Friday, 19 September 2014

Todwick's Travel Traumas

Mysteries and Misery Multiplied

Todwick (near Rotherham) has a shop ...
... a chinese takeaway, a school ...
... and a church.
And for most of the post WW2 period it had an hourly bus into Sheffield ...
... originally available by walking to the Toll Bar (service 15) but later diverted via the village (service 215). The village has grown from the 1960s onwards but because it is not on any major through route its bus service has suffered considerable turmoil in the last 25 years. It lost its remaining connection with the former mining town of Dinnington in July of this year which provoked much of the protest revealed in yesterdays journalistically erroneous blog. (read again) The 27** might have been OK for trips to Dinnington ...
... but at 1 hour and 15 minutes to Rotherham, including a tour via Crystal Peaks, would not have been the journey of choice.

But Todwick has much more cause to be disgruntled with the rest of the changes brought about as part of the Rotherhan Bus Partnership.

Yesterday fbb stated quite categorically that the village still has an hourly bus service to Rotherham and similar to Sheffield. But, according to Travel South Yorkshires [TSY] poor publicity, this is not quite as true as one might like.

Service 29 refers to Todwick on its leaflet cover ...
... but the 29, apparently,  doesn't go there!
Some evening journeys numbered 29A do, however.

But the service 74 leaflet ...
... which doesn't mention Todwick on the cover, does go there.
It has an hourly service to and from Sheffield; but not direct like the historic 15/215. It tootles round an estate at Aston (Aughton Lane), visits the former pit village of Treeton ...
... Sheffield City Non-Airport ...
... and even (on Saturdays only) the experiential richness of Meadowhell shopping centre.
It takes 50 minutes; the 215, not the quickest route into the city, took 40 minutes. The map shows that the 74 route is well-blessed with wiggles!
So, it would appear that the poor Towickians are not only deprived of a service to Dinnington, but they must must tarry longer omnibus-bound to Sheffield and no longer have a route to Rotherham.

But hold fast there. Service 74s leave Harthill at 40 minutes past the hour but arrive at 49 minutes past.
Likewise the service 29 arrives at Harthill at 36 minutes past the hour but leaves on the hour.
Surely the 29 doesn't stand there for 24 minutes. Now there is a clue in the 29 timetable.

Notes: A - From Harthill bus continues to Todwick and shows service number 74.

Now let us think carefully. Gottit. 29s become 74s at Harthill.

But there is no such clue on the 74. Surely it should say something like "continues via Wales and Swallownest to Rotherham". The note on the 29 should say "continues to Todwick and Sheffield" as service 74.

So here's the proper timetable; from Rotherham via Harthill and Todwick to Sheffield ...
... and from Sheffield to Rotherham ditto.
Todwick to Rotherham running time, one hour (plus)! That's a bit slow, to say the least; a previous service (also numbered 29) took only 40 minutes but the 27 took 1 hour and 15. The good folk of Todwick have just cause to protest that they have, for a long times, been treated as an annoying inconvenience by Frst Bus and the PTE.

But an fbb map, will, as usual, explain the current complexity.
Purple 29 becomes green 74 at Harthill and vice versa. Is the official TSY map more helpful than those in the timetable leaflets? Here is leaflet map 29 ...
... showing only the evening 29As to Todwick; no mention of the daytime link to 74. And the 74 leaflet map makes no reference to its link with the 29. Just plain unhelpful.

The colour network map tries ...
... but implies that there are three services on Kiveton Lane when there is only one bus each hour in both directions.

First Bus on-line tables are just as bad, Their version of the 29 does, at least, show times for Todwick on the 29 rather than just the PTE's note but, again, not a sausage on the 74 table. To add to the possible confusion, the 29 is shown on the same table as the revised 27 - messier again! As First is not involved in the evening 29A variant, surely showing the whole caboodle as a through service, as per the fbb paste-up above, would make the best sense of a poor product?

To complete the picture, fbb has added to the map the long-gone historic 215 and the current "main line" X5 which doesn't serve Todwick. Back in the good old days the main route from Sheffield to Dinnington was the 206/219. It ran just once an hour plus peak extras.
The 207 was a latecomer extra which diverted at North Anston to serve the village of Woodsetts.

The modern X5, by contrast, runs every 20 minutes Monday to Friday, every 30 on Saturdays, has a faster route into the city and is thus 10 minutes quicker.

So we clearly see the business ethic of the modern bus company. Push resources into trunk routes that make the most money (the X5) and use clever scheduling and routeing to get the best return possible out of the less profitable corridors (29/74). A subsidiary and less understandable aim appears to be to make the resultant "mop-up" timetable so baffling that joe public has no idea where the buses go.

