Friday, 24 May 2019

How Are The Mighty Fallen (1)

This 1880 map extract shows Pond Street in Sheffield, leading to The Ponds, which were, well, ponds!
The ponds, and the streets that bore their name, had already existed for over 100 years but by 1880 we have Pond Hill and Harmer Lane plus an embryo Flat Street.

Pond Street (on the above map shown as "Little" Pond Street) was used for bus departures pre WW2 ...
... whereas trams used Flat Street (off the shot above to the left) and the rest of Pond Street; which enjoyed some very low grade tenement housing.
The post war bus station was created on the right of the above picture, originally just roadways and some open shelters. Sheffield folk were hardy folk back then!
The above view looks towards Harmer Lane and, beyond the chimney, Midland Station.

Next (in 1955?) came a proper bus station.
It was "refreshed" from time to time and renamed Central Bus Station.
An escalator link was installed to a modern shopping gallery (replacing the long-gone tenements) ...
... Fiesta nightclub and Cinecentre multiscreen picture house, also via steps and escalators to the newly-built Arundel Gate up above.

Then came a complete rebuild in the early 1980s, to include "The Archway" shopping arcade ...
... (now almost shopless) and brand new stands parallel to Pond Hill and at right angles to the normal Pond Street layout. These are seen below under construction ...
... viewed from Arundel Gate. (Spot the old queen's head?) They formed a useful set of stands whilst the main bus station was demolished and rebuilt but it was the pre-advertised intention that they would be for long distance coaches.

The Old Queens Head pub survived ...
... but the coach station didn't; giving way to the office block in the above Streetview picture. A glance at a modern map ...
... shows the new bus station still located between Pond Hill and Harmer Lane but with the original "little" Pond Street unnamed but still running from Pond Hill to Shude Hill.

Commercial Street was built across the ancient roads on a viaduct.
The former Gas Offices form a useful landmark.
Commercial Street was widened several times, most recently in connection with the Supertram routes ...
... but broadly these ancient Sheffield roads still remain.

But it was privatisation and deregulation that changed Central Bus Station, now dubbed Sheffield Interchange, from what it once was.

More from the Interchange tomorrow.

Isn't technology wonderful No. 472.

On Wednesday last, fbb took his dear wife to Axminster Station so that she could nip to Totnes to meet her chum.

Whilst there, two things happened which were of interest to the old man.


Axminster Station, in common with all others on the former South West Trains (Stagecoach - now First's South Western Railway) network, has touch screens for smart cards. One is by the station caff ...
... and is well-encrusted with cobwebs and other natural detritus - indeed fbb had to clear the cobwebs to see if the screen was working. It was, but was well-nigh unreadable in the sunlight.

The one near the platform exit from the booking "hall" was readable.
fbb has never seen an passenger use either of these pieces of technological wonder; until yesterday, that is. A gentleman of sprightly gait but mature years bought his orange-stripe ticket from "the man" and then spend a few moments trying to get it to register on the terminal.

After several waves, prods and twists, he gave up with a shrug and moved along the platform.

Apart from the ambiguous words on the screen (the man had a "card', i.e. his ticket!) there are no explanations or instructions at Axminster and never have been.


The customer in the queue in front of Mrs fbb was purchasing his ticket with some hesitation. The ticket clerk was equally unsure of his required destination.

Helpfully the young go-getter besuited traveller was able to spell his destination.

M-A-I-Z-E Hill, he advised.

Clerk types this into his Deep Throat terminal and returns with a visage of gloom and perplexity.

"No such station", he said with a tear in his eye.

Up steps fbb with a touch of the subservient forelock and a gracious bow and announces to all and sundry in a stentorian voice.

"It's M-A-Z-E Hill", he opines with consummate confidence.
There it is, one stop east of Greenwich.

With much relief for both passenger and clerk the sale was completed.

Without modern technology he would have had to look it up in a book, a concept now foreign to the transport industry, apparently.

 Next bus station blog : Saturday 25th May 

Thursday, 23 May 2019

First Forges Forward in Edinburgh (4)

The Conflict Continues
In response to Lothian Buses onslaught on its West Lothian business, First Bus has made a few advances outside of the recent announcement to do battle with Edinburgh City Tours.

