Thursday, 15 November 2018

Waiting For A Tram ...

... In The Rain.
In the oft remembered "good old days" (remembered but not always that good!), local corporation transport departments took pride in their services and vehicles and often provided shelters for their waiting customers.

Here at Hall Green in Birmingham ...
 ... and in Brighton, splendid edifices remain.
Even in fbb's former home town of Northampton, a couple remain. This one is in Kingsley on the Kettering Road and opposite the White Elephant pub.
Most of these are no longer in use as bus stops but are preserved as examples of the municipal pride of days long gone.

If we go to Birmingham and to the suburb of Rednal ...
... we are at the location of a former City tram terminus.
The housing has been rebuilt and the former extensive toilet facilities are now a Chinese Restaurant.
But preserved as if serving the litter bins, is a short piece of tram track. This was the Rednal tram terminus.
It had a vast array of shelterage seen below after closure ...
... but before demolition. Why this opulence?

A few hundred yards south of the terminus you will find the Lickey Hills ...
... home of the celebrated Lickey Incline on the rail network. On a fine day droves of Brum residents would take the tram and stroll on the hills, enjoying the country air and some relaxation from their toil in the city's industrial quarters. Replacement buses used to be equally busy!
Does the former tram shelter win the prize for the biggest shelter at a single route terminus in the whole of the UK?

But here is something equally extensive.
It, too, serves a single route and is located at the outer terminus.

When fbb last visited that terminus looked like this ...
... rather meagre when compared with Rednal! It is, of course, Edinburgh Airport.

Here is the view from inside.
fbb is not aware of the reason for its hugeness, but huge it certainly is. Or was. It has recently (2016 - fbb is a bit late with the news!) gained a publicity office or tram lounge in the form of a tram "mock-up".
We’ve given a new lease of life to the former tam mock-up which was used during our project phase, by turning it into a special Information Lounge for our customers.

Now proudly situated on the plaza at Edinburgh Airport, it has become a popular point of interest for our customers. The Information Lounge offers information on onward travel, iPads, maps, ticket sales, waiting area and even free Wi-Fi.

We’ve also teamed up with Edinburgh Airport to use the lounge as a waiting area for customers who require special assistance to complete their journey by air.

The Information Lounge is open from 06:30-20:00, 7 days a week. Should you be passing when it is closed, the exterior of the lounge also provides all the information you need to complete your journey to the City Centre by tram.


A comment write responded to yesterday's post on the Bristol flat fare development by pointing out that Edinburgh has a flat fare.

Well, yes - but no.

The flat fare for MOST of the city's bus routes AND the tram is a modest £1.70. Until you want to go to the Airport.
That's all the way to Ingliston Park and Ride, the last stop BEFORE the Airport, for £1.70 ...
... but a toe-curling extra £4.30 for that last stop. OUCH!

When fbb was last in Edinburgh a year or two back you could catch an ordinary bus all the way to the airport for the flat fare. This was route 35.
The dedicated Airlink route 100, however has always charged a premium rate.
Today, all three Skylink bus routes to the airport will sting you for that last stop or two.
The Airport fare is £4.50 (i.e. cheaper than the tram). For the record, fbb's non-premium 35 became Skylink 300.
Now, whether you consider Edinburgh's Airport to be part of Edinburgh City is all about boundaries, present, historic and future.
But whatever the academic opinion, the airport (in area 1 on the above map) is served by Edinburgh's city bus network and thus, arguably, makes that network not flat fare.

fbb awaits heated debate!

And thanks to the comment writer who suggested that, semantically, Stuttgart does NOT have a flat fare as it also offers its three-stop short hop ticket! But you know what fbb is getting at.

 Next bus cuts blog : Friday 16th November 

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Dramatic Events In Bristol - No 2

fbb has reported on transport in various cities in Europe and in almost all cases there is one thing you will NOT find. That is graduated fares. One flat fare for the main part of a city is fairly normal. Of course in a very subsidised and regulated setting it is easy to offer flat fares as the cashbox is often a very small part of the total revenue.

But not in the UK. Before 1971 fares jumped in steps of 1d (one penny) or 1/240th on a £1 (pound). Even post February 1971 the steps were still of 1p (1/100 of £1). Bus passengers was aghast when London Transport started flat fare routes like Red Arrow. The 500 started in 1966 and it cost a whole tanner (6d/2½p)!
The buses were called Merlins by London Transport but everyone else called the Swiftsa!

