Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Superb Shed Survivor

A day or so ago, fbb was exploring (thanks to our efficient Northampton correspondent) the mysterious new campus of the University of Northampton.
Where soon the eager students will be studying, there used to be quite a chunk of railway as per the above map extract. At Cotton End (map bottom left) is the red blob of Northampton Bridge Street station ...
... long since removed with its site now encased in undergrowth.
Moving north we have new housing on the right (east) of the main road.
Here were industrial premises (all rail served, of course) ...
... a Steam Saw Mill and an Iron Foundry, plus the Speedway track which also offered greyhound racing.
The railway line curving past the dog track served St John's Street station, terminus for trains from Bedford. until 1939 when services were transferred to Castle station.
For a sparsely served branch, the station was quite imposing.
The wide light-coloured road is Victoria Promenade, with the entrance to the town's busy Cattle Market. Again there is very little left ...
... just an unexplained strip of trees and an odd piece of retaining wall on Victoria Promenade.
But now let's go to where the two lines joined, named Hardingstone Junction named after the not-very-nearby village.
And there, lower left, is our Survivor. The unassuming grey rectangle was the Midland Railway engine shed. Here it is with a train to Bedford passing by ...
... and here it is looking east with the cooling towers in the background.
And here it is looking west again, rail-less and decaying, but in glorious technicolour! (technicolor?)
It survived because British Railways used it as a training school for welding, long after it had any use for parking steam engines. It decayed thereafter, half the roof fell in and when the Uni turned up it could well have been razed to the ground. It was in a sorry state.

Yet, there it is on today's campus site plan (lower centre) ...
... and as espied through the sparkly glass of the new people shelters.
But Alan went one better and nipped smartly along the grey brick road to take an unencumbered picture. And doesn't the old girl look wonderful?
Re-roofed and beautiful, it is now the headquarters of the University's Students Union.

You do wonder what the Midland Railway management would have thought if you could have told them that their lovely little loco shed would, one day, house staff and facilities for students at a University?

Thankfully the Students Union has a heart and records much of the buildings' history on line.

And former local resident fbb did not even know that there was a shed there! Disgraceful.

For old tainspotters, the main loco shed for Northampton was on Main Road, Far Cotton: fork right at the Tivoli cinema ...
... and the Golden Teapot caff and you you can immediately spot the coaling tower. The shed, in fbb's teenage days, was 2E ...
... and if you were brave and brazen you could wander round "copping" all the locos until the foreman spotted you and asked you ever-so politely to vacate the premises!
The building which was "the Tiv" is still there, but, when Streetview last passed by, the seemly Golden Teapot had become the Super Sausage!
The loco shed is, obviously, now an industrial complex with no evidence of it's past life.

Repeat Patterns
fbb's complaint (yesterday's blog) about undecypherable repeat patterns produced the usual burst of acrimony at the old man's remarks. So as a treat for all those who think that non-repeating repeat patterns are a spiffing and comforting idea, fbb has compiled a timetable for the whole of a Monday to Friday service 88 using the woolliness that many readers love and appreciate (?).

Note that there is an 18 minute difference in running time between the start and the finish of the daytime "about" designation - only six minutes for the evening version.

fbb was a past master at timetable reduction in his years as Editor-in-Chief of the Great Britain bus timetable, so is familiar with the concept. But the GBBTT was never more than a guide, it would not be advisable to reply on its summaries without more careful reference to the real thing.

And if it doesn't matter, why do VOSA enforcers stand at street corners and fine operators for not running to time?

More scraping the bottom, middle and top of the publicity barrel tomorrow!

 Next Newbury blog : Thursday 16the August 


  1. Oh dear lord! It's not "acrimony" (n. bitterness or ill feeling) if someone has a different view to you Peter. To not accept that others may have different opinions is mulish, narrow-minded and hidebound.

