Sunday, 31 July 2016

Don't Put All Your Xs in One Basket [1]

Boost for Bradford with Beautiful Buses
Whilst new vehicles are newsworthy, the steady drip of press releases gets a bit samey. "We are spending XX million on a fleet of brand new buses with leather seats (yawn), WiFi (yawn), charging points (yawn), stunning new livery (yawn), smartly dressed drivers (yawn), scantily clad hostesses (yawn) and free Pokemon toys for all the kiddies (yawn)."
And there are the inevitable sound bites from people the public have never heard of; plus occasionally, some poor mug dressed as an owl, badger, fox, banana or glis-glis. So here are the pictures for new buses on the X6 from Leeds to Bradford ...
... firstly in front of a rather ugly blue bus and then inside a rather ugly blue bus.
Does the ugly blue bus really have shock pink handrails? And look, the VIPs are clutching their devices. Wowsers.
The web site is equally OTT.

X6 gives you Xtra between Leeds and Bradford

fbb thought that it was the "Halifax" that gave you extra.

Want to get between Bradford and Leeds as quickly as possible?

Then go by train - it takes just 21 or 23 minutes depending on route.
It's 40 minutes by X6, up to 45 at peak.

Xtra Regular

They do mean "frequent" not "regular". One bus a year is regular.

With buses every 10 minutes you can simply turn up and go – no waiting, just sit back and relax in comfortable seats all the way to Leeds.

Xtra Value

Great value day and week tickets: just £4.70 a day or £20 a week. Giving you more to spend in the shops or with friends in the bars and leisure attractions in Leeds and Bradford.

Now that's a bit more interesting, Train is more expensive ...
... and that is off-peak only.

Xtra Comfort

As well as plenty of comfy seats each X6 bus has FREE WiFI to help pass the time. We even provide USB ports so you can charge your device as you go.

Told you so!

Xtra Special mTicket
With an mTicket, you’ll never need to worry about having the right money or losing your ticket. All you need to purchase your great-value ticket anytime you like is your mobile. After that, there’s no need to carry cash and you’ll always have your ticket with you.

Another great Xtra

By using the Real Time Information on your mobile app you’ll know exactly when the next X6 is due. 

Well, fbb is told that all these things do actually attract more people to travel by bus.

So inured to bus launches was fbb that he deleted the Press Release and intended to make a passing mention in one of his "Oddments" blogs. But a though struck then old man's brain; dangerous things these thoughts.

So back he delved to some old data for the Xephos system.
And there was the X6, every 20 minutes between Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield. And here, indeed, is a bus showing X6 and going to |Huddersfield.
Clearly something more has happened than just a few new blue buses. fbb's investigations will conclude tomorrow.

The Numbers Game
fbb has never been very concerned about his blog statistics. It is encouraging to see steady growth in readership and a privilege to be enteraiting a few and infuriating the occasional bus manager! But odd things have been happening.
This is the graph within Blogger of all-time page reads. The spike is for June 2016 when, if we are to believe the graph, readership has suddenly more than doubled. More weirdly, a large portion of that June increase came from the USA.

No 3 sin has a Theory. He reckons that one of the lesser American Universities runs a course on English Eccentrics and fbb forms an ideal case study.

But move on to July. This month, after a significant dip in the first week or so, numbers have climbed back again. But now the readership is split three ways.
Russia is at the head of the list, with USA coming a close second and UK just in third place.

So there is now a possible explanation. It would appear that this man (in America) ...
... has a team scanning fbb's blog, suspecting that it is so far out man, just plain weird. that it must contain secret coded information. Meanwhile this man (in Russia) ...
... has an equally dedicated team of encryption experts doing the same thing, but with a red tinge! So, to keep the page-read numbers up ...

That should keep both sides busy.

But of course, this explanation of fbb's international success is pure speculation.

 Next X6 blog : Monday 1st August 

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Some Things for the Weekend

A random collection of oddments that do not justify a full blog.

Something at Seaton
A chum from the Isle of Wight visited fbb yesterday to travel on the open top single decker which sadly does not run of Fridays; to it was off to Colyton by tram. The outward journey was pleasantly uneventful but coming back tram No 6 was on duty.
This is the oldest and one of the smallest trams in the fleet being originally designed for the much narrower gauge when operation was based at the Crumbles in Eastbourne. Readers can gain an impression of the diminutive size of the vehicle by the giants seated on the top deck.
It's the getting up there that is a challenge. Here is the bottom step.
Still no idea of scale? OK here are fbb's delicate podiatric appendages snapped on the outline of a typical step.
The folded piece of A4 paper is an accurate representation of the step size. The top deck starts at about chest height and the gap through which the chubby one has to squeeze his corpulence is just (but only just) big enough.

Nevertheless a pleasant top deck ride was enjoyed complete with admiring congratulations of some other top deckers. "If he can get up there, so can I!"

One of the joys of a visit to East Devon!

Something at Axminster Station
Photograph taken of the closed ticket window at Axminster Station at 1156 yesterday when collecting said chum.
The ticket office sales person was in the waiting area "looking out for a disabled passenger" due on the next train. "Will you be opening up then?" queried a worried-looking passenger.

"No Way," said the young gel with Stagecoach orange hair, gleefully, "I've bust my machine!"

Readers may amuse themselves trying to work out what it means.

Whilst waiting, however, an onward traveller might check on the bus from a timetable helpfully glued to the wall in a dark corner.
Helpfully it shows the half hourly service to Lyme Regis and on to Bridport. It also shows journeys on X53 via Colytion and on to Exeter. How very refreshing to see such a public-spirited posting of pertinent particulars.

