Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Typical Traveline Travesty [1]

It started with this picture, sent by Alan, our Northampton correspondent. He likes to challenge fbb's public transport knowledge. "This," he proffered, "is a station even less accessible than Dovey Junction."
The fence, the green signal and Holy Trinity Church spire all gave the game away quite quickly. This is an Isle of Wight Steam Railway locomotive "changing ends" at Smallbrook Junction. Except that it isn't a junction. There is no connection between IoWSR track and Island Line rails.
You can just see the buffers shaded by the tree beyond the "Do not trespass" sign.

It was a junction back in the glory days of steam; but only in Summer.
Here the line from Cowes and Newoprt juncted with the line from Ventnor. Above you see the summer signalman about to do his stuff with the single line "token". But in the winter ...
... the box was closed, the signal arms removed and the line was worked as two separate single tracks from St John's Road station. Smallbrook Junction ceased to exist until the soft shoots of spring reappeared the following year. Either way, there never was a station there.

But in the heady, happy pre-privatisation days of Network SouthEast, boss Chris Green ...
... decreed that halts should be built at Lake ...
... and Smallbrook-not-really-a-Junction, adjacent to a steam railway platform. In 2012, the lads from Havenstreet built a lovely station building, complete with ticket window and waiting room ...
... painted in traditional Southern Railway stone and malachite. Delish!

Island Line trains call at their platform (left of the building) but only when steam trains are running. 
Green times are annotated "b" ...
... and there is an additional note on the Island Line table which offers a further warning.
But that last sentence can be (and occasionally is) misunderstood! Well hidden on the Steam Railway leaflet is an unequivocal statement:- 

Passengers visiting the railway by 'Island Line' electric train arrive at Smallbrook Junction Station, the point at which the lines from Ryde to Ventnor and Ryde to Newport diverged. The two platforms of this station, which may be reached only by rail, ...

Now that's not quite the same as saying "no road access". Thus occasional members of the happy holidaying British public have been known to seek ingress or egress at Smallbrook Junction. Of which more tomorrow.
A Sad Passing
See "Gone for a Burton [1]" (read again)
See "Gone for a Burton [2]" (read again)
Some time ago, fbb reported on competition on the route between Sutton Coldfield and Lichfield. Central Connect ...
... X12 is the only remainder. Midland Classic 92 ...
... faded from the scene some time ago. But the significant event was the withdrawal of Arriva's 112 from the end of service on Saturday 26th April.
The original Midland Red route once ran frequently between Birmingham and Burton on Trent with some journeys continuing to Derby. But services had been run down over the years and little of this once great route remained at the end.
112 R.I.P.
 Next bus/rail blog : Thursday 1st May 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Notification of a Nice Neat New (?) Network

Now we know.
Buses liveried as above have been appearing mysteriously in South and West Wales. At first glance the paint job appears similar to that recently introduced on the X2.
That's because it is! But the brand, Cymru Clipper (shouldn't that be Cymru Clipa?) is new. Yesterday, all was made clear by First Cymru.

A network of bus services operating across South and West Wales is being given a face-lift by operators First Cymru to make it, and bus travel in general, more attractive to commuters, shoppers and day trippe rs. Underpinned by investment in both the routes and the vehicles operating on it, the introduction of the new ‘Cymru Clipper’ network is one of the biggest changes made by operators First Cymru in recent years. It brings together, for the first time, all the interurban bus routes operated by First Cymru across South and West Wales, under one name, making them morevisible and accessible to people wanting to travel.

Does that mean that the X2 gets re-re-branded as well?

The press release waxes lyrical about improvements to several routes, including the X13.

On the same day as the launch (18 May), the frequency of Service X13 (Swansea to Llandeilo), will also be enhanced with buses running every 20 minutes (rather than every half an hour), offering bus users more opportunities to travel.

Except that the X13 only runs to Llandeilo at peak times ...
 ... and some of the X13s are X14s. fbb presumes that the new 20 minute frequency operates only as far as Ammanford, NOT Llandeilo. Such is the joy of press releases, possibly created by people who don't ride on the buses!

A quick check of the "forthcoming timetables" section of First Cymru's web site solves the problem at a stroke - NOT!**
As the network and its publicity develops, fbb will review progress. In the meantime the official launch of Cymru Clipper will be as part of First Cymru's centenary celebrations.
Sounds fun. Sadly, fbb has not received a VIP invite. He's not too sulky because church duties usually preclude attendance at Sunday events. Sounds a good day though. The museum web site is (here).

