Saturday, 1 November 2014

Interesting Intersection of Interests [3]

to Stoke Bruerne at Last
Between Wellingborough and Northampton, the X4 has a bit of X-ness. After leaving Wellingborough on the old A45 (now A4500) it runs via Earls Barton ...
... home of a magnificently ancient church which featured on a commemorative stamp in 1972.
It is generally accepted that the church in Earls Barton was built around the end of the tenth century. Even though only the tower survives from the original church, this is one of the best examples of later Anglo-Saxon architecture.
The X4, X46 and X47 ...
... provide four buses an hour between Wellingborough and Northampton. In  the evenings and on Sundays, however, the X4 follows the "old" road to give a half hourly frequency on the "traditional" route between the two towns.

The fast "Nene Valley Way" offers fbb a bit of a nostalgiafest as it carves a gash through his childhood stomping ground at Little Billing. 
The village church, where the lad was a server (complete with long white frock), is top left and leading southbound is Church Lane. In that days of the lad's callow youthfulness, there was nothing southbound until the river Nene and the mysterious ancient encampment, Clifford Hill.
It guarded a ford over the river on the track between Little Houghton and Little Billing, although no-one knows why the ancients bothered!

Travelling south from Northampton itself, the X4 (joined by the X7) becomes a Northampton town service via Grange Park.
A little further south again was Courteenhall Road where, during fbb's brief trainspotting phase, it was possible to walk down the embankment, stand on top of the retaining wall and spot trains on the main line and on the Northampton loop. 
Alas, now, access would be well-nigh impossible; probably a good idea with 25,000 volts of big electricty close by! But the joy of plenteous Jubes, Scots, Pates, Prinnies and occasionslly 10000 and 10001 was one of life's great privileges. 
Today's bus would appear to be the half hourly X4/X7, but back then it was the hourly 325 to Stony Stratford.
Except that the X4/X7 wouldn't stop at the end of the lane as it runs (very) limited stop to Milton Keynes. The only offer for Courteenhall Road is the five times daily 86.
Notice that the 86 also serves Stoke Bruerne, home of the fascinating Canal Museum.
Thus it is that on Sundays, as well as being less than X at Peterborough and between Earls Barton and Northampton, our friend the Gold X4 diverts off the A508 for an additional stop at Stoke Bruerne.
A few weeks ago, it was at Stoke Bruerne that old and new were photographed by our Northampton correspondent, Alan. 
First delivered to Northampton Corporation Transport in 1947, this Daimler CVG 6 worked on the local bus routes covering 620,790 miles within the town boundary until it was withdrawn from service in 1964. It was then converted and used as a driver training vehicle during the period 1965-1969. After this, 154 saw little use and was eventually de-licensed in 1973. With the advent of the Greyfriars Bus Station in the mid-seventies however, 154 was given a further lease of life as a promotional vehicle to distribute information about this new town facility. After this task was over in 1978, the vehicle was simply stored in a shed at the back of the St James bus depot. Gone perhaps, but certainly not forgotten. The 154 Preservation Society was formed in 1990 and, since then, has spent over £10,000 restoring this wonderful vehicle.

It was while members of the Group had adjourned to the local hostelry and/or tea shoppe, that Stagecoach's 2011 Gold trundled past, providing us with a telling contrast in vehicle design, capacity and operation during 67 post war years. Wow, ANH 154 is two years younger than fbb; scary in the extreme.

And setting the old man off on his wider investigation of he X4.
Mappa Kernewek(?)
The map for the First Bus extended network in Cornwall appeared on-line yesterday. fbb reviews publicity for this change tomorrow. Full map (here).
 Next bus blog : Sunday 2nd November 

Friday, 31 October 2014

Interesting Intersection of Interests [2]

The Non-X X4 at Peterborough
Stagecoach's Gold X4 takes a fast route out of Peterborough on Monday to Saturday daytimes ...
... via Fletton Parkway, leaving the local roads in the hands of a traditional non-gold service.
Thus it is that Stagecoach 24 runs hourly from Peterborough to Oundle.
Alwalton is/was a pretty little village now swallowed by modernity ...
... but the "lay-by" stop is uninviting and almost invisible!
And so, on the Warmington.

