Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Christmas - That's The Way To Do It!


One of the mysteries of "Festive" Public Passenger Transport in the UK is its lack of any logic. Why, you must ask, are there hardly any buses on New Year's Day, but a reasonably good train service? Turn the modes round and London has a good Boxing Day bus service but no National Rail.

If the decision is made on the basis of revenue and profitability, one of the parties has got it badly wrong in each case. fbb reckons that the underlying reasons are (a) what we have always done and (b) it's all too much trouble anyway.

Perhaps those who wish to jump to the defence of hard working drivers who need a break, or hard working schedulers who have insufficient time to draw up special services, or the dead hand of the Rail Regulator etc. etc. should hold back their comments until your chubby author has completed this pre-festive series of posts?

There is a second aspect to the "problem" of Christmas and the New Year. It is all very well running special bus services, finishing early etc. etc, but how well is the travelling public informed of the arrangements.
But before we look in detail, a further comment on the curse of the snowfall from 0930 yesterday morning.

Wednesbury Bus Station and Bearwood Bus Station are unable to be served by all routes. 

Whatever happened to the bus station inspector with a shovel and a sack of grit/salt? Or is it a case of "It's not my responsibility, mate? Bus stations are run by the PTE"
the shovel's just a prop -
snow clearing is contracted out

And from Travel for West Midlands, the new name for Network West Midlands, itself the new name for Centro - i.e. West Midlands PTE:-

All services are having difficulty accessing West Bromwich and Wednesbury bus stations. Our teams are working to clear these sites. Contractors have been asked to attend Park and Ride sites. Please take extra care until the sites have been cleared. 

The first "good thing" no note is that National Express West Midlands has a massive clickable banner shouting loudly that "things" will be happening. Sadly, on fbb's laptop, its is one of the those infuriating sliding panels that whizz off left just as you are about to click on it.

What is wrong with a fixed list of clickable "headlines"? Sorry, fbb forgot. A web site has to be full of twiddly bits to show off the "skills" of the site's designers and ensure thy can charge pots of money for doing it. Don't worry about making things complicated for the user!

But clicking on the panel leads to this:-

We will be running the following levels of service over the Christmas and New Year holidays. This page will be regularly updated with more information and revised timetables.

Sunday 24th December - normal Sunday daytime & evening service until approximately 2300 - full timetable details here

Monday 25th December - no service 

Tuesday 26th December - a Sunday service will run until around 6pm on all services except the 35 and 77 in Walsall, 62 in Wolverhampton and 1, 27 and 96 in Birmingham which will not run. Certain busy routes will continue to operate throughout the evening - full timetable details here.

Wednesday 27th to Friday 29th December -  a Saturday service will run with additional early morning journeys on certain route - full details will be available shortly. 

Saturday 30th December - normal Saturday service

Sunday 31st December - normal Sunday daytime & evening service. 

Monday 1st January 2018 - as for Monday 26th December - full timetable details here.

When fbb looked on Sunday afternoon, there they were - all the timetables for all to see.

Sadly when you eager author sought to download some examples yesterday 1030, all he could get was this:-
And it was all going so very well! Drat that wrong kind of snow - it even gets into our computers! (?)

Try again later.

Yep. All is well. Here is the Christmas Eve schedule from the Sutton Coldfield hinterland into Birmingham.
Ditto New Year's Eve.

And here is the same service on Boxing Day ...
... actually running a tad later. And at normal fares, too.

This pattern is replicated throughout the National Express network. You have to ask the question (and fbb is sure that his correspondents will rush to reply), "Is this generous provision just because Birmingham is a bigger place? Or it that Birmingham City Corporation Buses ...
... always ran a good "festive" service and their successors have never felt the necessity to change the policy. The passengers have become used to a proper service and therefore use it! 

How does Brum compare with Manchester? There was a panel headed "Whats Happening at Christmas" but ...

What’s happening

The transport network is expected to be busier than usual over the Christmas period as there are a number of festive events across Manchester. Journey times are likely to increase during the run up to New Year, so you should plan ahead if you are taking part in, spectating or simply travelling around the local area.

