Sunday, 30 August 2015

Joyous Preposterous Imberbus

On a cold winter’s evening back in 2009, over a few pints in a Bath pub, four transport professionals came up with the idea of running a bus service to the village of Imber on Salisbury Plain.

Following lengthy negotiations with the Ministry of Defence at a very senior level, the Bath Bus Company was permitted, with the cooperation of several other operators, Transport for London and Wiltshire Council’s Transport Department, to run a bus service 23A from Warminster to the village of Imber on 5th September 2009. Operated as an ordinary local bus service using former London Transport Routemaster buses, the service proved to be very successful and so has now become an annual event, with services now extending beyond Imber to the villages of Market Lavington, Tilshead and Chitterne, plus other remote locations on Salisbury Plain, such as New Zealand Farm Camp and Brazen Bottom.

Two of the bus professionals were former London Transport supremo, Peter Hendy (without the silly hat) ...

... and London Buses boss Leon Daniels.
Martin Curtis, director of the Bath Bus Company (BBC) ...
... is also a "leading light".

BBC actually handles the service registrations which enlarges the preposterousness of it all. How crazy can it be that RATP (the Paris bus and metro operator and owner of BBC) is technically running buses to an unoccupied isolated village on one day a year with vehicles supplied by London bus companies?

Anyway, thanks to two kind contributors, fbb can publish a series of pictures of the weirdness of this excellent day.

First, a batch of routemasters, two old and one new, the latter better known as a Borismaster.
Then there was Ensignbus's open topper ...
... and a multicoloured Borismaster.
London Buses, of course, now have to be completely red - except when they aren't!

Also at Imber was the London Northern routemaster coach.
It was all slightly surreal.
The timetable provided a bus every 30 minutes between Warminster and Imber itself ...
... whence journeys continued across firing ranges ...
... and out the other side to the relative sanctity of some picturesque Wiltshire Villages.
And if the thought of catching a bus to Brazen Bottom or New Zealand isn't the ultimate in preposterousness, how about a ride on this?
LH 8186 has been "done up" in World War 1 disguise as part of recent commemorations; and it, too, ran to Imber. Glorious. Here it is "as normal".
And as a special treat (fbb thinks, but is not sure) you could have been driven by Leon Daniels, sir, himself.
What an amazing day. 

Who says buses aren't interesting?

 Sadly (in some ways), fbb was in Shoreham-by-Sea. Maybe next year? 

By the way; refreshments were available ...
... but there was a sobering warning on the timetable leaflet.

What other facilities are available at Imber?
The short answer is almost nothing! As Imber is normally closed to the public there are no shops, no permanent toilets and no mobile phone reception. We therefore strongly recommend that you prepare for this before you board the bus (the nearest public toilets will be at Warminster Station and alongside Warminster Central Car Park).

Could be a struggle for the likes of fbb!

Profits from the day are donated to the Royal British Legion and Imber Church.

Tomorrow we conclude our look at trams (and a few buses) in Besançon, France. Rather ordinary (yawn?) by comparison with Imber.

Thanks to John and Northampton correspondent Alan for loadsa stuff.

 Next Besançon blog : Monday 31st August 

Saturday, 29 August 2015

No "Clever" Rhymes : Just Imber

Glance at a map of Salisbury Plain today and you will see ...
... not a lot. That's because the Ministry of Defence grabbed most of the land for use in military training. But in the middle of that white bit (above), near the tiny blue arrow, was the village of Imber.
The name and the village are still there on larger scale maps but inaccessible to the public. In 1943 the inhabitants all received a letter.
In summary the letter, dated 1st November, said, "We are the Ministry of Defence; you are our tenants; there's a war on ...

To this end I enclose your formal notice to quit ... it is confirmed that there will be no objection ... if it assists you, you may remain in your dwelling on sufferance until December 17th 1943. It must inevitably occasion direct expense for which you have no legal redress.

... so get out!

And that was it. Limited help was offered and there was a hint of possible return; which has never happened. The folk had 47 days to find somewhere to live!

The picturesque village was progressively demolished ...
... including houses built as recently as 1938.
These properties were subsequently replaced with "outline" buildings suitable for the army's pop-gun practice.
A few farm buildings were left, plus the church ...
... and Imber Court.
Historically, Imber had an occasional bus service; Thursdays only in 1925 ...
... upped to Thursdays and Saturdays in 1938.
But, last Saturday, buses to Imber were much more frequent.
And apparently run by Transport for London (?); with a gap of 100 miles between Imber and the Capital!

Why and how will be the subject of tomorrow's blog.

As a sort of PS, many people have expressed concerns that such a short notice eviction was possible. Here is a troubling YouTube opinion.
How to mess things up - BIG TIME
An exercise by Travel South Yorkshire

1. Close all enquiry offices
2. Thus student "passes" have to be obtained on line
3. No problem - except

16-18 Student Pass
**MyTSY is currently unavailable**
We are experiencing interim technical difficulties with MyTSY. We apologise for any inconvenience caused, we are working hard to get the site up and running and hope to have everything back to normal as soon as possible. Please check our Twitter feeds at @TravelSYorks or @TSYalerts or our Facebook page for the latest news.

