Thursday, 5 December 2019

Bothered By Bristol Part 3

Comment writers are always ready to jump down fbb's chubby throat whenever he comments about service reductions. "Bus companies need to make a profit if they are to survive." True is the only system under consideration is the "commercial model". If our society it serious about "the climate crisis" and serious about reducing the number of cars on the road then the "commercial model" as created by the deregulation and privatisation of the bus industry in 1986 is simply not delivering the goods.

Bristol's Metrobus was a political construct, deemed cheaper than a tram system, aimed at providing quality public transport along bus prioritised corridors to tempt the jaded Bristolian out of their cars, to reduce pollution and congestion and to shine a bright light for new-look bus travel.

So the ten minute frequency of route M1 ...
... has already been reduced to every 12 off peak Monday to Friday.
On both sides of the city centre ...
... the route runs along long stretches of open road with no housing nearby.

From January it is reduced further to every 15, every 20 on Saturdays. It may have posh stops, it may have pay before board to speed loading, it may have distinctive buses but it is nothing like a tram.

Interestingly peak travel is being increased from January to give an every 7/8 minute headway from Patchway Brook to the depot at Bedminster.

M2 replaced the Long Ashon park and ride.
Its little nibbles of guided busway (which doesn't go round any corners) ...
Guidedness ceases travelling west after the stop

... ensures that buses are slower than those it replaced which used the normal road system throughout. Currently every 12 minutes off-peak ...
... it drops to every 20 Monday to Friday. Surely this defeats the potential attractiveness of Park and Ride. The advantage of a motor car is that you leave when you like; there is no hanging around waiting for a bus. OK, depending on time of travel, you may hang around in a traffic jam; but we are talking off-peak frequencies.

First bus has an interesting use of language to describe this cut-back.

Service m2 (Long Ashton - City Centre) will continue to operate every 10 minutes during peak times on weekdays but will run at a slightly reduced frequency of every 20 minutes during off-peak times on weekdays and Saturday. Some evening departure times on this service have also been revised.

A slightly reduced frequency? No, a gurt big reduction! Does it encourage use of the Park and Ride option? A big, loud and resounding NO.

BUT ...

To encourage more sustainable travel at weekends, and to coincide with the start of the busier spring period, a new Sunday service will operate every 20 minutes on the m2 from 5 April 2020.

fbb predicts that the Sunday buses will be somewhat lacking in passengers, whether sustainable or not.

Yesterday's blog reveal First's contention that the spring period was "less busy" hence the cut backs on 1, 2, 75 and 76.

Is someone being a little economical with the truth?
M3 from a much less used Park and Ride at Lyde Green manages every 20 minutes off peak at the moment.
This becomes every 30 minutes from January - and even less encouragement to use the site off-peak.

Again, much of its route is along the "empty" A 4174 - empty that is of housing and bus passengers. There are houses, of course but Filton Road is on the edge of the estates and largely inaccessible from the road network.
Another quote from First explains things further.

Rob Pymm, Commercial Director at First West of England, said: “As metrobus grows in popularity, we continue to learn more about people’s travel patterns and this helps us to adjust the services and make sure we have the right number of buses in the right places at the right times. Peak time services are exceeding expectations, so we are pleased to be able to put extra peak buses on the busiest section of m1 from January and also launch a Sunday service on the m2 from April, but to make these investments we need to ensure that we have the right level of service during the quieter periods as well.

“We are working closely with the metrobus team to develop ways of encouraging more off-peak demand and to get things moving in the new year we’ll shortly be launching a January offer aimed at getting more people to use metrobus during what is typically a quiet month after the festive period.”

From 6 January until the end of the month, a group ticket on all metrobus services will be available from 10.00 on weekdays allowing up to 5 people to travel for £5.00.

Rob added: “85% of metrobus users told us they’d recommend metrobus to family and friends, so we really hope people will take advantage of the offer and give metrobus a try.” 

fbb is wary of making predictions, but it is traditional at this time of year, so here goes.

