Sunday, 14 July 2019

The Launch After The Launch After The Launch

After the launch, complete with tape cutting, photographs and a non crying Town Crier, the assembled multitude strolled across the road to Bridge House for the launch.
Round the back was the entrance to the offices of Highways England whose main function is to oversee the distribution and usage of the country's vast collection of Motorway Comes!
In through the portal the party piled, prepared and primed for the "official" launch - otherwise known as launch number three. Being a government agency, everybody had to have an electronic tag, issued only after a full security interrogation, strip search, verification against several Government databases, and after signing the book.
Invitees already had their Railair badges, so it would have been both practical and sensible simply to hand over a list of attendees to the reception staff and ask somebody to hold the door open. But all were required to queue.
In the end, sense prevailed and a wise person came round and handed out door passes to anyone who looked like an official guest - including fbb who probably didn't.

All the meeting rooms were labelled with place names (not numbers) beginning with G. The launch was in "Gumbleton Thrabbles" a delightful, but little known, Surrey village, fbb seems to recollect!

It was very hot in Guildford and, fortunately, there was plenty of water and/or fruit juice (fbb had three glasses) but that, of course, provoked the next important decision. Then the door passes became suddenly important.

Thank to the ever present threat of flushing something intangible down the pan, you could get out into the stairwell to take a "bathroom break" but you needed your key pass to get back in. Thankfully fbb has taken his or he might still be there, stranded in a stairwell until tomorrow morning.

Three speeches entertained (?) the crowds. First up was the bloke who nobody knew, last seen shaking hands with GRF,
He was Tony Caccavone ...
... responsible for anything at the airport with wheels except planes (and maybe not luggage trolleys). His challenge is to assist in delivering Heathrow's third runway expansion without increasing road traffic.
He dashed off some terrifying statistics which fbb may have ill-remembered but it was roughly this. 80 million people use Heathrow each year of whom 40% do not arrive by car.

By 2030 that will increase to 140 million people and Tone has to encourage 55% of the increased number to use public transport. (fbb thinks).

First Bus' RailAir 2 will not solve all the problems, but many, many more schemes (Crossrail - happening, western rail link - maybe, southern rail links - maybe possibly) will all be needed. If he fails, then the whole of Surrey will need to be a car park. (Maybe fbb has got that wrong?)

All a bit scary.

Then followed Simon Goff, interim MD of First Berkshire, Hampshire Dorset, South Somerset and the Scilly Isles.
(Bus managers are getting alarmingly youthful!) He told his audience what a splendid service RA2 was, or would be, giving a brief run down of route and timetable etc. etc. Most people there already knew that but the facts had to be uttered for press and elderly bloggers.

Then up stood Mr Fearnley and did his "Young Mr Grace" bit, "You've all done very well!" etc. etc.
These speeches were delivered in front of a banner displaying a pink flamingo ...
... and one questioner asked whether such would be acceptable, inflated, on the coach and how it might be received at airport check-in. The general light-hearted view was that First might offer a free ride to every passenger turning up with a large inflated pink flamingo.

fbb does not think they were serious, but the First marketing manager was seen hurriedly making notes.

Then it was lunch which was surprisingly plentiful ...
... allowing fbb to mentally cancel a planned visit to his favourite Colonel to supplement rations, had they been insubstantial.

There was time for networking or, for people outside the net like fbb, there was time to gaze out of the window on the limpid ripples of the River Guild as the trout swam lazily in the sun. This is the river ...
... whose ford once existed next to the present Bridge House.

fbb jests; it is the river Wey, navigable from the Thames as far south as Godalming ...
... having been canalised in the 17th/18th century. Guildford Town Wharf used to look like this ...
... and now looks like this:-
But soon the fun was over and all fbb had to do was to collect his rather small goody bag ...
... small but beautifully branded! It contained the obligatory pen, an RA2 leaflet, plus, interestingly, a voucher for a return ticket from Guildford to Heathrow (App use only).
The bag also contained one of these (with 5p coin for size comparison).
fbb and the Mrs have examined it closely and now have absolutely no idea what it is. It is not magnetic, it is relatively thin and has a layer of black shiny plastic on the back which does not appear to peel off.

If fbb missing something?

Thanks to First Buis, yet again, for the invite and, of course, best wishes for success and growth of RA2. The service looks good and appears to be well puiblicised - even the name badges had branded ribbon ...
... and there was a poster on fbb's class 444 carriage which took him back to Woking.
fbb must remember to order his inflatable pink flamingo in good time to take with him on his free return trip from Guildford to Heathrow. Readers making their way to their flight should not leave home without one.
A bargain at £22.99 from Amazon - sunglasses NOT included.

But before departing from the Guilded ford, fbb had some more investigation to instigate.

 Next Guildford BUS blog : Monday 15th July 


  1. Andrew Kleissner14 July 2019 at 08:21

    More like a vole-mat, that size!

    1. I thought it was a First Bus launch, not Voel Coaches!

  2. I have a similarly-thin black-backed Firstgroup Enviro400MMC (given out at Glasgow last week) which I didn't think was magnetic either, but it has happily joined the rest of the collection on the fridge.