Currently there is a silly fares offer within the "Edinburgh" area (First's Zone M) for a limited period.
The "full" price is £18!
There have been changes to the Airport service 600.
This has gone from hourly to half hourly and is extended to Whitburn ...
... to support First's service 21 and respond to Lothian's half hourly Livingston to Whitburn 275.
The other significant Monday to Saturday change brings us neatly to services westwards from Edinburgh via the A71.

First Bus via A71
The 23 diverts via Kirknewton whilst the X23 (X for "we haven't got a spare number in the 20s"?) runs via A71/B7015.

Beyond Livingston the 23 runs to Deans and the X23 to Broxburn via Uphall Station (see below).
As is often true with new towns, the urban routes are very convoluted but, hopefully, Livingstonians can cope even if fbb's enthusiasm for deep and meaningful understanding begins to fade somewhat!

Currently (until Saturday!) the X23 runs hourly.
But from Monday an extra X23 will run between Edinburgh and Livingston ...
... giving a bus every 15 minutes along this corridor.

Lothian via A71
There is a similar pattern of routes (X27 and X28) ...
... which re-join at East Calder to continue in loving togetherness to Bathgate. But Lothian is (currently?) running only hourly on each leg.
First's increased frequency may well suggest that they are determined to win the battle of the A71.

Livingston Town Services
Once upon a time, bus companies ran their long distance routes along the main roads and linked in to local services running to the town's wiggles and estates. Such a luxury has long gone and, mostly, you will find the longer distance routes diverting off the "spine" roads and continuing beyond the centre to provide some or all of the former town routes

We have already seen this in many of the competitive services reviewed in these blog posts.

Frankly, fbb will probably not maintain his concentration for long enough to understand the local Livingston ramifications. But comparison of the two town maps extracts will show that Lothian covers pretty much everything run by First.

Here is Lothian ...
... and here is First.
The most notable difference is that First's 23 and 24 run exclusively via Eliburn Road ...
... and a stopless Appleton Parkway ...
... before looping the loop at Deans. On this section, Lothian are not matching First.

This area is a large housing estate ...
... but not well off for shopping facilities; the nearest supermarket, for example, being at Carmondean, near Livingston North station.
There are local shops just of the loop on a not very main Main Street ...
... where you can enjoy a co-op, a hair stylists and FOUR take-aways (two Chinese, one chippy and one Pizza/Burger joint!) This superfluity of fast food may have changed since Streetview drove past.
And finally, for the time being at least, in the Livingston conurbation ...
... there is a station at the settlement called Uphall Station ...
.... BUT there is no station to serve the community of Ratho Station ...
... a little nearer to Edinburgh.
There was one - but it closed in 1951.
The village of Ratho is something less than a mile to the south.

See also Micheldever station at Micheldever Station (NOT at Micheldever), Hart Station with no station and Seaton Junction, a junction-less community.

But (as ever) we digress. fbb will be watching First's Edinburgh developments closely and looking our for signs of a reconciliation in due course.

In the meantime blood engine oil may well be spilt!

Yesterday Mrs fbb travelled on some nice shiny trains between Exeter St Davids and Totnes to meet up with an old (in both senses of the word) work colleague.  Here is her text as she left Exeter St Davids.
After a while an apology from the train manager (a real person) for the wrong announcement and a further apology for the lack of electronic reservations, "They wouldn't switch on!".

As someone once blogged, "Isn't technology wonderful"!

 Next bus station blog : Friday 24th May 

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

First Forges Forward in Edinburgh (3)

But First ...
fbb is enormously grateful to the Man of Mystery ...
... who popped a particularly pleasant prezzie through the letterbox at fbb mansions. It was a (GoAhead) Brighton and Hove bus timetable book. Some readers may remember when such useful means of communication were generally available.

The Brighton product has, for many years, been a beacon of excellence in an otherwise poor-publicity world.
It is FREE!

The cover illustrates yet another new service, running at weekends and bank between Brighton and Eastbourne via Drusillas Zoo (hence the camels)!
There is, of course, a timetable ...
... and, as is standard in the book, a simple but effective map.
There is one bludner with this service. It does not appear in the on-line version of the timetable book; that's one where you click through the pages on-screen. It goes straight from 9 on page 37 to 12 on page 38.


fbb will look more closely at the book in a future blog, but one thought pops into the old man's mind. Might there be some connection between the excellence of its publicity and the company's seemingly unstoppable expansion?

