Tuesday, 24 May 2016

What's in a Name? Not Much in Leicester ...

... If The Name is Haymarket!
Here is the entrance of the new Haymarket bus station in Leicester.
This entrance is on Charles Street. The other way-in is on Haymarket, then?
Erm, no. This more imposing portal is on Belgrave Gate.
Well, so what. Perhaps the old Haymarket bus station was on Haymarket?
No. It was also on Charles Street. Weird.

In fact, the Charles Street bus station only opened in 1994 as support to the refurbishment of the Haymarket Shopping centre ...
... which is doubtless why the illogical and geographically inaccurate name was chosen.The First Bus Travel Office is located in the Haymarket Centre building right next door to the new (and the old) bus station.
Haymarket (the road) starts at the clock tower and runs for less than 100 yards northbound. Although the exact length is disputes, it never quite reaches the entrance to the bus station.
Belgrave Gate and Charles Street have not been the most beautiful parts of central Leicester for some time, here (Belgrave Gate) in the declining 60s ...
... and here in a more declined 2015.
So the new bus station is a breath of fresh air for this rather seedy area. The new set-up is of a line of head-on bays with passenger areas completely under cover.
The pictures from now on come from some YouTube videos of the "preview" day where conventional bus services shared the bus station with heritage vehicles.

Three "generations" of Corporation livery are seen here; maroon and cream, reversed cream and maroon, and, right at the end, "modernised" red, white and grey.
We will now take a look around.

Toilets? Yes.

Information panels? Yes.

Big departures screens? Yes.
But why, oh why (as they say!) do planners insist on displaying departures in time order. If yo go to a bus station, you will almost certainly be looking for your bus route - so why not display in route number order?

The various press releases make reference to real time" displays, but, assuming the Leicester deep throat confuser follows convention ...
... the majority of services are showing timetabled time.

Before we look at the rest of the new bus station, a little nostalgia from the "preview" day. The Midland Red single decker was showing X68 ...
... which ran all the way to Birmingham. And Barton was showing service 12.
Neither of these routes served the Haymarket departure area, and neither runs today.

Tomorrow, we will look more closely at publicity for the new building; and at publicity in the new building.

 Next Haymarket blog : Wednesday 25th May 

Monday, 23 May 2016

The Excellent X53 (3)

But Fragile For Forward Forays
The "old" (Summer 2015) X53 provided three through journeys between Exeter and Poole; the full "Jurassic Coaster".
And three full-length runs in the opposite direction.
Indeed, if your dedication to bus travel was extreme (or insane!) you could catch the 0900 from Exeter, enjoy 21 minutes in Poole and get back by 1840. Whilst few would tackle the round trip, many have done the trek in one direction linking the opposite leg by train. Umpteen years ago, fbb travelled from the Isle of Wight via Westbury to Exeter, then X53 to its original terminus at Bournemouth and back to the Island.

Sadly such through journeys are nowless avaialble and connections are very poor. There are two "through" paths from Exeter (one not available on Satyrdays) ...
... and two from Poole.
The schedules offer plenty of opportunity for refreshment breaks and breaks to get rid of some of the refreshment! But "cross-border" travel is not likely to be too popular. But fbb was catchng the 1336 from Weymouth with a five minute change at Lyme and an opportunity to have a look at the X52 back to Seaton

Ideal.

But what a silly blogger he was!

There was the X54, enjoying its leisurely layover right next to the X53 stand.
If the timetable is correct, the X53s arrive at Weymouth at xx36 and depart at the same time. fbb's bus was a couple of minutes late arriving and then had to load a respectable 30 excited souls.
The consequence of a 5/6 minute late departure then materialised spectacularly at Abbotsbury. The "to Wemouth" working passes at xx09; fbb weas due past at xx04. Guess where the twain were to come together? Here at the junction of Rodden Row and Church Street ...
... where the main road turns sharp eight for West Bay and Bridport.

Buses need the full width of the road to make the turn ...
... and the meeting was full on but at 90 degrees.