There will be fare reductions on the rebranded network:-

Adults will be able to enjoy unlimited travel on the whole network for as little as £5 a day, while those 18 years old or under will be able to travel for just £3 a day.

This appears to be a stunning reduction on present prices.
Which begs the question; is it possible to get from Cardiff to Haverfordwest and back in a day using only the First Cymru network?
There might be a few Silcox-filled gaps! If it were possible, it would be some superb bargain for a fiver!

The changes mean that people will be able to see how they can easily travel between key towns and cities in South and West Wales. They will be able to see all the inter-urban services on one specially created network map (similar in style to a tube map) and they will be able see the key interchange points too.

Again, there is no sign of the map on-line at the moment. fbb is not sure whether an "underground" style map, with its consequent lack of geographical integrity, is the best way to communicate inter-urban routes. Currently this is the style used for Swansea city.
Complicated, isn't it?

There is no doubt that this Cymru Clipper scheme has great potential. As they say, watch this space.

A couple of final thoughts for today. Here is an Ammanford local poster from way back.
Note: "our buses meet all trains". Those were the days!

And finally: if Cymru Clippers are to be blue and gold ...
... what are these for? And finally, finally ...
... Welsh Gold?

** Although First Cymru have "no forthcoming timetables", it is possible to find some forthcoming timetables via "Travel News" and "Service Updates". Here, fbb's supposition is confirmed; the X13 is increased to every 20 minutes between Swansea and Ammanford. Peak time journeys to Llandeilo continue and the X14 variant is withdrawn.
Well guessed, fbb?

 Next bus/rail blog : Wednesday 30th April 

Monday, 28 April 2014

fbb Forgot to Send a Card

Happy Birthday Eclipse
South East Hampshire Bus Rapid Transit is a 2.8 miles (4.5 km) unguided busway between Gosport and Fareham, Hampshire, sponsored by Hampshire County Council using the route of the former Gosport to Fareham railway line to reduce congestion on the parallel A32 between the towns. The scheme was proposed following the collapse of the light rail scheme using the same route and funding was approved in July 2009 for the £20m scheme. The route opened on 22 April 2012 with services provided by First Hampshire & Dorset using specially branded "Eclipse" buses on all routes utilising the busway.
In October last year the daytime Monday to Saturday frequemcy was increased from every 15 on each of the two Eclipse routes to every 12.
Eclipse isn’t just any bus service – it’s a whole new way of travelling. The luxurious Eclipse buses have large leather seats, on-board Wi-Fi, news updates and next-stop announcements. With built-in bus priority, fast, reliable journey times between Fareham and Gosport are assured. And from 6 October (2013) the combined frequency of Eclipse E1 and E2 services increased to every six minutes during the daytime, Monday to Saturday – making it even easier to plan your day around Eclipse.

Then fbb gets an e-mail "circular", not from First, but from Hampshire County Council:-

The Eclipse website ( has been updated to reflect current progress on improvements to bus services on the Eclipse routes . You will find latest news on schemes nearing completion and those underway for the A27 Western Way and those due to start shortly including 13 bus stop upgrade improvements in Gosport.

Needless to say the link didn't work**, but eventually the page was found via First's web site. A click on "news" ...
... tells us about 13 new bus stops which aren't new bus stops. One complaint with Eclipse was that the busway had all the bells and whistles but, once back in the real world of older Gosport, it was plain old-fashined "flag" and pole and not much else. But work has started to improve some of them.
What do you get for your money?
Plus "bus kerbs, special tactile signs on the shelters to guide where to get on the bus and an aural mode to the screens activated by a RNIB React system fob."

RNIB React is a talking sign system that enables blind or partially sighted people to be more independent when out and about. The system works by using a trigger fob.
This fob may be carried in the user's hand, pocket or bag. When switched on, it automatically sets off messages as the user approaches speaker units along their route. Using controls on the trigger fob, they can also get more detailed messages.

So much better than a "pole and flag".

Confirmation and correction : the maps are, indeed, "local" for each individual stop as here at Waitrose in Gosport.
Overall, then, some useful betterment plus a few toys that are dubious in their value.

