Monday, 5 March 2018

Variegated Blog

A Correction/Clarification
Somerset Passenger Solutions ...
... is a stand alone company, jointly owned (50/50) by First Bus South West Ltd (i.e. First Kernow and Buses of Somerset) and JJP Holdings South West Ltd. Most vehicles are hired or leased and operate in plain white livery ...
... offering, amongst other routes, a J24 for the EDF Park and Ride site at M5 Junction 24 and ...
... similar at Junction 23. These junctions are south and north of Bridgwater respectively.

A new park and ride has been officially opened by EDF Energy, just off the A38 at Dunball Roundabout, to reduce traffic to and from Hinkley Point C. The J23 Park and Ride has parking for up to 1,500 vehicles so workers can travel to and from the Hinkley Point C site by bus.

The facility can also handle up to 85 HGVs, enabling smaller loads to be bulked into larger single loads to reduce the number of lorries delivering to the site.

Thanks to various correspondents for sorting this out.

Viva Vivarail!
This is the company that has been set up to convert redundant Metropolitan Line "D" stock ...
... for use on the National Rail network.

Viva offers a diesel electric train. What happens is that a self contained diesel engine and generator ...
... is slid into a frame under one car.
This clever box makes enough volts and amps to power the existing motors of the ex London underground train.

Three two car units have been ordered by London North Western Railway / West Midlands Trains for the "Marston Vale" Line which runs between Bletchley and Bedford.
Local supporters and users of the line are broadly supportive, but asking questions like, "Will they have toilets?"; "Will the seats match the windows?; What quality of seats will be fitted?; "Will the timetable be enhanced?"; Will there be a Sunday service?

Current service is roughly every hour but supporters want a true "clock face" service with extra journeys at peak times.

The new trains are due to enter service with the December 2018 timetable change.

fbb Would Like a P, Please!
Don't panic, dear, it's a model railway locomotive.

Over the past few years, strange things have been happening in the "toy train" market. Firstly they are definitely not "Toys"; they are aimed at the adult modeller and priced accordingly. A small tank engine will cost upwards of £99.

To put this in context; when fbb saved up his pennies and, in the early 60s, bough a Hornby Dublo 2-rail "R1" tank engine ...
... it cost a monstrous £1 16s 0d (36/-). This would inflate to £40 today.

Of course lots of things have caused the typical price to increase (in real terms) nearly 150%. Materials costs are higher (plastic prices depend on oil prices!), the models have much more detail with lots of bits added by hand, AND production runs are much smaller.

Nevertheless, fbb would really like a P

Only eight of these diminutive locomotives were built for the South Easter and Chatham Railway (S E C R).
Engineer Harry Wainwright was seeking a replacement for the underpowered rail motor trains.
In theory the "P" could handle two coaches.
But, like the rail motors, they were also underpowered and rapidly demoted to shunting duties. Of the eight that were built, four are preserved.

The Model is produced by retailer Hattons of Widnes in a variety of liveries.
In fact TEN versions are on offer!
fbb particularly likes the S E C R green, a rich and glorious colour looking its best when locomtives are freshly painted.
The pre-production model "P" does not do the colour justice.

Of course, Hattons don't actually make the models; they are manufactured in China (where else?), but the design is done in the UK.

But what railway modeller could not delight in such a typically British little engine.

Maybe fbb will have to wait until they start appearing on the second-hand market?

And Finally ...
Mrs fbb sent her chubby hubby a Birthday Card a week ago yesterday. It was amusing and apt, although your blogging geriatric always works from home whilst sons do so occasionally.
Very true!

 Next Basel blog : Tuesday 6th March 


  1. D stock is from the District Line. The Metropolitan used A stock, and the Circle, Hammersmith & City, and the District's Edgware Road-Wimbledon service used C stock. All replaced by S (for Sub Surface) stock.
    The railmotors in some cases became victims of their own success - they generated enough traffic that they couldn't cope. Anything by Wainwright has my vote - the pagoda cab is a very fine finishing touch indeed.

  2. To yesterday’s commenter about why so many Somerset operators have gone pop....

    Somerset pay a pittance on ENCTS. It is historically very thin territory except in the northern part. Webberbus indulged in a ridiculous bus war using new vehicles in such territory - madness! Somerset CC have massively slashed support for bus services.

