Monday, 19 December 2016

Variegated For Christmas

Seasonal Service Reductions?
One of the dubious features of retirement is that you seem to be very busy. The fbbs had three days of frantic activity last week and are now preparing for a departure on 22nd for a family get-together at Abergynolwyn, returning to fbb mansions on 27th. In between are three significant Church activities in which they are involved.

Daily blogging will continue throughout, but there may be some reduction in content due to "operational reasons" that great catch-all excuse of the public transport industry.
Incompetent Web Site OR Incompetent fbb?
A couple of weeks ago, Simon Calder, travel writer for The Independent, wrote enthusiastically about improvements in the National Express services for Boxing Day and Christmas Day. Naturally, in view of the weird concoction of services by bus and no trains on 25th and 26th, the growth of coach travel opportunities needed investigation./
An encouraging "headline" graphic wills us to "find out more".

And this is what fbb found out.

Travelling on Christmas Day?
Don't worry - so are we!
With more services than ever running throughout Christmas day, Boxing day and into the New Year, we'll make sure you get home to enjoy the turkey and mince pies this Christmas; we're even operating most of our airport services as normal, for those of you lucky enough to be jetting off for some winter sun...
Our Christmas day, Boxing day and New Year fares are now available to book using our blue journey planner right away...
And that's it!

So how do I know what's on offer. Presumably I have to ask the blue journey planner; but nowhere is there a LIST OF SERVICES operating on the two festive days as heralded on line.

So, asking for Honiton to London on 25th gives ...
... a first journey on 27th.

Asking for London to Sheffield on 25th reveals ...
... two possibilities for Christmas Day.

fbb supposes that you must look up a possible journey they adjust your plans depending on what the journey planner offers. Is that the very best way to encourage travel?

Maybe regular NatEx users understand the system?

Or has fbb missed something?
A Mystery Solved
A comment writer added this note to a recent Sheffield blog.
"Mitch in Notts" appears to have spotted some Christmas bus leaflets in the enquiry office on Arundel Gate.
fbb had written that no such leaflets were produces which meant that details of seasonal services, particularly the early shutdown on Christmas Even and New Years Eve were impossible to obtain.

Should fbb get excited? Had the useless Travel South Yorkshire relented from their appalling mistreatment of the travelling public and decided to tell them when the buses run?

Sheffield correspondent John had an opinion.
But John did admit that as he wasn't expecting any, he didn't look for anything.

Another Sheffield contributor offered a similar opinion.
But, fortuitously, No 1 son was attending a conference in Sheffield last Friday. He was dispatched to Arundel Gate to do a bit of mystery shopping.
How very, very helpful and very very wrong. The non leaflet did not contain any details of those early finish journeys.

Christmas Eve Saturday 24 December  
Saturday service on most routes with last departures between 1730 and 1930

Soon after, Roy confirmed the pathetic situation.
fbb can only assume that Mitch in Notts saw a tram leaflet and assumed it would show everything.
No chance; this is Sheffield, capital of transport confusion.
Colston Cross Complete?
fbb has been a poor attender at the little Model Railway club; but did grace the scene at the Christmas "do" last Wednesday. "The lads" have worked really hard in the last few months and produced some splendid scenery.

Here are a few highlights that show the results of the work.

Jim's magnificent Castle

A small farmyard

The scout camp

A well stocked allotment
fbb did ask when a fully operational "running session" would be arranged with trains whizzing back and forth over the complex layout.

There was an embarrassed silence broken only by one member's hissing through gritted teeth, "when it's working."  Now, aren't you supposed to get all the track, points and signals fully operational before building the scenery?

But a jolly time was had by all at the final meeting of 2016. Modesty prevents fbb from recording who came joint first in the quiz; and frustration prevents him from recording who lost in the tie-breaker question. Grrr!
Advent Calendar
There is an ancient tradition that Joseph, "betrothed" to Mary, was a much older man.
As Jesus was facing death, he did ask John to look after his mother which would imply that she was widowed. When Matthew tells the story of the Christ Child, he is anxious to explain Joseph's illogical and near-rebellious behaviour.

This was how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they were married, she found out that she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit.
Joseph was a man who always did what was right, but he did not want to disgrace Mary publicly; so he made plans to break the engagement privately.

The disgrace of a pregnancy within the "betrothal" period would have been intolerable. Betrothal was part of a firm marriage contract, much stronger than today's trivialised "engagement"; Mary should have been cast out of the community for her sin.

But Joseph didn't follow the conventions of the day.
While he was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus; because he will save his people from their sins.”

Another angel. They keep popping up everywhere. Whatever the reason, Joseph took the huge risk of staying loyal to Mary.

He even took her with him to Bethlehem, almost certainly to protect her from the "kangaroo court" back in Nazareth that would surely have ostracised her. Society was very harsh to unmarried mothers.

Weird, weird behaviour - unless it was all true!
 Next Falkirk blog : Tuesday 20th December 


  1. 'Has fbb missed something?'

    Yes, massively

  2. The PDF leaflet on this page which is entitled "Sheffield Christmas and New Year Timetable" has a cover which is the one I saw in Arundel Gate enquiry office. So wish I had picked one up now!

  3. Unfortunately National Express do not list their routes or offer a map whether it is Christmas Day or any other day of the year. Greyhound in Canada are just as bad, they don't want you to know what routes they operate.

  4. You are right re National Express's lack of advertising their Boxing Day services.

    I tried to find a service from London to North Wales, and it was only through trial and error and playing around with the journey planner that I discovered I could get to Manchester, or Liverpool via Chester - services which turned-out to be practically useless to me, as I would have still been stuck in Chester.

    It took me about 20 minutes, playing around with the Journey Planner, to discover this. Why, when on a day that most rail services do not exist, does National Express make it so difficult to discover what they are running?

  5. The thing with express coach services run by the likes of National Express, Megabus, Greyhound, etc is that the services are more about individual journeys in corridors that inter-connect to provide opportunities, than routes with multiple journeys, although some exist.

    Also express services do not need to be registered. Thus Christmas Day from Taunton to London offers 3 journeys on route 805. That route does not normally exist. It is a special because it stops in Bristol whereas the West Country to London services don't normally do so. Without registration they can add / subtract journeys or routes as demand dictates. Many routes have local bus registration as well which limits some of the flexibility.

    Either way you won't get a standard timetable, but a planner that you can drive to suit your specific needs. My local stop only gets a few journeys a day on 2 routes, but put in the bus station and you get a 24 hour service on a range of routes to Penzance, Glasgow or London and in between plus a range of routings to increase the through journeys. That is very hard to show on a fixed timetable. However it does make armchair travelling much harder.

  6. But, anon, how if I don't HAVE specific needs? I might want a few days away over Christmas and my decision will depend on what is available. As I have NO IDEA what is available, I eon't even attempt to use National Express - ergo passenger revenue lost.

    Journey planners only make sense of you know what you want and where to look.

  7. If anyone is actually interested, the timetables are available on Traveline South East. Search for "National Express" as operator. They are numbered 801-817 and 821-823.

    1. And similarly on Traveline south west select National Express as the operator and a full list of available services appear. You can refine the search with a town name as well. Ken TLSW

  8. National Express have updated their Christmas webpage:

    And the full timetable is available here.