Here, the 24 stops at "Big Green", according the timetable. Only it doesn't. The minimalstic stops are here ...
... on Orchard Close. There is a flag on on the far side of the "to Peterborough" shelter ...
... hidden by a road sign, but diddly squat for passengers in the other direction. It certainly is NOT "Big Green" which isn't a village green of immense proportions, but the name of a road ...
... and its a cul de sac to boot!

Anyway, on Sundays and in the evenings there is no 24, so passengers for Lynch Wood, Alwalton with its salubrious lay-by, Elton and Warmington may use the diverted X4.
But Warmington passengers beware. The X4 does NOT serve Big Green i.e. Orchard Close. It calls at Warmington services on the A605. An aerial view suggests that this is a reasonable walk from the village.
Services bottom left.

But there will be an opportunity for a cup of freshly made coffee and a Danish before setting off from the village, or even a tasty supper upon arrival to save cooking at home after a busy day travelling on buses. But, when we investigate ...
... the "services" stops look a little less inviting. But, behind the bus, there looks like a footpath through to the restaurant, Costalot Coffee shop and toilets.
The Warmington village web site is enthusiastic ...
... but Google Streetview is less encouraging.
And the web site link to Jen's Diner (or even Peranakan Cafe Restaurant?) draws a blank. Yep; it's closed and shuttered, probably permanently. Perhaps fbb will not plan to sample the "full English" after all. Oh yes, the 24 also stops there but the ever up-to-date Traveline and/or Google Transit calls it ...
... which it isn't and hasn't been for some considerable time.

Isn't public transport information fun and thrills all the way.

But wasn't this blog about Stoke Bruerne?

We will get there in tomorrow's blog.

 Next bus blog : Saturday 1st November 

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Interesting Intersection of Interests [1]

It started with Stoke Bruerne, more correctly a picture thereat ...

But it got a lot more complicated.
Stagecoach X4 runs hourly between Peterborough, Northampton and Milton Keynes, enhanced to every 30 minutes between Corby and Northampton. It became part of the "Gold" brand in 2011.
The through route takes 3 hours and 20 minutes although the Stagecoach web site doesn't believe that buses run all the way without some kind of break in service. 
Mentally glueing the bits together reveals that there is no X4 between Northampton and Kettering! It is astounding that Stagecoach should advertise one of its high quality prestige routes in such a potty and incompetent way. It gets worse of you search each heading for a timetable.

"Kettering - Corby" calls up Northampton to Corby (centre)
"Corby - Corby" delivers Corby local journeys
"Milton Keynes - Northampton" delivers what it says on the label
"Corby - Peterborough" ditto

Fortunately each of the above four web-page headers leads to the same PDF file.
The service does have some passing claim to its X for Express title because it uses "fast" roads from Peterborough to Oundle and from Earls Barton to Northampton.

But not in the evenings and on Sundays. Now the X4 ceases to be anything like X rated  and eschews all its daytime Monday to Saturday fast road bits.  The running time increases slightly to 3 hours and 25 minutes.
The non X route begins by serving Lynch Wood, Alwalton and Elton on its way to Warmington services.
click on the graphic to enlarge

[note for telly addicts: Dads Army was based in the fictitious Walmington (same pronunciation) on Sea; but no connection!].
The village is bang on the border of fbb's birth county. Northamptonshire used to have an extra bit eastwards, namely the Soke of Peterborough

The term soke (in Old English: soc, connected ultimately with secan, to seek), at the time of the Norman conquest of England generally denoted "jurisdiction", but due to vague usage probably lacks a single precise definition. In some cases soke denoted the right to hold a court, and in others only the right to receive the fines and forfeitures of the men over whom it was granted when they had been condemned in a court of competent jurisdiction. Its primary meaning seems to have involved seeking; thus soka faldae was the duty of seeking the lord's court, just as secta ad molendinum was the duty of seeking the lord's mill. The Leges also speaks of pleas in socna, id est, in quaestione sua (pleas which are in his investigation).

Although Peterburians would lay claim to being a separate legal county! Anyway, it was merged with Huntingdonhire in 1965 and handed over to Cambridgeshire under the 1974 re-organisation.

Befire we look in detail at the X4 in the Peterborough area it is worth reminding ourselves of the origin of the current Stagecoach "Gold" service.

