Saturday, 16 February 2019

Saturday Snippets

Fings Ain't What The Used To Be
Remember Max Bygraves in 1957 - most of our readers won't;they are not ancient enough!

They changed our local Palais into a bowling alley and
Things ain't what they used to be (chorus)

There's Teds in drainpipe trousers and Debs in coffee houses and
Things ain't what they used to be (chorus)

There used to be Trams not very quick
Gotcha from place to place

But now there's just jams half a mile thick
I'm walking

They stuck parking meters outside our doors to greet us
Things ain't what they used to be (chorus)

Corr monkeys flying round the moon
We'll be up there with em soon
Things ain't what they used to be (chorus)

Once our beer was frothy but now its frothy coffee well

It used to be fun Dad an old Mum paddling down old Southend
But now it ain't done
Never mind chum
Paris is now where we spend our outings

At Brighton
Another old railway notice came to light a couple of weeks ago.
Reproduction is a bit fizzy but the luxury train offered three round trips between capital and resort )two on Sundays). Departures from Victoria were at 12.00am(sic), 3.00pm and 7.00pm. Up journeys were at 3.25pm, 5.25pm and 9.25pm. Apparently London-bound "commuters" were not offered Pullman service.

Readers may be able to date the page from the price of Luncheon at three shillings and six pence (about £20 in today's money).

Green Pea Soup OR Hors d'Oeuvres

Roast Chicken OR Lamb Cutlets OR York Ham

Apple and Blackberry Tart OR Orange Salad

Cheese and Biscuits

Then, the Southern were running six trains an hour between London and Brighton. 

At Bedford
Northampton correspondent Alan sent this picture.
He reminds fbb.

Here is the last 160 page Bedford Bus Guide, published in 2016 before Bedford Borough Council opted out  of providing public transport information. It contained –

Seventeen pages of useful background information including
School term dates 
Concessionary fares
User groups – BABUS and Bus Users UK
Real time information
Address, phone and website  information for all bus and train operators.

Summary timetables for
Bedford to Bromham
Bedford to Clapham
Bedford to Clophill.
Bedford to Woottton

Timetables for all bus services.

Index of places served.

And the maps.

This blog has already commented on the new report about loss of subsidised services but how about this for a typical piece of journalism?
There couldn't be a connection between a decline on passenger numbers and the lack of accessible information? Surely not? It is, after all, ALL ON-LINE. 

And then in Sheffield:-
No great loss - they were usually busted and the strip of badly printed ticket sized paper was often unreadable.

But the PTE is anxious that we should not worry.

How else can I access information? - you can access a range of journey planning tools on the move on our website including live departures, timetables and ticket information. 

Indeed, very true. What percentage of bus travellers regularly use the internet to "access information"?

Departure screens - you can check the departure screens which are located around the interchange to see which stand your bus departs from and when it's due.
Information Hubs - at some of our interchanges we have information areas where you can check which service you need, based on your destination, and find out where it departs from. Information Hubs are located at Sheffield, Barnsley, Meadowhall and Doncaster Interchanges. 

But if you are not at a "hub" - or if the "hub" has unreliable and incomplete information? They are staffed by contractors and not by "bus people".

At your bus stop - timetables are displayed at your bus stop stand.

There are no "proper" timetables at any bus stops in Sheffield - not even at stands at the bus stations. Of course there are departure lists, often badly laid out because it is done by computer and not by bus users. But NO TIMETABLES - even where there is oodles of frame space to display them.

Customer Service Assistants - roaming staff are on hand to help you at the interchange or you can visit one of our customer service desks for information.

The only time fbb has ever met a roving "customer service assistant", he was told off for going out of a door at Barnsley bus station and standing (behind a very strong fence) to take a photograph. No such creature has even been spotted by fbb during normal bus operation in Sheffield High Street, Arundel Gate or at the busy stops near the Town Hall.

On many occasions, fbb (in visitor observation mode) has been the only supplier of bus information at busy city centre stops.

But It's All on Line!
Making no apologies for repetition (maybe one day someone will take notice) fbb invites readers to spot the errors in these on-line timetables. And remember that, because of the errors, journey planners give wrong information as well.

No buses after 0907 from Charnock Dale Road?
ALL buses serve that stop - without exception.