**27 leaflet. This was the service withdrawn in July; fbb received a copy yesterday afternoon - too late for yesterday's blog.

 Next (model) rail blog : Saturday 20th September 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Four Cheers for the Fourth Estate

Sorry, that should be "Four Jeers"
The two villages in question are Todwick and Dinnington. The latter was a busy industrial mining town until the collieries closed down; it is now a dormitory suburb for Rotherham. Todwick was a bit of a non-event until modern housing began to spread.
The historical highlight of Todwick was its toll bar on the Worksop Road (A57) ...

... later replaced by the Red Lion pub.
Sheffield Joint Omnibus Committee ran the long-standing service 15 via the A57, turning left at Todwick Bar and cutting across to Dinnington.
In 1952 it ran every hour, seven days a week.
As housing developed in the late 50s and early 60s, certain trips were diverted via Todwick Village and the second destination blind space was used to show this "via". Soon, however, all journey went via the village as in this 1981 extract with the route now being numbered 215.
From privatisation onwards fbb lost track of his former home and its bus services but a more recent version ran from Rotherham via Swallonest and Kiveton Park with part of the service service via Todwick.
click on the map to enlarge

The timetable provided for one journey an hour Between the two settlements.

But one of the benefits of the recent changes, claims the article ...
... was the withdrawal of the Todwick and Dinnington direct link, by now numbered 27.

People living in Todwick are unhappy that they now have to catch two buses, and have seen their journey time triple, when travelling to Dinnington - just three miles away. They claim pensioners and disabled people are being penalised because they have concessionary passes and are seen as ‘non profitable’ by bus companies, and children are now charged double as they are pay per journey. The direct service was removed in May as part of the new Rotherham Bus Partnership.

There were protests, petitions and a long letter from the Parish Council to South Yorkshire PTE. The response from PTE and bus operator First was as expected.
From Paul Flanagan (above centre), First's Business Manager at Rotherham, comes this:-

We have reviewed the number of passengers previously travelling between Todwick and Dinnington on the previous Route 27. There was a total of 53 passengers per week travelling 37 of those were concessionary permit holders. With this level of patronage as soon as we operate 1 return trip per day 6 days a week the service becomes unprofitable. I am sorry but we just cannot justify operating a commercial service from Todwick to Dinnington. The only way we could operate any service here would be if it was tendered.

From David Young, boss of the PTE ...

... we have:-

‘These changes will inconvenience some customers’ but stressed data collected showed the bus link was used around 137 journeys each week, the equivalent to just 1.3 passengers per journey. The bus services team at SYPTE negotiated a number of changes to the proposed consultation network with operators, which addressed close to 90 per cent of the concerns raised. But there has to be a degree of compromise in order to retain the links from south Rotherham communities to Rotherham Hospital and Sheffield, while still maintaining the financial viability of the network for the operators and, in the longer term, reduce the level of subsidy from the public purse following reduction in government expenditure.”

The different statistic from the two different sources begs a number of questions. Who is telling porkie pies?

So the protests continue unabated.
Todwickians still have a bus every hour to Sheffield and similar to Rotherham so they are not competely cut off from humanity and the few that do want to go to Dinnington can catch a bus to Kiveton Park and change to the X5.
OK it's not ideal, but as the majority of passengers are on free travel passes, it is not a financial burden. In fact First bus will be well pleased because they will now get FOUR fares for the return trip instead of two!

A typical journey would be
Journey time is 30 minutes. The old 29A, for example, took 25 minutes and the historic 215 of the 70s and 80s a mere 15. "Seeing their journey time triple" (see above) seems a bit of an exaggeration.

But, we hear our readers mutter darkly, what has this got to do with the Press, the Fourth Estate. Well now ...

fbb  received details of the protest from yet another David correspondent, this time from Kent. The new report had appeared in this splendid periodical.
David wondered why this article had appeared as a headline in a newpaper for a town in Tyne and Wear ...
... which has no link, historical or geographical, with Todwick. But what about Dinnington?

This is Dinnington near Rotherham.

And this (top left) is Dinnington north of Newcastle upon Tyne ...
... not 100 miles from South Sheilds.

Now if the Gazette editor's geographical knowledge was typical of 21st century secondary education ...

Well, it's an easy mistake to make, isn't it?

And just in case The Shields Gazette is still not sure, here are the four buses an hour between Newcastle and Dinnington, Tyne and Wear.
Four jeers for the fourth estate! By the way, there's a Stannington near Sheffield as well.

