Monday, 4 January 2016

Troublesome Torquay Trek [2]

Journey For Real
There was much debate and several comments on yesterday's blog. fbb apologises just a little bit for not persevering with a search in the depths of SouthWest Trains site for timetable information. But it is all too complicated.

What is wrong with a page like this:?
Modified with web links, this could be the BIG station poster. Also, horror of horrors, the same poster/web page could be used by Great Western Railway as well. Both operators would be presenting a consistent picture using the same words. Now that would be a revolution!

Anyway, with some trepidation, the fbbs presented themselves at Axminster station where the ticket clerk was (a) reminding/informing folk of the revised arrangements, and (b) selling people Devon Ranger tickets "so you could make extra journeys at no extra cost". Well done that man.

And indeed there were "disruption" timetable posters on display which immediately allayed the fbb's fears. TWO buses would meet the train at Honiton ...
... one running fast to Exeter Central and St Davids and the other visiting all stops between there and Pinhoe; interestingly providing a better service via Whimple and Feniton than using the train which (usually) serves either but not both.

Whilst perusing posters, fbb noticed that the "Onward Journey" panel was now nearly THREE YEARS out of date.
The 380 became the 4 and 4A in early 2013; the 51 became the X51 in September last year. A waste of space! fbb also noticed that despite edge of tread paint and bright yellow handrails, Axminster's footbridge could be lethal in wet weather. It has a roof but with open sides throughout and when it rains the handrails become wet and VERY slippery.
Health and Safety fanatics should be screaming in protest; fbb nearly fell down the last four steps when his hand slipped uncontrollably down the slippery rail.

But the platform indicator showed Honiton as terminus with a sideways scroll about the buses.
The guard announced buses as the train approached Honiton and there were staff a-plenty to usher all and sundry onto the correct motor.
"The cream coach" was going "fast" to Exeter whilst a humbler Stagecoach bus would provide the slower stopper.
It left empty, hoping, no doubt, to find a few fearless Feniton Folk (etc) to join the fun. But TSU 649 was full and there were six hopefuls (including the fbb's) waiting anxiously. No matter, one of Hamilton-Grays finest double deckers was behind the front runners, so fbb and the final few had the optional delight of a top deck ride; arriving early at Exeter St David's.
Sadly, due to inconsiderate people breathing (!), the view from the front was poor. Pity.

Coach spotters would be drooling with excitement at Exeter; there was a huge variety of rolling stock arrayed and ready to roll.
The concours d'élégance included at least two "Greyhound" coaches, memories of a First Bus failed expansion into the long distance coach market. There were plenty more!
Departure stands were clearly labelled ...
... and again plenty of high-viz adorned staff were on duty.

Just one moan (and fbb has moaned thusly before). Where were the big clear destination "slip-boards" in the coaches?
"Reporting numbers" are of no use to the public and even something like the example below is less than helpful ...
... if the coach is skulking in a long line and might or might not be the next one away.

But a well organised, well supervised outward journey was "enjoyed" by fbb and Mrs. The train to Newton Abbot did exist despite GWR's attempt to say it didn't (see yesterday's blog) and the fbbs' host was ready with luxury limo to convey the old folks to Torquay for tea  and biccies.

The journey back involved a little more stress. GWR ...
... was running an HST with a slightly perished rubber band for a motor and it was advertised as six minutes late from Newton Abbot. By Exeter this has extended to 8 and the train came to a stand at St David's at 1709, exactly the moment that the fast bus to Honiton was timed to depart from the distant forecourt. Much footbridge staggering and wheezing from the fbb's!

But, fortuitously, it didn't. It left at 15 minutes past.

The elderly duly arrived at Axminster at 1806 and were comfortably back home and drinking more tea by 1830.

A splendid day was had by all and, despite the dodgy advance publicity confusion, it was well orgnanised and it did work. Well done all concerned on the day - but VERY badly done all those who write the web sites. Doubtless these IT experts never travel by train.
Answers to the Quiz (Sunday 27th) will be published tomorrow.

 Next bus blog : Tuesday 5th January 

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