Thursday, 27 February 2020

Birthday Bus Bash (?) Part One

First Bus' Jurassic Coaster originally ran all the way from Bournemouth to Exeter. Indeed many years ago fbb took a train from the Isle of Wight to Exeter via Westbury and rode the X53 all the way back to Bournemouth, such is/was his dedication and much stronger bladder!
The service was subsidised by a cabal of local authorities anxious to see tourism develop. Together with initial enthusiasm from First and the bag of pennies from the supporters the service expanded and appeared to be doing very well.

But, local authority money was reduced, withdrawn and First opted for commercial operation.
The pattern of decline continued with removal of the through service and pruning of the timetable making return journeys harder and harder to complete. This, combined with an almost total lack of publicity along the line of route, meant that total withdrawal was inevitable.

At the Exeter end, Stagecoach ran from Lyme Regis all the way to Exeter, so only two (small?) groups of passengers lost out. There was then no bus from Beer to Exeter without doubling back to Seaton and changing or travelling infrequently via Branscombe into Sidmouth ditto.

Seaton and Beer people in particular were incensed that there would be no through bus to the ginormous Devon and Exeter Hospital.

Devon County Council thus arranged a tender with Axe Valley Travel (AVT) for one service 52 Monday to Friday return trip from Seaton and Beer into Exeter (arriving 1110 and departing 1340) operating via the X53 route past the Hospital. This would allow time for limited shopping in Exeter and visiting at the hospital, but would be inadequate for the majority of hospital appointments.

So fbb's Birthday treat was a ride on AVT's service 52, now over two years old.

The old man and his slightly older wife toddled along to Marine Place to join the journey. For a small company AVT's publicity is remarkable good.

Clear label on the shelter ...
... full timetables in a frame ...
... and even a small rack with one timetable leaflet therein.
Other operators, take note!

This contrasted with the info provided by Devon County which seemed to think the 52 started at Lyme Regis ...
... an irrelevant fact (were it true which it isn't and never has been), followed by an equally irrelevant and in part incorrect heafing for the local service to Beer.
Poor.

The bus stop flag has never admitted to the 52, but the X53 has been expunged.
Poor.

As a special treat the electronic screen was working, but was largely unreadable with text too small and back lighting too feeble against a bright February sky.
Poor.

fbb did wonder what the purpose of the 32 digit reference number on the display unit might be and who would bother to use it.
But 20 brave souls joined the bus at Seaton ...
... and settled next to windows provided with a spattered mud version of Contravision.
The bus has been on the road earlier doing a school run to Lyme Regis under heavy rain and high winds.

One solitary soul joined at Beer. Three alighted en route in the Sidford area; two joined. One alighted at the hospital on Barrack Road.
One alighted at the curiously named Livery Dole on Heavitree Road ...
... one at the Pyramids leisure centre (elderly lady with walking frame off for her Tuesday workout?) ...
... but the majority joined fbb and Mrs to leave AVT's finest and its plethora of rattles and creaks at Exeter bus station.

This was not the most luxurious style of bus travel.

Only three passengers used the unique locations served by the subsidised 52; the rest could easily have used the 9A (unsubsidised). It makes you wonder?

Regular readers will remember the on-and-off saga of the new (too small, of course, and further from the main city centre) bus station.
Well work has started on the commercial development but not (again, of course) on the new bus station. Money-making stuff must come first and let the public suffer!
Several stands have been lopped off the end of the present structure including the enclosed waiting room.
Signs still point to the toilets but the way is blocked.
There is access at the other end of the bus station, but why leave the signs in place?

It was cold, draughty and the roof leaked. The bus station is owned by Exeter City Council but, neither they nor lessees Stagecoach care enough for their passengers to make it even slightly habitable.

Welcome to third world public transport!

At least the enquiry office is still open (one set of doors not working, obviously the electrically powered entrance with disabled access ramp) and fbb could, joyfully, obtain a leaflet for the second part of his day of anniversarial thrills.