Within 12 to 18 months the "Metro" network will be disbanded and incorporated into First's "normal" bus route pattern. Monoliths will be removed and (maybe a bit far fetched, this) ...
... the Long Ashton Park and Ride will revert to its pre-busway route.

Maybe, maybe not; but fbb does also wonder whether the weaker performance off-peak might be a consequence of the Bristol flat fare system.

Whilst weekly tickets etc cater well for the "commuter", a high flat fare discourages those little off-peak trips down to the local shops or for a meet up for a coffee at the Community Centre. £2.50 single, £5 return is a lot to shell out for a purely social or local trip. (Yes, there is a three stop fare of £1.20 - three stops is a bit mean)

That is yet another challenge to the "commercial" model.
The fbb Advent Calendar
The fbb Alphabetical Advent Calendar

The secular seasonal festival is full of expectations. A child is excited to see what gifts he will get; although increasingly, these days, the quality, quantity and price of the big gift will already have been pre-booked with parents. So the expectation is less than it was.

"We are meeting up to have a good time" is a pretty standard expectation. Presumably this "good time" will include consumption of alcohol which can, in extremes, lead to a bad time.
Missed expectations.

Apparently this particular season is tops for family rows, marriage breakdown and a whole range of relationship difficulties.

And then there is the paying of the bills!

Of course many expectations are fulfilled; time with the family, good food, charades and hours of top quality televisual entertainment (?).
The people of Israel had high expectations. One day God would do something outstanding to provide a new relationship between the Heavenly Father and sinful man. God would send his Messiah.

But what sort of Messiah?

This very day in David's town your Saviour was born - Christ the Lord! And this is what will prove it to you; you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Bothered By Bristol Part 2

Bristol and Bath have been something of a Beacon of Bright light for the ailing bus industry with some spectacular growth figures, successful route branding and the much heralded Metrobus network. But announcement of changes from January might be seen as evidence of a few cracks appearing in the good news.

It is indeed ironic that service reductions should be announced soon after First West of England won to trophies at the UK bus awards, one for marketing and one for Metrobus.

Two cross city services (four routes) are having their off-peak frequency reduce by one notch from every 12 minutes to every 15. 1 and 2 have been up to every ten minutes during the competitive battles with Wessex's "The One" and "The One, Two".
Between the city centre and the junction between Westbury Road and Henlease Road this will mean a bus every 7½ minutes instead of every 6. Allowing for the influence of the dreaded traffic congestion and other "operational reasons" this reduction will be hardly noticed.
But where the routes bifurcate, the difference between 12 and 15 becomes more noticeable, especially if one bus is "missing" or there are accumulated delays.
South of the city centre there is less common ground.
The split occurs soon after Temple Meads station.

A similar situation applies to the combined 75 and 76 service.
The Gloucester Road has plenty of buses so the cut back only gets really notices at the extremities. 
South of the city ...
... there is frequent common ground to Parson Street before the split.
Let's hear what First Bus says about the cut-back.

With customer demand dropping away a little during the winter and spring months, some services will run at a slightly decreased frequency during off-peak times from 5 January. Service 1 (Cribbs Causeway – Broomhill), Service 2 (Cribbs Causeway – Stockwood), Service 75 (Hengrove – Cribbs Causeway) and Service 76 (Hengrove – Henbury / Cribbs Causeway) will operate every 15 minutes during off-peak times, with the reduced frequency also applying to the 75 and 76 services during Saturday daytime.

Service 70 (Bristol Temple Meads / City Centre – UWE) and Service 71 (UWE (Bower Ashton) – UWE) will operate every 20 minutes during off-peak times, Monday to Friday.

That gives a combined frequency of every 10 instead of every 7½ ...
... which might begin to be more noticeable.

There is an important question here. What does the frequency reduction have on people's perception of the quality of the bus service? The majority will probably just go and wait at the stop; but at what point in the cut-back do they begin to feel that cold, wet and tedium and blame First for a poor service before the passengers, too, reduce their frequency of travel!