    Perhaps, what this demonstrates is simply that different people like information in different ways? The imprecision that irkes you, is simply a non-issue for others who are content that basically there's a bus "about every ten minutes".

    Maybe the answer is to publish two versions of the timetable - one a simplified version and one showing full times for every journey. (Yes I know publishing one version of a timetable is frustratingly beyond the capabilities of some operators and authorities). That way people could choose the information that suits their needs / preference? Might that not be a way to help passengers?

    Or perhaps we could stick with the fixed view of there's the FBB way or the wrong way!

  2. Andrew Kleissner15 August 2018 at 08:10

    I don't see the problem here. Granted, the service intervals after the 1717 departure are erratic. That's presumably due to the rush-hour traffic, so full marks to the timetablers for factoring that in, and giving us the times.

    What we still don't know is the variation in the off-peak "about every 10 minutes" bit - if it's between (say) 9 and 12 minutes I think that's OK.

  3. I was tempted to delete Ben's comment because, yet again, it descends to personal insults. I am really proud to be "muleish, narrow minded and hidebound" where good usable public transport is concerned.

    Buses in Sheffield are currently under attack from the media and several academic reports. The complaint is about unreliability. If the operators cannot be bothered to print an accurate(ish) timetable then joe public, waiting 15 minutes for a service advertised as "about every ten", will be totally convinced that the service is unreliable.

    It is true that many say that they are happy to turn up and hope, but even they rapidly become dissatisfied when their hopes are repeatedly dashed; especially if they are anxious to get to an appointment or change to another, less frequent bus or rail service.

    Car users who are used to "turn up and go" from their driveway will only be convinced to change if the 1022 turns up at 1022 and not 1027.

    1. Sorry, but there is no descent into personal insult, unless you really are of the opinion that only your view is correct. I don't feel my comment is any more personal than your comment about "bursts of acrimony".

      I agree with much of what you say in the third and fourth paragraphs of your reply, but the issues you raise are not about printing accurate timetables.

      Any timetable, no matter how detailed and fastidious is soon going to descend into a work of fiction if the underlying causes of the unreliability are not addressed. Build in too much time and buses end up waiting time on quiet days, build in too little and the timetable falls apart. The problem is the unpredictability of it all.

      The issue facing many city centre operators is the sheer variability in traffic and traffic flow, unpredictable congestion, often a manifestation of a huge array of minor factors coming together in combination that are entirely outwith the control of the operator.

      The weather, roadworks (including those well off the affected route), accidents and numerous other minor factors can all come together in random ways to mean that a road that is free flowing on-day is randomly gridlocked the next.

      Complaining about a timetable is, to my mind barking up the wrong tree. An inaccurate(ish) timetable is the effect, not the cause.

      Perhaps "about every ten minutes" is about right, because on Monday the 10:22 turns up at 10:17 and sits waiting, on Tuesday its at 10:23, Wednesday 10:27, Thursday there's traffic chaos and the bus doesn't arrive until 10:36 and on Friday it turns up on time at 10:22 - you simply can't timetable something that is so unpredictable.

      If you want to address the issues of unreliable timetables, then you need to support and promote local authorities to work together with operators to introduce better bus priority measures, to give local authorities better powers to deal with "emergency" utilities works that pop-up with little notice and have huge detrimental effects on traffic. All too often such works aren't strictly "emergency" works and take far longer than needed.

      If local authorities had the powers and the resources to co-ordinate utilities and road works in a planned manner in discussion with bus operators this would be a helpful outcome.

      You are never going to make the bus more attractive or reliable by tweeting lines in a timetable. What you need is to put in place real measures that will help address reliability.

    2. No personal insults in Ben's comments.

      It speaks volumes that this is how you view a difference of opinion and explains the poisonous nature of many of your blogs.

      You've really backed yourself into a corner here.