 Next Birthday Bash blog : Friday 28th February 

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

The Barricade of Brookhouse Hill (2)

The closure of Sheffield's  Brookhouse Hill (passing Fulwood Church) for resurfacing presents substantial problems for bus routes 83a and 120 as there is no way round. The back streets of Fulwood are narrow and dead ended ...
... and impassable by bus. Incidentally the  very solid looking shop on the right (Truffles) selling, erm, truffles, other chocolates and "gifts" used to be a wooden hut selling fruit and veg!

But the lack of an obvious "way round" led the powers that be to suggest that both services should terminate at Old Fulwood Road ...
... a few yards short of the closure and of the church (PW on map below) without any alternative "up the hill".
The decision to deprive a whole area of the city ...
... of its usual bus services was about as stupid at First, Stagecoach and the PTE could possibly have made - as stupid and ANY they have made previously. There would be an awful lot of potential bus passengers without a bus; and a steep long walk down, but worse, a steep walk back up.

The local yokels, led by chum and Sheffield correspondent John, and including neighbourly County Councillors, began a vociferous campaign to demand buses up the hill - somehow.

It was the electronic version of pitchforks at dawn, at lunchtime and at twilight!

The first results of this vehemence was that the hours of disruption were reduced to 0700 to 1900 Monday to Friday.

There IS a road up the hill (the yellow road just below "Fulwood" on this map extract).
It is called Slayleigh Lane. It serves posh villas (very posh!) and passes a few cottages that stood in the corners of farm fields way back when.

It also has lots of trees positioned in such a way as to make a first class job of smashing the top deck front windows of double deckers.
It also has thin bits where it squeezes past some of the aforementioned ancient dwellings.
But it offered some possibilities.

Then Stagecoach announced that it would, indeed, be running its 83a ...
... via Slayleigh Lane. Bingo. The 83a is single deck so perhaps a few dents from low hanging branches but, hopefully, no serious damage.

BUT. The First Bus and Stagecoach joint 120 is double deck ...
... and no way would they get up Slayleigh Lane unscathed.

After much posturing postulating and prevarication a workable scheme was agreed by all parties.
The 83a (RED) will run to its normal timetable but diverted.

The 120 (BLUE) will terminate as per the previous potty plan at Old Fulwood Road Woofindin Road.

A temporary 120S (GREEN) will run as a SINGLE DECK "shuttle" ("S" for shuttle - gettit!) from the Old Fulwood Road loop, via Slayleigh Lane and round the standard service 60 loop.

The "resources" for the shuttle would be provided by saving one bus on the 120's cycle because they are all turning short. Clever eh?

And everybody is happy?

Far from it. People using the buses on the top of the bottom half of Crimicar Lane (confusing isn't it), Brooklands Avenue and Moorcroft Road ...
... might choose to heave themselves up to the junction of Moorcroft Road and Crimicar Lane BUT ...
... diverted buses will descend the UPPER part of Crimicar Lane (upper left on the map above) and turn LEFT into Hallamshire Road, thus miss ALL the stops at the junction. Hopefully someone will provide some temporary "dolly-stops".

Hopefully?

But most on the unserved roads would face considerable inconvenience - even hardship.

But the poor arrangment doesn't end there. The 120S timetable has been published ...
... and it runs every 12 minutes.

But the 120 runs every 10 minutes!

They don't match, they don't connect most of the time and some residents of Upper Fulwood will have to wait up to to minutes for their onward 120.

UNSATISFACTORY

This is what SHOULD happen:-
The 120S should do a figure of eight route as shown in GREEN. This would need TWO buses each running every twenty minutes giving a ten minute service to match the ten minute service 120.

Of course this would need EXTRA resources, bus and driver, and involve extra cost rather than diverting a dribble from the 120.

The 120 is a very profitable route so it can stand extra "pain" for a short term.

And if there is a bit of "pain" it will be a lot less than the loss of passengers whose service is arbitrarily taken from them.

Short term "pain" - long term gain in PR, in stability and in retaining the loyalty of your customers.

It all kicks off on Monday so there is still time to change your minds, people. Come on ...

DO IT RIGHT!