United Counties developed a network of longer distance limited stop services under the Coachlinks brand. The X65 ran to Peterborough.
Stagecoach continued the brand but dropped some of the links, notably Northampton to Bedford which reverted to an "ordinary" bus route. Peterbrough to Northampton was eventually extended to Milton Keynes with the latter link now having two buses an hour. Leicester to Northampton X7 extends to Milton Keynes as shown below to provide that extra frequency ...
... although perhaps someone should tell the Stagecoach web spinners about the demise of Greyfriars bus station!

But we are rushing on ahead of ourselves. We first need to look a little closer at the Peterborough end.

 Next bus blog : Friday 31st October 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Revised Romsey Routes [2]

So What IS Happening?
In simple terms Stagecoach have merged the service 66 between Winchester and Romsey wthe two Cupernham/Woodley Romsey local routes. He is the situation up to last Saturday, 25th October.
The key lies in the desire to serve the new Abbotswood development, off Braishfield Road.
But it's Braishfield Road which creates confusion for the 66's new passengers. This is what Stagecoach's description says:-

In order to serve the Abbotswood housing development, alternate journeys will run either via Jermyns Lane and Winchester Hill, or Braishfield Road and Richmond Lane.

But surely, to get from Jermyns Lane to Winchester Hill, you need to use Braishfield Road? And if those buses go that way, then both versions go via Braishfield Road? The map on Traveline is. as usual, no use whatsoever.
The map on the Stagecoach web site is much better ...
There's a red dotted route and a red dashed route, both of which are covered by an explanation on the map. Which leaves the pink line, a complete secret from Stagecoach. The timetable is clear, to a point.
Richmond Lane (Cupernham) is on the map as part of the dotty route. Presumably Woodley Viney Avenue is on the other, dashed, route. But Viney Avenue is not on the map. We may guess that it is a side road off Winchester Hill.

But it's that 0700 departure from Winchester that calls at neither which is the mystery. But fbb knows all (hopefully).

The easiest way is to use clear route numbers rather than calling everything "66" even if it goes a radically different way.

The route that is nearest to the "old" 66 ...
... approaches Romsey along The Straight Mile, turns along Braishfield Road to the new roundabout at the entrance to Abbotswood.
Here the "66" does a u-turn, runs back along Braishfield Road a tad then enters Romsey via the reverse of the former local route 33.

On the other half hour the route designated "66A" by fbb is more "new" than the diverted 66. It runs via Jermyns Lane, then via the full length of Braishfield Road ...
... and joins the "old" 66 through Woodley.

Which leaves that 0700 from Winchester and, possibly, the top secret pink line on the Stagecoach map. But how can we find out? The answer is to delve deeply into Traveline and peruse its "all stops" timetables. These are huge!
The stop names are, as ever, utterly misleading. Crampmoor Jermys Lane is where the "66" and "66A" diverge. The "66" via "The Straight Mile" is shown as calling at Crampmoor (again!), Woodley and Romsey before "Braishfield opp Woodley Close" ...
... which isn't at Braishfield (over a mile away) but IS the stop for Abbotwood. The "66A" at 0642 calls at two tops labelled Abbotswood which aren't, but joins the "66" after its u-turn at Woodley Close. The next bank of stops and times shown something new.
The "66B" (that mysterious 0700 from Winchester) does something different.
After being a "66A" via Jermyns Lane and calling at Abbotswood roundabout it then follows the reverse of the former 32 via Woodley Lane to Cupernham, then via Ashley Meadows, some industry and the railway station ...

... before arrivng at Romsey Bus Station.

fbb has worked it out (give the old man a peanut!) BUT for Stagecoach the "66B" remains a closely guarded secret. Will anyone ever know? Does the Stagecoach management realise how difficult it all is? Do they care? fbb expects these journeys to disappear at the first re-organisation. 

And another secret. What is this blue dotted line on the Abbotswood site plan?
Well, the bit at the bottom left is labelled "bus only road" on some maps. Is the cunning plan to route all versions of the 66 via the estate as soon as all the roads are available?

We must wait and see.

Until then, let's hope potential passengers can unravel the various mysteries. It's tough travelling by bus.


Since preparing the above blog, Stagecoach have had another attempt at a map. The pretty colours help (a bit!) but the "green" route is still unexplained on the timetable.
It would be much easier if they used different route numbers. Oddly, however, they've used the same colours as fbb; great minds think alike?

 Next bus blog : Thursday 30th October