Monday 16 June 2014

Is it Nuts? Or Necessary? [1]

The word "Brazil" comes from brazilwood, a tree that once grew plentifully along the Brazilian coast. In Portuguese, brazilwood is called pau-brasil, with the word brasil commonly given the etymology "red like an ember", formed from Latin brasa ("ember") and the suffix -il (from -iculum or -ilium).

As brazilwood produces a deep red dye, it was highly valued by the European cloth industry and was the earliest commercially exploited product from Brazil. The official name of the land, in original Portuguese records, was the "Land of the Holy Cross" (Terra da Santa Cruz), but European sailors and merchants commonly called it simply the "Land of Brazil" (Terra do Brasil).

So nothing to do with nuts, then. Some cheeky chappy has suggested how the competition logo was derived.

Anyway, with the prospect of wall-to-wall televised footy from 1600 to 0115 all this week (it's going to be emotional boring?), fbb will provide an intellectually stimulating alternative by taking you through some of the problems of the First Kernow (Cornwall) network.

Penzance is a pleasant enough town, bereft, these days of the Pirates musically promoted by William Schwenk Gilbert. There is good public transport interchange with buses leaving from just outside the railway terminus.
click on the composite above for a larger size

The station is far left, the bus terminal with white cupola (?) roof structure is far right and, in between, we have the very useful Tourist Information Office and the near essential gents' and ladies' toilets. Also in the block is First's "Travel Shop" ...
... but not much use if you turn up at lunchtime or you are on a weekend day trip! Does the company want tourist business?

So we join a Bed and Breakfast couple, Mavis and Eric Smail ...
... investigating a possible trip to Land's End, no doubt to be photographed (expensively) beside the famous finger post.
They had arrived on Saturday, mooched around Penzance on Sunday and sought out the Travel Office on Monday. They were pleased to be offered a timetable book plus verbal advice that buses to Land's End run every hour. "Sennen Cove's pretty, they say and Mrs Crump (landlady) recommends Lamorna Cove," proffered Eric, "we could make a day of it."

The map in the timetable book makes their plans look very simple indeed.
Take a 1 or 1A to Lamorna; have a look round and perhaps a coffee, or something stronger for Eric ...
... catch the next bus an hour later to Lands's End ...
... for more magnificent views and a lunchtime sandwich from a cosy little Cornish cafe; continuing later to ...
... the equally picturesque Sennen Cove. A cup of tea and the hourly bus back to Penzance. Just in time for a fish and chip supper at "The Pirates" just round the corner from the B & B.
But then they turned to the timetable pages.
PDF version; the gap is where the page-fold comes
in the printed book

Immediately, Eric confessed that he couldn't "make head nor tail" of the pages. "What are all these arrows and little triangles for?" he asked, his query embroidered with the occasional "expletive deleted". In an attempt to placate her rapidly rage-reddening spouse, Mavis suggested, "lets go to Lamrona and take it from there; at least we are making a start."
It turns out that they had missed the 0900 departure (service 1B and not on the map) and the next left at 1210. Undaunted, they wandered aimlessly round the town, had an earlier sandwich lunch than they had originally planned and duly set off at 1210.

There were yet a few more surprises in store. "Funny sort of hourly service," muttered Eric as he handed over an alarming amount of money for the fares.

Nevertheless, they were on their way.
from a recent "vintage" bus running day

A recent email from an occasional correspondent suggested, "While I sometimes feel you are a bit harsh on purveyors of online information, in most cases they are reasonably accurate." This week's series of blogs on Cornish Clot(ted) timetables is a case in point. Readers will be able to judge the harshness or otherwise of fbb's (considered?) opinions at the end of the week.

 Next bus blog : Tuesday 17th June 


  1. How can FBB criticise a timetable booklet when he has previously claimed to be a member of the editorial team? Most unprofessional.
    The new First Cornwall booklet is full of mistakes (journeys not included, journeys that do not run) - why didn't FBB correct all these obvious mistakes?

  2. The problem with enquiry offices seems to be that the companies don't attribute any' value' to them beyond that of whatever tickets they sell.

    There was a time when such offices would have had quite a trade in season tickets, express, tours, excursions etc. apart from dealing with bus service enquiries. Face to face transactions were necessary and helped to sell the wider range of other services on offer.

    Business was such that older vehicles would often be re-licensed for the summer season.

    Over the years such markets declined (not helped by the attitude of NBC after it was formed) and the growth of on line selling has no doubt made such facilities harder to justify. Just how much revenue do you loose by closing/not having one against the cost of having, maintaining and operating it?

    That's the hard nosed way of looking at it. It also allows point whatever of a percentage to be added to the 'profit' line.

    But would you find a major High Street retailer where you couldn't ask a question and/or resolve a problem in store? They have enquiry/complaint desks and obviously put a 'value' on this facility.

    One thing the loss of enquiry offices does do is 'stifle' the ability of customers to complain. They want to talk to someone 'face to face' and feel valued, not wait on the phone for ages to find themselves dealing with an office in another county who have no local knowledge.

    But that of course also improves (reduces) their number of complaints received and makes the manager(s) look good.

    There seems something wrong when you have to hunt out details of something you want to purchase and enquiries are regarded as a nuisance that will only be dealt with on the terms of the seller.

    1. Actually, at FDC we do attribute great value to our three remaining Travel Offices, and not as direct income streams, but as complimentary service providers to customers and intending customers. We're still in the (rather protracted) process of refurbishing the one in Taunton, and will move on to Penzance and Truro in due course. We're alive to the peculiarity that is having travel shops closed before and after work and at lunch times for commuters, and on summer Sundays for visitors in Penzance. Thank you FBB for reminding us about the need to address this as it had slipped down the list of things to look at - we're now looking at it!!! We've done a lot, much of it behind the scenes in Cornwall, and much of it in the public gaze in Somerset, but we know we are only part way down a pretty long road to get to where we want to. We're working our way through some longstanding issues in a methodical order, and are determined to get there in the end.

    2. A display of the full First timetables at Penzance Bus Station would help everybody - at present we have lists of departure times, but no details of return buses from Lands End, St Ives, Truro etc.

  3. Anon, he clearly said that he was helping with the new yet to be published edition, not this one!

    1. FBB was involved with the production of the new Cornwall book.

  4. I understand that protracted negotiations with Cornwall Council over the minutiae of tenders caused delays scheduling and thus delays to booklet production. It was a gargantuan effort to get this edition out on time. I am sure that the team is very conscious that they must do better next time.

  5. It's still SO MUCH BETTER than leaflets. Credit where credit is due!

  6. PZ information office now opening at weekends this summer for the first time for years!

    Things are definitely on the up at First Kernow.