying their piggy banks, developers have been coughing up "Section 106" money and the results, although poor, are better than nothing.

Stagecoach will operate a much reduced 87.
Then fbb's former bus route (Yorks from Bozeat to Northampton), that took the lad from home to Northampton Grammar for eight glorious years, was due to disappear completely. (click on these timetable extracts to enlarge them)
It goes a different way now, is numbered W8 in the Wellingborough town service series and was due to be withdrawn completely between Bozeat (pronounced "Bo-zhut") and Northampton. All that would be left would be an hourly service from Wellingborough.
Up pops an upstart.
No one seems to know who "Village Hopper" is, but appears to be run as a "Community Bus". But a very nice lady from Cogenhoe parish council has supplied a timetable to Centrebus (at their request) so that the replacement service can be found by the bereft former passengers.
Well done Centrebus!!

Where Am I?
The bus is from Bristol; it is going to Oxford but from where and why?
Answer tomorrow!

What Am I?
A puzzle picture from fbb's No 3 son.
With no transport interest or content. Answer tomorrow!

 Next rail diversion blog (possibly) : Monday 16th July