  4. I've no idea what Sheffield practice was like in years gone by, but where I live, the last few years have seen an inordinate increase in information at bus stops: every stop in my town now has a timetable case with either a departure list or a timetable, except for four stops along a cul-de-sac prior to the terminus of one route, and another on a road served only twice a day.
    All in all it represents a step change in information, that to some extent compensates for the lesser availability of the conventional printed leaflet.
    Oh, and if anyone can run 100% reliable services on a ten minute headway, perhaps they can share the secret - I simply don't believe that level of perfection is possible on the road.

  5. I wonder if anyone has ever done research into the effectiveness of the different types of publicity on usage levels, especially on growth?

    Lets say the full timetable (with a title/cover panel) takes the equivalent of a sheet of A3 (folded, cut, stapled however you like) to display. Which will build patronage more effectively, the full timetable, a summary which shows most of the detail, but has some room for other information, or something which is full of photos/ graphics, ideas of places to go, fare deals, an outline of the rest of the network but which constantly promotes "up to every 10 minutes day time". Which is the best use of our A3 sized paper? Would using half of it now and half in six months time, even, be best?

    I'm not being antagonistic, I would genuinely like to know if anyone knows the answer. At the end of the day the timetable, the glossy leaflet, the banner towed behind a light aircraft, whatever it is has only one purpose - to increase the profit made from the complex and expensive business of running buses.

    1. An interesting point re. research. I was sitting on a bus in a Devon tourist area when two waiting passengers jumped aboard and enquired of the driver the time of a different service using the stop. The response from the driver was "look at the timetable on the post" (understandable from his point of view). Well, off they got (thanking the driver politely), but through the window I could clearly see them saying something like "useless prat". Make of it what you will, but the times on the display were not 'helpful' to them.

  6. I don't think Ben's comments can be regarded as a personal insult, just a general expression of his thoughts on anyone who believes you cannot disagree with the stated point. In any case, are Ben's comments any more personal than those dished up in the blog to company schedulers, officials, marketing staff and traveline staff on a near-daily basis? Glass houses and stones come to mind.

    It does open up a fundamental question as to the purpose of this blog. Is it intended merely as an echo chamber, where only those who agree in spirit and word with whatever is posted are allowed to comment, or is it intended to foster debate, provide alternative points of view and to correct incorrect (but presumably good-faith) assumptions?

    If it is an echo chamber, please do let us know so those of us interested in the second option can stop reading!

    1. The blog is a long winded exercise in trolling and deleting comments that disagree is all part of this.

      If he didn't have this blog FBB would probably be shouting abuse at pedestrians from a moving vehicle.

  7. buildings'

  8. Andrew Kleissner15 August 2018 at 14:37

    I agree with Traveller on the amount of information being offered to passengers. One thing which does I think confuse them is when several buses are "flagged up" on a display, some saying "5 mins" or "8 mins" and others as "10.23" or "11.46". They don't realise that the first two are showing real-time information as provided by GPS etc., while the second two are merely timetabled arrival times.

    By the way, perhaps there is a difference required in the information provided in urban areas (which probably have frequent services and stops with digital displays and space to post timetables) and rural areas (where services are infrequent and there may be no marked stops at all). Somehow bus info. in the latter needs to get onto village noticeboards, parish magazines, post-offices and shops, as applicable.

  9. London Transport in days of yore (I am looking at a 1958 Central Area Bus & Trolleybus Map) displayed roadside timetables for routes, or parts of routes, where the service interval was 15 minutes or longer. LT recognised that 15 minutes was about as long as people will wait without getting edgy.

  10. Andrew Kleissner15 August 2018 at 22:13

    From TfL: "A high frequency route has five or more buses an hour. It's a route where passengers tend not to look at the timetable before arriving at the stop. For this reason we are more interested in how reliable and evenly spaced the service is. Scheduled arrival times are less important. We aim to ensure buses run at evenly spaced intervals and do not 'bunch'.

    A low frequency bus route generally runs four or fewer buses an hour. A passenger using this service is more likely to use a timetable. This means it's more important that services run on schedule.

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