Friday, 3 April 2015

A Jolly Day with 6, 6A! (5)

Pushed Over the Edge?
In November 2014, Stagecoach registered changes to its services between Exeter and Okehampton with one peak trip extended to Launceston.
Whether this was the final blow or not, the ailing Western Greyhound announced the withdrawal of its once-prestigious 510 service from the end of February 2015.
By negotiation with Devon County an expanded X10 and a revised X9 were registered by Stagecoach to start immediately; but now numbered 6A (Launceston) and 6 (Bude) respectively. Service 6 journeys run mostly direct via the A30 between Exeter and Okehampton whilst the 6A bumbles via the villages.

Having been all the way to Bude and back to Okehampton on the 6, fbb was now ready to ride to Launceston and thence back to Exeter on the 6A.
The route west follows the "old" A30 leaving its newer replacement some distance to the north. (click on the map for an enlargement).
And here fbb has a confession to make. On leaving Bude earlier, the rain and drizzle started which somewhat impaired the views from top deck front. There was a tantalising glimpse of the of the Meldon Viaduct ...
... on the line between Exeter, Okehampton and Plymouth; considered and rejected by Network Rail as an alternative to Dawlish. There were what might have been spectacular views of the gorgeous moors ...
... but which for fbb were just a uniform grey! Pity. But this leg of the 6A is on the list for a return visit when brightly shines the sun. Even Mrs fbb might be persuaded to take the ride! Potentially glorious.

As previously mentioned, the bus was running about 10 minutes late (pretty standard for the whole day) which meant that Launceston came and went with the briefest of stops.
The 90 minute run back to Exeter was again through late afternoon murk. A "mature" lady passenger who had conversed briefly with fbb on the outward run rejoined at Bridestowe and, noticing his camera and timetable began to expound on her views (at length!) on bus travel, rail travel, MP's salaries, new trains for the Great Western line, Dawlish, Okehampton, Beeching and, in general, anything to do with transport.

Needless to say, she was not impressed with fbb's answers along the lines of, "you can have all these improvements you want, just put 10p in the pound on income tax."  It is amazing how transport "amateurs" think the mysterious "them" can fund everything, conveniently forgetting that "their" money is "our" money graciously handed over via P.A.Y.E., V.A.T. , T.I.N. and other tax.

fbb enjoyed the lovely little villages and was looking forward to the Pathfinder version. The name suggested some primitive Poldarkian trail-blazer who opened up the wild west by striking tin, copper or mangelwrurzels and thus creating the idyllic Devon village. Oooh arrrgh.
Sadly not. It's a vast caravan and chalet site aka holiday park. (As an aside, Five Mile Hill appeers to have been missed by Goodle Streetview's street viewing car so fbb cannot use that source for a picture.
The junction close to the A30 is as far as you can go on-line.

Once again, good roadside publicity prevailed with brand new 6A flags throughout ...
... mostly with timetable frames. It was pleasing, too that these were timetables not lists of departures; so the innocent abroad could get some guide as to when he/she might arrive at their destination. Perhaps these timetables could have been a little bigger - easy to enlarge the PDF file - but they were all in place.

fbb understands that the timetable may soon be "tweaked" to  try to overcome a little tightness in the timings which were "inherited" from Western Greyhound. If fbb's experience is typical, the summer traffic will make most of these schedules impossible.

One other feature of these services gets a "could do better" school report from fbb. The map on the leaflet is poor.
Although the roads served are shown with commendable accuracy,place names are sadly lacking. Tedburn St Mary and Pathfinder Village are missing near to Exeter and nothing appears on the road from Okehampton to Launceston. Likewise a total emptiness of settlements  is evident for the "positioning" journeys that run between Bude and Launceston.

It is hard to work out why. fbb is tempted to suppose that the cartographer didn't know where the buses went, but the road map part of the diagram is accurate. Whatever the reason, the map is poor; it should at the very least, show all "time points". Perhaps, as this was something of an emergency measure, they just ran out of time!

One other snag with he 6/6A timetable from Okehampton TO Exeter schedule is that journeys are not evenly spaced...
... with two buses every two hours. It is hard to see how his could be avoided whilst retaining efficient use of vehicles but maybe the clever schedulers at Stagecoach could find a cunning plan which would give Oakhamptoners a more even service to th county own.

Conclusions : an excellent service with good vehicles, good views and good fares. Well worth a try if you are in the area. 9 out of 10 for effort!

For the record, previous 6/6A episodes can be read as follows:- [1], [2], [3] and [4].
A Good Day to Die?
In the twentyfirst century, we tend to sanitise the Crucifixion. In the case of Jesus we are told that he "set his face to go to Jerusalem" and made no secret of the fact that he as going there to die. His trial was ludicrously illegal and the punishment was designed to be  cruel and painful as possible.

So why not walk away? Why not go into hiding?

700 years before Jesus was born the Old Testament prophet Isaiah "got the message" and spoke out.

We despised him and rejected him;
he endured suffering and pain.
No one would even look at him;
we ignored him as if he were nothing.

But he endured the suffering that should have been ours,
the pain that we should have borne.

All of us were like sheep that were lost,
each of us going his own way.
But the Lord made the punishment fall on him,
the punishment all of us deserved.

The message of The Cross is both simple and profound. God-on-Earth (Jesus) went willingly to the horror of the cross to take on His shoulders the punishment we should be getting for our "sins"; for those frequent occasions when we do not live as God ordains.

Was the crucifixion a life-changing event for mankind - or a tragic end to a deluded life?

The next two days provide the answer.
 Next model rail blog : Saturday 4th April 


  1. Historically, Stagecoach will leave alone and respect operators that they consider to be doing a good job running buses. Where they think the competition is not of decent quality they will act to defend their position.

    Western Greyhound was one such business that commanded such respect, and it was only when the service delivery issues began to affect the business that Stagecoach took action in order to defend their position. After all, they've spent a lot of time making Exeter 'their patch' and would not take too kindly to others interloping.

    When you're confronted with an operator that thinks its acceptable to run vehicles in their former operator's full livery, including fleetnames and ignore such basics as proper destination equipment for 18 months, and also taking such a cavalier attitude to operating its registered mileage then clearly Stagecoach will infer conclusions about the future state of the company, and they will in that situation act accordingly in order to defend their area.

    The fact that they waited so long to act is surprising.

    Wouldn't you act the same in that context as the dominant network provider in the area when confronted with such an operator?