Saturday, 19 April 2014

Improve the Service : Make it More Complex [3]

 fbb had intended to publish this blog later on in May, but a comment on "Improve the Service : Make it More Complex [2]" (read again) encouraged a touch of "bringing forward". Service changes herein discussed start on Sunday 25th May.
["thinks" similarly, methinks] So, the answer, of course, is:- not very long at all!

A package of "improvements" to the X53 and its associated service 31 has been announced in the excellent Weymouth area timetable book.
An advertorial panel hints at the changes ...
... by bringing the former 31 into the "refreshed" Jurassic Coaster Brand as X31. The present 31 has become very unreliable of late and has often failed in one of its advertised purposes, namely to give a rail link from Axminster to Lyme Regis and from Dorchester South to Bridport. fbb reported on atrocious late running last Summer.
See "Loitering Ruefully in Lyme Regis [1]" (read again)
See "Loitering Ruefully in Lyme Regis [3]" (read again)

To address this, so says the publicity, the 31 ...
... becomes the X31 ...
... and will no longer run to and from Weymouth. What the blurb does not say is that daytime buses (with a couple of peak hour exceptions) will not run via Matrinstown ... 
 ... but whizz direct along the A35.
From an hourly service to very little seems a bit of a downer for the regular bus-riding Martinstowner.
A petition is already underway. This from Andy Canning's local blog:-

First Bus Group have recently announced plans to withdraw their hourly bus service from Martinstown and Winterbourne Steepleton and run the 31 service along the A35 instead. First Bus are proposing just one early service to Dorchester for workers and one return at the end of the afternoon.

This will cause real problems for local residents who don’t have access to a car and need to get into town for shopping or medical appointments. Please sign and return my petition which I am delivering to every house in both villages. If we can get a really big response I hope we can change First’s decision. I will also be pressing First to come to a local Public Meeting so they can hear first-hand the problems this change will cause.
X31 timings at Dorchester South and Axminster stations are similar to the previous offering, so it remains to be seen whether the unreliability problem has been tackled by these "improvements".

So what about the X53? Presently this offers a splendid run between Poole and Exeter every two hours.
Last year the vehicles gained a new branding for what has become a fully commercial service ...
... once supported by Dorset and Devon Councils. It, too has an "improved" timetable Over part of the route the frequency is "upped" to hourly ... 
... namely over the busiest section between Weymouth and Lyme Regis. fbb is not yet sure how buses will turn in Lyme; let's hope that First's planners have worked it out! But in the other direction ...
... the through route is severed. This means that passengers from west of Lyme Regis seeking to enjoy the whole run eastwards beyond Weymouth will have an hour's wait somewhere along the middle section. This makes such journeys far less attractive and may be confusing for interepid travellers attempting a return journey.

But look at Bridport to Lyme Regis! An X31/X53 bus every 30 minutes (approx) must be the best frequency there has ever been.

So, as with the Stagecoach route 700 blogs last week, there are winners and losers in these enhanced services. Three rousing cheers for First in their attempts to do some positive things, but a word or two of caution. Will customers be lost (for ever?) as a result of the disadvantages?
fbb doesn't see much hope for the Martinstown petition considering the other needs of the revised X31. Maybe the villagers will also decide to settle on one name for their community. Its historic title is Winterbourne St Martin.

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 8 of 9 Easter Oddities 
Easter Saturday? No. no and definitely no! Pedants unite!

Today is "Holy" Saturday. Easter Saturday is the Saturday of Easter Week which starts on Easter Sunday. Easter Saturday this year is 26th April, by which time most of us will have forgotten chocolate eggs and fluffy bunnies. Many of us will not even have remembered what Easter is really about.

Today is the day when nothing happened!
To avoid breaking Sabbath Rules (Jewish Sabbath is Saturday which starts at sunset on Friday), the body was hurriedly removed from the cross and taken to a borrowed tomb by arrangement with the Roman Authorities. The tomb was sealed and guarded, just in case.

In case of what?

The people were still marvelling at everything Jesus was doing, when he said to his disciples, “Don't forget what I am about to tell you! The Son of Man is going to be handed over to the power of human beings.” But the disciples did not know what this meant; they could not understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about the matter.

He also told them, “The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death, but three days later he will be raised to life.”

No serious reader would deny the existence of Jesus [although a few "fruitcakes" might!] ...
... the evidence for his life and work is far stronger than that that for any other historical figure of the time; stronger even then many more recent big hitters. Bill Bryson's excellent book on his playwright namesake reminds us how little we know for certain about Shakespeare ...
... far less than we know for certain about Yeshua bar Yusuf, the historical Jesus. But the real challenge begins on that Sabbath Saturday evening, or overnight, with another thought provoking incident.

Why did highly trained guards, armed and responsible for their entombed body with their lives on the line, simply run away?

