Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Taunton's Transport Traumas [Follow-up 1]

From last weekend, First Bus introduced a new network in Taunton; so fbb decided to visit (Monday 29th July) to see what has happened and, in particular, to see if roadside information has improved. Although the changes were dated from Sunday 28th, most routes don't operate on the Sabbath, so Monday was, effectively, "First Day".

So what has happened?

For those unfamiliar with the geography of the town on the Tone, here is an fbb map of the new network.
Each route is about 15 minutes long from the centre to the outer terminus. Until this change services ran cross-town as follows:-
1/1A Wellsprings to Calder Crescent or Lime Crescent
3/3A Priorswood or Nerolls to Bishops Hull or Hospital
4 Lane to Galmington
A full pre-change map can be downloaded (here)
First's description of the alterations is overly verbose, so here follows fbb's expurgated version, enhanced by a few pretty pictures! Old route numbers are shown in  Grey  , new in  Red .

 Service 1/1A  : Wellsprings every 15 minutes
 Service 1  : Wellsprings every 10 minutes   improved 
Sunday service 1 no longer runs via Priorswood

 Service 1  : Calder Crescent every 30 mins
renumbered 5 see below

 Service 1A  : Lime Crescent every 30 mins
renumbered 6 see below

 Service 3  : Priorswood every 30 mins
 Service 2  : Priorswood every 30 mins
The route changes slightly in Priorswood
the Sunday service (route 1 diverted) is  withdrawn .

 Service 3  : Bishops Hull every 30 mins
 Service 3A  : Hospital every 30 mins
 Service 3  : Hospital and Bishops Hull every 30 mins

 Service 3A  : Nerolls Farm every 30 mins
This service ran mostly on the countryside edge of newer housing; newer and car owning! Passengers can walk through to the Priorswood route.

 Service 4  : Lane Estate every 20 mins

 Service 4  : Galmington every 20 mins
diverted via Hospital
renumbered 7 and  reduced  to every 30 mins

 Service 5  : Calder Crescent every 30 mins
replacing service 1

 Service 6  : Lime Crescent every 30 mins
replacing service 1A

 Service 7  : Galmington every 30 mins
replacing service 4 but diverted via Hospital
Services 3 and 7 give a bus every 15 mins to Hospital

Services along the main Exeter Road south-west to Wellington are not shown on the fbb map; but he has classed them as Taunton "local" routes.

 Service 22  : Wellington and Tonedale
every hour
 Service 22A  : Wellington and Tonedale
 improved  to every 30 mins

Tonedale is a "suburb" of Wellington, with the terminus located just beyond the site of the former railway station (closed 1964) on the Great Western main line.
Only the goods shed remains today, seen here courtesy of Google Streetview, also showing the additional footpath bridge.

 Service 22A  : Welllington and Rockwell Green
three buses an hour
 Service 22  : Wellington and Rockwell Green
 reduced  to every 30 mins

Occasional extra journeys numbered 22 run to Tiverton. It is unclear why the main service numbers have been swapped round, 22 for 22A and vice versa. But this is what First says on its web site!

The current Service 22 between Taunton and Tonedale will be re-numbered as Service 22A, while the current Service 22A between Taunton and Rockwell Green will be re-numbered as Service 22.

Maybe this a slight First Bus bludner? Or did First want its deplleted service to Tiverton to show 22 rather than 22A; the routes are identical as far as Rockwell Green.

 Service 92  : Tiverton every hour
Replaced by journeys numbered 22 (four trips only). This represents a big chop and will have not gone down well with regular passengers. Buses used to run all the way to Exeter as shown in the Great Britain Bus Timetable for 2001:-
First have since had a number of attempts at making this service viable but to no avail.

The secateurs have been in use on some of the other services with a trim here and there. First's policy seems to be to put their buses to bed at about 2000. This does mean that, if you wanted to go out for the evening (by bus) you can't get back. So you don't go out OR you don't go by bus. That's return fares lost every time! It also means that early evening journeys are less well used. Do they get the chop next time?

Generally, the new set-up represents good housekeeping for the company; tomorrow we see how well this has been publicised.

 Next Bus Blog : Thursday 1st August 

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Rejoice for Rotherham [3]

Why Rotherham?

And Nathanael said unto him, Can there be any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. [John's Gospel, Chapter 1 verse 46]. The "good thing", of course, was Jesus.
Many might rewrite the quote as follows:-  Can there be any good thing come out of Rotherham? Certainly the town would not feature at the top of a "must see" list of places in the UK worthy of an extended visit; although the heavy industry featured in the picture above has almost all gone.

One of Rotherham's claims to fame is as the home of many great comedians; the late great Sandy Powell ...
... the still very much with us Chuckle Brothers ...
... and the biggest star of them all ...
... William Hague! Who could forget his first televised stand-up routine at the 1977 Conservative Party Conference when just 16. The boy's done good. [But the long hair didn't last!]