At about the same time as it cost a tanner to travel (quickly?) between Victoria and Marble Arch, the town of Sunderland was being even braver.
The flat fare for the whole town was 4d (between 1½p and 2p) and could paid by pre-bought tokens at a discount. The scheme was deemed to be a failure and was dropped three years later.
Too revolutionary and a financial no-show.

Over the last decade or so, jumps have become bigger as fares have increased well above the rate of inflation. Jumps of £1 are not unknown and most operators leap by 50p.

On Sunday last, November 11th, something amazing happened in Bristol.
The whole city went flat fare!
Of course it is not quite the big deal it might appear. Until November 11th there were only two fares on Bristol City routes, £1.50 and £2.50.

First Bus tells us about the change ...
... with (there had to be one) a sting in the tail.

It is quite difficult to get the full picture from the web site, but this is what seems to be happening.

The flat fare for those out-of-date stick-in-the-muds who are stupid and uncooperative enough to want to pay ££££money££££ (that will include a lot of visitors - a breed which the city wants to encourage), will be £2.50.
That's a big kick in the teeth if you were previously making a "short" journey at £1.50; but the same as previously for a two zone ride.

But, if you "pay before you board" using whatever system you want to use (smart card, contactless bank card, mobile "device", cowrie shells) you can buy an electronic "carnet" of five tickets for £10. The pack of five is not new but the £10 price is (perhaps?).

Also introduced is the ability to buy one single flat fare, cashless, obviously ...
... at £2.07!

Yer what? A flat fare that is actually lumpy?

After explaining the whole scheme ...

The price of a single ticket is being unified to what First Bus and Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said was a ‘flat fare’ no matter how far you travel in Bristol on the bus.

Before the change on Monday, people were paying £1.50 for every single journey under three miles on the First Bus phone app, or £2.50 for every single journey over three miles.

But now the firm is introducing a ‘flat fare’, and splitting the difference by making the cost of a single ticket £2 for ‘mTickets’ bought on the phone app.

That move - which will increase the fares for shorter journeys by 50p - did not go down particularly well with Bristol's bus passengers when it was first revealed by Bristol Live late last month.

But it’s not quite as flat as it first appears.

... the local rag goes on to explain the extra 7p

The phone app will continue to sell those single tickets in ‘packs’ of five, for £10, but for the first time will introduce the availability of people buying just one single £2 ticket for one journey on their phone before they board.

Except that will cost £2.07, with the extra seven pence a booking fee imposed by the company that runs the app on behalf of First.

You would have thought that a company with global interests could write its own App and run it for a lot less than 7p a fare - somebody is ripping someone off. An App might cost a few thousand to write - but it costs almost nothing to run. Or, yet again, has aged fbb failed to understand the finances of the world of bits and bytes?

How much would it cost to collect the £2 cash in a farebox ...
... surely much less than 3½% of revenue?

But even First Bristol's flat fare (with lumps) is still way short of the European system. If Mrs Miggins shells out her £2, changes her mind because she has left her umbrella in the last shop and has to go back, she has to pay another £2; then a third £2 to remake her original journey.

Of course, in Bristol, she can buy a £4 ticket (the equivalent of two single "electronic" fares) and ride for a day - but only if she plans in advance.

In Stuttgart, for example, she would have 3 hours to complete her single journey using as many buses, trams and trains as she wishes.

And a £2 flat fare is a big discouragement for short journeys. Stuttgart has a three-stop short hop ticket to encourage short rides.

One final question which fbb has posed before. Is electronic fare collection really faster than cash? A cynic might challenge First to prove their contention. There is no doubt that non-cash transactions are becoming more and more popular - but will they remain so popular when the significant discounts are eroded "due to the harsh economic climate and big increases in operating costs"?

An fbb tale (included in blogs before; but old people are allowed to get RATS** - it is one of their last pleasures!). When Sheffield Transport introduced one man buses on routes to Parson Cross ...
... with power driven Setright Speed machines ...
.... fares in one old penny jumps AND giving change, they achieved loading rates as good as London Transport's flat fare Red Arrows!

But fbb had better be positive ("for a change", we hear our Anonymi shout).

The Bristol concept is on the right lines and it maybe the best than can be achieved with commercial bus operation BUT ...

If our nation were ever serious about promoting public transport in our cities, it simply isn't good enough.

Muted praise then, for the first UK city (outside London)** to go flat fare since Sunderland Corporation's brave failure.
What guesses about the long term future of the Bristol scheme?

Talking Of New Trains!
Here we go again!

That's the units with a class 67 diesel loco push-pulling at the other end.