Very odd.
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 Next bus blog : Sunday 20th April 

Friday, 18 April 2014

fbb Gets Political - Ooh-er!

Like many rural areas, huge parts of Wales are facing the probability (certainty?) of cuts to the funding for their bus services. A BBC news video clip can be viewed (here) together with extra editorial text.

Wales is struggling with its bus services. There are problems with reimbursement for Senior Citizens' free travel; the replacement for the former Fuel Tax rebate and the overall level of money available for "tendered" services.
The biggest bus operator in Wales is to close its depot at Brynmawr in the Gwent valleys in July, putting 77 jobs under threat. Stagecoach is blaming a "misguided" drop in funding from the Welsh government and reduced local authority investment in bus services. It said cuts to routes in Monmouthshire, Torfaen, Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf will follow.
South Wales managing director John Gould said the cuts in Welsh government funding were "directly responsible" for potential job losses from the depot's closure.

 fbb's recent mini-break in Abergynolwyn illustrates the problem beautifully. The village still has a pub, the "Railway" ...
... the shop has been closed for several years ...
... and the superb community cafe has recently lost its limited-hours post office counter.
cafe with Post Office sign binned
In 2010 the village primary school closed when the 12 pupils transferred to Bryncrug.

The nearest town is Tywyn and a minimalist bus service is provided by Lloyds of Machynlleth, supported (heavily?) by Gwynedd county council.
The 1638 does not run on Saturdays.

From Tywyn we have ...
... of which the 0800 and 1710 do not run on Saturdays. Depending on your choice of journey, you have between one and three hours to do your shopping. There are some additional trips on schooldays.

Whilst awaiting the thrill of a day's family fun, fbb took a look at the 0920 arrival ...
... empty (as expected); it turns by reversing ...
... and departs.
Of the six clustered round the door, two were not travelling but just having a chat, three travelled "free" ("Senior" passes) and only one paid a fare, namely the gent in the check shirt. The only other village en route is Bryncrug, also served by the X28 which offers four trips along the coast from Tywyn to Dolgellau.

Opportunities for growing the business are not great!

Publicity is poor with no printed infrormation available locally. Times are displayed on the bus tops ...
... implying that the service runs through to Dolgellau, which it does but rarely! Because the confuser thinks the route runs all the way to Dolgellau, every journey except the 1725NS has an explanatory note. How to confuse passengers in one easy lesson; it would be clearer if Gwynedd's little man (or woman) stuck up a timetable.

The frame offers the unhelpful and expensive Traveline (phone 0871 ZOO ZZ33 from the expensive phone box opposite!) and ...
... the txt number but with no txt code to txt for the stop. It matters not 'cos there's no mobile phone signal! And there is no bus map for Gwynedd county anywhere.

For the record, the 1648 to Tywyn picked up  0  passengers, set down  0  passengers and carried  1  through passenger. It whizzed through so fast that a stubby-fingered fbb was too, well, stubby fingered to take a photo; just wondering why up-to-date electronic stuff is so much slower that a box Brownie!

The 1725 arrival from Tywyn (the commuter run?) deposited  0 , picked up  0  and carried  0  through passengers; but did "wait time" for a sufficient effluxion of minutes to allow your chubby blogger to poke and prod his phone camera into action.
The paucity of passengers provoked fbb into remembering a poem by Thomas Gray (1716 to 1771), famous for his churchyard allergy.
The wristwatch tolls the knell of fading day,
The bleating flock winds slowly o'er the lea,
The shepherd homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to buses and to me.
Now comes the speeding 30 on the sight,
And all the airs a great excitement hold,
Say, who will board and who alight?
But zero folk is all that we behold.
Why service yonder ivy-mantled tow'rs?
An empty bus runs to and fro each day.
Of travellers bereft for sev'ral hours,
Financially it sure can never pay.

Clearly, the parsimonious politicians could find sound statistical support for slashing the service, leaving only the school and college day trips. Whilst this might save money from the transport budget, it could well increase costs in other areas. More social care needed? More depressed and lonely people? Ambulances and hospital cars needed? More cars on the road? More environmental damage?

It seems entirely possible that the overall cost to the community will increase.
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STOP PRESS!
Press release issued yesterday

A new operator has been appointed to run the Park & Ride service in Taunton. The service is run from two sites at Gateway and Silk Mills and runs peak and off peak buses into the town centre.

Somerset County Council is pleased to announce that The Buses of Somerset will be the new interim contractor from Tuesday 22 April, taking over from Webberbus.

The County Council has been closely monitoring the Taunton Park & Ride service for several months following complaints about late and missing buses, particularly in the evenings and has now taken the necessary decision to change the contractor of this service.
Cllr Harvey Siggs, Somerset County Council Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “Taunton’s Park & Ride service is vitally important to the town and we were disappointed to hear reports of poor service. We want the best for our customers and have taken this firm action to make sure they receive a more reliable service in the future."