Fortunately on-coming 1409 had enough room to back up a bit and the 1404 was able to reverse down Church Street (on the left).
After a certain amount of mutual shuffling, the manoeuvres allowed on-coming to be on-going and, with a little more delay, fbb's vehicle proceeded towards West Bay - arrival 12 minutes late. Here another clutch of passengers ensured that departure was 15 minutes late.

5 minute connection with X52 - phooey!

In fact the X52 was running late as well, but frustratingly as fbb turned into Bridport Coach Station the X52 turned out. Connection missed. Also on board was a lady "of mature years" who was travelling all the way from Poole to Exeter complete with huge case and only slightly less huge hand luggage. (So there are a few who do!)

She was not at all pleased!

The admirably patient driver advised 9A from Lyme Regis but did not know the times. In steps fbb, already prepared for this particular back-up. "1535 from Lyme Regis."

The X53 stopped at the Square in Lyme at exactly the time of the 9A of which there was no sign. Mrs Lotsa-Luggage asked fbb three times when the bus was due, then attempted to read the timetable, then accosted three other waiting passengers. They were not from Barcelona but, in true Manuel style, they knew nothing. By now she was in full panic mode.

At 1545 the errant 9A passed on its way to Kingsway, about 15 minutes late.
It was, of course, the first day of Devon County Show at Westpoint.
Westpoint is on the A3052 just outside Exeter.

Whilst waiting for this excitement to evolve, fbb was then accosted by two "little old ladies" with their travel problem. "Why is it," their spokeswoman aggressed, "that the times of the X53 on the computer are completely different from the times at the bus stop?"

Good question.

But fbb was also able to download the old X53 timetable from which the extracts at the head of the blog were taken. The internet is full of out-of-date stuff; Webberbus is all still there, for example and Mrs Grumpy's X53 timetable is present on:-

www.southlytchettmanor.co.uk
http://www.shortlake.eu
www.devon.gov.uk/devel/x53_weymouth.pdf
www.beaminster.net
http://puncknowle.net/local-information

plus these which refer. There are many, many others.

As the dear lady said, "How am I supposed to know that the internet is wrong. I don't know which company runs it, its just the X53. I've never heard of Traveline, what's that?"

She has got a point, you know. But then it is all on the internet!

But there is a deep seated question here. If the service X53 is difficult to run to time on a dismal Thursday in May, what is it going to be like when (if?) we get some sunshine and the visiting holidaymakers seek bus travel?

And talking of corporate on-line information. Here is the twitter output from (Buses of) Somerset as revealed yesterday afternoon at about 1700. Three screens as below. In case the shots are too small for your phone/laptop/tablet, fbb has copied the text below each. Or you can click on the pic to enlarge it.
3 hours ago: Good afternoon for (sic!) Bridgwater team All Sunday services running to timetables Team bridgwater Dell
7 hours ago: Priory Bridge Rd, Obridge Viaduct & Priorswood Rd to the St Andrew Gyratory system, then in to the Rail Station. 2/?
7 hours ago: Opposite direction in to the Station to normal, serving the temp stop. Then via Kilkenny to re-join the normal route on Kingston Rd 3/?

Thanks a bunch!

The Buses of Somerset Facebook page has this ...
... which may explain the twittering on the "national" web site. And, yes, it is fuzzy on-line as well.

Tomorrow, running even later than an X53, we will look at a brand new bus station.

 Next Haymarket Blog : Tuesday 24th May 

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Excellent X53 (2)

Wanderings and Wonderings in Weymouth.
Mrs fbb had suggested (firmly) that hubby should take a mac last Thursday and, as forecast, precipitation precipitated in the early afternoon. But we are ahead of ourselves. This "jolly chappie" ...
... is Simon Newport, boss of First Bus in Weymouth and Yeovil. He had asked for a chat with your author and was prepared to come to Seaton. "Nay," quoth fbb, "It behoves me to travel by X53 to Weymouth and back. It will make a nice day out (and provide material for a blog or two)."