The second question is also relevant. If these frequency "trims" are in response to "customer demand dropping away slightly during the winter and spring months", are Bristolians to expect a return to the previous frequencies from Easter onwards when finer weather (apparently?) encourages the good folk of Henbury and Hengrove (for example) to take more bus rides?

In Sheffield, routes 97 and 98 have run every 20 minutes each for many years giving a useful every ten on the common sections - which is most of the route. This year the service was reduced to every 30 (commonality every 15) with "customer demand dropping away slightly during the summer months".

Every 10 to every 15 is a bigger ouch than Bristol's every 12 to every 15.

Frequency has not returned to every 20/10 even though "summer" is long gone.

A third question arises. To what extent do minor cuts like this reduce the total number of passengers carried? Has anyone done any studies or do the companies simply "hit and hope"? [fbb is currently watching a bit of the UK Snooker Championship from York!]

Tomorrow, Metrobus.

Beyond Belief No 239.
And it is from our friends at South Yorkshire PTE.

There is a cosy waiting room adjacent to the two tram platforms.
The PTE, ever anxious to make a bob or two, have recently install and Amazon collection point, a "locker". You can ask Amazon to deliver your box of delights to Meadowhall. You then type in various codes, a door springs open and you collect your package, hop on a tram and carry the seasonal goodies back home.


Unfortunately the ever considerate PTE has arranged for "The Locker" to block the timetable display frame in such a way that said frame can neither be opened or removed and installed elsewhere.
Well done all concerned!

fbb's anonymous correspondent assures him that a responsible personage from the PTE (are there any such?) has been delegated the job of sorting it out by either removing "The Locker" or the frame, or maybe knocking down the wall to get at both.

 Next Bristol blog : Thursday 5th December 

The fbb Advent Calendar
The fbb Alphabetical Advent Calendar

One of the things that always amuses or infuriates many readers of the Nativity Narratives in the Bible is, to quote from the King James version, all those "begats".

Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;

And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram;

And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon;

And Salmon begat Boaz of Rachab; and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;

And Jesse begat David the king;
That's David of Goliath fame. As well as being a dab hand at stone and sling, we have appointed as the first king of a the united tribes of Israel.

Luke has a similar family tree idea but many of the names are different.

Of course, neither can be 100% correct as genealogy. Records were sparse in ancient times and links were very complex, hence different genetic trees researched by the two Gospel writers.

What mattered to both was to attempt to show that Jesus was, indeed, the Gift of God that the Old Testament had predicted.

He will rule as King David's successor basing his power on right and justice. (Isaiah -  Old Testament Prophet - Chapter 9)

This very day in David's town (that's Bethehem, King David's birthplace) your Saviour was born, Christ the Lord. (from Luke's Gospel).

The Angel said, "Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife." (from Matthew's Gospel)

The "begats" are an attempt to show that Jesus wasn't just a happening in history but was part of God's eternal plan.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

In Search Of Manhood?

Please Note: the second part of the
Bristol blog
is postponed until tomorrow.
The reasons for the change will become obvious!

Competition in the public transport industry is nothing new. Local steam hauled railways in large cities were threatened by the cleaner and more "local" electric trams whilst rural branch lines often succumbed quite early to the more flexible and cheaper motor bus.

Such was the case with the railway between Chichester and Selsey.
The line, which opened in 1897, was also known as Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramway.
It was opened as a rail "tramway" in order to avoid having to comply with regulations that managed conventional railways in the United Kingdom.
In December 1910 the line was flooded when an embankment failed at Pagham Harbour. It was not reinstated so work had to be carried out to raise the line above the waters.
Some accounts say that the line never really recovered from the cost of this engineering work.

Although the line was successful before the First World War, it suffered financially as road transport increased in the 1920s. Despite attempts to be more efficient through modernisations, such as the introduction of petrol driven rail car services ...
... the railway closed to all traffic in January 1935. 

One significant piece infrastructure was a lifting bridge (of a very basic design) over the Chichester Canal.
Station facilities were not lavish as here at Selsey.
Sadly there is almost no evidence of the existence of the line today; a couple of bridge abutments and a dotted line on a modern map ...
... replicated to the right of this aerial view.
And there we have it again; the title "Manhood Peninsula".

