Thursday, 2 April 2015

A Jolly Day with 6, 6A! (4)

Okehampton for Lunch

Okehampton was founded by the Saxons. The earliest written record of the settlement is from 980 AD as "Ocmundtune", meaning settlement by the Ockment, a river which runs through the centre (so really should be Ockmenttown) . It was recorded as a place for slaves to be freed at cross roads.

Like many towns in the West Country, Okehampton grew on the medieval wool trade. Notable buildings in the town include
Okehampton Castle ...
... which was established by the Norman Sheriff of Devon, Baldwin FitzGilbert (d.1090) .and the Chapel of St James.
St James' Chapel is a Chapel of Ease, situated in the heart of Okehampton town. It is an ecumenical chapel and belongs to the town of Okehampton. It was restored in 1862 by Ashworth and is built of Medieval granite.There is Tudor and 18th century woodwork with a reader's desk and pulpit, the latter dated 1662.

Buses in the town include, in addition to the 6 and 6A, Stagecoach 5A (part of the take5 rebranding of services via Crediton) ...
... runs every two hours and and Plymouth Citybus 11... 
... running hourly.
This will be renumbered 46 in April to increase confusion (?). Plymouth seems to be struggling to get its network stable and (possible?) profitable throughout. Additionally there is a significnt number of local routes, too complex to cover in this blog.
Information at the main stops is excellent with (at the West Street time point) an up-to-date Devon "flag" ...
... augmented by a 6/6A stuck up version.
What was superbly helpful was a bus stop map of the town ...
... complete with up-to-date index. It would have been perfect had the cartographer remembered that Somerfield became the Co-op from 2008 onwards. But some good house points for Devon County. But not quite so good for leaving a Western Greyhound frame and timetable for their withdrawn 510; withdrawn from mid-February.
What was sadly missing from the centre of Oakhampton was anywhere to sit down in some semblance of comfort; bus stop perches are totally inadequate for either rest or for fbb's ample rear end.

Arrival from Bude was 1425, departure for Launceston was 1510.

So a late lunch was in order. Fortunately, right outside the 6 arrival stop was the splendid Turners Bakehouse ...
... which supplied pasty, cake and quavers to replenish energy resources for sitting on yet another Stagecoach bus for a potential two hours and ten minutes. Had fbb found Marion's cafe in St James Street (under previous ownerhip on Google Streetview) ...
... sitting down and lunch could have been combined. Will do the next time. Instead a lovely cheering potta was all that fbb purchased therein.
It's tough work, but it has to be tackled (the lunch and tea, not the bus!).

But the 1510 to Launceston was fast approaching (actually it wasn't; the 6A, too, was about 8 minutes late).
The bus was older (less new?) than the vehicle on the 6 but comfy and warm nonetheless. Here it is on arrival in Launceston with zero layover but just time enough to change staff and allow fbb a PNB.

More about the 6A tomorrow.
3,200 Years and Counting
In about 1200BC, Moses was inspired by God to lead his people out of slavery and on to Canaan, The Promised Land. But the Egyptian King (aka Pharoah) was not too keen to lose his labour force. The Bible records 9 "natural disasters" brought on by God via Moses: River turned to blood, frogs everywhere, gnats, flies, death of cattle, boils, hail,locusts and 24 hour darkness.  Each time the King said yes, then changed his mind.

The tenth plague was to be the death of the oldest child and animal (i.e. the firstborn). Moses gang were to protect themselves from the tenth plague by painting blood on their door posts.
Then "the angel of death" would pass over their houses. Devout Jews celebrated The Passover every year.

Jesus and his gang met to do just that on Thursday evening. He told them that he would be "The New Passover", that his blood would be used to save the people all over again.

Today's communion (or eucharist) service commemorates what Jesus did and said at his last supper.

He knew what was coming - and why.
 Final 6/6A bus blog : Friday 3rd April 

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Pre-Election Hype - With a Rider?

Breaking News from the CMA
It was once called the Competition Commission but, like everything else governmental, it has to be reconstituted and rebranded. But one of its purposes is still to stand up for the consumer.
So a report (published today) is of interest to bus management, less because it affects the public transport industry per se and more because it lauds bus and rail privatisation as a first rate exemplar of how consumers have benefited from competition. Some consumers and many transport operators may challenge the report's basis, but it does provide something of interest for the likes of fbb.
The report is 348 pages long with dozens of statistical tables, all far too detailed for an fbb blog. But some of the proposals re of interest.

Chapter 43 begins:-

Many bus companies do not publish their fares. Customers are required to choose, and board their service and then ask for the price. This can be annoying, but does ensure that destructive competition by price (fares) is harder to implement. The introduction of the Guaranteed Un-Revealed Selection System in the trial area should reduce the use of "loss leader" products.