    Should be noted that most of Crosville’s operations were not in Somerset per se but the North Somerset unitary authority. They tried competing with First with some highly unsuccessful buses like ex London hybrid deckers and Plaxton Primos and brand new fleet. The former types are toxically bad and won’t have helped their maintenance travails.

  3. If Somerset CC pay rubbish for ENCTS then why don't the bus company play them at their own game by splitting the route into multiple sections for ENCTS holders while selling paying passengers a rover/explorer type ticket like stagecoach have done with the 700, or the following example.... ENCTS rate 30%, so route x single fare £10, rover ticket £3... thus the fare payer buys a rover giving the bus company £3 and the ENCTS holder is put down for a single fare, also getting the bus company the full £3 in revenue... simples isn't it...?

    1. Is that really achievable on Yeovil to Martock, or Minehead town service?

    2. And then the LA drop the reimbursement rate even further!!

    3. Simple, maybe, but also illegal! Do you really think that the LA will not see through that?
      Splitting the route because of drivers hours rules being more stringent for routes over 50km and then asking passholders to touch in again is legal, because it's EC policy (and also benefits the operator by enabling drivers to drive for longer in a spell of duty).
      Ultimately the only fix is for Central Government to accept that the scheme was ill-conceived and effectively broken, and to change it to permit charges for ENCTS passes; any such income to be ring-fenced towards increasing the rate paid.
      That will never happen because it will be seen as a tax on pensioners and an immediate vote-loser.
      Anyone fancy running a bus company? Not me!

    4. Also in most councils ENCTs reimbursement calculations will include day tickets (price divided by 3 or 4) & often weekly tickets (divided by 8 or 10). ENCTS reimbursement also will normally take into account how much fares have increased compared to inflation over the period so if you put your fares up too much then the reimbursement calculation will reduce the rate paid. ENCTS repayment has over the years basically been adjusted to the advantage of the councils and left operators with no control over what happens.

  4. Ok, So my "Fares fiddle" above is not legal (apart from on long routes weirdly!) and would be "seen through", but I'm still trying to get my head around how we've got to where we are, where operators are not being given the proper reimbursement for carrying OAPs, and services are being withdrawn to the detriment of ALL intending passengers.... since the whole premise of the scheme in the first place (and still is) is to be revenue neutral... "no better off, no worse off", how have the LAs got away with reducing the reimbursement rate over time, and why haven't the big bus companies (at least) taken them to court over it...? It seems the LAs have reduced rates but just shrugged shoulders and said "we've got no money" and the bus companies have just said "ok then!" If it's written in law that bus companies must be "no better off, no worse off" then why isn't someone making sure that this is how it's being operated!

    1. The reason why ENCTs funding hasn't resulted in the law courts is complex but can, very simply and not comprehensively, be summarised by the following issues.
      1. It would be a PR disaster for the big groups with politicians accusing big multi-national businesses of taking money from schools & social care (Greater Manchester did this when the authorities were making a profit from ENCTs funding let alone the shire counties who are losing money). Besides bus operators have to work with the councils and are also trying to avoid franchising so this would hardly help that.
      2. For the smaller companies it is just too expensive.
      3. Most of the councils are flat broke and this would just see more cuts to non-statutory funding streams elsewhere such as supported services & student travel (I know that even 10-years ago Derbyshire was subsidising their scheme to the tune of £1million a year above their funding from central government).
      4. There is a appeal procedure but it more often supports the council and can reduce the reimbursement.

      The DfT regularly reviews how the reimbursement is calculated and every time it comes out that it should be reduced. The issue is over the assumed traffic generation created by the scheme (known as the generation factor) which is used to reduce the average fare to take account of the number of people who are only travelling due to the existence of the scheme. You also then have an add on as to the extra cost that has to be put in to accommodate these extra passengers (either larger vehicles or extra journeys) though this can be difficult to prove and would only be paid on certain services anyway. This is where the 'no-better, no-worse off' issue comes to a head, lots of complications and the use of consultants to get the best rate so the bigger operators often get better rates than the smaller ones as they can afford to pay people to maximise their rates (generally each operator will have a different rate to reflect the different passenger mix and often there will be different rates for the same operator for different groups of routes within).

  5. @Anonymous
    The DfT rewrites the rules at frequent intervals. Most reimbursement is now based on a basket of fares, not just the single fare, though in point of practice many large operators agree fixed deals that give certainty to both sides. Some authorities no longer reimburse at all on contracted routes.