Thursday, 19 July 2018

A Bit Of Bother With Buxton

This blog failed to publish itself earlier today. Apologies. It mat have been a technological failure - more likely the usual human error.

Stop Press
The following staff notice has been distributed to employees at Wessex Bus in bristol.


Following 11 years of operating in the Bristol and Bath areas, over the last couple of years business opportunities have reduced and our presence in the area has fallen to a level that doesn't warrant the size of depot and overhead we have in place.

We are pleased to announce that a deal has been agreed with Cheltenham and Gloucester Omnibus Company Limited (owned by Stagecoach) who will be taking over these contracted routes from 2nd September 2018

3's Aztec West
11/11A Southmead
508 Southmead
513/514 Knowle
515 Imperial Park
625 UWE
TSB Staff Shuttle

The following routes will be deregistered from this date and will no longer be operated by Wessex or Stagecoach: 42, 12, 51

fbb guesses that these are commercial services which may be taken on by other operators or offered on tender if there are enough pennies available!

In addition, the 20's in Bath were lost at retender and the 10 service has been removed completely due to the service no longer being viable for the local authority

All current driving and engineering staff will TUPE transfer across to Stagecoach from this date and will join Stagecoach's Bristol operation

A full consultation will take place with staff in the coming weeks, with Stagecoach management on site to assist with the transfer process and to answer any questions.

Wessex Bus R.I.P.

At The Risk Of Being Repetitive ...
The recent history of route 65 between Buxton and Sheffield has been one of changing operators. For many years T M Travel (son of Trent) had sole sway.
Clearly all was not well with the commercial performance of the service, but a deal was struck for High Peak (based in Buxton) to take on two return journeys. The 65 became a joint service.
But not long afterwards, T M Travel pulled out completely and High Peak reigned supreme.
With branded buses ...
... and superb printed publicity, the service looked set fair for a good future.

Then came the body blow. High Peak announced that the route had not performed as well as they had hoped an they were cutting back to two return journeys a day with nothing on Sundays. In the withdrawn mix was a schoolday variation (65A) which clearly would need replacing.

Presumably, in headless chicken mode, Derbyshire County Council were under pressure to do something, firstly to get the little kiddies to school and, secondly, to salvage something of the rest of the service.

You would suppose that High Peak were hoping to prise a few extra pennies from the County's piggy bank and continue operating as normal.

New tender documents were issued which were rumoured to be "not very attractive, commercially". The results of the process are commercially confidential, but it is fair to suppose that High peak put in a proposal for some extra journeys in addition to the two that they had registered commercially, i.e. without subsidy.

SHOCK HORROR - Stagecoach won the tender!

SHOCK HORROR 2 - Stagecoach also registered the two "commercial" trips.
(click on the graphic for a larger timetable)

The 0903 and 1303 trips from Buxton receive no subsidy, neither do the journeys at similar times from Sheffield. This registration surprised seasoned bus watchers because (a) it takes Stagecoach well out of its comfort zone. It has depots in Sheffield and Chesterfield but nothing at all nearly 30 miles away at Buxton.

A second surprise was (b) the extension of journeys to Meadowhell shopping centre. When Meadowhell opened loadsa bus services were extended there, but slowly, as the early enthusiasm abated a little, most of these ceased. So is there really a commercial market for the elongated 65?

A careful perusal of the timetable reveals that some positioning journeys operated from Chesterfield on service 66, currently the preserve of Hulleys of Baslow, but also with a chequered history.

So, if you were Mr High Peak, what would you do?
Of course, you would, sensibly, withdraw your two "commercial" journeys. Seemples.

Only the nasty Traffic commissioners won't let you. You have to give the formal period of notice (effectively eight weeks) and then you can stop.


So, yesterday, in comes Travel South Yorkshire (TSY) with the combined Stagecoach and High Peak timetable.
Notice that the two operators apparently follow different routes in Buxton, Millers Dale and Great Hucklow (really?) ...
... and call a different stops at Ecclesall, in Sheffield.
fbb can help here. Stagecoach calls at Ecclesall, Ecclesall Rd South/Turning Circle ...
... at this shelter, in fact. But high Peak Buses serve a completely different point. Ecclesall, Ecclesall Rd South/Knowle Ln is here ...
... at the shelter beyond the grey car. Passengers really wouldn't want to make a mistake, would they?

But the nonsense of insisting on both services continued operation goes deeper. High Peak must keep going until they cancel (which, fbb is assured, they already have done!). But Stagecoach were allowed to start the service at short notice, without the full period of registration warning.

