Monday, 22 October 2018

Leeds To Thorpe Park (1)

Everybody Knows Thorpe Park.
The fbb's neighbours often have a "day out" there. This involves getting up very early, returning late and having, reportedly, a ------ good time (expletive deleted).

Apparently one highlight is to "enjoy" a ride on "Stealth".
After passengers are securely restrained, the launch sequence begins with the retracting of the brake fins as the train attaches to the catch car.

An American-accented voice announces, "Place your heads back, face forwards, hold on tight and brace yourself." The message is repeated as five red lights turn on one by one, before the announcer shouts "Three, two, one... Go, go, go!"

The lights turn green and the train accelerates to 80 mph in 1.9 seconds into a steep, vertical top hat element. The train then turns 90 degrees to the left and descends the top hat element into another 90 degree turn. A second bunny hop hill follows producing a brief moment of weightlessness before the train enters the brake run and returns to the station.
The ride lasts for about 30 seconds.

Let it be made very clear that fbb would not be seen dead on "Stealth" - or maybe he would ONLY be seen dead on "Stealth" - dead with fright or a massive coronary!
The current bus link from Staines-on-Thames to Thorpe Park ...
... is run by Sullivan Buses.
Stagecoach also operate their service 17 to Thorpe Park ...
... with an open top bus in the Summer.

But the big news is the First Bus has just recently started a route to Thorpe Park, running every 15 minutes.
The X26 runs to the Park from ...

... Guess where?

This is where you will find First's Thorpe Park.
O.K., enough of the teasing.

Thorpe Park theme park is in Surrey (near Staines-on-Thames) - obviously.

Stagecoach's Thorpe Park is in Cleethorpes.

First's Thorpe Park is near Garforth east of Leeds.

In more recent years the topmost chunk of the M1 runs due north between Swillington Common and Colton Common, then veers east between Brown Moor Cottage and Barrowby Hall.
The yellow wiggly road in the map above is the "spine road" of the Leeds version of Thorpe Park.
Here you will find a hotel and lots of "Components" ...
... of varying numerical value.
Quite what was wrong with "areas 1 to 7" is not clear.

At the end of the main drag through the components, Streetview reveals yet another building site ...
... which is now opened as "The Springs" shopping mall.
The future, it would appear, is orange!

The Springs officially launched on Saturday 13th to a swarm of shoppers ready to experience Leeds’ most-anticipated new retail Park.
With big named brands such as H&M, Outfit, TkMaxx, Nando’s, Boots, M&S Foodhall and PureGym all opening their doors to the public, guests to the retail park enjoyed a day filled with family fun, free food and giveaways.

On hand to entertain the crowds was our very talented (and very tall) juggler, balloon modeller and roaming magician; who wowed crowds in and out of the shops with their acts. Kids (and some adults) also entered our glitter tattoo and face painting stations to be transformed into mermaids, unicorns, tigers and even spooky skeletons – just in time for Halloween!


Top right in the map above is an embryo railway station, possibly to be named East Leeds Parkway.

Road access from afar is at M1 junction 46.
Tomorrow we look at First's X26; but, meanwhile ...

A Heartening Tale From Sidmouth
This is the people shelter at Woolbrook Road, Sidmouth, just along from the site of the former Devon General bus shelter (depot), now a Lidl store.
Just getting started in the town is a "Repair Cafe"
One of the first tasks of "the gang" has been to provide the Woolbrook shelter with a shiny new bench. It was "fettled up" from two rather tired and creaky benches and now looks like this.
Congrats to the splendid team wot did it!

The Delights of Living At Seaton  No 234
Here is the view across the bay from Beer Head Car park at 1600 yesterday

Beyond Belief No 176
Two timetable leaflets collected from Sheffield Interchange over the weekend.
Today's quiz questions are ...
... Where does the 41 go?
... Where does the 95 go?

Does First Bus know which bus routes its vehicles follow?

Apparently not.

 Next Thorpe Park blog : Tuesday 23rd October 

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Weekend Collection (2)

It's Everyone Else's Fault ...
And, pray, why might that be?
Really? fbb has been told on a number of occasions that the footfall in Sheffield's City centre had declined "dramatically" and it is all the fault of the internet.

Might there be other reasons?

1. Punitive increases in fares to "encourage" passengers to by a day ticket (which has also increased in price).

2. Lack of printed publicity for timetable changes; publicity appearing several weeks after those changes.

3. Apart from the day ticket (etc) there has been no route-by-route promotion of new services for many years. What limited advertorial stuff (i.e. other than a plain timetable) has been weak.