Rotherham's history is a tale of ups and downs:-

In the 1480s the Rotherham-born Archbishop of York, Thomas Rotherham, instigated the building of The College of Jesus to rival the colleges of Cambridge and Oxford. It was the first brick building in what is now South Yorkshire and taught theology, singing, grammar and writing. The College and new parish church of All Saints ...
... made Rotherham an enviable and modern town at the turn of the 16th century.
college gateway - re-erected in Boston Park

The college was dissolved in 1547 in the reign of Edward VI, its assets stripped for the crown, so that, by the end of the 16th century, Rotherham had fallen from a fashionable college town to a notorious haven of gambling and vice.

We are reminded that last Friday saw the official celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Rotherham's first motor bus. But even for omnibologists, the town has never aroused great enthusiasm or excitement. More of its transport history will materialise in subsequent blogs; but there is one feature of Rotherham's bus-story that often escapes the pen of enthusiasts who focus solely on the cornucopia of vehicles.

We need to get legal!

In simple terms (and legislation is never simple) the above act allowed Municipal Authorities the exclusive right to operate public transport with the existing borough boundaries. This right also included the ability to prevent anyone else from so doing; which is why, before deregulation, many country buses could not carry passengers entirely within those 1930 boundaries. (Although the Act did make provision for operating "agreements")

Rotherham Corporation Transport [RCT] obtained licences to operate extensively outside its designated area, presumbly reflecting pre-legislative practice and agreements. So Corporation buses ran everywhere! An fbb diagram will summarise the extent of that "everywhere".  [diagram not to scale : designed as a rough guide for general interest!]
RCT ran joint with Sheffield and Doncaster corporations on the 77 (with variant later numbered 78). Traditionally only every 20 minutes at best, this is now First's X78 running every 10.

The 69 was joint with Sheffield and managed a bus every 4 minutes in its heyday.
Now its paltry half hourly service indicates the decline of both residential areas like Attercliffe and the disappearance of mass employment in the heavy industries. Also joint with Sheffield were shift-time routes 58 and 29 and the half-hourly route 87 to Maltby.
These routes did not even serve Rotherham centre and all have disappeared as such leaving just an hourly service 87 between Maltby and Meadowhall a "commuter" Monday to Friday X7 into Sheffield. As a ghostly shadow if its illustrious predecessor, there is one Monday to Friday 87 from Maltby to Sheffield. 87 and X7 are now  run by Powells.

The 27 was joint with Yorkshire Traction ...
... and is now run (as 227) by Tates Travel.

That left the 10 and the 19 jointly operated with East Midland.
The 10 was split up and has since disappeared as such, being replaced by services to Crystal Peaks. The 19 remains in the sole care of Stagecoach.
Which leaves the 8 and 9, formerly joint trolleybus routes with Mexborough and Swinton ...
... but now a much changed part of the Stagecoach Dearne Valley network as route 221.

So RCT's tentacles spread wider than any other municipal operator with its many joint services; even some of its exclusives ran well outside the 1930 boundary. One of these was the very first motor bus route (to Thorpe Hesley) which was celebrated in yesterday's blog.
For the really dedicated enthusiast, these are the journeys to be operated by the repainted Rotherham bus.
 Monday to Friday :-
 Saturday :-
and  Sunday :-
Obviously, maintenance requirements mean that these schedules cannot be guaranteed 100%, but the company will do everything possible to stick to the above workings. The two Sheffield 100th special vehicles will join Rotherham's beauty on the X78 in due course.
 Next Bus Blog : Wednesday 31st July 

Monday, 29 July 2013

Rejoice for Rotherham [2]

The Big Day!
On Friday 26th July 1913, Rotherham Corporation started its first motorbus service. The bus ran from the town centre to Thorpe Hesley via the village of Scholes.
Thorpe Hesley's historic cottage industry was nail making, but folk gained employment latterly at two collieries; one was in Scholes and is shown on the map above. The other was at Barley Hole, north of Thorpe Hesley and just off the map (top). Barley Hole finally closed as late as 1974.

Rotherham Corporation intially ran trams, then trolleybuses; but the loan of one of those new-fangled motor buses from A R Fearnley in Sheffield convinced the civic dignitaries that the internal combustion engine was a cheaper alternative for rural and long distance routes. Hence Thorpe Hesley.

So it was that two magnificent vehicles were paraded in All Saints Square one hundred years later (to the day) on Friday 26th July 2013.
Following on from its Sheffield celebrations back in February ...
... First Bus had repainted a vehicle in traditional Rotherham livery.
It was decided that the final version of the Corporation style best suited the modern vehicle. Even the interior is appropriately decorated.
As previously, Darren Sentance ...
... and his team at Rotherham depot had done a superb job in re-creating this version of the municipal colour scheme. The sun shone; "Phew what a scorcher!", as a huge crowd of guests, fbb included, boarded "Darren's beautiful bus" or the preserved Daimler (equally magnificent) for a re-run to Thorpe Hesley.