Mr Newport, fbb was informed by a hi-vis adorned First Bus person as he approached the King Street entrance (back gate) ...
... together with "the management" had moved out of the depot itself into palatial offices (NOT), obviously once residential property complete with shop fronts on the main road.
Was this, in times past, the Southern/Western National booking and enquiry office, well situated opposite the station? Wouldn't it be a jolly good ideas to open up the "shop" and make publicity readily available. Tourist Information is miles away at the old harbour, so where might a visitor go to collect the superb Weymouth timetable book?
Of course, in those long-lost days when everyone took a week's holiday at the seaside ...
... the station (here in 1926) was very busy indeed!

But boss Simon has a view of the smaller modern station building from his office window.
fbb mused idly, whilst waiting for his cuppa, about the so-called good old days ...
... and the not so good old days of the minibus revolution.
Now wasn't that, with the benefit of hindsight, a really daft idea. How to make money; pay four drivers to carry that same number of passengers as one single deck bus - a superb business model.

fbb also remembered when his ride from Axminster would have been via Dorchester and on a through service 31 from Weymouth to Taunton.
Now that would have been a ride and a half.
But awakened from his reverie, it was back to reality. What "goss" did fbb glean from young Simon. Actually nothing very surprising, but, nevertheless, indicative of the pressures of running (trying to run?) a profitable bus company at the seaside and dependent on the vagaries of British weather.

1. Cold Easter, April and May; visitors down; profits down?

Torrential rain and high winds have been a blow to Weymouth traders over Easter – but business owners remain positive ahead of summer. A sunny Good Friday gave way to a wet and windy Easter weekend as Storm Katie battered Dorset, turning the end of the Bank Holiday into a washout. And the weather has remained unsettled since then. The sudden switch from beach to brolly weather proved difficult for a number of local enterprises that rely on the tourist trade.
“Weather is massive factor for us,” said Daren Deadman, of The Boat cafe on the Esplanade. “The days that were nice, we were busy, so it was an average Easter for us.”

2. The hourly service between Weymouth and Axminster; and the half hourly frequency between Bridport and Axminster (X53 plus X51) seem to be working. fbb was, initially, doubtful; now he is not so sure.

3. The amount of money that Dorset pays to bus companies for each Old Bid journey is laughably inadequate. First Bus earned £1.60 for fbb's four hour return journey between Axminsterr and Weymouth.

4. (unsaid but obvious) Splitting the former X53 into three chunks will help that inadequate OAP scheme to deliver just a few more pennies.

5. Running buses at the seaside is a tough business.
fbb and Simon discussed the X52 Lyme Regis to Exeter via Seaton. Unsurprisingly it is not an instant success, partly following on from the cutbacks in October 2015 and now with Stagecoach buses running every hour from Lyme Regis to Exeter.

Bravely, fbb asked if the X52 would remain for the winter. The bus watchers rumour mill is adamant that it won't. The Weymouth Boss was not forthcoming at this stage but did proffer his desire to keep it going if possible.

Not possible thinks fbb; the damage done last October is terminal. But there was the smell of optimism in the air, so maybe something will emerge.

fbb left the office feeling the the Weymouth area was in good hands. Thanks for the opportunity for a chat.
Time for lunch in a lovely little caff opposite the station.
A modest all day breakfast with a potta ...
... supplemented by an almond slice for pud, all for about £6; eaten al fresco to watch the world and the buses go by. The tall (!) young gell (of oriental extraction) did offer fbb a "spreener" with his tea, which he dutifully and ignorantly declined. On the bus back, he worked out that he could have had a tea-strainer!

The original plan was take a trip or two on Weymouth local services ...
503 looked interesting ...
... as the bus runs into the private roads of the park.
But dark clouds were looming, so fbb cobbled together a plan B. 1336 service X53 ro Bridport, then a five minute connection onto the X52 to Seaton.

But ...

 Next X53 blog : Monday 23rd May