4. Appallingly inaccurate maps displayed at bus stops.

5. Unreliability, mostly due to road works and high levels of traffic, but a good heap of the problem deriving from poor on-street regulation of the service.

In steps councillor Ian Aukland ...
... to challenge the "blame everything on the internet" excuse.
Purely? Mainly? Partly? fbb's would suggest vehemently "Mainly".
But well done Mr Aukland for challenging the excuse and pointing out that the Bus Partnership, Buses for Sheffield, Travel South Yorkshire etc. etc. are no alternative to good, well publicised services.

So come on First. Offer a maximum single ticket of £2 and a £3 day ticket on (say) services 75 and 76; increase the frequency to a combined every 5 minutes (from every 6) and have some "inspectors" to regulate the service with a hot spare available to help cover any breakdown in service. Oh, yes. Paint the front ends bright red.

There will be abstraction from parallel services but you might see an overall growth of numbers on that corridor.

Instead of whingeing about the internet (which you cannot change) try making a difference with things that you can improve.

Go on - try it!

Another Re-organisation Delivers?
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is the public body responsible for co-ordinating transport services in the West Midlands metropolitan county in England. It is an executive body of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), with bus franchising and highway management powers similar to Transport for London. TfWM's policies and strategy are set by the Transport Delivery Committee of the WMCA.

TfWM's initial priorities are the expansion of the Metro through East Birmingham, Brierley Hill and Birmingham Airport, improvements to the M5 and M6 motorways, and new cycle routes as part of a metropolitan cycle network. There are also plans to work with central government over the future of the underused M6 Toll.

And they have announced, of course, a new unified brand with all buses being red ...
... all trams blue ...
... and all trains - who knows?
The first results of this TfWM re-think have been missed by fbb, so here is a bit of old-ish  news.
These services are now joint between Diamond and National Express ...
Buses of both operators are in the new standard red livery with operator logo above the doors and "West Midlands Bus" and logo on the bodysides. Also:-
From Sunday 2nd September 2018, National Express West Midlands and Diamond Bus will work together with Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) to provide a new joint timetable on services 31 & 32 (currently known as the 301 & 302), which will carry the new West Midlands Bus branding.  The introduction of a joint timetable on these services means that in most cases, National Express West Midlands and Diamond Bus customers will be able to board the first bus that comes along. 

For the most part, buses on this route will bear the new West Midlands Bus branding, with customers able to distinguish the operators by the company logos which will be visible just above the doors.

The launch of the new joint timetable marks the end of the Walsall service numbers 301 & 302, as these will be known as the 31 & 32 for both operators from this date. 

On close inspection, the new livery, which appears to be a simple red all over ...
... actually has a lighter red (vermilion?) splodge on the front which merges into the darker red via a bit of TfWM logo "netting".

More importantly there is reasonable ticket interavailability on routes where the two operators used to compete.

The best value on bus ticket available to buy is the Diamond Value Day ticket £2.80 (£1.50 child) which you can purchase on both Diamond and National Express and is valid on ANY 42/43/43A service.

Diamond is now also accepting and selling National Express daysavers and travelcards. National Express are also selling Diamond Value Day & Week tickets which are valid on all 42/43/43A services and other diamond value routes.

This comes at a time when the two Buses for Sheffield operators have stopped accepting joint tickets on their join routes.


That Leyland National
Thanks to a correspondent who put fbb (and possibly the man in the Peco Shop) right by telling him that the model he has just bought is originally from the Tower Models range.

This could explain why fbb could not find it in the former Parkside Models range!

But there it is ...
... and the green version as well.
Intriguingly an EBay offer ...
... shows the Manchester version to be released later by Peco plus an RT and a London Tram. The RT was also available in  red.
fbb knows nothing about the Routemaster (Keil Kraft). This is also a plastic kit but advertised as 1:72 scale, slightly larger than exact OO and the size used for model aircraft.
Maybe, as our correspondent deduces, these were all moulded by the same company?

Delay Repay Repercussions
fbb and Mrs fbb, you will remember, travelled to Glasgow to join their Scottish rail-holiday-by-coach. The outward trip was significantly delayed by a lack of electric string at Carstairs and their return journey by a lack of signals between Waterloo and Clapham Junction.

The return fare for the two old crocks was :-
Virgin West Coast replied with a cheque for the whole of the outward leg in three days - i.e. £124.75.

