Thursday 30 December 2010
Wednesday 29 December 2010
fbb : could you tell me the frequency of buses between Wantage and Oxford tomorrow (29th December)?
tl : when do you want to travel?
fbb : I just want to know what the timetable is; so I can make plans.
tl : there seems to be an X30 and a 31.
fbb : do you have timetables there?
tl : we've got three timetables here.
fbb : so how often do the buses run?
tl : theres an X30 at 0906 and another one at 0936.
fbb : thank you very much!
Tuesday 28 December 2010
fbb's oldest little boy (pictured above, no, really! that's the one who's 35 and does clever things with confusers at Oxford University) was helping with a Charity project in Birmingham on Boxing Day and on 27th. Innocently he decided to travel from home in Wantage to our delightful second City by train!
A quick surf to the national rail website for trains after 0730 on 26th December revealed a half hour frequency by Cross Country Trains (Donner und Blitzen, das ist Deutsche Bundesbahn!) with a convenient first departure at 0800.
Plans were made - the boy's wife would kiss'n'ride from Wantage to Oxford and all would be hunky dory. Details were duly reported to the guy in charge of the project who, somewhat hesitantly, expressed something of a passing concern.
"I don't think there are any trains on Boxing Day."
Was the journey planner wrong? No! It, being a brainless computer, [did you know that computers have a core capability of adding 1 to 0? - pretty thick, then!] answered the question correctly.
The first train from Oxford to Birmingham after 0730 on 26th December was, indeed, at 0800 ON 27TH DECEMBER! fbb's boy had not read the page IN FULL and thus had not spotted the date.
1. Mayhap the website OUGHT to have said "no Trains on Christmas Day or Boxing Day" for the benefit of the innocent and for senior managers at British universities.
2. Mayhap our Railway Companies ought to be running at least a "basic" Boxing Day service - in response to the massive oodles of so-called Government money lavished on them. It's not "Government" money, by the way, it's MY money and yours which we all kindly agree to donate to the HMG charity via our taxes. It would be nice to be able to use the trains we pay for.
Saturday 25 December 2010
December 2011 was bitterly cold; snow had fallen, snow on snow; the earth was hard as iron; water was like a stone - but at least the main roads had been gritted. Joe Saer, with his finacee Maerwin, accepted a lift in a neighbour's 4x4 from their humble cottage in the bleak midwinter of North Wales to complete what could well be the most challenging journey of their lives!
The first stage was short but simple; to travel the three miles to Penygroes to begin their first public transport journey of what would be a long and tiring day. From this little town they caught the Express Motors service 1A at 0716 ...
... which would take them north through Caernarfon and on to an interchange at Bangor Station.
Here, after a chilly 30 minutes wait, they joined the inappropriately named Virgin Trains service to Crewe which left bang on time at 0822. Maerwin was, as they say, "with child" and, as they say as well, "due any day now"!
Crewe Station was busy, even though it was the "festive" season and they barely had time to join their next train, the 1008 departure, which would take them long four hours before they arrived at Swansea. The route took them through picturesque Herefordshire, and via Newport and Cardiff; but Maerwin was not in the right mood to enjoy the view, anxious, quite rightly about the baby-to-come.
The rather grand and recently upgraded station at Abertawe (Swansea) was reached a few minutes later than the advertised 1355 but a slightly panicky dash across the High Street got them to the bus stop just in time to catch the First Bus X13 due at 1411.
This would deposit them at Ammanford's sumptuously appointed bus station (?) at 1507 ...
...with another almost too-tight connection for the 103 (also First Bus) to Llandeilo. They now had just two more bus rides until they reached their ultimate destination - to sleep in heavenly peace (!) and await the arrival. After all, it was December 24th!
... to be continued ... Part II below ...
The end ... and the revelation!
Joe Saer and his (very) pregnant fiancee had travelled (thus far) from their home near Penygroes (North Wales) as far as Ammanford. A cold coming they had of it in Dercember 2011; but now they had only two bus journeys to endure in order to complete their tortuous trip.
At 1515, the 103 would take them to the delightful town of Llandeilo, nestling in the Dyffryn Tywi ...
... where they arrived at 1540 with a healthy 17 minutes to wait for their very last piece of public transport on a very, very long day. Tired and desperate for a warm fire (and Maerwin for a comfortable bed!) they clambered aboard Morris Travel's once a week service 283 - bound for Llangadog at 1557.
Morris Motors timetable shows this last leg as the critical Saturdays only trip -and the travel weary couple had made it!
There ware no rooms left at the pub in the village, so they had booked into a self-catering converted barn - an old Welsh cattle shed. It was just after a quarter past four and their journey was over.
Here, at last, they settled down for the night.
The baby came in the early hours - two shepherds, on duty to protect their flocks against the cold, popped in with a hot drink. A little later Doctor Mel King arrived (accompanied by his two slightly inebriated brothers) from a Christmas Eve party. The three Kings, excited at being part of the first Christmas baby in the village in living memory, brought a selection of somewhat inappropriate gifts; some golden chocolate coins from their tree, a bottle of pungent perfume and some soothing ointment for Maerwin. Doctor Mel gave Maerwin and baby, to be named Joshua, the once-over and pronounced them A-OK and very special indeed.
The baby slept peacefully - no crying he made! - in an antique cot made out of an old feeding trough. Meanwhile, the little town lay still; as the silent stars went by. What a night! And now it was Christmas Day!
As Maerwin said at the time, "no-one could possibly have ever been through such a journey and such a birth ever before..."!
"Well, you wouldn't believe it if they had, would you?"