So what was the "Hundred of Manhood". A "Hundred" was an ancient "local authority" with its own court and many of its own laws. The Hundred of Manhood was part of the Rape (yes, Rape!) of Chichester.

The Manhood Peninsula was formerly known as the Hundred of Manhood, in the Rape of Chichester.The Rape was a county sub-division peculiar to Sussex. In AD681 St Wilfrid arrived in the land of the South Saxons and spent five years there evangelising them. The South Saxons had been conquered by Wessex and it was their king, Cædwalla, who confirmed a grant to Wilfrid of 87 hides of land in AD683, to build a monastery.

The Chapel of St Wilfrid still stands in the village of Church Norton, near Selsey.

For the record, Stagecoach provides the current bus service between Chichester and Selsey.
Every 15 minutes Monday to Friday, every 30 minutes on Sunday. Probably a bit more frequent than the former "tramway"

 Next delayed Bristol Blog : Wednesday 4th December 

The fbb Advent Calendar
The fbb Alphabetical Advent Calendar

It is good to celebrate at Christmas but, because the leaders of Christianity chose to arbitrarily mark the birth of Christ at an existing pagan celebration time, there has always been a conflict of interests. Much of our Christmas Tradition is utterly pagan and has no link whatsoever with the Christ Child.

Christmas Tree
Mince Pies
Carols (a dance)
The Wassail
and many many more.

Rudyard Kipling wrote an evocative poem ("Eddi's Service") about this conquest, centred on st Wilftrid's Chapel at Manhood End, an old name for Church Norton. In the poem, Eddi (Eddius Stephanus, a real cleric) as priest of St Wilfrid's Chapel in Saxon times leads a service whilst "The Saxons are celebrating Christmas" - not  Christmas  - but their own pagan festivities.

History tells is that St Wilfrid (in about year 687) had great difficulty in evangelising the Saxons of Manhood, so it is no surprise that no person turned up for the Christmas Eve service, according to the poem.

The altar-lamps were lighted, –
An old marsh-donkey came,
Bold as a guest invited,
And stared at the guttering flame.

The storm beat on at the windows,
The water splashed on the floor,
And a wet, yoke-weary bullock
Pushed in through the open door.

And he told the Ox of a Manger
And a Stall in Bethlehem,
And he spoke to the Ass of a Rider,
That rode to Jerusalem.

Till the gale blew off on the marshes
And the windows showed the day,
And the Ox and the Ass together
Wheeled and clattered away.

And when the Saxons mocked him,
Said Eddi of Manhood End,
'I dare not shut His chapel
On such as care to attend.'

Of course the poem (and history!) beg the question, "What exactly do folk celebrate at Christmas?"

And why?

Monday, 2 December 2019

Bothered By Burringham : Bothered By Bristol

Readers who have coped with the previous Scunthorpe blogs may remember that Burringham is on the way to West Butterwick served until St Andrew's Day by Hornsby's route 12. Look; there is is on their timetable available (as it all is!) on line.
On the basis of fbb's "excellent and informative" blog, correspondent Keith, which perchance was in Scunthorpe on "the last day" decided to drive from Scunny to Burringham to photograph the very last Hornsby's route 12.

Imagine his botherment when up drove a CallConnect demand responsive minibus, empty of course, slowed for the stop at its scheduled (?) 0910 ...
... having CallCollected no one.
After snapping the minibus, Keith nipped across to see what the stop had to say. It had no "flag" but perhaps the flag-unscrewing team from North Lincolnshire Council had done their work a few days early?

This is what he found in the frame.
Service 12 ceased, not on Saturday 30th November, but on Saturday 8th June! Keith could read all about the replacement CallConect service - well he could if the frame were clean ...
... and if the notice contained any meaningful information. Another try by fbb on the CallConnect page adulating the extension of the service into North Lincolnshire (a separate local authority) revealed a "map of areas served" ...
... dating from 2016 which, of course, shows the 12 to Burrningham and East Butterwick.