Sounds jolly unfair and definitely not cricket, eh, fellows?

It would be good to look at Stagecoach's promotional publicity for their new service, but, as of early afternoon yesterday ...
... they were keeping it a closely guarded secret; not even a timetable. fbb did ask, but ...


The timetable is still in production as it is part of a promotional leaflet which will be available to pick up on buses and in Sheffield Interchange. The timetable can be found on the Derbyshire County Council website here in the interim. 

Kind regards, 

Might it be available BEFORE the service starts?

At least Derbyshire gets it right. Indeed the county is showing the High peak journeys separately ...
... so they can be removed a soon as the potty and pointlessly punitive period of notice expires.

But you do have to wonder how long it will be before the savvy Stagecoach realise that the service 65 is, despite their expansive ambitions, not commercially viable and they, too, pull out; leaving the whole circus to set out on its illogical and unhelpful parade once again.

The unsatisfactory face of the deregulated highly regulated bus industry.

Will there be any passengers on Sunday?

Well, don't ask Traveline because, as of yesterday lunchtime, they were still showing the old withdrawn High Peak service for the whole of next week. (click on the table to enlarge it)
Beyond belief.

But in the good old says ...
... t was a Sheffield Joint Omnibus Committee service 84, shared with North Western Road Car.

 Next Jolly Good Timetable blog : Friday 20th July 

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Colours of Confusion or Confidence (2)

Can You Make The Complicated Comprehensible?
Simple answer, NO! If you bus routes are complex and confusing no amount of map-designing skill can change that mess into something that is easy to understand. Yesterday we saw how Sheffield's 52 bus route retained the "straight line" simplicity of the tram route that it replaced.

Then along comes privatisation, deregulation and (ultimately) self-destructive competition leading to two 52s following different routes at one end.
The sensible use of the 52a number helped, but the latest nonsense from the PTE, the Undergound-style route diagram, does more harm than good.
We also saw (again in yesterday's blog) that various bits of PTE "publicity" uses four different colours to identify the 52/52a. Why?

The map on the current PTE non-leaflet is unhelpful ...
... but the inset maps are much better. But they lack useful detail.
fbb's version (much praised - modesty in operation!) does a better job ...
... but necessarily involves compromise to maintain  a reasonable semblance of "simplicity".

But if we then maintain consistency and use an extract from the "tube" map on a timetable leaflet, we can do a better job. Instead of the above, we can show the two Woodhouse routes separated where the difference might matter.
Then in the University area, which the PTE mangles so spectacularly ...
... we can correct the nonsense ...
... but then do even better. By playing a little fast and loose with scale we can help passengers with the physical layout of stops at the Uni.
Maybe a couple of arrows are needed, but at least the pride of Sheffield's halls of academe will know that they need to choose the right stop!

The full "new-style" 52/52a map will be on GoTimetable Sheffield ( later today. Choose service 52 via the table tennis bat on the opening screen, call up the timetable itself, then tap/click  MAP .

But then there is the problem of the City Centre "spider" maps (as favoured by Transport for London).

Here is the "spider" map snapped by fbb on Saturday last in the searing heat of central Sheffield. It is on Waingate at the stop for routes 10/10a, 6/6a, 24/25, 52/52a and 56.
The "spider" ignores 6/6a and 10.

Unusually, the route lines (in their non standard colours, of course) are NEARLY in the correct geographical order. Sadly the PTE has got the 24 and 25 going the wrong way ...
... but you can't have everything can you? Certainly not accuracy!

That's daft enough, but look closely at the four Woohouses.
Three of them are, effectively, the same place; both the 24 and the 25 serve Cross Street and Stradbroke Road and the 52 is terminates between them.

And, please Mr PTE, what about buses to Skelton Road and Spa Lane? This is a loop of newer housing tacked on to Woodhouse village centre ...
... but impossible to find on journey planners or timetables. Even the map on the PTE non-leaflet doesn't tell you what goes there.
So how about using an extract from the tube-style map (fbb's of course) to help the public, rather than a computer generated spider. "Help the public", now there's a novelty! (click on the graphic below to enlarge it).
And, deep joy, the 24 and 25 are shown going the right way. Another novelty! A map for service 10 (Circular) would be shown separately as it has no affinity whatsoever with the selelction as shown above.

Which leaves the problem of Sheffield City Centre.

Whilst being ambivalent about the benefits of "Underground-style" maps versus geographically accurate cartography, fbb has latched on to their benefits for a complex city centre network that is an exciting and challenging feature of Sheffield bus travel.