Glossary: 'Saer' is welsh for carpenter; 'Maerwin' is Mary; 'Joseph' is Joseph; the Greek version of 'Joshua' is ... Jesus!
They started their journey at Nazareth (Welsh has no "z" so it is more correctly spelled with an "s") near Penygroes and finally arrived at Bethlehem near Llandeilo.
For many years, the Post Office at Bethlehem has provided hand-stamp facilities for first day covers bearing the Christmas stamps. The current post office opens only one day a week in the village hall - but works every day at Christmas to stamp special mail.The one-day travel schedule was workable on Saturdays in 2010 as per fbb's diagram. fbb has assumed services still operate to the same schedule in the futuristic 2011 report when Christmas Eve falls on a Saturday!
Friday 24 December 2010
Read Parts I and II first!
For the timetabular tyro! [mini-blog]
0645 Nasareth : lift in 4x4
0716 Penygroes : Expsess Motors 1A
0752 Bangor Station
0822 Bangor Station : Virgin Trains
1008 Crewe : Arriva Trains
1355 Swansea Station
1411 Swansea Station : First Cymru X13
1515 Ammanford : First Cymru 103
1557 Llandeilo : Morris Travel 283
For a detailed narrative, see Joe's Jubilant Journey Parts I and II
Tuesday 21 December 2010
Or ... keep up to date folks; mini-blog.Sheffield City Airport closed to commercial flights in 2002 and finally bit the dust in 2008. The terminal building is now a suite of offices and the runway is returning to grass. But (see earlier blog) Plusbus thinks it still exists, and so does First Bus on their latest (November 2010) route map...
And, so does Stagecoach on its November 2010 route map ...
More worryingly, so does Flybe and/or Google!
It's good to see that two of our major transport groups are so up-to-date and "with it". It inspires confidence!
Friday 17 December 2010
but, sadly, that "circle" is a sort of roundabout on a Derby Estate.
But what would you make of some of these Sheffield "Circles"?
Wednesday 15 December 2010
Nothing has happened!
Back in March, when fbb started this blog lark, he reported on the announcement that "it had been agreed" that Stagecoach and Citybus would be "co-operating" in Oxford. The implication was that from August 2010 the cutthroat wall-to-wall buses breathing their noxious fumes amongst the gleaming spires of academe would be replaced with shiny new double deck "greener" buses sharing the trade in equal proportions.
And greener buses have appeared; Stagecoach "hybrid" buses painted shades of green.
But what of timetable co-operation? A quick look at the websites of each "partner" reveals little or no evidence of the "all pals together" project. For example, Go Ahead [City Bus] runs service 2 and variants every few minutes between the City and Kidlington ...... and Stageocach runs service 7 and variants on almost identical routes.
Maps reveal how identical they are; firstly, City Bus ...
The question is, "Do the residents of Kidlington need a bus every 2.5 minutes?" According to two Oxford bus users (both friends of fbb), the road is hopelessly over-bussed! Unless passengers are regular "commuters", the general policy is to get on the first bus that comes, whichever operator it is.
So working together and reducing congestion, emissions and general "yuk" seems a really sensible idea. So why hasn't it happened? Answers on a postcard, please to ...
Monday 13 December 2010
Or ... Public Transport DOES work - sometimes!
Lesley wanted to visit a pal in Church Crookham; and stay for a few days. Crookham is blessed with an "adequate" local bus service but the lovely Lesley wanted to start from Portsmouth! This would involve a trek from the far south of Hampshire to the far North. The usual advice would be, "I wouldn't start from there." For once the often unreliable traveline and the often out-of-date xephos both agreed on the basic strategy.
So here goes...
1015 from Porstmouth Harbour to Waterlooville (arriving 1046) by First's motorway express route X42. A brief respite in Waterlooville precinct,
20 minutes to buy a few things in Waitrose then off on Stagecoach service 37 which has arrived from Havant and will trundle off at 1107 to Liss; where, like Cinderella's pumpkin, it turns into a 38 and continues to Alton. Here the timetables provide for a generous one hour and fourteen minutes to explore, to shiver, to enjoy lunch or, perhaps just be bored.Then it gets a bit exciting. The next bus (Stagecoach 201 from Alton High Street at 1356) only runs when Alton College is open, although it is not specifically a college journey. Presumably the link with the College provides enough revenue to make this group of very rural services marginally viable.
Now it gets a bit tricky. Lesley seemed unclear about the location of her chum's "pad" with reference to bus stops, and Stageocach's time point (Crookham Crossroads) was not at all clear from a street map. fbb had to resort to Traveline - where, with a degree in thermonuclear physics, it is just possible to find a list of every stop served by the 201.
Further telephonic consultation with Lesley revealed that her friend lived near "the Wyvern" pub - and one of the listed stops was Crookham Wyvern. So the schedule ends there at approx 1442.
So fbb provides a neatly typewritten schedule for Lesley and then waits on tenterhooks to discover whether the schedule worked; or whether Lesley has disappeared into a Hampshire version of the Bermuda Triangle!
Amazingly both the outward journey and the similar return went without a hitch and, as Lesley is "of mature years" it was all done on her Senior Citizen free pass, so cost her not a bean. So, much to every one's surprise (especially fbb's), it all worked beautifully - BUT, would the lovely Lesley have been able to do-it-herself?
No way, Jose! (pronounced "hosay" by the way, so they say!) Why is public transport so incredibly complicated - and wouldn't it be nice to go back to the good old days of the all-knowing "man in a hut" who actually knows all the answers? Much, much more reliable than the impersonal world of electronic information!