Monday 26 November 2012

Partnership in Practice [1]

 Investigation Monday 12th November 
Outer Circle Regenerates? : part 1
fbb and a couple of equally nutty chums have assembled in Sheffield on a damp and drizzly November day to investigate first hand the consequences of the mould-breaking Sheffield bus partnership which started a fortnight earlier. In very general terms a significant chunk of commercially inappropriate duplication has been removed and fully integrated day and weekly ticketing has been introduced.  For the public, the big consequence is that, on one day, almost every bus service in the city changed timetable or route or both.

The significance of the new 17 (ignore the 17A, it's only one journey!) is that it almost recreates an Outer Circle bus route. Here's the map ...
click on the map to enlarge

... with the City terminus in the dead centre. And here is the bus, in First's shiny new livery, which fbb had intended to catch, but missed due to the late arrival of one of the party!
The journey would have been from Prince of Wales Road near the Travelodge at 0927, round the southern half of the mega-loop and into the City Centre arriving 1043; total running time 1 hour 16 min.

So what's all this about an Outer Circle Route?

  Please note : this series of fbb  
 maps is diagrammatic ONLY. It aims 
 to simplify a complex set of data

In August 1931, Sheffield Transport started its outer circle bus route (service 3 clockwise, service 2 anti-clockwise). Suburban links like Herries Road, Prince of Wales Road, Ridgeway Road and Carterknowle Road were attracting housing and there was an obvious market for such links.
This bus is at the junction of Gladstone Road and Ranmoor Road on its way to Sandygate. Alas there is no bus route up this "select" thoroughfare any more, but the ambience is little changed. The house has lost its decorative barge-boards in favour (possibly) of plastic replacements and many of the chimney pots have succumbed to central heating. But, we run ahead of ourselves!
From Sandygate, the route then left built-up Sheffield to take a picturesque run via the wooded and attractive Rivelin Valley.

And yes, this glorious route did run westwards along Manchester Road (seen here), turned sharp right at Rivelin Bridge Post Office (top left) and returned to Malin Bridge via the lime-tree-lined Rivelin Valley Road (upper right).

In 1952 the 2/3 ran hourly right round the circle with short workings between Carterknowle Road & Elm Tree and between Sheffield Lane Top and Malin Bridge.
By 1963, when a student fbb arrived in the Steel City, the hourly circle remained, joined by Malin Bridge to Carterknowle Road trips filling the half hour gap. A service 3 from Southey for 3 hours right round and back to Southey was there first fantastic fascinating bus ride taken by the later-to-be chubby one.

Sadly, just under 40 years after this splendid route started, the Circle was broken. In November 1970 the hourly clockwise service 3 took a right hand turn at Sandygate and ran into the City centre, now numbered 2 in both directions. The intermediate journeys were extended from the top of Carterknowle Road, also into the city but via Hunters Bar and numbered 59. 6 months later the 59s were diverted to serve Norton and Meadowhead.
Why 59? It was the lowest unused route number!

Thus it was that the popular circular ride came to an end. One possible reason put forward was that the round trip was particularly popular with pensioners who had just gained free travel in Sheffield; the change cut down on joy-riders and left room for "genuine" passengers. A more likely explanation is that by running into city from Sandygate the Corporation could save some of the costs of the route 2/3 and some of service 54 which had, hitherto, run that way with minimal passengers. This timetable extract shows the result.
A final possibility is that it seemed a good idea at the time.

Tomorrow, fbb attempts to piece together the more recent development of the erstwhile Outer Circle corridor and, in so doing, produces even more (very) diagrammatic maps. It also drags in the history of tram replacement route 17.

fbb does not usually get too excited about wheelnuts, body types and bifurcating ninge-wheel brake actuators. His interests have been more with where and why buses (and tains) run. But an acquaintance from the Sheffield Transport Study group, where fbb was a guest speaker in October 2011, opines that the bus pictured above (registration TJ 10 on Outer Circle route 3) is "a very interesting vehicle". A future blog will explain its significance.

 Next Bus Blog : Tuesday 27th November 


  1. Surely the main reason for the 1970 change was that the abandoned section was largely uninhabited and lightly used- it was covered by the 54 on a reduced frequency. It was a lovely journey though!

  2. But it had always been uninhabited and lightly used. Arguably, with free (reduced fare?) travel for pensioners it was becoming more heavily used. There was, I believe, financial pressure from the City Council to reduce costs and remove services which needed a subsidy - well hidden in the days before commercialisation.