Sunday, 20 May 2018

The Trouble With Tram Tracks ...

... Is That They Wear Out!
Sheffield Supertram is going through a seemingly unending programme of track renewal. It is reasonably easy for buses to cope with road renewal, but trams are not a very useful mode of transport without track to run along!

Phase 1 of this year's extensive programme starts this coming weekend. The lines will be closed from Hillsborough Corner ...
... straight ahead to the terminus at Middlewood.
The trams on the yellow route (Meadowhall, City, Middlwood) will all turn left at Hillsborough and terminate at Malin Bridge with no change to the timetable. A replacement bus service (Y1) will run from Hillsborough Interchange to Middlewood.

It is only a short nip from the tram stop outside Costa Lot to the bus stops.
Simple, eh?

But it isn't!

The ever helpful PTE (in the guise of Travel South Yorkshire - TSY) - added this note to its extensive list of Disruptions on 15th April. It is No 21 in an alphabetical list of 26 "disruptions". fbb has extracted the salient points.
The yellow route will run as normal between Meadowhall and Hillsborough before diverting to Malin Bridge to terminate.

Yep. Got that.

Middlewood Road will be closed to all traffic over the Bank Holiday weekend Saturday 26th-Monday 28th May. Traffic management will be in place.

Traffic management? How will that affect bus services along Middlewood Road?

Bus replacement services will be in operation from Tuesday 29th May to minimise the disruption to passengers travelling between Hillsborough and Middlewood. 

What about over the weekend?

Middlewood Park & Ride
As a result of the proximity of the rail replacement works to the Park & Ride entrance, along with the closure of Middlewood Road, Middlewood Park & Ride facility will be closed from 00:01 on Saturday 26 May until 05:00 on Friday 1 June. Alternative parking and tram services are available from Malin Bridge. 

Will there be room?

Shuttle bus service Y1 will operate between Hillsborough and Middlewood from Tuesday 29th May

Services SL1/SL1a will be extended and operate through to Hillsborough

And the timetables for Y1 and SL1/SL1a?

The end date for what will be a major disruption to public transport is well hidden within the text. But, to be fair to TSY (?) details of other bus services and how they might be affected are then listed in a long paragraph. It is not easy to understand and it certainly does not adequately explain the consequences of the total closure of all (or part?) of Middlewood Road over the bank holiday weekend.

Thankfully Supertram have produced a lovely leaflet, (Seems a good idea, perhaps TSY, Stagecoach Bus, First Bus et al might try it some time?!), although it would be better to have a more powerful link from the on-line "home" page.
Is a major disruption of equal value to "Finding out more ..." or "Working for us ..."?

But the leaflet exudes typical Supertram quality.
It has a summary of everything that is happening ...
... together with an ominous warning about the bank holiday weekend.
The tram route changes are shown diagrammatically ...
... with an adaptation of the "normal" tramway route diagram. So far so good. 

But then comes the difficult bit. There is a map showing how you get to the closed bit of route (also the closed bit of road!) over the weekend.
Answer; you can't! You have to walk from the SL1/SL1a service which is being extended through to Hillsborough throughput the disruption.

There may be some very good reason, but fbb cannot see it and it is not explained, why some sort of bus service couldn't run down Wadsley Lane (not named on the map above) and Langsett Avenue to help those with bags of goodies. They are both quite lengthy walks.

Too much trouble?

Once the weekend is over things do get better. The replacement bus is then in operation until the end of the work.
But the Y1 will be a one-way-round circular travelling non stop to Worrall ...
... then via Mowson Lane and the delightfully rural Stockarth Lane ...
... to rejoin the main road and turn back towards Sheffield.
As far as fbb is aware, this is the first time EVER that buses have used Mowson Lane and Stockarth Lane.

The leaflet includes a timetable for the Y1 ...
... but gives no details of the SL1 and SL1a.

But then a Supertam leaflet wouldn't, would it? SL1 and SL1a are run by those reprobate people at Stagecoach BUS, and we really don't want to get involved with them.

As this blog was being composed (1000 yesterday morning) with a week to go to the disruption, NOBODY had published a timetable for the substantially revised Supertram link service!

One other small point. The leaflet gives the dates of the two different sets of arrangements.
Very pretty; but, for example what happens on May 27th? "Between these dates inclusive" is needed, surely?
Lets us hope that the beleaguered folk of Hillsborough can work out what is happening to all the other bus services. It seems, with a week to go, that no-one is going to tell them.
 Today is Whit Sunday 
Since our Government divorces the Spring Bank Holiday from the Whitsun movable feast, its significance has faded from our corporate consciousness.