The next news item is more interesting because it refers to improvements in the unfrastructure aiming to speed up Eclipse journeys in Fareham centre. Hitherto, buses have left the bus station (top left) and wiggled to Quay Street roundabout (bottom right) ...
... which provides a near-certain hold-up at almost any time of day.
The Eclipse routes currently follow the blue arrows into Western Way.
But now here is Hampshire County Council's cunning plan. Divert the buses via the old Western Road before that wiggle starts wiggling ...
... bash a hole through trees and grassy bank and install lights and a bus gate to let Eclipse buses (and others) out onto Western Way.
Now they can neatly by-pass the horrid hold-up roundabout by following the purple arrows. Additionally, the existing bus lane on Western Way itself ...
... is being moved left to create a third lane. This will be good for non-bus traffic (?) but the Brucie Bonus is that the new bus lane (below, shaded puce) will provide a cloggage-free exit on to the station stop.

So fbb missed the birthday ...
... wasn't even invited to the party and forgot to send a card. [Sadly, there wasn't a party!]

We will have to limit ourselves to a slice of imaginary cake and a hearty three cheers for the Busway [a week late!].
** Later attempts did work; but redirection was in place ...
... odd? Why not use the correct "URL" in the first place? Or is it the disease of out-sourced contractors again?
 Next bus blog : Tuesday 29th April 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

A Heart-warming Tale - Liiterally

This is Shane Mitchell ...
... 39 year old First Aberdeen bus driver.

February 3rd 2014 was a normal day as Shane drove his service 2 bus along Union Street ...
 ... when he heard a thud. A customer informed him that someone had collapsed. Shane immediately pulled over and from there his instincts took over.

"I knew something was wrong because the gentleman's lips had turned blue," said Shane. "I tried shouting in his ear, but there was no response, so then checked for a pulse, but couldn't find one. I asked one of my other passengers to call an ambulance, and then I set about trying to revive him.  I opened his shirt, checked his airways and then began CPR. I just kept going until the ambulance arrived, hoping that I could get some form of response. The emergency services arrived within a few minutes and rushed him to hospital." 
Shane, who lives in Sheddocksley with his wife, continued: "I didn't hear anything and I feared the worst, but I was contacted the next morning by the family of the passenger. They confirmed that he was going to be OK and that my actions had probably saved his life and certainly prevented brain damage; by performing CPR I had kept the blood pumping to the brain." 
The passenger concerned was 72 year old Allan Mclean, a retired labourer, from the city's Gallowgate who was heading into the city centre at the time after getting a haircut on King Street.

The actual barber visited is, not surpisingly, omitted from this tale; but there a two listed on King Street, each with a slightly terrifying hair cutting cartoon!
Back to Allan!

He said: "The day it happened is just a blur. I actually don't recall getting a haircut. But I remember feeling unwell on the bus and then experiencing excruciating pain in my chest. I remember thinking I must be having a heart attack and then I blacked out. The next thing I knew I was in hospital wondering how I got there. Thankfully I'm making a good recovery, but I will be forever indebted to Shane. There is no doubt in my mind that he saved my life."

Allan Mclean, his son (also Allan) and two of his grandchildren, Danny and Emily, paid a special visit to First Aberdeen on 23rd April to thank Shane. Allan's grand-son, Danny Mclean (aged two), said: "Bus man saved my Granda!"
First Aberdeen has also formally recognised Shane's actions. He has been awarded the company's internal "Superstar of the Month" award, has been nominated for the "Superstar of the Year" title ...
... and will be nominated as "Frontline Employee of the Year" at the National Transport Awards.
Operations Manager at First Aberdeen, David Adam ...
... said: "All at First Aberdeen are incredibly proud of Shane. Our internal Superstar awards reward our employees who go that extra mile for our customers. There is no better example of customer service than saving the life of one of our passengers!"

"I just did what anyone would have done in those circumstances," said Shane.
First's Former Finglands
Ferocious Fares Fight
March money mischief in Manchester ...
... with a special offer which runs (initially) until the end of June. Magicbus, which also runs along the busy Wilmslow Road, has matched this price.
From today former Finglands services, taken over by First, have been enhanced; notably service 42 ...
... is extended across the centre of Manchester.

Heyho! It used to be so simple!
 Next bus blog : Monday 28th April