Upon arrival, the two centenary vehicles, joined by a Streetlite, took a photo call at the Ball Inn, traditional Thorpe Hesley time point.
And, once again, the buses were the star attraction.
The party reboarded, some changing vehicles to sample changing times and changing gears, and returned to the town, noting en route a quirky spelling error in the village.
A buffet was served at the New York Stadium, home of the Millers ...
... Rotherham's footy team. ["Millers" not because of "dark satanic" but because they played at Millmoor, the now redundant ground. And "New York", not a pecursuor to expanding over the pond, but marking the historic name of that area of central Rotherham.]

The Lord Mayor and his Lady were present in New York (having ridden to Thorpe Hesley and back) ...
... where his Worshipfuless John Foden graced the guests with a few well chosen words. Paul Fox, bus historian per excellence, gave a potted history of Rotherham transport and big boss Fearnley gave all and sundry his genuine and personal thanks for what was a magnificent day.
The departing guests are seen here, erm, departing; in the shadow of the decaying Guest and Chrimes facory buildings.

Guest & Chrimes were a large Brass Founders and Manufacturers based in Rotherham. The original site was on the river bank just below the old market place but this soon became too small and a new factory was opened on Don Street in the New York area in 1857/8. The office frontage (but not the backage!) has listed status.

The company produced water pipes, gas pipes and fittings, taps and valves, fire hydrants and water and gas meters. Among their main products were:-

Chrimes' Patent High-pressure Single and Double
     Loose-valve and Screw-down Cocks
Pilbrow's Patent Water-Waste Preventer
Sanitary Vessels, Wash-hand Basins, Urinals & Closet Pans

The factory closed in 1999 when, under new ownership, production moved to Derbyshire; thus depriving fbb of the opportunity to buy a new patent high-pressure double loose-valve cock. Pity, just the thing for the new home.

The old gives way to the new?
With buildings as well as buses. Who will be running to Thorpe Hesley in 2113? One thing is for certain; fbb will not be there to blog the event!
Yesterday, First Bus introduced a revised network (with revised fares; revised downwards!) in Taunton. In practice, with few services running on Sundays, Monday is the first day. fbb was decidedly underwhelmed on his first visit a couple of weeks ago. So today, with Mrs fbb, a return visit takes place. A full report will be blogged; starting on Wednesday.
Almost forgot. All guests were given a superb 100th Anniversary Brochure.
Thanks again, First Bus!
 Next Bus Blog : Tuesday 30th July 

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Rejoice for Rotherham [1]

The day begins.

"Mandalay" is a famous poem by Rudyard Kipling that was first published in 1892. The poem colourfully illustrates the nostalgia and longing of a soldier of the British Empire for Asia's exoticism, and generally for the countries and cultures located "East of Suez", as compared to the cold, damp and foggy climates and to the social disciplines and conventions of the UK and Northern Europe.

Kipling's text was adapted for the song "On the Road to Mandalay" by Oley Speaks (among others). The song was popularised by Peter Dawson.
fbb is privileged to be the first to print the 2013 version.
By the old site of the steelworks
Looking eastward o'er the town
There are temple lights a glistn'ning
And buses go round and round

As the sun is rising daily
And the bargains beckon well
Come you back you happy shopper
Come you back to Meadowhell ...

... Come you back to Meadowhell.

Come you back to Meadowhell 
Where all you do is pay.
Can't you hear their cash tills clunking
While you're spending all the day

On the road to Meadowhell
Where the buses, trains and tram
Trundle past your bedroom window
Yes that is where I am!

On the road to Meadowhell
See the public transport play
When the dawn comes up like thunder ...
As ...

... the fat bloke starts his day!
fbb spent the night of Thursday 25th July at the Travelodge at Meadowhell. The night presented the chubby one with a simple choice; either close the window and settle down in a giant sized George Foreman grill, or, keep the window open and enjoy the soporific sound of roaring traffic. Indeed, at 2300 Sheffield City Council started a programme of testing reversing bleepers on road works vehicles just below his window.

After barely adequate sleep, fbb's plan was to take piccies of all the types of train trundling past the window. Sadly, taking snaps through the very dirty window, into the rising sun, and with a mobile phone (!) produces poor results. So a few awful pictures will, at least, give something of the delights of Travelodge's "rear window".

In one hour from 0600 to 0700 the following clattered by:-
Freight (2)
Northern Pacers and Sprinters
Transpennine 180
Cross Country Vogager
Cross Country HST
East Midland HST
The Northern Belle charter train.
There were buses a-plenty, mainly First's X78 running every ten minutes between Doncaster, Rotherham, Meadowhell and Sheffield; 76 via Firth Park to city also every 10, routes 35 and 36 (each hourly) continuing across the north of the city for Hillsborough. Oddities were the A1 ...
... running between Sheffield centre, Sheffield "A" for Airport (long since closed!), Meadowhell and Rotherham. This route has the dubious privilege of being the only "normal" bus route to use the lower deck of the iconic Tinsley viaduct.
fbb feels publicising that fact alone should encourage a massive increase in patronage.

Occasional megabuses ...
... and National Express services pass by on their way to and from the shopping centre's bus station.

But, time presses, and we have a birthday to celebrate ...
So "orft we jolly well go" to All Saints Square in Rotherham.
fbb does wonder whether it's changed a bit!

 Next Bus Blog : Monday 29th July