Sunday, 16 June 2019

Sunday Mixed Bag

First Tells It As It Is!
Correspondent Alan often reports the paucity of accessible timetable information for London North Western where planned changes for engineering disrupt normal working. Often ALL that is available is the National Rail Journey Planner (NJP).

It is good that engineering changes are now reliably (?) posted on the NJP but searching for "options" rather than a simple enquiry can be so frustrating and tedious.

Mrs fbb travelled to Salisbury on Friday last to meet a recently bereaved chum for coffee, sarnie and a good long natter. Beside the "guichet" was a pile of photocopied paperwork.

The lads and lasses of South Western Trains (SWT) are having some more days of inaction. It is not at all clear what this is all about, but on the surface it appears to be "we are striking just in case SWT is thinking of getting rid of guards."

FIVE days of disruption (Tuesday 18th June to Saturday 22nd June inclusive) is ramping up the conflict considerably.
The RMT accused the company of "dragging its heels" on resolving a bitter row over driver only operated trains. Talks had been protracted since industrial action was suspended in February, claimed the union.

The union has launched a petition to make it a legal requirement to have a guard on trains to ensure the safety of passengers
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said “our members are angry and frustrated that, despite suspending action in good faith, and entering into talks in a positive and constructive manner” a deal had not been signed off.

"It is because of that crucial failure by SWR that we have had no option but to lift the suspension and move back into strike action,” he said.

The paperwork was a full PRINTED timetable for the Monday to Friday dates. At a glance fbb could tell exactly what was planned. This clarity would never have been available from a journey planner.

The service is split into three discrete chunks.
The normal half hourly frequency between Waterloo and Salisbury becomes hourly.

The normal hourly service on to Exeter is now a separate TWO hourly train from Salisbury westbound. After the call at Honiton, these trains then run non stop to Exeter Central and terminate there.

An hourly BUS service runs all stops from Honiton to Exeter (Central and St Davids).

There are problems. There is a wait at Salisbury of twenty minutes in both directions, extending journey times between Waterloo and, say, Axminster from 2 hour 40 to 3 hours. No connections by rail are shown at Exeter (the bus is banned - set down only at Central) which is unfortunate, but GWR trains are available. This brings a frustration for any passengers aiming to continue westwards.

What is also clear "at a glance" is that the fbbs plan to travel by train to Mottisfont to meet an old (in both senses of the word) teaching colleague of your noble author is a no go. It will be a car journey!

But full marks AND a chocolate peanut to SWT for making comprehensive information available in print.

At the time of writing, fbb is unsure how widespread these PRINTED timetables are. On line, information is good, day be day, with a map ...
... which confirms that no trains will run via Mottisfont! Perhaps the colours are not well chosen; it is not easy to spot the difference between reduced service (ORANGE) and no service (RED). A blue colour is used for normal service but there is only one such.
Timetables for the Saturday are shown on line as "to follow" which may be why there was no printout at Axminster!

Incidentally, the stations at Dean and Mottisfont & Dunbridge are unusual in that they are "owned" by First Great Western yet none of their trains stop there; another field day for lawyers and accountants!

Wowsers - Bristol Has a Hub (?)
Once upon a time there places were known as "enquiry offices" but presumably "hub" is deemed to be more trendy, if slightly less understandable to the majority of its customers. (see "bus station" vice "interchange" or sometimes "hub"!!).

But it looks smart and inviting, open plan to easy to wander in. The publicity photo shows a rack stuffed with timetable leaflets on the far wall; lets hope it is a full set because there is nowhere else in Bristol that has everything available.

More From fbb's Local Transport "Hub"
Axminster Station is always good for displaying printed information when available. fbb was thrilled to spot piles of Devon County timetable books on a very obvious shelf in the booking hall.
This year the predominant colour on ALL books is orange, whereas a year or so ago each area has had a distinctive hue. This former distinctiveness is now reduced to a stripe underneath the heading. The title is big enough unless, like fbb in a hurry, you were wont to grab "the green one" as you pass by.

Sadly the only timetable of the whole set that is missing is the one for East Devon - i.e. Axminster.