In a slightly more tardy fashion, South Western Railway returned the lolly direct to your author's bank account.

They sent the full return fare of £249.50!!! (this is subject to confirmation upon receipt of the next bank statement, but this is what they said they had sent.)

Neither company asked the fbbs to specify their fare, merely to send a scan of their tickets.

This means the luckless holiday travellers have made a 50% profit on their return travel.

Wherein lies a moral dilemma. Should the honest pair of perplexed pensioners attempt to return the over-payment - and if so how?
Tomorrow we go to Thorpe Park

 Next Leeds blog : Monday 22nd October 

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Weekend Collection (1)

Bristol's Brightness In Bother?
Having extolled the delights of the positive development of the First Bus network in and around Bristol, it is sad to see problems spoiling the good that has been done.
Boss James Freeman ...
... as well as grovelling to the media, has also praised his staff for all their efforts and extra work to try to cope with the problems. One real hassle has been with the University of Bath.
A local informant tells fbb that the Uni had an increased intake of approx 3000 this academic year, but they did not actually make this known to the council or the bus company. So it's those danged passengers wanting to travel that have ruined things, yet again!
Whoops! No they don't. They hiRe coaches. A triping mistook.

Needless to say there are roadworks in Bath and the Uni has also slackened restrictions on access to its campus leading to an increase in private cars parked less than prettily. On one day, apparently, four buses were trapped, unable to move!

In the staff newsletter, James thanks those drivers who have been bussed in from other areas and expresses the view that such measures will settle things down in "two or three" weeks.

Meanwhile Bristol's Mayor, Marvin Rees ...
... is going to change the world.
Steve Melia works at the University of the West of England ...
... where he lectures on Transport matters.

He is, therefore, a very convenient source of an appropriate soundbite.

Mr Rees is on the ball with one point. Standard electronic displays are really not much use as they are not good at coping with disruption (a blog from Glasgow on just this subject will be posted later) and buses disappear when they are "due" even if they haven't arrived.

Of course, all Marv's ideas will cost loadsa money - so who will pay the bill?

Low-Cost National Surprise
Like model railways, model buses have become toe-curlingly expensive with a retail price of £50 or more.
There are plenty available second hand, some of the less popular models in single figures. But they can be older models with less than today's (expensive) detail.

But a cheap and cheerful model bus has now popped on the the market and surprisingly so.
Peco (based in Beer just along the road from the fbb mansion) have manufactured a kit for a Leyland National at a modest £9.95. Modest is, of course, relative. It would have been a three bob Airfix Kit in the mid sixties which would inflate to about £6 today.

There has been an old single deck bus in their Model Scene range for what seems like an eternity ...
... so this venture seems an odd historical move. Why a Leyland National? Why not a more modern bus to go with the modern layouts? Why not a full range of "buses over the years"?

Intrigued, fbb popped over to Beer and bought one.
He asked the very nice man what had prompted the company to move into model buses. "Aha," he replied enigmatically, "it's actually a model from the Parkside range and we are re-introducing it."
Earlier this year Peco absorbed the Parkside company's range of mainly goods wagons, of which there are dozens and dozens.
But, at takeover, there was no mention of buses.

fbb can find no old Parkside publicity which admits to any of the buses, so they must have dropped them from their catalogue long ago.

The Peco shop manager told fbb that there are nine models to appear - which sounded very exciting - until you examine the slip card in the model's packaging.
Here we see six Leyland Nationals and three Leyland Olympians of which the red and green single deckers have been announced, plus the red London Olly.

Your aged and multi-thumbed blogger is enlisting the assistance of the Fearnley offspring (aged 6 and 4) with assembly but needs to pre-paint the bits.

Results may be revealed in a future blog if they are not too awful.

Twitter Snapshots
Herewith a few more oddments that arrived via Twitter.

What's this?
A set from a future Dr Who episode?
The innards of the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, Switzerland?

Neither! It is the original central building ...
... of Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris (now much developed and extended).

And where is the largest British railway "double arrow" logo?
There it is, a bit faint these days, on the roof of Gatport Airwick station.

And finally, to York. A very early picture of the magnificent station, probably taken soon after opening.
The vehicle at the platform looks like some sort of Sentinel Railcar and fbb hopes some blog reader may know where it was going? Harrogate? Selby?

More bits tomorrow.

 Next weekend oddments blog : Sunday 21st October