Whilst in Scunthorpe Bus Station, Keith visited the Stagecoach enquiry office where "Simplibus" leaflets were available in profusion. These showed an even older and even more out of date service 12.
No attempt was made to warn young Keith that what he was collecting was largely useless for Hornsby's services!

And who provided the minibus for the CallNotCollect service. Hornby's of course!

But at least we now know why Traveline couldn't find the buses to East Butterwick as experienced by fbb's recent journey planner searches.

There weren't any; despite Hornsby's and Stagecoach's supposedly in date timetable information!

Keith also sent fbb a delightfully artistic picture of Traveline's walk route from West Butterwick (with church spire) to East Butterwick.

Keith asks, "Why is CallConnect a state secret?" fbb asks "If Call Connect has to be booked in advance, why was the minibus spotted by Keith utterly and completely empty as it sped towards Scunny!

Friction Points indeed.

Beyond belief!

The dedicated and dynamic James Freeman, boss of First in Bristol and the West (but not as far west as Somerset or Cornwall?) is justifiably proud of recent awards at the annual industry mutual back-slapping dinner and knees-up.

Bus company First West of England is celebrating, having won gold and bronze in two categories at the 2019 UK Bus Awards.

The company fought off competition from up and down the country to see its initiative ‘Going for Growth’ take the top spot in the Sustained Marketing Excellence category, sponsored by Global.
Over the last five years, First Bus in West of England has seen more and more people jump on board its buses bucking the national trend of decreasing bus passengers, despite challenging conditions in Bristol as one of the UK’s most congested cities. The team has focused on simplifying fares, modernising the bus fleet, promoting digital ways to buy tickets and ongoing community engagement.
The company’s Metrobus service took the bronze in the Making Buses a Better Choice category, sponsored by Heathrow. The innovative new service has carried more than two million passengers in a little over a year and customer numbers are still growing. It uses guided busways, bus-only bridges and buy-before-you-board technology.

Going for Growth and Metrobus - two of the company's great successes of recent years?

So how is First Bus sharing the celebratory mood with its passengers?

As part of "Going for Growth" the company is reducing the frequency of four major cross-city services.

And as for Metrobus? All three services have frequency reductions from January!

fbb will explain the cuts and review First's on-line explanation in tomorrow's blog.

It makes "interesting" reading.

Transport for London to Northampton?
Sfter the extension of Crossrail/Elisabeth Line (one day!), Northampton correspondent wonters whether something is afoot for services to his home town.

Clsss 315s have been a stalward performer on trains ftrom Shefiled to Liverpool Street taken over by TfL Rail in preparation for Crosssrail. Remember the ones labelled "one"?
They are now ousted by new class 345s.
Alan was intrigued to spot an number of the withdrawn units parked at Spencer Bridge sidings just north of Northampton station.
Is there something we should know?

 Next Bristol blog : Tuesday 3rd December 

The fbb Advent Calendar
The fbb Alphabetical Advent Calendar

B is for Bible

Much to the surprise of many in today's (so-called) secular world, the Bible is not really very interested in Christmas. Of the 1223 pages in fbb's Good News Bible ...
... Luke's Gospel has four covering the Nativity story, whereas Matthew only manages a modes two! Mark doesn't mention the Birth story at all and John gives us a bit of Theology but no baby Jesus narratives.

And what is more, most of Matthew's version is about an event which took place about TWO YEARS after Mary produced!

We have made an awful splurge out a minor dot in the history of God's relationship with humanity.

We have turned a simple yet profound event into a huge variety show and, in so doing, have almost forgotten what "the event" was.

Of course the Old Testament has visions, prophecies, hints and clues about God's plan for a child, a servant, a saviour, a ruler, even a king. Here is the prophet Micah writing about 700BC ...

The Lord says, “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah, but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times.”
This would have been odd for Micah's readers/followers. Surely God would reveal his  CHRISTmas  plan and purpose in the Temple at Jerusalem?