Thursday, 26 March 2015

A Jolly Day with 6, 6A! (2)

One Starts, the Other ...
A somewhat distraught Mrs fbb alighted from her unwanted train to Exmouth at Exeter Central and sought advice.
The man on the barrier listened and responded, "show me your ticket and I'll let you through the barrier."
Which, of course, was no help whatsoever. She decided to walk back to St Davids in the hope of getting another train to Dawlish as fbb had said they were every half an hour. The less-than-helpful man-on-the-barrier told her to "go right" then left to get to St David's.

Now there are signposts ... BUT ...
... none at the clock at the end of Queen Street. So she went sort-of left here and kept going. But wrongly. Unfrotunately she missed the very mall finger posts until she got to the end of Streatham Drive (top left) ...
... where she found a sign directing back from whence she had come!
Thankfully some helpful local yokels directed her via Howell Road and a footpath and eventually she was back at St Davids. Hooray!

By now it was too late and too complicated to get to the meeting.

So she went home on the 1025 after two hours of fun and frolic at the expense of poor information on St Davids station. But not after nearly punching a series of railway staff who seemed to know nothing about trains except by prodding their tablets. But then they were First Great Western staff and the trains to Axminster are run by St*g*c**ch S**th W*st Tr**ns! 

In a situation where confusion is easy, as at St Davids, surely the train dispatcher on the platform should be announcing which bit was going where and, BEFORE departure, the conductors of both split trains should make announcements and allow time for Mrs fbb (and others) to repent of their heinous transgressions. Or even have a signs that say "rear train" and "front train".

The railways served Mrs fbb badly on Monday, but, as she often says, "Public Transport is not for the public, it's only for regular travellers who know all the secrets."

Meanwhile, back at Exeter bus station, fbb is enjoying the comfort of a freezing waiting room with doors locked open and the heaters switched off. Welcome to Sragecoach!
fbb was well pleased to see that the stand notices had all been updated to show the 6 and 6 ...
... but less pleased to see that Stand 14 had been vinylled afresh ...
... for the X54 which hasn't run for over 18 months. But then it is run by F*rst B*s and we have nothing to do with them. There doesn't seem to be enough room in the bus station; because service were regularly leaving from the wrong stands; here an X46 wrongly branded as Gold ...
... leaving from the 39/X38 stand.

There was plenty of publicity in the excellent travel office but on closer examination the new 6 and 6A had not been added to the maps. Their predecessors (X9 and X10) remained.
Can fbb treat Stagecoach to a felt tip fen?

Departure was scheduled at 1110 on Service 6 to Bude on a nice double decker which had arrived at 1055.
There was a delay before departure because a "senior" pass came up on the ticket machine as "not valid" when it was, palpably, valid. This bit of bureaucracy from the Council (presumably) is one of the daftest. Why should passes with a photograph ever be genuinely (as opposed to technically) invalid? The holder of the card is clearly the guy on the photograph and equally clearly an old crock. The Exeter delay meant that we left five minutes late and never recovered the lost time as we shall see.

But 6 and 6A journeys are, historically, all about the A30 and the Okehampton and Bude railway branch.
Service 6 follows the quicker route to Okehampton, mainly along the much improved, dualled A30.
There is a brief diversion via the original A30, Cheriton Bishop and Crockernwell ...
... before re-joining the fast road to Okehampton.
For these two villages the 6 joins the 6A (of which more later), the latter sticking almost entirely to the old road. The 1110 from Exeter deposited one solitary passenger at Cheriton Bishop otherwise its diversion was fruitless. Approximately 15 souls travelled at least as far a Okehampton including one interchanger with luggage from the train at Exeter St Davids.

What was encouraging was to see shiny new bus stop flags along most of the route (no stops on the A30 itself, of course!).
All the stops as far as Okehampton had new flags and timetable frames (with new timetables in then). First Kernow and Buses of Somerset please note where appropriate!

By now we were nearer 8 minutes late and the section to Bude offered less opportunity of "pedal to the metal".

The views from fbb's chosen top deck offside seat were glorious, possibly a little less than perfect due to cloud cover. An interchange of passengers at the West Street time point meant the run to Bude had a similar modest load.

All proceeded normally and, in places, as fast as the speed limits would allow, until an industrial estate near Stratton (a few miles before Bude) appeared on the starboard side. Alarmingly we pulled in, reversed and the driver tootled his horn.
A change of drivers took place. fbb noticed a Stahecoach single deck parkeed in the extensive yard, so some clever scheduling had been necessary.

This made us 10 minutes late. Thus a 13 minute layover at Bude Strand ...
... was reduced to 3! There was no time for fbb to explore, even photograph, the stop; but observation suggested that all the publicity was up to date. This included the recent replacements following the sale of a chunk of Western Greyhound then its total collapse. 

Go Cornwall (Plymouth Citybus) 576
   renumbered 12 from April
   Bude to Plymouth
which used to be First Bus 76!
Stagecoach 595
   Bude to Wadebridge
being the most significant of these.

For the record, these were the published times (summarised) for the journey from Exeter and back to Okehampton.
We will look at he run from Okehampton to Bude tomorrow with a passing glimpse at its former parallel, the London and South Western Railway's branch.

 Next bus/rail blog : Friday 27th March 


  1. Yes, there's no excuse for split trains not to have platform displays for each destination and part, announcements of the same, and on-board announcements with sufficient time before departure. South West Trains manage to do all of that Woking on Sundays and presumably on their other splitting trains as well.

