Thursday, 19 October 2017

Brackley's Baffling Bus Business (3)

Frayed Ends; We're Afraid
A brief summary of the story so far, following the provision of buses between Northampton, Brackley and Oxford

338, X61, X6 etc
Providing approx four journeys Monday to Saturday with a touch on limited stoppiness.

Brackley and Oxford journeys were integrated into "gold" (joke!) service 88 by extending a small number of the hourly 88 service between Northampton and Silverstone.

Tendered journeys offering unreliable connections at Silverstone

Revised service, every hour to Brackley, every two hours on to Bicester with connections to a frequent service forward to Oxford.

Cut back to Northampton to Silverstone, AGAIN!

But change is coming (AGAIN), so fbb invites his readers to guess the frequency of buses from Northampon and Towcester to Brackley for the route change on November 5th. The current service has two buses an hour from Northampton to Towcester using different routes with hourly buses on to Silverstone (88) and via the old A5 to Milton Keynes (89).
While our readers are musing on this question, let us take a look at Silverstone itself. 
Once upon a time (back in the early 1930) Silverstone gained a by-pass. To get to the village centre from the former A43 you turned right here ...
... and squiggled through a picturesque village.
Continuing past the White Horse and along the High Street, you return to the ancient by-pass here ...
... and continue ahead to Syrseham and Brackley.

But the Silverstone by-pass has now been by-passed.
The yellow road which crosses the green dual carriageway is Whittlebury Road, and here, Streetview gives us glimpses of some twee new development ...
... with a twee new name.
But that is just the start of it. Enter Catch Yard Farm!
 fbb must start a collection of quaint names given to estates of houses to make them sound "rural".

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one 
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there's doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,
And the young girls go to ballet class
And then to the university,
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky 
And they all look just the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

Catchyard farm fills much of the green and pleasant land between the old Silverstone by pass and the new Silverstone by-pass. It appears on Google Maps as yet another muddy smear.
But the building has moved on apace as the developer ...
... explains.

Catch Yard Farm will comprise of up to 220 new homes, including an appropriate proportion of affordable housing; the creation of public squares, play areas, greens and spaces, together with improved public access to the area and associated ecological enhancements; allotments and community orchards; areas for floodwater retention and water attenuation; improved public transport, pedestrian and cycle routes connecting to the village centre and employment opportunities at Silverstone Circuit; landscaped noise bunding and woodland planting.

Does fbb espy yet more "Section 106" cash? It would appear that as well as rejoicing in water attenuation and landscaped noise bunding (that means building a wall) the residents of Catch Yard Farm are to get better bus services.


So what is happening to service 88. Every two hours between Silverstone and Brackley? Nah! Every hour between Silverstone and Brackley. Oh no, sir!

Buses will operate a half hourly service from November.

It works like this. The 88 becomes hourly all the way to Brackley - AGAIN.
But when an 88 gets to Market Place, it doesn't turn round and return to Northampton. It becomes a 98 to Towcester and Milton Keynes ...
... doing an extra bit of Brackley Town service on the way. Note tht this 98 aervice does not enter the old village centre at Silverstone and neither service calls at Syresham.

The new 98 means that the three Isle of Man legs of the "network" each have a bus every half an hour as follows.

88  89  Northampton - Towcester
88  98  Towcester - Brackley
89  98  Towcester - Milton Keynes

But nothing between Brackley and Bicester and on to Oxford?

Not yet!

Stagecoach Oxford have announced their intention to extend part of the S5 service on to Brackley ...
... although it is unlikely that it will be designed to connect neatly with the newfound riches of the 88 and 98. We will have to wait and see ...
... but the xx45 from Magdalen Street is just waiting to be pushed through to Brackley.

Of course, what folk from Brackley have always wanted is a reliable stable bus service. What they have had over the past decade is an unreliable unstable bus service changing at the whim of Stagecoach and County bean counters.

Will folk trust the much improved services? What will happen when the "Section 106" money runs out?

Frayed ends again?

Tomorrow we go on a relaxing bus ride to Towcester with a chunk of railway nostalgia thrown in.

 Banbury Lane Bus Blog : Friday 20th October 

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Brackley's Baffling Bus Business (2)

Brackley was, in ancient times, served by an infrequent bus route from Northampton running on to Bicester and Oxford. The 338 offered four buses a day.
The label "fast" was a tad on the optimistic side.

Then about a decade ago the successor to those four journeys, the X6, was integrated into the 88. This 1940s map shows the old A43 in red.
The 88 provided a hourly frequency along the old A43 between Northampton, Towcester and Silverstone with an integrated hourly 89 route to Towcester and Milton Keynes. The still infrequent Brackley and Oxford journeys were labelled X88 ...
... with the whole lot half-heartedly marketed as "gold" hence the dramatic logo on the front of the bus above and the rear end map below!
This integration failed to save the Oxford trips from extinction and Stagecoach fizzled out at Silverstone where a "connection" was available with a tendered X88 ...
... completely ignored by the Northamptonshire publicity "machine". (of course, it was tendered by *xf*rdsh*r*!)

There were substantial protests and a strong local campaign and, much to everyone's shock and pleasure a brand "new" service was introduced every hour through to Silverstone as before, but extended every two hours to Brackley and on to Bicester where, of course, frequent buses ran on to Oxford.

