Friday, 26 February 2016

Ahh! The Good Old Days

... Were They As Good As We Think?
In this week's series of blogs, our loyal reader may have picked up the idea that the privatised Stagecoach has progressively introduced good, fixed interval, buys services on inter-urban and rural routes out of Northampton. In today's post we look at some of these services and attempt to compare them with the style of service operated in the past.

The 88, paired with the 89, provided a clock-face every 30 minutes schedule between Northampton and Towcester.

Although the new 8 leaflet only reveals its complex self ...
... the half hourly service is shown on the 89 leaflet.
The 89 runs to Milton Keynes which did not exist (except as a tiny village) in the Good Old Days. But note that Towcester's 344/5 (in 1960) was hardly clockface and Silverstone barely managed a bus every 90 minutes - now hourly and seemingly safe from an imminent chop.
Syresham (a soon to be withdrawn every two hours now) was served only occasionally. In 1979 there were five buses a day to Silverstone and Syresdham.

In those fondly remembered days that wer always good (and old) the villages around Greens Norton ...
... were served by independent Basford.
Recently the tender for this route has been lost by Stagecoach ...
... and acquired by long-standing Northampton minibus operator, Country Lion.
fbb reckons that the timetable (click on it for a larger view) was never as "tidy" in Basfords day.
Another loss to Stagecoach's oeuvre has been route 86.
The route isnow operated by Uno ...
... purporting to be a St Albans "Pink" branded local route! The villages around Shutlanger (which fbb, as a child, thought was in Germany) now have five trips, six days a week.
And way back in 1960?
Two round trips on Saturday only. In 1979 fbb could find nothing at all from United Counties; but we were now in loose leaflet territory, so he can't be 100% sure.

But the Good Old Days were not that good. The big worry is that, with policies to cut funding, these "off the main road! routes will vanish.
What will replace them? The pale purple shading denotes the geographically extensive "County Connect" dial-a-bus service.
And that is run from Lincoln; 100 miles away. Great deal for local folk - NOT

 Next bus/rail birthday blog : Saturday 27 February 


  1. I think you are being a little unfair on County Connects connection to Lincoln. When they set up the County Connect contract NCC did a deal with Lincolnshire County Council to use their Call Connect call centre to handle the calls etc. This meant NCC didn't need to go to the expense of setting up & running their own call centre, gained access to the experience LCC had accrued through running Call Connect for a number of years and access to the specialist equipment that had been tried & tested to work. It has since gone further merging some of the County Connect workings in the East of the county with LCC Call Connect contracts in South west Lincs, Rutland & Peterborough (the later 2 authorities doing similar deals to get DRT covering their more rural parts) to get the best service for the lowest cost. It may be a shame to see some of these important fixed links being lost but at least schemes like Call & County Connect provide a safety net maintaining some sort of lifeline to people who rely on them (the risk is that they are not that cheap to provide themselves and there is always the risk the money will run out for them and then everyone is left stranded).

  2. From time to time there have been complaints in the press about buses not turning up or being full despite pre-booking. With remote management, sorting out these problems is a nightmare.
    DRT is a possible (and expensive) solution but it needs local management to cope effective when things go wrong.

  3. Ah yes, things were better then.....
    The problem is not that we can't change the past, but that we do.

  4. I'm not sure management being remote has anything to do with it - even if it were based in Northampton, how easy would it be to cover something on the Lincolnshire border? It seems like a logical, low-cost method to me. Numerous councils are merging back office functions (either completely or through common purchasing) to reduce costs and protect front-line services, which is what people want protecting. Everybody thinks of bins and buses, nobody thinks about pens for council staff.

    DRT services are fine if you are keeping to a fixed timetable and are able to book the requisite number of hours in advance, say to do your weekly shopping or attend an appointment. They are less good for emergencies, last-minute changes of plan or worse still, those that are only available to users who pre-register: fine for the locals, but cuts use off almost completely for tourists, visitors, or customers who find themselves in need at the last minute (e.g. car failure).

  5. About 17 years ago, when First were running a Western National Lodekka on a Dartmoor Sunday Rover service, I travelled on one from Plymouth to Tavistock. The lasting impression was that we forget just how slow these were when they got to a hill. Added to that, the long hill from the Tamar up to Gunnislake Station - about 600ft. in altitude over less than a mile - often left the old Bristol boiling.

    The Lodekka with a Gardner engine was a strong, very solidly built vehicle - but we have moved on.

    1. Very true . . . . my memory of Lodekka's was travelling up the hill from Leigh on Sea Station towards Hadleigh (Route 25A) in the mid 1960's. Not a steep hill, but with a fullish load of commuters, the driver often had to change from 2nd to 1st gear, with a metallic "hrraingg" as the cogs protested.
      I can hear it now . . . . .

    2. Very true . . . . my memory of Lodekka's was travelling up the hill from Leigh on Sea Station towards Hadleigh (Route 25A) in the mid 1960's. Not a steep hill, but with a fullish load of commuters, the driver often had to change from 2nd to 1st gear, with a metallic "hrraingg" as the cogs protested.
      I can hear it now . . . . .

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