  2. With modern technology it is also no longer "rocket science" to have a display inside the carriage, indicating (at least) the final destination.

  3. Ref: fbbs question about an ENCTS card not being valid, there are a number of reasons why such a card may no longer be genuinely valid despite the photo matching the holder & them looking old enough. The card may simply have expired and not been renewed, this may be due to simple innocent forgetfulness but it may be because the person has moved away and is no longer eligible for one. The card may have been reported lost or stolen with a replacement issued which would mean the original was no longer valid (we have had experience of friends & relations being caught using other peoples ENCTS cards & one person who had two cards in their possession). If DCC have got their systems working (not all Local Authorities have) then drivers will be under instruction not to accept cards (especially local ones) that show as not valid on their machines and whilst there is some room for discretion the driver would have to consider it at the time. Of course this all assumes it was a local pass, if it was a non-local one then there are all sorts of other issues but they are technical reasons not genuine ones, largely around how bad some LAs are in telling non-local organisations & operators the details of their card programming so they can ensure the cards are read across England.

  4. Re Dwarfer1979. I hold a South Yorks ENCTS pass but use Arriva Midlands buses once a fortnight. Arriva's machines have never read my pass correctly - apparently due to an IT problem of some kind. Most drivers take a look and wave me on, but one worthy from Cannock Garage frequently caused unpleasantness by loudly insisting that my pass WASN'T valid. This has stopped following a complaint to Arriva Customer Services (and a nice reply by phone)- but the fault seems to lie at Arriva's end - journeys on Midland Classic and TrentBarton don't cause problems.

    1. It's all dependent on the ETM & back office provider used in each case as to whether they get the information, though both Arriva & First appear from reports to be quite bad at passing programming information between companies whilst Stagecoach seem good at it. The big groups appear to use their own bespoke back office systems whilst smaller operators will tend to 'piggy-back' on a local authority back office organised by a national provider who should apply all the details it gets across all its operators. Trent would probably be included by South Yorkshire as a local operator in passing out details in any case (they reach Chesterfield which is very close & sister company TM Travel are based on the edge of Sheffield) whilst Midland Classic I think use a system that is also used by a number of operators in Yorkshire so may well get the info that way. It is an issue for Arriva in a way for not getting their back office systems working nationally but it also highlights the confusion created by the fragmented way concessionary fares are managed with no national system for disseminating programming data across the country whilst the operators then risk losing a proportion of their BSOG payments for not being able to read all the passes they didn't know they couldn't read.

  5. Why did FBB not spend an extra five pence, travel with his wife to Exeter St Davids to ensure that she caught the correct train to Dawlish and then indulge in his daily feast of cholesterol - the needs of the stomach obviously were more important than assisting his wife!

  6. So essentially you've written a blog to show how you let your wife travel alone to save yourself a poxy few quid. She gets into all sorts of difficulty whilst you sit stuffing your face high on the self satisfaction of your encyclopaedic knowledge of the railways.

    Husband of the Year!!

  7. For the benfit of the tetchy remarks above, let the record state that Mrs fbb travelled early and indepedently at her own request. The offer of a shared journey was made - as always. Mrs fbb is a big girl now. fbb is not in the slightest way repentant and will not take responsibily for First Great Western's incompetence. And he saved 40% of his indulgence by travelling later, not 5p.

  8. Is it suddenly 1955 again, where timid little girlies are not allowed out on their own without a chaperone?
    As for 'invalid' smartcards, I'm taken by the shenanigans that go on trying to get card to talk to ticket machine - drivers rubbing them on jumpers, holding them aloft near the ceiling, you name it - and wasn't this supposed to speed up boarding times?

    1. I am given to understand that drivers that enter OAP passes manually can be called to account over it, as some authorities question why the card wasn't registered correctly, as they can get all sorts of data from the chip when aggregated in the back office (Mrs Scroggins travels every Tuesday and Friday to town and back, but on Saturday goes for a day out to the coast). That's why drivers are instructed to try everything to register the pass correctly (plus of course it might be stolen or barred for some reason).

      Seriously though . . . it is possible to get some good Origin and Destination data from these ETM's, which does help with service planning and the like (shades of MAP from the 1980's).

      Anonymous @ 1238 - shame on you! If you can't submit a constructive comment or bother to append an ID, then don't bother at all.

    2. Certainly if you are in an area that has got it's hot-listing (the process where lost, stolen or invalid cards can be blocked from being used across the network) working then a driver ignoring an invalid message against a card would be considered to be aiding a fraudulent use and so could get into trouble, in areas which haven't got hot-listing working it would be considered less of a hot topic for the drivers. It was found pretty quickly that ITSO cards didn't read particularly quickly and weren't really going to speed up OAP boarding times over using a flash pass (ITSO is the national standard that needs to be adhered to if a smartcard is going to be able to be read on any operator), non-ITSO cards are less difficult and will read quicker than ITSO cards but will only work on specific machines carrying the specific programming required to read them.

      Smartcards can be a little susceptible to damaged because the aerial that allows the card to be read runs around the edge of the card any slightly cracking can break the aerial and stop it communicating so if a driver can spot a crack in the card he can advise the customer better on what to do next with a non-working card (he may also give the customer the benefit of the doubt on a faulty card if it is damaged over if it is just not being accepted).