Friday, 30 October 2020

This Is How It Was : An Northampton PS

 Back to 1968!

The Ford Escort made its appearance; the two tier postal system (4d 2nd Class, 5d First Class) was introduced; Dad's Army was first broadcast; 10p and 5p coins were issued ready for decimalisation in 1971 and the Government endorsed the "I'm Backing Britain" campaign. (Bruce Forsyth warbled a single to encourage us all!)
From a transport perspective, the biggie was the opening of the new Euston station; aaah, the delightful days when the concourse was not cluttered with "retail outlets."
At least the new "shelf" has removed some of the junk, leaving a bit more space for passengers who want to catch trains rather than spend their money on umbrellas, socks and overpriced burgers.
Still some grot remains, sadly!

Anyway, Alan has lived all his life in Northampton with brief absences at Loughborough Library School, so his knowledge (and possibly even his memory) of things both omnibological and Northamptonian are greatly superior to fbb who, post 1966, only paid occasional visits to see parents.

He reminds us (kindest way of recording fbb's forgetfulness stroke ignorance) that, in 1968, three Midland Red routes crept into the town, not just the one referred too in an earlier blog.

The aforementioned X96 ...
... which amazingly ran daily, crept into Derngate Bus Station from that year. 10 years later (approx) it was a 596 to Coventry only.
The route is fondly remembered (by a few old crocks?) every time they see a Stagecoach 96 which links Northampton with Rugby every hour ...
... but takes half an hour longer. Of course, back in '68 there were other United Counties services to places like West Haddon and Crick, but overall, if you happen to live on the 2020 route 96, you have a far batter service than in the good old days.

Much the same applies to service X61 ...
... running Saturdays and Sundays ONLY in '68. In a way, this route was supplanted by the MX5 service and variants running via the M1 from London.

The present X7 ...
... has had an optimistic half hourly headway in the recent past, but again takes an extra 10 minutes for the through journey. The modern X7 is a relatively recent happening but the current frequency does operate seven days a week.

The third Midland Red route, the 512 from Banbury ...
... again offers only an occasional-days' service; but, in this case, modern commercial considerations have severed any link between the two towns. You can get from Banbury to Brackley and from Silverstone (occasionally) and Towcester to Northampton but the gap in the middle is badly served and through journeys are out of the question.

In fbb's summary of "other operators", he also forgot Johnsons of Hanslope.
Their service was very much Market Day orientated ...
... and there were four round trips on Sundays. Geography has a marked effect on what services continue and what disappear. The development of Milton Keynes brought a two ended business opportunity to many routes from Northampton and today's route via Quinton is much improved - although its survival depends on external support.
Z & S run an hourly service end to end, although intermediate destinations are less well served at the Northampton end.

Which leaves us with Wesleys of Stoke Goldington ...
... a much loved and much missed local independent. Basically the route was via the old A50 (now the B526) to Stoke Goldington ...
... then via various villages to Newport Pagnell.
Again there was a strong bias to Market Day operation ...
... with extra trips on Wednesdays and even more journeys on Saturdays.
Note the 0830 from Northampton on Saturdays which ran for the benefit of pre-booked passengers on their extended Holiday tours. Also, the last bus back from Newport Pagnell on Saturdays and Sundays was advertised as "waits until the end of Theatre performance.

fbb thinks the "theatre" in question was the Electra Theatre ...
... i.e. Cinema. The building still stands but is now the less entertaining Tickford Arcade.
But what has happened to Wesleys route(s).

Until relatively recently a service 3 ran along the Newport Pagnell Road as far as Hackleton and Horton ...
Alas, this disappeared with County Council funding cutbacks. So Wesleys from Northampton to Stoke Goldington has no modern equivalent - indeed no bus at all.

But the former Wesley Villages are served Monday to Saturday by Redline 21 ...
... and Z & S 37.
It is quite hard to work out why Northampton folk want to go to Leicester and not Coventry or Banbury; and equally odd that you can get to/from Quinton but not Hackleton.

In some ways, these differences are historic skewed by changes in geography.

For whatever reasons, some commercial services have blossomed but, as usual, the more rural routes are in decline or have utterly declined. Of course, we have not asked the critical question, namely how much will your bus ride cost?

Bus fares have increased by much more than the rate of inflation which is good for the profitability of the commercial routes but has been inadequate to preserve services in the rural areas.

Is there a better way to run the nation's bus services?

Just A Good Picture ...
As built ...
1920s clutter ...
Modern clutter ...
Now replaced by ...

X57 P P S - News Just In

Readers will remember that ever since Hulleys announced their Sunday X57 ...
... your perceptive blogger has wondered about the future of the tendered T M Travel service as above. Now we know. With helpful advance notice (NOT) this has appeared on T M Traveel web site this week.

273/4 - Derbyshire have asked us to withdraw this service as the route is now covered by Hulleys X57.  This service will therefore end officially on 1st November and so effectively wont operate again.

Well, there's a surprise. Is it a bit naughty to ask what will happen if (when?) Hulley's decide that the route is not commercially viable?

 Next Saturday Variety blog : 31st October 

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