26th August
MyTSY is back up and running this morning. We will continue to monitor the system over today and apologise for any inconvenience caused.

27th August
MyTSY is currently unavailable. We continue to experience interim tech difficulties.We apologise for the inconvenience for our customers.

28th August
MyTSY & pass application availability: intermittent service now available, although intermittent problems remain which we are working on.

4. So there will be chaos for all Students expecting concessionary travel.

Finally managed to register after hundreds of attempts but thats about as much as I can get every time I try to apply for a travel pass for my son it says there is a problem. Ridiculous as if I have time to constantly sit at the computer trying to get a travel pass. Its annoying as it is that for the month of August they have had to pay full price since his pass ran out but couldn't apply for student pass until he had enrolled at college and then the system doesn't work.

5. But it will be ideal for intermittent students.

SOLUTON : Open an enquiry office! There is a good site at the Pond Street bus station in Sheffield.
 Next Imber blog : Sunday 30th August 

Friday, 28 August 2015

Besançon [4 : Beautiful Big Trams]

Le 18 Décembre 2008, le conseil de la communauté d'agglomération tire le bilan de la concertation publique et approuve le projet de référence,  du tramway. Le tracé retenu est une ligne (1) comprenant une fourche (2) afin de desservir la gare Viotte.

The decision to go ahead in 2008 came after four years of debate and consultation. The system would be standard gauge rather than the previous metre. This was a decision prompted by the possibility of future tram-train take-over of some SNCF lines.

The system, for a town the size of Worthing, consists of one main route running from south-east to north-west with a short branch to the Gare Viotte, the main SNCF station for the town. The service runs as line 1 (full length) and Line 2 from south-east to station. Amidst much celebration, services started in September 2014.
Two practical problems arose as fbb sought to prepare this review. [1] Google Streetview, a valuable source of atmospheric piccies, is erratically updated, sometimes with tram, sometimes without. [2] Lorry driver Dave explored one evening  and light was fading fast, so his pictures are not comprehensive. But fbb will try to give a flavour of the line. (click on the maps for larger versions)
We will start from Hauts de Chazal (south-east) where we find one of the many Park and Ride sites ...
... and the depot. The line follows main roads with reserved track in the centre (or to one side) as here on Avenue Île de France; before ...
... and after.
Clientele will emanate from high density blocks, offices and industrial premises en route.

Once the river Doubs is reached, the new line eschews the narrow roads of the traditional and ancient centre ...
... and diverts round the edge ...
... crossing the river four times.

Pont Charles de Gaulle (tram stop Chamars)

Pont de Canot (tram stop Canot)

Pont Battant (tram stop Battant)

Pont de la République (tram stop République)

Observant readers will have spotted the label "Pôle St Jaques" associated with stop Chamars. In this useage,  "Pôle" means "interchange"; and it does mean "interchange" unlike the Birmingham nonsense of recent blogs. The tram and bus company provides excellent isometric maps of each of these ...
... complete with details of what stops where, of which just part is shown below.
Birmingham, enjoy and learn! There are three such interchanges on the tram network, plus one at a bus "node", plus, of course, the railway station.

On Monday, we shall complete our tram ride(s) and have a quick glance at buses as well.

Plenty more to enjoy.

  Next UK bus blog : Saturday 29th August 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Besançon [3 : Beauregard Bregille]

These three residents of Besançon (France), interviewed by TV channel France 3 in 1972, did not know it existed. The editor of this magazine ...
... lived there in 1970 and 1971 and he didn't know. Funimag is an on-line magazine about Funicular Railways!

Personnellement j'ai vécu à Besançon en 1970 et 1971 et je n'ai jamais eu connaissance de l'existence de ce funiculaire!

Besançon has (more correctly "had") a funicular railway. It linked river and railway with the developing village of Bregille. click on the picture for a larger image.
The river Doubs is far left, followed by a local railway line; Bregille is the little collection of properties in the top right. The strange shape, like a white crop circle, is Fort Beauregard ( in English "nice view") ...
... built in the early 19th century when this bit of France was swapping ownership with Austria and Spain. The funicular, which built in 1912 and opened in 1913, ran across the top of the picture and is currently VERY difficult to spot on Google Earth etc. But here it is in its early days ...
... leaving the base station and ...
...arriving at the top. The line attracted significant interest in 1972, its 60th birthday year with a flurry of photos ...
... and that news report from France 3.

Three staff were needed; a driver ...
... who controlled the cars from the top; and a "receveur"  (conductor) in each car ...
... to collect the fares. By 1972 the hours of operation were significantly reduced ...
...and the cars were looking very "tired".
The service hung on until 1987 when it finally closed, despite having "modernised" the cars. Removal of anything useful happened in the following year.
The lower station plus one car (replica with no track!) remains as a memorial to the line.
The upper station is still remarkably intact and just about spottable on Streetview ...
... but better seen from a non google-viewed track alongside.
The "Friends" association would wish to rebuild and reopen the line, but ...

If you were to visit Besançon, you can take a footpath, the "Sentier de l'Aiguille" (The Needle Path) ...
... which runs alongside the track. Worth a visit?

But after such a nostalgia-fest, we need to report on the new tramway; a very different kettle of fish from the previous effort.

 Next Besançon blog : Friday 28th August