Manchester Christmas Light Switch On takes place on Saturday 4 November. Stars on the night include DJ Sigala**, boy band Yes Lad and the casts of the musicals Elf and Shrek.
The event starts at 7.30pm but the event is always busy so make sure to get there early. Bag checks will be in operation so please if at all possible, leave them at home.

Manchester’s iconic Christmas Markets return on Friday 10 November until Thursday 21 December. They take place across the city centre and again bag checks will be in operation.

Manchester City Council has more information about the markets and the Light Switch On on their website.

Manchester Arndale is open seven days a week in the run up till Christmas. You can find more information on their opening times on their website.

... it did not tell you what was happening bus-wise. fbb did find a document from Transport for Greater Manchester ...
... dated from November, which gave a summary.
The bus operators have given details of what they are doing. First Bus has simply published a set of "forthcoming timetables" on line.
So here is the prestigious and highly successful guided busway service on Christmas Eve.
And, similarly, on Boxing Day when it is one of a few services operating until early evening.
Here is the lavish selection:-

The following services will run to special timetables:
Metroshuttle, V1, V2, 8, 17, 36, 37, 68, 81, 93, 100,
135, 163, 184, 409, 471 and 582.
No other services will be operating.

So what's Birmingham got that Manchester hasn't?

One more pressing problem which fbb cannot answer.

In Birmingham and Manchester, what printed publicity for these services will be available?

** D J Sigala??? No, neither did fbb!
The King James version of the Bible (The "Authorised" Version) was a huge scholastic "tour de force" and many people still derive great spiritual strength from its mellifluous language.
Matthew begins his Gospel with a genealogy of Jesus but the language brings a wince or a smile to modern readers - with all that begatting.

Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob;
and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;
And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar;
and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram;
And Aram begat Aminadab;
and Aminadab begat Naasson;
and Naasson begat Salmon;
And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab;
and Booz begat Obed of Ruth;
and Obed begat Jesse;
And Jesse begat David the king;
and David the king begat Solomon;

quite a bit missed out!

And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary,
of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

Matthew is anxious to show that, by human standards at least, Jesus is a descendant of King David and before that from the family of Abraham, the "father" of the Jewish race.

Luke also has a genealogy in his Gospel but they are different. Bible knockers jump onto the is difference and say that the Bible must be wrong. Realistically both versions are a guess in places because birth records simply did not exist. The writers have gone to the Old Testament of our Bible and added in Rabbinic traditions to piece together a viable family tree.

It all fits together, as recorded in "While Shepherds Watched ..."

To you in David's
Town this day
Is born of David's line
The Savior who is Christ the Lord
And this shall be the sign
And this shall be the sign.

The heavenly Babe
You there shall find
To human view displayed
And meanly wrapped
In swathing bands
And in a manger laid
And in a manger laid.

Odd isn't it? When else do we use the word "manger"?
Even cartoons find room for the non-existent donkey!
 Next Seasonal Service blog : Wednesday 13th December 


  1. Here's our effort for Edinburgh and the Lothians https://lothianbuses.co.uk/assets/files/LB-XMAS-LEAFLET-2017-WEB.pdf

    and our associated East Coast Buses

    and they're all printed as well!

  2. How's this for clarity? Cardiff bus times over the "festive period": http://www.cardiffbus.com/english/feature-article.shtml?articleid=7722. I think the"times of last buses" is especially clear.

    And there does appear to be printed material available too (I'll check when I go to the library) - albeit with a mistake on p.4!

  3. In the West Midlands, Boxing Day bus services (normally a Sunday service in PTE days) ended around 1990s. In the early 2000s Centro funded a limited resumption that was so successful that NX West Midlands now runs many if not most of them commercially.

    Boxing Day is a busier shopping day than New Year's Day, at least round here.

  4. In Kent, the western half of the county gets a very limited Boxing Day service but a normal Sunday service on New Years Day. In the eastern half, they get a limited (but growing) service on Boxing Day but almost nothing on New Years Day.

    From my days working in retail as a student, the Eastern half has it more accurate in terms of likely usage.

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