And Second ...
Thanks for a communication from Stagecoach.

Issues with the Stagecoach Bus App are fixed

Hi there,

We are aware there was an issue with the Stagecoach Bus App which affected Apple iOS users this morning.

This issue has now been fixed.

We're sorry for any problems you may have had. If you've already contacted us we'll respond to you as quickly as possible.

If you've had to purchase an additional ticket as a result of this issue, please send a picture of that ticket to and include the email address registered to your Stagecoach Bus account.

Whilst it is true that fbb did, once, download this app, he never used it as it offered no advantages over what is already on-line. Its journey planner only gave Stagecoach services which made it particularly useless unless you knew what you wanted before you started looking for it!

At least First's is a proper all operators JP.

But then, "Isn't technology wonderful?"

And so to Edinburgh ...
... Where First will start competing against the incumbent operator of the various city tours. 

First has put out a minimalist initial press release ...
... and a clever little tease.
For those unfamiliar with the Scottish capital, Arthur's Seat is a geological "lump" (extinct - presumably - volcano) that dominates views of the city from many directions.
It is sometimes said that its name is derived from legends pertaining to King Arthur, such as the reference in Y Gododdin. (It's a mediaeval Welsh poem) There is no traditional Scottish Gaelic name for Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, but William Maitland proposed that the name was a corruption of Àrd-na-Said, implying the "Height of Arrows", which over the years became Arthur's Seat (perhaps via "Archer's Seat"). Alternatively, John Milne's proposed etymology of Àrd-thir Suidhe meaning "place on high ground" seem equally implausible!

Maybe wee Arthur McSporran rested there on a walking tour round the city and penned a note suggesting city tours by stagecoach (as opposed to Stagecoach)?

Meanwhile First's news has reached Trade magazine Passenger Transport.
fbb is not a subscriber (too expensive for a poverty-stricken old age pensioner) but a chum sent a photocopy of the relevant article.

It could hardly be described as "even handed journalism".

It begins with the facts so far known. Lothian has impinged significantly on First's business in West Lothian and First is hitting back at Lothian's most profitable set of services.
(add "topped buses").

The next paragraphs are very one-sided.
An amazingly astute conclusion, sir! The continuation is even more biased.
In theory, if it so decided, First is still strong enough to wipe the floor with Lothian, a council owned company and thus answerable to councillors and, ultimately, the people of Edinburgh. It is these councillors that have not-long recovered from getting their fingers (even their whole hands!) well singed from the Tram fiasco.

If I were Lothian's GM and board I would, to re-use the tag line from the 1986 remake of "The Fly" ...
 ... Be afraid, be very afraid!
Andrew Jarvis, First bus boss in Scotland
at a recent charity event

You do wonder who Passenger Transport's "source" might be. General Manager of Lothian Transport? Perhaps Lothian have shares in Passenger Transport?

And, furthermore, why is it that the incumbent operator is so often cast as the baddie for responding to an newcomer intent on pinching their business. What are First supposed to do?

"Dear Mr Lothian Buses, it is so good to see you competing with our services; we do hope you do well. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help." Signed Giles Fearnley

Mystery Revealed!
Late yesterday afternoon fbb received an email from regular correspondent Richard.
So fbb can now say a proper thanks to Richard.

Mystery Picture
From Northampton correspondent Alan, photographed on the platform of a railway station not far from home.
Alan's suggestion is that it is part of an experiment in the use of electric torture by the Rail Delivery Group aiming to persuade passengers to stop requesting printed timetables and to stop using orange-stripe card tickets in favour of QR codes on a mobile phone.

Apparently the latter are unreliable as gates so equipped often refuse to open.

Mind you, Mrs fbb is the kiss of death to orange stripe tickets and "automatic" gates. In about 50% of usage thay fail and she has to extricate her self from gate and crush of others behind her to find the member of staff with the magic "access all gates" pass card.

fbb will return to his West Lothian route survey tomorrow.

 Next competitive clash blog : Thursday 23rd May