But it didn't last. Tender money was, again, withdrawn, and Stagecoach retreated again to Silverstone with the odd peak journey pushed through to Brackley on Mondays to Fridays.
The most recent change has been to take the 88s away from their "traditional" villages along the old A43 (leaving the hourly 89) and run it via Northampton Station (good), Swan Valley and the new super A43 by-passing all the intervening localities.
Many readers may not be quite au fait with a Northampton district of Swan Valley.

The 88 runs via Sixfields ...
... serving a chunk of empty space and the Cobblers footy ground; then via Upton Way calling at more empty space.
Finally it does the rounds of more empty space plus loadsa warehouses at the Swan Valley industrial area ...
... before joining the "new"A43 and zooming almost non-stop into Towcester. In passing, note the brown smear towards to upper part of the aerial view.
Now that smear is Dragonfly Meadow (yes, really?) ...
... part of Pineham Grove. Coming soon:- Butterfly Gardens ...
... Pineham Lock (that's part of Hunsbury Meadows, of course) and Pineham North; not to mention Pineham Barns.
fbb can only assume that Stagecoach have availed themselves of a nice bulging bag of "Section 106" money to encourage them to take service 88 away from places with people and into a series of blasted heaths. This is a scheme whereby developers get planning permission if they agree to pay for bus services to their development. The money runs out (as, often, does the bus service) when all the people have moved in.

Amusing snippet. The Pineham development is on the south west fringes of Northampton, near the M1 services on the map below, bottom left.
Pineham Avenue is, confusingly, to the north of the town in greater Kingsthorpe and by that radio mast, top centre.
That is going to create some fun and frustration as folk search for their destination in the wrong place! Well done Northampton Borough Council road naming team!

But we digress. Tomorrow, eventually, we tackle the next stage in the Frayed Ends at Brackley.
Another Snippet
No 3 son, who is working in Swtizerland for a few months, sent his old man a picture of this bus.
Could it be a possible reference to fbb and the vehicle's destination? Surely not!
 Next Brackley blog - Thursday 19th October 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Brackley's Baffling Bus Business (1)

Brackley is in Northamptonshire (just!) ...
... and lies very roughly half way between its County Town and Oxford. Once on the A43, the town is now by-passed taking the heavy traffic between the M1, M40 and the lower reaches of the A43 away from its historic and attractive town centre.

Brackley then

Brackley now
Brackley was, for many years, a convenient convenience stop for the fbbs as they drove from Sheffield and/or Northampton to the Isle of Wight. These facilities used to be down a narrow spooky lane, very uninviting in hours of darkness. Their replacements are adjacent to the main bus stops.
Once upon a time Brackley had two railway stations. Brackley Central, furthest from the town centre but named after the Great Central Railway rather than geographically, was to the north.
The station building was on the A43 ...
... and is now, cruelly, a supplier of tyres for motor vehicles.
The much changed rear view ...
... still shows the little gable (upper right) which led to the footbridge.
The station closed in September 1966.

This former "Great" main line is almost invisible from ground level, but from above it forms a tree-lined gash across the fields. At one point the bridge over Brackley's other line still stands.
The L N W R station (just called "Brackley") was just to the south of the town centre near the site of the Castle.

Its single track line ran from Banbury via Brackey and Buckingham, then made its lonely way to Bletchley via Verney Junction where it touches coupling rods with the furthest outpost of London's Metropolitan Railway From the road (track?) called Goose Green you can see the overgrown remnants of the cutting ...
... which took the line under the A43 to the station.
All is obliterated now but the line of the former trackbed can just be spotted as it crosses the new A43.
The line closed to passenger trains in January 1961.

But our specific interest is in the buses and Wikipedia gives a good (?) summary of recent events.
The town has numerous bus services and is connected to major towns and cities including Banbury (499, 500), Bicester, Buckingham, Towcester, Oxford and Northampton.

Replace "is" with "was"! Of these "links" only the 500 remains as a proper all-day service. Wikipedia continues with a lengthy piece giving a partial taster of the bus service along the A43 from Northampton via Brackley to Oxford..

In 2003 the X38 Oxford-Northampton express service became the X6 ...
... with the introduction of the 88 to serve villages en route to Northampton. In September 2007, Stagecoach Midlands' Oxford-Brackley-Towcester-Northampton services were reduced with the merging of the 88 and X6 as route X88.

By 2010 (?) the 88 was cut back to Silverstone with a limited tendered service offering onward travel to Brackley and Oxford on a very poor-frequency connecting service.

In September 2011 the 88 service covering the Northampton to Oxford route, was replaced by the 8. The route of which starts at Northampton and now terminated at Bicester. After 2016, the 8 was renumbered once again to 88 with timetable changes. A few months later, the 88 was further reduced only running between Northampton and Silverstone, with one off-peak journey numbered X88 and terminating at Brackley Tesco.

This is not quite the whole story; but fbb will attempt a clarification tomorrow aiming to show how poor Brackley has repeatedly been beset by the Curse of the Frayed End.
On the Bristol to London route the new class 800 rains supreme!
 Next Brackley blog : Wednesday 18th October