Sunday, 24 January 2016

Falcon's Far-reaching Flightpath [2]

And Other Matters
We continue to follow the new Stagecoach South West Falcon route as it wends its way onwards from Taunton to Bristol. First we nip off the M5 at junction 24 to serve "Bridgwater" nominally.
The tarmac verges on the approach road are used mainly by lorry drivers to take their legal rest breaks ...
... so we must hope that Stagecoach and/or Somerset Council will create a bit of exclusive layby for the Falcon. fbb presumes that the coach will rejoin the M5 for a bit more of its run into Bristol. The quickest way to the city would be over the Avon viaduct and in via the A4 but Uncle Brian wants to serve the airport.

The next bit is an educated guess.
The route will leave the M5 for good just two junctions after Bridgwater; then just along the A38 is the turn to Brent Knoll and The Fox and Goose.
You can espy a coach in the layby on the "to Bristol" side of the road, but fbb could spot no such luxury adjacent.

Next we have "Churchill Inn" another roadside pub and eatery. This is, surprisingly, at the village of Churchill just past where the A368 from Weston super Mud joins the A38.
The stops are currently served by First's A2 from Weston via the airport to Clevedon or Portishead.
The Falcon will bring a direct service to Bristol from this and the previous stop.

At Bristol Airport the Falcon will provide a less frequent alternative to First's every 10 minute A1 into Bristol.
An then it is on to Bristol itself. But where will it terminate? 
The Centre (formerly The Tramway Centre, lower left) where the majority of city bus services terminate or pass.
NO. The Bus Station (aerial view upper left)? NO. Temple Meads railway station, aerial view lower right? NO.

The terminus is given as Cabot Circus, a shopping centre ...
... and traffic intersection top right on the aerial view above. fbb thinks this is a less than ideal place for onward travel by public transport and not particularly helpful for car and taxi pick-up or set down. But his Bristolian chums may be able to offer a better opinion.

Because such a service is utterly innovative, it is hard to predict its success. Offering £1 tickets for a fortnight suggests that Stagecoach are determined to get off to a good start.
fbb intends to take a ride on Monday 15th February. How far he will ride will depend on the timetable, but Taunton Plymouth, Plymouth Bristol and Bristol Taunton would be a provisional aim. Nothing is said about validity (or not) of OAP passes, but £3 is not likely to have a major deleterious effect on the family finances. 

Should be fun.

As well as the crunch questions about the go-for-it-in-a-big-way initial 24/7 timetable, one might be uneasy at poor facilities at many of the stops. Will, for example, waiting at a lonely Drumbridges roundabout or a busy Huntworth Lane be acceptable after dark? For this reason alone, it is likely that most customers will come via the main stops in Plymouth, Exeter, possibly Taunton and Bristol.

The timetable is due "soon" and that may help us all make a fair evaluation.

But three hearty cheers for Stagecoach and their massive commercial gamble.

And (doomed, we're all doomed!) remember First's hourly Greyhound services between Portsmouth and Southampton and the Big Smoke.

Exciting times.

P.S. This is not the first Falcon run by Stagecoach. Here is a Dennis Falcon operating in Hartlepool in the 1990s.
And here is its sister in Hartlepool Corporation livery before the takeover.
It's Still On The Go In Sheffield
Have They Got It Right This Time?

November 1st - major changes
January 3rd - revised timetables
January 24th - revised timetables
February 7th - revised timetables
All except 11, 12 and 15 are Sheffield routes that were upheaved back in November.

Note that services 40 and 41, each running every half hour, have changed twice since they were introduced in November last year.

One feature of this change to the change is that service 40, which currently terminates here ...
... serving housing development at Catcliffe, will, from February 7th,  turn short here ...
... at Morrisons. This is to improve reliability.

Well done partnership; you can improve the sevice by keeping those nasty unreliable buses away from those awkward passengers who hold them up getting on and off. Brilliant!