The timetables are fully comprehensive and FREE ... 
... but do not include Exeter City and Plymouth where you need to assemble a collection of leaflets if you want complete coverage - and the best of luck, mate!

It's All On-line With Extra Stress
Mrs fbb realised that her hubby's passport was out of date. No longer required for the Isle of Wight, there is still a possibility of a visit to No 3 son in Switzerland later this year, so renewal was overdue.

You can do it all on line!

And it is really straightforward. No, really, it is VERY straightforward - just several pages of tickboxes and confirmation of basic information about age address and sex all of which were well within fbb's capabilities.

Until it came to the photograph! You can take your own and upload it.

If you dare!

The site offers six or seven ways in which you photograph can be unacceptable.
fbb did not wear a hat, left off his make-up and there were no undesirable objects in the background.  The walls in fbb mansions' extensive living areas are all white so all right.

But what about shadows and reflections? It must be nearly impossible to avoid these in a small-ish domestic living area with one window or limited artificial lighting. First attempts took about 40 minutes and resulted in a refusal from the computer (too dark, not enough pixels).

Another 40 minutes including the removal of glasses cracked it (fortunately NOT the glasses). If fbb stood knees bent (arthritics permitting) you could avoid picture hangers on the wall. fbb gazed into the lens looking very old and very miserable and this shot was accepted by the technology.

fbb will only append one of Mrs fbb's less successful attempts at photographic genius.
The real one is far to horrific for a blog that might be read by those of nervous disposition.

Next in this series of stress related anecdotes, "fbb buys a new phone".

Farewell (snivel) to a Past Life (sigh)
Yesterday, fbb bagged up his extensive collection of Philips street map books.
Undoubtedly the best printed street maps available anywhere, there were used expensively for work on the Great Britain Bus Timetable and Xephos.

Many of them are now up to 125 years old and thus can be alarmingly out of date, particularly for closed roads and new roads. They have not been used in the last six years apart from a few which fbb has kept.
So off they wend in four large carrier bags to a bookshop in Honiton that specialises (amongst other things) in maps.

It can be hard to say goodbye to good friends, but the interwebnet will suffice for any oddments of cartographic work and, in the unlikely event of any more extensive commissions, the old man can always buy a new one!

But fbb HATES getting rid of old books, however old and useless!

Fabulously Big Bludner from fbb!
Remember that First Kernow timetable book? Remember this service L1 timetable extract?
fbb complained that the journey shaded blue arrived at opp Seven Stars and you couldn't then leave to get to Tesco. That, as a correspondent gleefully pointed out, is because you can't. The bus calls at Tesco at 0809 BEFORE arriving, terminally, at opp Seven Stars at 0813.

Perhaps in his observational ineptitude, fbb might have assumed the 0809 was a misprint? Or perhaps he did not bother to look? Either way NOT explaining the odd behaviour of this particular journey fully is short sighted. It is a college bus running on "college days" and numbered 251, so the note explaining this could be extended to say "calls at Tesco at 0809 BEFORE Helston opp Seven Stars". Then at least fbb would have no excuse for getting it wrong.

On checking his brain failure, fbb discovered ...
... that the town centre map for Helston is actually on page 121 and not as shown. The Penzance map is on page 85.
"opp seven starts" (for stop A) does not get a mention; but it is just a few yards up Coinagehall Street from "opp" the Blue Anchor. For the record, here is Stop B ...
... outside the Blue Anchor (nearly) and here is stop A.
There are no actual route maps for any of the Cornwall towns but fbb knows Helston well having waited for nearly 90 minutes there for a missing bus back to Penzance one cold and inhospitable evening. He was on a route learning exercise, working for First Kernow!
And they have never paid the bill.

Tomorrow it is off to Europe again.

 Next Switzerland blog : Monday 17th June 


  1. The SWR site wrongly stated Pinhoe and Cranbrook would have trains on strike days but this has now been corrected. Also the only reason for missing local stops to Exeter is to allow pointless extended waits at Yeovil each way which serve no purpose as although trains pass there they wait far too long delaying passengers and resulting in the bus being needed. Utter madness.

  2. I'm constantly confused by the stops and routeings in Helston. It would be easier if the "Seven Stars" stop was named "opp Blue Anchor" and if the town maps showed routes as well as stops.