Route 88 to Bents Green?
But where are the buses that go there?
Not a single journey to Bents Green appears in the timetable. Journey planners insist that you change at Banner Cross.

On to the next service 88!

For at least seven years this nonsense has been promulgated by Stagecoach and repeated by SYPTE (South Yorkshire Passenger Transport non executing Executive). 

Next month you will be able to catch a brand new First Bus 208 FROM Dinnington Comprehensive School ...
... but the outward journey will never take you there.
Perhaps because no such educational establishment exists!!? It has, like so many other schools, been rebranded a few years ago.
No through journeys on the 208 in journey planners either.
Surely the through journeys should appear even if they take a few minutes longer. They do not appear because they are not correctly included in the database. So nobody bothers to include them.

O.K. picky anonymice, this "rant" is not new - but why does the nonsense continue? The solution is cheap and requires a small application of the human brain. For negligible effort, publicity can become HELPFUL, not just the regurgitation of poorly managed computer data.

There are a few who are making a real effort. Here is the"editorial" from James Freeman at First Bristol.
Instead of "running buses" perhaps management should rethink their role. How about a determined policy to "sell bus travel" to the eager public?

Northampton chum Alan's parlous attempt to find adequate printed information ANYWHERE in the centre of Bedford suggests that most operators (Grant Palmer being the exception) ...
... are doing very little selling!

Tomorrow includes a note about two empty trains; and a busker you might enjoy (?).


 Next oddments blog : Sunday 17th February 

Friday, 15 February 2019

Des Ennuis au Moulin (en France)

Understanding the politics and economics of the rail system of France is one of the dark arts of a student of public transport. Whats IS known for certain is that SNCF (French National Railways) has eye watering debts and the deficit grows bigger by the minute.

We also know that the TER network of rural and lesser inter-urban lines is heavily subsidised.
TER is an integral part of SNCF Proximités, a branch of the SNCF dealing with urban and regional passenger rail, along with Transilien (Île-de-France), Intercités, Chemins de fer de Corse (CFC), Keolis, and Effia.

Over recent years, the network has been modernised with shiny new trains. New trains are also on their way for the Paris outer suburban network.
But fbb thinks that many train watchers have assumed that the TGV high speed network (like some of the UK's "inter city" routes) has been financially sound. There has been a massive development in low cost inter city travel using refurbished TGV trains without much in the way of on-board service.
Ouigo trains run on some sections of most TGV main lines.
There has often been the view that the UK rail network falls well short of France's super-trains and, for the uninitiated, the TGV network is to be admired and, one fine day, emulated in this country. The current system is substantial being based on the high speed lines network.
TGVs serve many more towns than just those on the very fast bits of track. Surely, we ask, the brand is successful?
But an article in a periodical circulating in the "Haut de France" has really put "Le Chat parmi Les Pigeons"!

Here is a map showing communities served by the current TGV set of trains in northern France.
And here is what was reported, explained in English by a blogger.
Further information in French can be found by scanning the original article.
An official announcement is due next month after the mayors have been "consulted"!!

Being France, however, there is a complex spider's web of national, regional and European politics at work.
47 billion Euro's worth of debt is huge - but debt never seems to bother France as the country often staggers close to international bankruptcy. President Macron seeks to sort it out and in so doing has plunged in the popularity stakes!

There is no doubt that these proposed withdrawals will go down like the proverbial lead balloon in the cut-back towns.
It is pitchforks at dawn at Douai, apparently.

Several things are not clear.
Will the cut price Ouigo service to Tourcoing share the same fate of decapitation?
Will SOME TGVs still run through as here at Boulougne sur Mer?
Will the TER trains be retimed to make sensible connections?
And how will the "hub" work at Lille where TGV trains use the station at Lille Europe (e.g. 0617 from Calais) ...
... whereas the TER services uses the traditional Lille Flandres.
Presumably it has all been thought through and suitable schemes will be presented to the suffering French public.

We await the official announcement in March.


 Next weekend oddments blog : Saturday 16th February 

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Bother In Bedford (4)

Ampthill Road in Bedford has few highlights (with the notable exception of Cosmic Avenue) but it does pass Bedford St Johns Station.
The single platform halt was a replacement for something much more substantial.
This was effectively the stop for Bedford on the line between Oxford, Bletchley and, ultimately, Cambridge. Even when services were reduced to run between Bletchley and Bedford only, the old St Johns was still the terminus.
After years of prevarication (too expensive, no room at Bedford Midland, can't be bothered etc.) BR finally decided to do the right thing and put in a curve to take the trains round the bend into the main station. A minimalist replacement for St John's was built on the curve with an entrance of Ampthill Road.
Lavish, eh?