The section goes on to propose that grocery prices are not shown on posters or advertisements, or listed on the shelves but only revealed after the customer has reached the checkout.

The Authority does, however, recognise the success of the rail industry in encouraging off-peak travel by offering very low prices. 
The plan is for Supermarkets to offer very cheap prices (on a small number of products) for customers shopping very early in the morning or late at night. Under this plan, Branston Baked Beans would be priced as below:-
The terms and conditions for these offers would, perforce, be incomprehensible to all but the most "savvy" shopper, but it would mean that companies could massage their overall pricing structture (in an appropriately named "basket" of offers) to convince the public that prices had not increased "overall".

The report saves its most revolutionary scheme till last. In the same way that bus operators must allow competitors to use their bus station even if they own it, big supermarkets will be obliged to allow local businesses to rent space in superstores and trade alongside, say Tesco.

The report cites an experiment in the town of Saxborough in Yorkshire's South Riding.
Here the Tesco Extra store was obliged to provide space for a local corner shop. The space had to be fairly allocated so that the corner shop could trade on an equal footing. The creation of the Office for Guaranteed Reasonable Unified Building usage (OffGrub) would arbitrate.
Small shopkeeper, 5 foot tall Rajesh Patel, is quoted (in the local press) as saying, "This has indeed been a bonanza for Mrs Patel and my good self. Our business is increasing an incredibly good deal. We are grateful to the wonderful English government and Her Majesty the Queen for allowing us to stuff our shelves and Tesco at the same time, goodness gracious me." Mr Patel is also chairman of the highly successful Saxborough Sterotypes Society and a leading voice in the community.

Tesco was unavailable for comment.

fbb has had barely enough time to digest the whole report, but it is, most definitely food for thought. Apparently the trial area (including Saxborough) will be reviewed after six months and we can expect a further report in exactly a year's time.

The report's author, Dolly Fariposa ...

... is emeritus professor of Policy at the Turin Institute of Rail and Road Transport.
Yorkshire Rider Rides Again
Another Heritage Livery from First Bus. (click on the bus to enlarge)
On 21 October 1988, Yorkshire Rider was privatised, being sold to a management buyout. In August 1989, the new company purchased West Yorkshire Road Car Company from AJS Holdings. In August 1990, the York businesses of Reynard Buses, Target Travel and York City & District were purchased. On 15 April 1994, Yorkshire Rider was purchased by Badgerline. It was included in the 16 June 1995 merger of Badgerline with GRT Group to form FirstBus.

The bus bears the name Brian Parkin.

January saw the funeral of one of Leeds' leading transport historians. Brian Parkin, who in addition to a career within the coach industry had also been editor of Metro Transport News for over fifty years, a substantial contributor to the five-volume set of books 'Leeds Transport' by the Leeds Transport Historical Society and served as an encyclopedia of knowledge to enthusiast organisations in West Yorkshire.

Nice touch, First.

Rider livery had numerous variations and several brand names (e.g. Gold Rider) but here is a preserved Leeds bus in the same livery as that adopted by First.

This blog was published (briefly) in error on Sunday 29th March - apologies for the confusion - fbb
How the win friends
and influence people.
Tell the nation's leaders that they are total failures!

Jesus was hungry. He saw in the distance a fig tree covered with leaves, so he went to see if he could find any figs on it. But when he came to it, he found only leaves ...

... because it was not the right time for figs. Jesus said to the fig tree, “No one shall ever eat figs from you again!”

Not very nice to the fig tree! But what did he really mean?

Trees are always a picture of the Jewish Nation. So Jesus was warning the leaders of the day that they were not "bearing fruit", not doing what God wanted. Because of this, they would lose their privileged status as "God's chosen people." They would not bear fruit again.

Severe, or what? But, in fact, the message of Christianity did not stay bottled up in the arid religion of the ancients; it spread like wildfire, all over the world.

But the criticism did not endear Jesus to the bosses. More tension!
 Next Bus Blog : Thursday 2nd April 

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Virgin on the Ridiculous?

Uncle Richard's Got a Bigger Train Set
Only he hasn't.

The two leading magazines that focus on current railway topics both have headline articles about Virgin Trains East Coast in their April (current) editions.
Modern Railways has the simple headline "Virgin Takes over East Coast" with a sub header "Middlesbrough Direct Service Planned." Rail Magazine is a little more "red-top" in its choice of tag line.
"Virgin Rules ECML at Third Attempt" is true in part, but hides some clever corporate machinations. The company branded Virgin that runs the west coast lines from Euston is 51% Branson (Virgin) and 49% Souter (Stagecoach). East Coast is a modest 10% Branson and 90% Souter. In fact Sir Brian has paid Sir Richard 10% of the shares in the new company for the privilege of using the Virgin brand.