One last point. The news items about this "crisis" first hit the headlines, even in Tyne and Wear, a few days ago.
The last bus ran between the two villages in July. Slick reporting? Slack protesting?

But there's more to Todwick's problems; so there's more tomorrow.

 Next bus blog : Friday 19th September 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Northampton Newspeak Nonsense

Big Brother is watching you

From George Orwell's satire "1984" newspeak is thus explained. Newspeak : The official language of Oceania. Newspeak is "politically correct" speech taken to its maximum extent. Newspeak is based on standard English, but all words describing "unorthodox" political ideas have been removed. In addition, there was an attempt to remove the overall number of words in general, to limit the range of ideas that could be expressed.

Recently the "Ministry of Truth" department of Notwork Rail has come up with an amazing revelation.

But let's recapitulate!

This is Northampton Castle Station as known and loved by your seasoned and elderly blogger in his childhood; as visited in the company of his maiden aunt "to look at the trains".
By comparison with today, it had "step free access" to the main London-bound platform and a footbridge to the down lines. For those unable to manage the footbridge, a "porter" (remember them?) would accompany the passenger on the staff walkway at track level. At peak times a door from the footbridge ...
... would be opened to speed the exit and give access direct to the bus stops. 

Then came electrification. Northampton had a brand new station made of cardboard and string but still with step free access to platform 1.
Further developments were to include lifts for the footbridge which had, later in its life, gained a roof.
The on-line guide to the station illustrates these facilities precisely ...
... and wrongly! The footbridge and lifts were removed to facilitate the building of the new station. A temporary bridge and lifts was installed at the "down" and of the station.
Because the electric string was strung higher here (lower at the other end to squeeze under the road bridge) this temporary facility was much taller and appeared much steeper. It has never been shown on the official station map.

Then Northamptonians were promised a spangly new shiny station (previously blogged by fbb). It was due to open "at the end of Summer" whenever that might be. At the moment, like Ethelred, it looks decidedly unready!

But the peasants are revolting. Here is the entrance to the new station.
All iconic, archtecturally stunning and a credit to the town? And here we see the step free access  for those with limited mobility and heavy luggage.
Oh deary me, there isn't any! Yes, the main entrance to the super-smashing new Northampton Station is most definitely NOT step free. And there are even more steps inside to get up to mezzanine and footbridge level.
No wonder the peasants are revolting; as headlined by former Northampton MP, now Rail Users Chairperson, Sally Keeble:-
Mrs Keeble called on the company to improve the access at from the main entrance on Black Lion Hill. She said: "There's a staircase that will be hard for people with limited mobility or heavy suitcases to manage. This is an important and valuable development for Northampton, and it?s essential that the public can get proper access to the new station."

Enter Notwork Rail's Ministry of Truth (Minitrue in Newspeak) with this response. fbb has slightly paraphrased for necessary comedic effect.

This fine imposing main entrance on the main road, presenting a dramatic improvement in the station's image (etc. etc. blah blah) may look like the main entrance ... but it isn't.
The main entrance, the front entrance, is round the back.

Yes indeed. That's it. Those two imposing doorways are, according to Minitrue, the main entrance to Northampton's new super-station. And inside the main back entrance will be even more steps. Hold fast there, there will be a lift. 

A lift? Imagine the scene, a busy train arrives at the station from London, several groups of people encumbered with luggage, mobility scooters, push-chaired children and large straw donkeys from continental holidays are wearily tryng to escape. Meanwhile a another collection of crocks is attempting to take the one lift up to the station area, possibly a second lift ride up to the footbridge and a third lift down to platform 1. And they are hurrying to catch the London train. A step up (ha ha, snivelling weep) from walking straight on to the platform.

Such is progress.

Apparently there is no room for ramped access to the main entrance which isn't and, anyway, Notwork Rail don't want to encourage motorists to drop people off at the main entrance which isn't. They want their chauffeurs to drive all the way around via St Andrews Road to the back entrance.
The picture above shows the St Andrews Road (A5095) access to the back door, i.e. main entrance. The new station building is not shown above, but the step-ful entrance is near the "B" of "Black Lion". The former station access (above "Lion") is now  permanently closed off.

Drive all the way round? Like that's going to happen, eh?

Minitrue at work. In the film of "1984", Minitrue announced that the chocorat (ration of chocolate for the common man) would remain at 25 grams per week for another year. Although the previous year's ration had been 30 grams, all past references to such an amount had been altered in the records. How prophetic Orwell was. Every room had a "Telescreen", a sort of two-way TV which could broadcast propaganda and watch what you were doing. Today we call it Google.

 Next bus blog : Thursday 18th September