Ampthill Road is a mixture of residential (on the east) and light industrial, the latter bordering the Midland Main Line (to the west). "Out of town" services immediately before the January changes were numbered 42, 44 and 68. 44 is by Grant Palmer as already mentioned; 42 had direct competition between Stagecoach and GP to Ampthill and beyond; and 68 (also GP) is an interesting mixture!
The journeys via Box End offer a real ride round! (click on the map below for an enlargement)
Street View even shows a Grant Palmer vehicle doing it!
All three served Ampthill Road (and the end of Cosmic Avenue, Yay!).
The town service contribution was in the form of Bedford's Park and Ride.
From January last, the Park and Ride and the Stagecoach 42 have been merged.
One journey an hour parks and rides then continues as service 2 to Ampthill and Flitwick ...
... shown in full in the on-line timetable.
This is a growing "disease" amongst transport planners whereby a long distance route is tweaked to pick up all or part of a town route.

The same has happened with former service 72 and town service 9.
Here two journeys each hour on the Shortstown route have taken over from the former 72/72A to Hitchin.
Again, the full timetable is shown on-line (click for enlargement)  ...
... with just the town services bit in the new booklet.
Unravelling the routes through Shortstown is a bit of a struggle.

fbb cannot help thinking that all three (9,9A,9B) travel southbound via the western bit of the loop  (North Drive and Southcote Eastbound) with 9A and 9B continuing to Hitchin. The two local 9s every hour loop via Carmichael Road and back to Bedford.

If they do, the arrow on the map points the wrong way and the timetable should read "Carmichael Drive Northbound". As usual loops are shown with consummate loopiness!

Maybe a well informed Shortstownie can elucidate.

But therein lies the problem. Stagecoach WILL save money/make bigger profits/make smaller losses by saving half the cost of the former 9; but how many potential customers will be put off by longer journey times on the through route and a potentially incomprehensible route/timetable at Shortstown?

There are bits of one-way roads and bus only roads to add to the excitement.

Shortstown is fun!


 Next Nord Pas De Calais blog : Friday 15th February 

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Bother In Bedford (3)

fbb has a (mental) collection of splendidly quirky bus destinations, most now lost in the mists of time.

In his collection are ...

STANKS - Leeds
TEA HOUSE - Barrow in Furness
WALES - Sheffield
JUMP - Barnsley

... to which must be added COSMIC AVENUE in Bedford. 

Maybe even that is beaten by


But Cosmic Avenue was, for some years, the terminus of a Bedford town service.
Buses just bimbled along the Ampthill Road and, presumably, reversed in the side road.
It looks like a bit of post WW2 infill but may have its origins in pre-war building ...
... in the gap between larger buildings.

Not far away, in the attractive Elstow village, ...
... was John Bunyan's cottage ...
... tragically demolished in the rapacious 60s by the Department of Transport for road improvement.
It doesn't look as if it took much to demolish it!

Bunyan spent a couple if sessions in Bedford nick, persecuted because of his non-conformist faith. But out of this incarceration came the powerful allegory "Pilgrim's Progress"; well worth a read.

But Cosmic Avenue was the terminus of a Bedford town service 105, seen here in a 1959 United Counties timetable.
By 1979, service 102 continued to Kempston.
But now we had a town services route map ...
... adequate, but lacking the colour and beauty of today's cartographic delights.
A year later the map had been improved (?) with different kinds of dotted lines.
Nowadays Kempston is served by a mega-loop on service 1 ...
... with no buses via Ampthill Road,
Buses still serve the wonderful Eugster Avenue ...
... (almost as quirky as Cosmic!) but a wider loop encompasses the former route via Orchard Street.

Tomorrow we see what has happened to buses today as they pass the end of Cosmic Avenue.
Stagecoach does not mention the extra-terrestrial Avenue on its  maps, but Grant Palmer refers appropriately on the route diagram for service 44 in his timetable book.
Cosmic Avenue lives!

 Next Bedford blog : Thursday 14th February