Saturday, 8 June 2013

Seaton's Bus Hour Rush Hour [1]

Well, 65 minutes, actually.
The sun is shining, the sky is a rich azure and the only sound is of the gentle surge of the tide and the occasional fractious seagull. It is 0640 and fbb is on his early morning "constitutional", part of a fatness** regime inspired by the glories of East Devon. During the 65 minutes from 0645 to 0750 there are eight bus departures from the centre of Seaton.

And on the day fbb observed (Wednesday 5th June) only one trip picked up any passengers.

So, what's going on?

 0645   Stagecoach 52A to Exeter via Sidmouth.
The bus was empty as it passed a creaky fbb as he, in turn, tottered westwards along the Esplanade. The service is, broadly, hourly Monday to Saturday, two hourly on Sundays. The vehicles themselves were launched in January and the subject of a "real time" fbb blog. See "Sidmouth Stagecoach S(C)elebration [2]" (read again)

Unfortunately fbb was unable to apply sufficient afterburn or turbo to snap the next departure in its full early morning glory.
 0650   Axe Valley Travel [AVT] service 885 to Axminster
This (commercial) service runs hourly Monday to Friday daytimes, every two hours on Saturdays and connects nicely with the trains to London. Auntie Frances, AVT's redoubtable boss, usually uses her single decks during the day, but this duty needs capacity during term time for happy little school children.

But the Marine Place stop remained deserted.
The Sea Front Gardens stop on the other side of the roundabout was equally thronged with nobody.
The clock struck seven and, precisely on time, a third bus appeared.
 0700   AVT service 899 to Exmouth 
After the briefest of pauses in the hope that at least one errant passenger might turn up and get on, the Axe Valley ex-Metroline Trident spun itself elegantly round the roundabout and disappeared, empty, towards its ultimate destination.
And all was, once again peaceful. The only extra sound was a gentle crunch as the contract gardener replanted his potted primulas to promote picturesque pulchritude in Summer's flower beds.

The Merlin tolls the knell of breaking day,
The screeching gull winds slowly o'er the sea,
The gard'ner slowly toils his weary way,
And leaves the world to silence and to me.

But what is this? A grey van has deposited a lonely female passenger at the Marine Place bus stop; and slowly others have gathered clutching bags and folders. Two have remained opposite in the sunshine; two arrived on foot; another strolled over from his sea side bench to join the merry throng. They must be waiting for the next departure.

To join the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober journeys maybe made each day;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They seek to travel onwards round Lyme Bay.

 0720   AVT service 899 to Budleigh Salterton 
 We will complete our early morning saga tomorrow.

** There may be an incorrect vowel in this word - or maybe not?

Poetry courtesy of Thomas Gray (1716 to 1771), "Elegy Written at an Early Morning Coach Stop". This is one of his lesser known works; often seen as a pattern for his similar but somewhat more depressing poem written, reputedly, in the country churchyard at Stoke Poges.

 Next Bus Blog : Sunday 9th June 


  1. Between 0645 and 0750 on a weekday morning, I would not expect the stops in the centre of a town to be particularly busy. In the morning peak (in Seaton, probably a little after the time you waited) I would expect those stops to serve as destinations rather than starting points. If you had recorded the loadings when those buses were leaving the last stop in Seaton on their way to Exeter, Axminster, etc, then there would possibly have been more passengers. Of course, you would inevitably need to watch different routes on different days, but you would probably gain a better impression of the level of use.

  2. Thanks for comment. I should perhaps have added that, on those journeys which were "passing through", no-one alighted from any vehicle. The stop on Underfleet (by the tram terminal) is used/passed by all the eight departures so observations there might prove educational. Tomorrow's blog may also proffer a more complete view.

  3. The 899s to Exmouth do tend to run empty, they are basically heading out to collect kids from Exmouth, Budleigh and Sidmouth for Colyton Grammer School (usually 2 DD, one from Exmouth and one from Budleigh and Sidmouth). By running in service if they pick anyone up it's a bonus!