It all went belly-up when the trams came. To give these beasties room, High Street becasme one way for buses, which meant considerable gyrations to get to city centre stops for almost every city bus route.

In GoTimetable, fbb has created some rather crude City maps e.g. for 52/52a ...
... but, using the revised styling, perhaps we can do something better.
The idea is "out for consultation" at the moment but samples are appearing on GoTimetable.

If Buses for Sheffield is serious about wanting to encourage more passengers, this sort of consistency will help folk make sense of a complicated network.

But this sort of inconsistency won't:-
All four were photographed on the same day a couple of weeks ago. All four are current and three of them have been published since the big reveal of
 Buses for Sheffield  One City One Service 
with lots of incompatible leaflet styles.

 Bog-up in Buxton Blog : Thursday 19th July 

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Colours of Confusion or Confidence (1)

Simple Frequent Service Or Not?
Sheffield's superb tram service was so frequent, seven days a week, that it did not need a timetable. Most services ran every four minutes. The network grew by extension, but did not really change very much. A couple of lesser used routes disappeared quite early (Petre Street and Fulwood via Broomhill) and there were later extensions via Prince of Wales Road and Abbey Lane.

But trams ran from Crookes ...
 ... to Handworth as unchanging as the Laws of the Medes and Persians.
When buses supplanted trams, they, too, ran from Crookes ...
... to Handsworth much as before but now with route number 52.
Part of the service was extended to serve newer housing at Ballifield ...
... where the Everest Inn still trades!
A further extension in the mid sixties (?) took the 52 bus to serve new-build "council" housing on Badger Road ...
... and on to a terminus at what was optimistically called Woodhouse Station; Woodhouse Station approach road might be better!
But, broadly speaking, the 52 was a "straight line" route (with plenty of wiggles) from Crookes via the City Centre to Woodhouse Station.

Then along came Yorkshire Terrier to mess things up. Their 52 continued from Crookes down the hill via Walkley to Hillsborough and, at the Woodhouse end, took a completely different route ending up at Woodhouse village. Stagecoach endorsed the appropriated route number when they bought out Terrier!

It was confusing and VERY difficult to show on a map!
The net result was that you could catch a 52 travelling westbound along Badger Road into Sheffield Centre (First 52) OR you could choose a bus travelling eastbound along Badger Road into Sheffield Centre (Stagecoach 52).

But along comes the Sheffield Bus Partnership and made about the only positive decision it has ever made - namely to renumber First's 52 as 52a.

The Sheffield Network map explains things reasonably well.
The farcically bad "Underground" style map is less helpful.
Neither route serves Orgreave and you simply cannot work out which way the two different routes actually go. And the red is a different, more dismal, shade!

Now, wait at the eastbound stop on Waingate in the City centre and enjoy (?) the information in the frame.
Both routes are merged into one straight line and the colour is now blue.  The departure list is OK if you know where the buses go ...
... but totally mystifying to a newcomer. Yes, there are explanatory notes beside each time but they really don't tell you anything useful.

Now lets cross the roads and look at the 52 in the opposite (westbound) direction. One feature of the Sheffield Bus Partnership was that First Bus (now 52a) was extended beyond Hillsborough Interchange to Wisewood. Again the network map is OK.
The Underground monstrosity map is, exceptionally, right!
So let us wait on the opposite side of Waingate and observe the bus stop information for the 52 to Crookes, Hillsborough and Wisewood.
The 52/52a is not bright red anymore; the 52/52a is not dull red any more; the 52/52a is not blue any more - it has, for no reason at all, turned green. There is a line of route map (not photographed) which is a wiggly version of the straight line in the graphic above.

Neither explains the difference between a 52 and a 52a. The departure list is even less helpful:-
The tiny little notes beside the times tell you which company operates that bus; z Stagecoach, y First .

The red text says this:-

Bus times shown in bold red terminate at Hillsborough or Worrall (no mention of Wisewood at all - there are a few schoolday trips to Bradfield School at Worrall)

Certain journeys within the frequency section may (may?) also terminate at these locations. (What exactly does that mean to Joe Public?)

So how do you find out where your bus is going?

Visit to view the full timetable or ask the driver for more infromation. Whatever you do, do NOT rely on this notice because it will not tell you what you want to know.

Pathetic nonsense on a pole - up the pole in fact!

Is there a better way?

You bet there is.

 Next confusion blog : Wednesday 18th July