This is the second time that fbb has reported a "falling-out" between Webberbus and Somerset Council. Is there a deeper problem here?
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 7 of 9 Easter Oddities 
Good Friday?

An innocent man is arrested clandestinely at night, condemned by an illegal court, passed ignominiously from Roman to Jewish authorities (and back) for fake sentencing, tortured and then nailed in agony to a substantial chunk of timber.
Good Friday?

The Friday could only be "good" if it produced good. The Christian message is both profound and delightfully simple. There is deep theology and some very basic human truths. The offer of forgiveness fulfills a deep-seated universal human need. The strength that comes from a real faith is a potent provision for everyday life but the real joy is in a confidence in a secure eternity. In our increasingly cynical and materialistic world, these things can be easily dismissed as "religious drivel".

The oddity of all oddities is that Good Friday could so easily be the biggest drivel of all.

But millions (about 2.1 thousand million and growing) continue to follow the leadership of a crucified and, apparently on Good Friday, very dead failure.

Really odd!
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 Next bus blog : Saturday 19th April 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Improve the Service : Make it More Complex [2]

 Stagecoach Coaster 700 runs from Brighton to Portsmouth.
The fbb diagram of the route shows three chunks of service each running every 30 minutes. The through run from end to end takes about four hours and 15 minutes. fbb has done the whole route, but with breaks in Bognor (morning coffee and bun) ...
... and Shoreham-by-Sea (fish and chip lunch, Blundens).
This made the journey manageable. But if your bladder and backside can bear the burden of bumpiness, the whole run is possible end to end.

But Stagecoach did a survey.

fbb does not know what the survey questions were, but there is always a suspicion that Stagecoach, having surveyed, will do what it wants anyway. The revised network, with all the "improvements", has recently been announced.
And it looks good, but read on ...

We plan to improve punctuality by dividing the original route route into three distinct sections

Brighton to Littlehampton : buses will run up to every 10 minutes (
no change) with onward travel to Arundel every 20 minutes (improvement)

Littlehampton and Bognor Regis to Chichester : buses will run up to every 20 minutes from Littlehampton (
reduction from every 15) with a bus between Bognor Regis and Chichester every 10 minutes (improvement).

Bognor Regis to Chichester and Portsmouth : buses will run up to every 10 minutes between Bognor Regis and Chichester (
improvement) continuing to Havant and Portsmouth every 20 minutes (improvement).

Confused? Here is an fbb diagram to compare the new pattern with the plan for the current service:-
Each line represents a 20 minute service. And the Stagecoach blurb reveals the snag with these stunning improvements:-
No longer can the brave explorer buy their Explorer and travel from Portsmouth to Brighton (or vice versa) in one go. "A change" means TWO changes. And all four legs are numbered 700.

And there's more. Traditionally the service has always run through Portsmouth to the South Parade Pier at Southsea, calling at The Hard (Portsmouth Harbour) on the way. From May ...
... to go to or from the seaside bits of Portsmouth you need, not only to change buses but, presumably, pay another fare.
And that makes THREE changes for the full through omnibological trek. The blurb assumes that passengers will understand that eastbound journeys will start from The Hard, not Southsea.

Although the blurb says that the new package will "reduce waiting time", many more passengers will have to change with some sort of time penalty, possibly extra fares to pay and, worryingly, an increased risk penalty. Here are extracts from the two new timetable sets.

Portsmouth to Bognor : Chichester to Littlehampton
Arundel and Littlehampton to Brighton.
Thus a through passenger from Havant to Rustington will have a 10 minute wait Chichester and a five minute wait in Littlehampton. Under the current arrangements the journey takes 52 minutes; the improved service from May takes 65 minutes; a 13 minute increase.

Is this a wise plan?
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 6 of 9 Easter Oddities 
The "Last Supper", sometimes called the Passover Meal, took place the evening of (Maunday) Thursday which seems odd to some as the passover "eve" was on Friday. BUT in Jewish culture "tomorrow" begins, not at midnight, but when the sun sets today. So Friday starts on Thursday evening. One oddity explained.

Most arty images of the supper have the meal guests oddly arranged along one side of a long table.
Silly. Ignoring the spotlight on Jesus as an artistic fiction, the image below is more realistic.
Yet again we seem to be in the presence of some pre-ordained plan; not a horrific and tragic coincidence.

Then Jesus sent two of them with these instructions: “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house he enters, and say to the owner of the house: ‘The Teacher says, Where is the room where my disciples and I will eat the Passover meal?’ Then he will show you a large upstairs room, fixed up and furnished, where you will get everything ready for us.

Jesus took the symbols (bread and wine) of the ancient Jewish ceremony and game them a powerful new meaning. "This is my body. This is my blood." After the meal the disciples wended their way home and Jesus walked to his pre-planned death.
  
Oddly powerful.
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 Next bus blog : Friday 18th April