Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Brackmills Buses Bewilder (2)

Is This The Best We Can Do?
During fbb's childhood and youthhood little changed "on the buses" in Northampton. The Military Road circular (20) was withdrawn and the 5 to Five Bells was extended to Chalcombe  Avenue as 24 and 25. But the decision in the early sixties to double the size of the town had a progressive and dramatic effect on its bus services.

A new district centre opened beyond Weston Favell village (former service 1 terminus "The Trumpet") and a whole raft of new routes to the new "Eastern District" started in a "big bang" of change.

The first significant industrial estate was at Moulton Park. fbb remembers it in its early days with dedicated buses sploshing through builders mud and carrying no passengers because there were few sites trading. But at least the buses were there when workers started being employed.
A Levi Strauss warehouse and the Nationwide Building Society were early employers; but clearly bus services were never likely to be profitable in the early days. Below are service 304 (journeys extended from Southfields) and 308 (exclusive to Moulton Park.
As the area developed a better service was justified, and thus today we have a half hourly service 7 Monday to Saturday, enhanced by shift-time specials on service 54 and 58.
The same problem has dogged Brackmills. Barclaycard is a big employer with its offices surrounded by large car parks.
It, and other office complexes, have their own mini bus station on Pavilion Drive, seen in the picture below on a non working day, locked and barred!
Much of greater Brackmills is dedicated to huge warehouses, distribution centres for big retail names. On Gowerton Road we pass Panasonic ...
... then ASDA ...
... with Wickes and Travis Perkins being their neighbours.
So what sort of bus service does this huge estate get?

If you scroll back to the ancient NCT map above, you will see service 23 to Midsummer Meadow. "Middy Medder" was the home of Northampton's popular outdoor swimming pool ...
... but there was industry there.
There was "The Avon" (still there but reduced in size) and the electricity power station (gone) plus United Counties depot and works (long gone). But the 23 only ever managed journeys at works times and shift-change tines.
But Brackmills rejuvenated this odd little service and, today, the 23 serves significant parts of the estate but still only at works times.
If fbb's calculations are right, the service needs two buses with light running in the peak contra-flow direction. So expensive to provide and, obviously (?), a subsidised service. It's operator nowadays is Country Lion.
This particular bus was formerly in the Arriva London fleet ...
... conveniently already painted in the new company's red!

The route of the extended historic 23 is straightforward ...
... calling at Barclaycard bus station en route round a terminal loop.

Country Lion's involvement with Brackmills and Barclaycard is not ended, however. On the assumption that employees may wish to pop up to the town centre in their lunch hour (lunch break?), there are lunchtime return trips on service 108.
The route is less impressive!
And here is P4 CLN between trips at Northampton's bus station.
No doubt our Northampton correspondent can explain why it is numbered 108. fbb thinks there was a batch of works services numbered in the 100s a few years ago, of which the 108 is the only remnant.

So far we have had two different routes to and around the Brackmills industrial estate.

Tomorrow three more route numbers all using different combinations of the road network, with one of the routes having two baffling variations, just to confuse us all.

 Next Brackmills blog : Wednesday 28th June 

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