Except that the X53 ceased on 7th May 2016. The timetable is two months out of date.

Something Outside Axminster Station.
A while ago fbb reported that one of these had appeared.
It has now been switched on. It shows the times of the next five departures.
So far so good. After a few seconds the desplay switches to the next five destinations but without times.
So all you have to do is work out what the destinations mean.

Don't worry, the all-knowing fbb will explain it.

 South Station  is, of course, Dorchester.

 Marine Place  is, as all arriving passengers will know, Seaton.

 Exeter  is, unbelievably, believable

 Kings Statue  sits impressively at the bus terminus at Weymouth

 Axminster Millw, Rail Station  is equally easy. "Millw" is a bit of Millwey Rise but the text does not scroll. And, in case you are really confused, Rail Station is where you are standing, more or less, looking attentively at the sign.

Does it make sense? NO.

Was it worth installing? PROBABLY NOT.

The one at Seaton isn't yet operational, as illustrated by this excited group of holidaymakers.
What will it tell us when it starts working?

Something in the West Midlands
Our Northampton correspondent sent this picture which he entitled "The Travel West Midlands Invisible Bus". Note the sign on the door ...
... and notice the bus parked on the red tarmac area at the stand.

Isn't technology wonderful?

Something at a London University
NOT the London University! No 1 son works for the University of the Arts and recently he posted this picture on his Twit site.
Yes, it is Lego. Yes, it is all white. Is it all right?

Apparently it is an aid to discussion and "white Lego works best".

Well, it is a University of the Arts!

Not Something at Hinkley Point

EDF Energy has awarded preferred bidder status to ‘Somerset Passenger Solutions’, a 50/50 joint venture between bus operator First Bus and family business Crosville Motor Services, to provide bus services to the proposed Hinkley Point C power station.
Somerset Passenger Solutions revealed today some of its plans for bus services to the site. They will operate high frequency services to Hinkley Point from dedicated Park and Ride sites, staff campus accommodation sites and from surrounding towns and villages for employees living across the area. The joint venture will also provide internal site shuttles and transport for visitors from airports, railway stations and hotels. First and Crosville also said they expect to operate up to 160 brand new, high spec, environmentally friendly buses.

Maybe not?

 Next bus blog : Sunday 31st July 

Friday, 29 July 2016

And, Talking of Airports (2)

But First : It's All On Line No 234
Dateline, Thursday 28th July (i.e. yesterday.) Query ...
... a journey from Brackley to Bicester for today, after 0900. The answer ...
complete with map ...
... tells us to use service 88, run, incidentally by Stagecoach. But there is a snag. Stagecoach (they of the web site you are looking at) withdrew the service 88 between Brackley and Bicester after business on Saturday 16th July; almost one week ago.

You can find that out easily ...
... by downloading the timetable from the self-same Stagecoach site.

There are now no buses between Brackley and Bicester. There are hardly any between Silverstone and Bicester. You can make the journey, if you are brave and wealthy. But it takes a little more than 38 minutes of the withdrawn 88.
Question 1 : what is the point of Stagecoach's web site? Question 2 : who authorised the vast sums of expenditures on making something so utterly useless?

But Now : Off to Glasgow Airport.
It should have a rail link; when the airport moved from Renfrew ...
... in 1966, long term planning should have included a rail line. But the huge growth of domestic and cheaper international flights was not foreseen. So no rail link when it could have been built simply and, if not cheaply, certainly less expensively. Eventually, and with the usual argy-bargy, a link line was planned as a short spur of the line to Gourock.
It would have travelled on viaduct from the existing embankment just short of Paisley St James and terminated in a rather splendid-looking station that would form part of an extension to the terminal building.
But in 2008, the project was cancelled.
The idea is now, seven years later, back on the agenda with a proposed opening date of 2027! The current favoured option is tram-train along railway alignment as before, but (presumably) then following street running instead of a costly viaduct.
Unofficial suggestions have included a monorail, surely the most expensive option of all!
So, sadly, until 2027 we are left with a coack link from central Glasgow.

Back in the good old days of the Great Britain Bus Timetable, this was a Citylink service 500.
Fairline Coaches (of Glasgow) entered the fray with a competitive service but eventually succumbed and joined forces with the incumbent, even adopting the same brand, for a joint service.

In a restructuring move, the route was contracted to First Bus who are the incumbent operator today.
But go on-line to the Travel Scotland site and they still think Citylink is running! Isn't the internet such a wonderful service?
But what promulgated this blog was the news that First have just upgraded their rolling stock and (of course) their image. Clearly, more passengers will use the service now the buses are painted purple; the old pale blue and grey is so passé, darling.
The press release shows a little man waving large table tennis bats at the line of new vehicles.
That's a bit passé in itself because real airport folk don't use tennis bats any more, certainly not at huge civil airports. But the publicity is impressive and eye catching as are the buses.
One might just quibble with the "new" blob (top left) as the service is very similar indeed to that provided 15 years ago. Unfortunately First Glasgow's Monday to Friday PDF timetable declined to materialise so we will have to make do with a chunk of Traveline's version.
What about going from Glasgow to the Airport by train to Paisley and changing to bus? You would change to McGills route 757.
It sounds grand but, effectively, it is a local bus between Paisley and Clydebank that happens to run via the airport.
Whilst the link is useful for Paisley locals and for passengers arriving from the Clyde Coast, the direct coach, service 500, is the ideal way to get from the City centre. There's even a good, clear map to show you where to get on.
A good service now upgraded for the delectation of the flyer and airport worker; or, if you are fbb, just for a quick ride and an explore of the Terminal facilities. It is on the list for the fbb's Scottish holiday in August.

 Next numbers blog : Saturday 30th July