 Next Exeter birthday trip blog : Thursday 27th February 

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

The Barricade of Brookhouse Hill (1)

A Tangled Tale of Traffic Trials and Tribulations
Once upon a time Fulwood was a cluster of cottages due west of Sheffield. Even in the 1920s there wasn't much of it.
Notice Fulwood Church (north west of the "F" of the village name) ...
... and the bare cross of Fulwood Old Chapel, a Unitarian Church established in 1726.
Fulwood combined a rural economy ...
... with early industrialisation along the Porter Brook (oddly a small stream which gave its name ...
... to the national rail rolling stock company!**)
The cottages above were at Wire Mill (now you wonder what they made there!). The low building at the end housed Thomas Bolsover who worked out how to fuse silver on to sheets of copper and thus invented "Sheffield Plate".

In the 1920s and 1930s Sheffield began to expand westwards and Fulwood became the home of "Middle Class" villas as here at the bottom of Crimicar Lane ...
Posher properties filled fields and gaps between the dotted rural hereditaments pre WW2 and post war right up to the early 1960s almost the whole area on the old map above was filled with residential development.

Trams arrived from Broohill and Hunters Bar; the Broomhill route became motor buses in the 1930s and the Hunters Bar route in the 1950s. The successors to these two routes remain in place today.
The BLUE line is route 120 (formerly 40, formerly 60 formerly tram via Broomhill) terminating in a large loop with its time point on Barncliffe Road.
It is a joint service shared by Stagecoach and First.

The RED line is the successor to the route via Hunters Bar and the Ecclesall Road which was once route 88 terminating just beyond Fulwood Church at the Co-op.
Later it had numerous numerical nomenclatures and is now Stagecoach 83a but much extended.

As the map shows, it ends in an even bigger loop via the Hallam Grange roads having a nominal "terminus" at the very top of Crimicar Lane.
In the distance you can see a 120 creeping out of Barncliffe Road. On Redmires Road, the 83a shares two stops with service 51 - Sheffield's oldest motor bus route - now running from Charnock via City to Lodge Moor.

But come with fbb back down the mountain that it Crimicar Lane; for many a long year fbb lived there at Number 166 ...
... to the road past Fulwood Church. This is Brookhouse Hill ...
... which wiggles down ...
... to Fulwood shops and the aforementioned Co-op.
Here the 83 goes straight on up Brooklands Avenue and the 120 turns right back up the mountainous Crimicar Lane.

From Monday 2nd March, Brookhouse Hill is to be closed completely for resurfacing work.
So, what will happen to services 120 (every 10 minutes) and 83a (every 20 minutes)?

The original plan was for the work to be carried out in January. The scheme back then, which is totally beyond belief, was that the 120 and 83 would terminate short of Fulwood Church and there would be no buses on either route beyond that point FOR A WHOLE WEEK!

Yes, really.

Here's how and where.

Oringinally Fulwood Road took a nasty wiggle at the top of the hill, just short of the Church. Now called "Old" Fuwood Road ...
... it passes the remnants of the former Fulwood village.
Old Fulwood Road forms a convenient loop where you can turn buses.
Indeed, back in the day, several "short workings" on the former service 60 to Crimicar Lane turned here. In a perverse decision, Sheffield Transport used Woofindin Road in the timetable notes but showed  NETHER GREEN  on the blinds.

The geographical Nether Green was several stops back; Woofindin Road is, and always has been, Fulwood. But you couldn't show  FULWOOD  as that was the terminus of the 88 (at the Co-op, remember?).

So, to save making an extra bit of blind, it became known as Nether Green which it never was in anyone's mind but those of "the lads" at Sheffield Transport HQ.

So that was the plan for January. Everyone would be turfed off at Woofindin Road and be obliged to use their ropes and crampons to ascend the peaks of Crimicar Lane.
Thankfully residents of Upper Fulwood began a vociferous campaign to retain something of their bus services. We shall see what transpired tomorrow.

It is still poor!
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fbb joins "the older woman" (Mrs fbb - by one month) for an exciting trip with Axe Valley Travel service 52 all the way to Exeter.
The old man really knows how to party.

P.S. Porterbrook has a new logo now ...
... not so cheerful but equally meaningless!

 Next Upper Fulwood blog : Wednesday 26th February