Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Sapphire Simply Saddens [1]

We’ve spent a lot of time talking to people who use the bus regularly, those who use it occasionally and even people who seldom go by bus, to find out what’s important to them and how we can make going by bus a better experience. The result is Sapphire, an altogether better bus service from Arriva.

You told us you want:
Buses to be on time, reliable, frequent and take a direct route
Drivers to look smart and give excellent customer service
An enhanced feeling of personal safety, space and comfort
The 41 vehicles running Sapphire routes are a mixture of brand new
     and extensively refurbished buses.
They are fitted with more comfortable leather seats, with high backs,
     deeper cushions and more space; in some areas of the buses
     we’ve used the space normally taken by four seats
     to have three, more spacious places to sit
Free WiFi 
Charging points
Audio-visual announcements

fbb has previously blogged about Sapphire with a certain amount of cynicsm. Many of the company's "novelties" look like they should be part of every bus service. The provision of WiFi is increasingly becoming a standard requirement rather than a luxury extra, for example. But fbb had never travelled on a Sapphire service. This was put right on the recent visit to Leicester for the 90th anniversary of the City's motorbuses. 

For the record, that was First Bus, son of Leicester Corporation Transport. Arriva is successor to Midland Fox, itself a brand created for a retstructured Midland Red.

Services 31 and 31A run via London Road to Oadby ...
... a small narrow village by-passed by the A6 in 1931. The map extract above shows the new road added to an existing map, crudely passing through the village name. This ...
... is Oadby in 1912! This ...
... is Oadby in 1955. And, finally, a similar shot from Streetview today,
Ribbon development spread along the A6 by-pass in the form of housing and light industry, followed by a splurging of estates on both sides of the original village. It is those estates that are served by Arriva's Sapphrie branded 31 and 31A.
Apart from a period of silly competition, the town has been in the purview of Arriva for most of the post privatised period.
Time, then, to plan this great expedition. The aim was to do the 31 loop outwards then nip through to catch the 31A back. This meant that the full delights of Oadby would be available for the edification of your esteemed blogger.
With both routes having a 15 minute frequency, the out-and-back would be easy to schedule. A quick look on Streetview revealed a further bonus; the interchange would be at Sainsburys (on Glen Road at the junction with Ash Tree Road, see map above) ...
... with the caff supplying fbb's lavish evening meal (?).

But there is an information problem. Very few buses continue round the loop to the aforementioned Glen Road Ashtree Road. The 1720 is one example but fbb was hoping for something an hour earlier.
Remembering that this is a premium Sapphire service, we can be sure that the timetable is spot-on correct; although that is not one of the key features of the brand. Of course ... it's yet another example of the complete inability of bus companies to show loops correctly. All buses run to Glen Road Ashtree Road; the ones shown as going there on the incompetent timetable page are buses that are finishing their day's work and making their way "light" back to the depot.

Thanks all concerned for Sapphire quality.

fbb needed to look at the inbound timetable to estimate his arrival at Sainsburys.
It's the same the other way; a very few morning journeys are shown as starting at the beginning of the loop ...
... whereas, of course, they all do.

Sapphire quality rules OK!

And while the PR gurus at Arriva are contemplating the best way to arrange a change at The Grange, maybe they should also think about the "terminus", enigmatically called "The Blues".
Problem No 1 with this location ...
The Co-op has announced plans to convert a former pub into a convenience store, creating 20 jobs. The Blues, in Uplands Road, Oadby, closed six months ago. It is set to reopen as a shop in the autumn. The shop will be open seven days a week and will be able to sell alcohol between 7am and 10pm.

... it doesn't exist! Problem No 2 with this location ...

The buses don't "terminate" there - they wait for their departure time elsewhere on the estate; well, fbb's did!

Nevertheless, a quick nip out of Leicester London Road Station and there is the stop, and bang on time arrives Arriva 31 having left Charles Street at 1630.
The adventure begins.
All Electric MetroShuttle
First Bus and Transport for Greater Manchester have announced the introduction of three all electric Optare thingeys for MetroShuttle1, one of three free city centre buses.
 The three newcomers will join exisiting hybrids on the route.
Here are the Mancunian Great and Good (Vicky Tomlinson, operations manager for bus operator First, Howard Hartley, Head of Bus for TfGM, and Cllr Mark Aldred, Deputy Chair of the TfGM Committee.) doing their PR bit.
But the best bit, by far, is the slogan on the back.
Whoever composed that deserves at least a chocolate peanut!
Unlike Milton Keynes, the buses have proper pipes to fill them with the 'lectric, so they might actually work.
 Next bus blog : Thursday 31st July 

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