Whitsun probably takes its name from the tradition of putting on clean WHITe clothing to celebrate the day, but it might be better known as Pentecost, a Greek work describing the 50th day after Passover, our Easter.

When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
Our modern pseudo-secular society struggles with this description, but what seems to have happened is that some measure of divine power was delivered to the followers. Power of any sort (think lightning or a high voltage electrical discharge) ...
... can be created in a laboratory as a spectacular and noisy demonstration. (Don't try this at home!)

What is absolutely irrefutable is that the small band of Jesus' followers changed completely on that day. From being frightened men hiding in a room for fear of the authorities, they became bold in their preaching and thousands joined the gang.

Much of the charity work, health care and social care in this country began through the efforts of believers emboldened by the Power of God within them.

Pentecost made a difference then and it still does today!
Minibus Un-Revolution Part Two
Yesterday fbb was looking at the Stagecoach cutbacks in Ashford and thus the end of their dalliance with minibi.

A correspondent has contacted the chubby one to report that the Arriva sillibuses in Hemel Hempstead ...
... are to be withdrawn from 1st July.

No surprise there, then.
 Next Demand Resposive blog : Monday 21st May 


  1. In re the minibuses in Ashford and Hemel Hempstead . . . . .

    As yesterday's Anon commented, at least the trials were trialled! Us old crusties may know best, but the digital generation sometimes need to find out the hard way for themselves.

    The Ashford trial HAS produced some growth, and a marginal reduction from xx10 minutes to xx12 minutes is exactly that, marginal. If some routes simply haven't shown any growth after 6+ months, then they won't grow, and should be culled.

    The town services in HH are patchy in usage, with some trips always busy, and others not, so converting some to little buses does save money on fuel and maintenance (a big bus will only return 5-6 MPG, a little Merc, I believe, around 15+ MPG . . . . that's substantial)!!

    So the trials have proved that little buses at a higher frequency will increase passenger numbers, but only when the route(s) are carefully targetted. Otherwise, little buses will reduce costs of operation, but only where passenger numbers are low, but not so low as to warrant "doing a First".

    The next experiment is to completely renew a town service network with minibuses at higher frequencies and greater penetration of residential areas. Some such experiments will succeed and revitalise bus operation, some will fail and result in total withdrawal of a network (unless local authority support is forthcoming).

    That's the way of our industry now . . . life moves along, and so should we!!

  2. I would take issue with only one element of greenline727's comment, which is that six months is sufficient time to judge the success of a new or improved service. In the heady days of Rural Bus Grant I was able to improve a large number of rural services by increasing frequencies or adding evening and Sunday journeys. The security of the funding meant that we didn't have to take short term decisions and although not all the experiments were a success there were a number that only really took off in patronage after rather longer than six months. Of course, this was a sleepy rural county where people had got used to poor services and didn't expect improvements. Things may be different in urban areas.

    1. In my experience, any service change would take around 12 weeks to be evaluated . . . . in the first 4 weeks expect passenger numbers to fall, as some passengers would have journey times sufficiently changed to encourage them to try an alternative. In the second 4 weeks any losses would have stopped, and some new patronage would come through. In the final 4 weeks (hopefully) those that left would see the light and return, and new patronage would push ridership high enough to see the benefits of the scheme.

      This was very much in urban areas, and is based on experience in the 1980's and 1990's following deregulation. I quite agree that, in rural areas, timescales would need to be longer as pasengers would need to be dragged screaming from cars that were already owned.

      In Ashford, bearing in mind the new registration deadlines, I'd say that around 6 months data was evaluated prior to the network changes. Of course, these are commercial services involved, so decisions need to be taken sooner.

      I recall (after RBG) the days of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, where funding was available for 1-2 years and longer time could be assumed for evaluation, that some improvements did take longer to come through.

      They were good times, where innovation was encouraged and investment was placed accordingly . . . . I doubt we'll see those times return any time soon!!

    2. Our changes in Herefordshire with RBG tended to be adding to what was there already. We couldn't change the base service because rural services were one bus workings and tied to school and college times in the main. When we put on extra buses we were really aiming at generating traffic from completely new markets, which is what took the time. Anectodally it was said that when we put a new service on people would watch it go by for a few days, just to make sure it was really there before thinking about trying it. In the case of evenings and Sundays we were providing things that hadn't been offered before (ever) but in time we did attract new passengers - mainly young people - who only used the base service to get to college. I agree though that it's hard to see it ever being possible again.