So the Rail headline should read "Stagecoach Rules ECML at the Nth Attempt!"

fbb has been following the emails from the new company using the former nationalised East Coast Trains database where he is one of the millions.

 20th February 2015 

 Not quite. Nothing will chage/has changed from March 1st apart from the start of yet another livery for InterCity trains from Kings Cross. Ray Stenning strikes again!
"From a Railway Carriage" by Robert Louis Stevenson provides the historic and poetic quote. But there is one other stunning change from 1st March.
Our website 
It will be the same to use, but with more red and less purple. If you're registered with the site, your login and password will stay the same. We're changing the address to on 1 March. Don't forget to bookmark!

But there's more:-
Better trains 
A £21m investment will improve the interiors and reliability of our current trains, before the launch of 65 brand new state-of-the-art Super Express trains from 2018.

More services 
There will be more trains on existing routes and the introduction of some new destinations

New Nectar scheme 
Start collecting Nectar points from 1 March and carry on redeeming your existing Rewards Points up until 30 September

Better value fares 
Standard Anytime fares will go down by 10% for long distance journeys to/from London, from May 2015

Apart from the last of the four "improvements" this is non news and non Virgin/Stagecoach. Whichever coporate monster took over the franchise would have offered the first three. No 4 is interesting. The press headlines trumpetted  10% reduction in all Anytime fares from May; the website limits this to tickets to and from London.


 28th February 2015 
A last hurrah from East Coast. "Feel at Home" but we won't be there!

 8th March 2015 
The journey starts twice?
Hi fbb! We're thrilled to join you on the east coast,
and can't wait to make this already great service
even greater.
Boy do we have some exciting things planned.
Here's what's in store... 

 Hmm - again?

Much the same aspirational stuff with red colour and lots of twiddly graphics. A scrolling confuser screen.
A bright ideas flashing light bulb.
A new InterCity Express train - not getting very far on fbb's browser.
A speedo for speedy trains - eventually.
And an overall thumbs up for what will/might happen.
If the new services are as super jolly exciting as the graphics we are in for a real treat. But they won't be.

 19th March 2015 
More swirly graphis but much the same message. But this one looks interesting. "Meet a First Class Treat on Us"
Sadly the new super-duper web site doesn't work on many browsers; but fbb persevered and clicked on the "big red button", actually a small red panel with blue writing and a tiny white arrow.

Get on board and meet Virgin Trains East Coast first hand, in First Class style.
We're giving away 10 pairs of First Class return tickets to celebrate the launch of Virgin Trains East Coast.
To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is correctly answer the following question:
Which train company now runs trains on the East Coast route?

and the choices are:-
20 Tickets? Is that the best you can do?

fbb gave up the attempt; the question was too difficult!

Hmmm - yet again?

 26th March 2015 
Should that be "Ker-Ching"?
6 First Class tickets? So have 14 already gone? Or is this a lavish EXTRA six?

Hmm - for the last time?

For now!

Perhaps fbb really is getting old; but this hype seems very OTT (over the top) for something that hasn't changed in the slightest. If Sir Brian and Sir Richard are so delirious about a few sheets of red vinyl, what on earth will they come up with when something new actually happens.

In 2019?

P.S. Non-Virgin East Coast boss has announced timetable improvements as follows:-

From December 2015
Some Edinburgh trains extended to Stirling
Some Newcastle trains extended to Sunderland

From December (?) 2016
Four additional trains between Edinburgh and London.
Will these be trains currently terminating at Newcastle?
Don't you just get hot under the collar when someone gets the better of you in argument. Especially if you know they are right!

So they looked for an opportunity. They bribed some men to pretend they were sincere, and they sent them to trap Jesus with questions, so that they could hand him over to the authority and power of the Roman Governor. "Tell us, is it against our Law for us to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor, or not?”

If Jesus said "yes" he would have been in trouble with the Romans; if he said "no" he would be in troible with the Jewish authorities. Between a rock and a hard place.

But Jesus saw through their trick and said to them, “Show me a silver coin. Whose face and name are these on it?”
“The Emperor's,” they answered.

So Jesus said, “Well, then, pay to the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor, and pay to God what belongs to God.”

Great answer; appropriate in the run up to a General Election.  The tension rises yet another notch; but they'll get him in the end.
  Next bus blog : Wednesday 1st April