Monday, 16 April 2018

The Grand Tour (ten)

Another Nightmare!

You're a regular wreck
With a crick in your neck
And no wonder you snore
For your head's on the floor
And you've needles and pins
From your soles to your shins
And your flesh is a-creep
For your left leg's asleep
And you've cramp in your toes
And a fly on your nose
And some fluff in your lung
And a feverish tongue
And a thirst that's intense
And a general sense
That you haven't been sleeping in clover;
But the Grand Tour has passed
And it's ending at last
And your brain's in a fog
But we're ending this blog
And thank goodness the nightmare is over!

Well nearly!

Saturday 7th April saw fbb eating an excellent Premier Inn breakfast and joining chum David in his car for the short run to Leicester Station. Why not avail himself of Arriva's finest? The problem was that fbb needed an early start and breakfast was not available until 0800. 

Saturday took him to the West Midlands, to Butlers Lane station, to spend some time with his chum John, now sinking deep into Alzheimer's. John would not be available until late morning so there was the opportunity, with the car-assisted start, to travel on the Birmingham tram, a k a The Midland Metro.

It's trams run between Birmingham and Wolverhampton following the former Great Western Railway line, much of which is now closed (yellow dots).
The line does not offer very beautiful views (!) but it has been equipped with new trams. The old ones looked like this ...
... and the new ones look like this:-
In 2016, the line was extended from a side platform at Birmingham Snow Hill station through the city centre to Stephenson Street alongside one of the many entrances to Birmingham New Street Station. fbb had ridden the whole line way back at the end of the 20th Century, but this was the first chance he had had to "cop" the new bit.

It is reputed that New Street Station now employs rescue dogs ...
... to find errant passengers who have become lost in the maze of coloured lounges ...
... which aren't coloured and where you cannot lounge. Finding your way out can best be described by Maurits Cornelis Escher's engraving entitled "Ascending and Descending".
In the same way that Escher's people are doomed to walk continually uphill or continually downhill, ...
... you, the passenger, always seem to end up on Platform 8.

But equipped with Kendal Mint Cake, stout walking boots, compass and suitable protective clothing ...
... it is possible to follow the rather inconspicuous signs to the tram.

fbb was going to travel to Jewellery Quarter and back, mainly to experience the city centre ride. He had researched fares and gathered that it would cost £2 return. So the first task was to seek out the ticket machines.

But there aren't any.
National Express (who runs the tram) ditched the super-smashing machines (seen here in "closed down" mode ...
... in favour of a revolutionary new revenue collecting idea. You pay money to a "conductor" who issues you with a "ticket". Stunning.
Maybe Nottingham should try it - they might collect more fares!

Anyway, off the tram went up Corporation Street. It used to be full of buses and shelters ...
... and, some time before that, full of buses and trams.
Now it carries just one tram route with all the buses banished from this busy shopping street.
You do wonder what effect this policy has had on the city centre footfall! At the top of the hill we lurch left into Bull Street, also once a busy bus terminus ...
... and, once again, now only served by the lonesome tram.
Bull Street is now the stop for Snow Hill station and far less convenient than the original platform alongside the "big trains".
But soon we leave street running ...
... and descend to join the former main line.
There was, however, one mystery to solve. On the departure screens at Jewellery Quarter (and everywhere else) we were told (and scrolled) that Saturday had an eleven tram service.
Maybe locals understand the significance of that information but fbb didn't. It was meaningless. The rest of the message was just plain weird.
There would be a " delay of approx 8 min. " Yet fbb's tram appeared as predicted in the top line. There was no delay!

If they mean "trams run every 8 minutes", then say so!
Something has happened to the "Snow Hill" stop; it has been renamed St Chads.
It WAS named "Snow Hill" but folk were alighting there expecting to nip smartly on to the main line platforms. There is a route from St Chads (up in the air) ...
... down to street level ...
... then by negotiating the gloom under the bridge and turning right somehow ...
... only to find that this new-ish entrance in Livery Street is closed after 1900 and all day Sunday. So a change of name discourages interchange and preserves the secret!

fbb was well impressed with the conductors but seriously underwhelmed by the weird information about frequency. Had he wanted to get from St Chads to Snow Hill station his whelm would have been further under than imaginable!

Nottingham is the place for trams, without a doubt!

 Final Grand Tour blog (hooray) : Tuesday 17th April 

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