From Yesterday's Sheffield Star
How top encourage public transport, lesson 45½
Beyond belief!


**RATS - Repetitive Anecdote Telling Syndrome

**First UK City - fbb is struggling to think of another one.

 Next bus shelter blog : Thursday 15th November 

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Dramatic Events In Bristol - No 1

A change from advertised ...

Last Friday's Bristol Post carried a stark headline ...
... with a detailed analysis of the recent problems that First has been facing. The article was accompanied by "on the spot" reports by Post reporters plus a selection of pictures.
One illustration was a short video of a number 75 bus whizzing past a stop full of frustrated customers.
There is no reason to doubt that the reports were real and the problems are huge, although quite how the company can find itself 150 drivers short of full strength is less clear. Likewise, if there is a staff shortage one could ask whether it was wise to introduce the developments that have been an encouraging feature of the Bristol scene over the past few months.

Nevertheless, the reporting was fair, and boss James Freeman's contrite apology for his company's failings was both magnanimous and well received.

But The Post was also ready to challenge local politicians to take action on the appalling traffic congestion in the city. Not long ago the "excuse" was the road works associated with Metrobus, accompanied by an attitude of "it will be all right when it is finished."

Well, it is finished and it isn't all right.

One particular bĂȘte noir is the Temple Gate roundabout. The paper showed a stock picture of the roadworks sign ...
... which implies it should be finished about now.

All together now, "OH NO IT ISN'T!!"

The latest Travel West web site's prognostication says :-

Ongoing Restrictions and changes to access. Work on the Temple Gate scheme will run from 26 June 2017 until Autumn 2019.

In another article, The Post reports that boss James spent a shift driving one of his own buses, passing through the Temple Gate system on several occasions. Fortunately his actual description was not printed, but there was no doubt that the boss understands his staff's problems and frustrations.

So what is causing this grief. The Temple Gate area was once the site of Bristol's celebrated "Meccano" re-usable flyover.
The route taken by that contraption will cease to exist when the new scheme is finished.

Here is the current road layout map and aerial view.
The chunk of road between Redcliffe Way and the roundabout ceases to exist. Here is a CGI of thre new scheme.
A large paved area replaces the bit that used to carry the flyover. the main Temple Gate roundabout then becomes a traffic light controlled crosswords. Below is the essence of the new scheme.
We were told that once the roadworks were complete, inbound Metrobus services would call at Temple Meads Station. The stop is shown with a grey bus centre left above. Closer to the station than now, but hardly actually "serving".
Existing bus stops are at the foot of a long station approach but the new Metrobus will call at a layby and shelter well beyond the cream coloured building past the tree; much further away.

And what of the existing stops (above left)? They will be removed and be sited elsewhere.

Will they share the Metrobus layby? Or will they be even further away from the station; say at "New Shelter" on Victoria Street?
The other question, of course, is will it work? Anti clockwise ring road traffic will have an extra set of lights near the station approach; and the exit from the former roundabout past the station will be slower.

Will this scheme merely more the congestion to somewhere else? That is what usually happens.

First Bus, and, encouragingly, the Bristol Post want to see some more imaginative and far reaching solutions to Bristol's horrendous traffic problems.

Trams, anyone?

Oh, yes, fbb nearly forgot. The Metrobus "network" was chosen as cheaper than a tram system and; look what that money bought for the Bristolians.

A pathetic, potty, pricey and pointless partly guided busway Park and Ride and an expensive buses only motorway junction which is banned to all but a few of the buses that might wish to use it.

Metrobus may be cheaper than a tram, but value for money it certainly isn't.

But partly hidden to the parts of the media (and to outside observers?) is another dramatic change to public transport in Bristol which took place last Sunday, 11th November.

Preparation For Winter?
Each year we are told that the railways in the UK are better prepared for the ravages of winter weather than ever before - but each year things happen in the meteorological world that come as a great surprise to railway managers.

An advertisement popped through fbb's electronic letterbox recently for one of these.
A reduction of about ⅓ on the list price seems a real bargain and an ideal preparation if things are as bad in fbb's backyard as they were last winter.
Or maybe not!
The loco is a Dean Goods, named after its designer William Dean.

The Great Western Railway (GWR) 2301 Class or Dean Goods Class is a class of British 0-6-0 steam locomotives. Swindon railway works built 260 of these goods locomotives between 1883 and 1899 to a design of William Dean.

The snow plough is a real accurate model although it does look a bit fake on the model and in real life.
Still too expensive for fbb!

 Next bus fares blog : Tuesday 14th November