An aerial view makes it clear; the original terminus being near the orange blob. (click to enlarge the pic).
The new terminus is at the Poplar Way roundabout lower left. As a bonus you could get off the bus and patronise the biggest Chippy (Whitby's) in captivity ...
... before catching the next 40, half an hour later, back to Sheffield.  fbb must add that to his next Sheffield "to do" list.
Yes, definitely!

The whole cunning curtailment plan is called "management".
Partners plus Minister
proudly launching in November 2015

 Final app blog : Monday 25th January 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Some thoughts from the Bristol locale...

    - Firstly, and a small point, but good to see that they have now noticed the spelling mistake in that it is Bridgwater, not Bridgewater.

    - The banner advert that takes a user to the dedicated (Stagecoach South West) Falcon webpage scrolls across the home page if you input your location as being in Stagecoach South West land - i.e. up as far as Brent Knoll (which the website considers as being Highbridge). However, if your location is Bristol, there is no mention of it as that is the Stagecoach West website (and the picture when in Bristol is actually Gloucester!). Do they not want customers from the Bristol end of the route?

    - Regarding the use of Cabot Circus, the options are limited at the moment - the Centre is in the middle of a massive rebuild for MetroBus, and many existing services are passing without stopping, so that is a No Go. Temple Meads would be a useful passing place, but not terminus - car parking for pickups is horrible, and expensive, and it is already congested. The Bus Station would be ideal, but perhaps there are congestion or cost issues there too? Cabot Circus is in reality, by main bus routes for city services, convenient for pickups and not too congested; and depending on where exactly the stop is, it is just across St James' Barton roundabout from the Bus Station. In all likelihood, the stop will be to the right of the House of Fraser in the photo, where there is plenty of space for layover.

  3. As the Falcon does not appear to be registered, it won't accept ENCTS passes. £3 less to spend on refreshments, fbb!
    Also this means that it won't provide competition to the A1, as it will only be able to offer journeys of 15 miles or more.
    As an unregistered service, it also means it can be changed without having to wait 8 weeks - so if anything does prove in need of attention, it can be dealt with very swiftly indeed.
    Finally, Norman Baker was not a minister in November 2015, so is the date wrong or was he there in his new role of Chairman of Bus Users UK?

  4. The Sheffield Bus Partnership photo was taken at the launch in October 2012 rather than the introduction of the new network in November 2015.

    Meanwhile, whilst we all thought the performance issues on First's service were related to things like traffic, roadworks and poor timetables, it seems it was actually those pesky passengers not getting on board quick enough...

  5. On the subject of the 40/41 in Sheffield and two timetable changes a week apart, although they are designed to be co-ordinated between Sheffield Centre and Manor Top, one is a Sheffield Bus Partnership service and the other is a Rotherham Bus Partnership service, so different timetable change dates!

  6. Do let us know the final situation re ENCTS passes. This could be a dealbreaker! :-)

  7. Andrew Kleissner24 January 2016 at 14:24

    Slightly conflicting advice from two companies:

    South Yorkshire say, “We've identified that issuing tickets to holders of Concessionary Passes slows down the boarding time, and at busy times this can delay the bus getting away on time. So, from Tuesday 19 January 2016, we won't be issuing tickets to concessionary pass holders - simply scan your pass when you get on the bus, then take a seat”.

    Ipswich Buses say, “Please be aware that from the 28th January if your card does not bleep on our ticket machines you will need to obtain a new one from Suffolk County Council .If your card does not bleep your driver will give you a free ticket which you'll need to keep incase an inspector boards the bus. Many thanks”. (IB have been losing out by as they can’t claim back money from HMG is the Passes aren’t being registered by the machines).

  8. Cabots Circus stops will be the ones megabus are now using id expect from bedminster the service can make use of bus lanes all the way around to the bus stop i'd expect it will then leave the city via the cumberland basin and out past ashton gate.

  9. If it's an unregistered service, it's not actually allowed to use bus lanes in Bristol.