Thursday 30 September 2010

Vex 'Em at Hexham

Hexham is a fine historic town, clustered round its imposing abbey but spoilt, it seems, by the carbuncle of the modern hospital just down the road. Indeed, approaching Hexham from the A69 the vista is dominated by a factory belching smoke and the lurid modern hospital building with the picturesque Abbey somewhat lost in the background. A pity!
Public Transport is largely in the hands of Go-Ahead who took over the area from Arriva some months ago. Once upon a time Northumbria produced an excellent and comprehensive timetable book but now even the county's website carries only links to the major operators' sites. And Traveline, as usual, only delivers little bits of timetable.

So, fbb hies expectantly to the bus station located quite close to the market and on a road delightfully named Priestpopple!

The lights are on but there is no human face from which to derive useful information. Timetables for GoAhead services are displayed in a window, there are departure lists on each stop and, joy of joys, there was a "carousel" of leaflets parked outside a locked door. Joy deflates to vexation when it appears that the leaflets are only for GoAhead services and, guess what, those for the most important and frequent service 10 (branded "Ten", there's original!) are unavailable.   And, of course, ne'er a word about the important link from Newcastle via Hexham to Carlisle (the 685) because that's operated by Arriva and Stagecoach and we wouldn't have any truck with them, would we?
Undaunted our brave and intrepid investigator sets off for the Tourist Information Centre.   Carefully following the direction signs, fbb does a complete circle and gets back to the start point without finding the elusive seller of souvenir trinkets and occasional purveyor of, hmmm, tourist information.   Eventually, after advice from a very, very nice man with a Go-Ahead tie, the TIC is revealed.   And outside is a bus!
Inside the office there is a rack with two leaflets unavailable at the bus station, neither of which mentions the AD122 service parked outside. What is going on?

It transpires that the Hardrian's Wall bus [AD122, the service number being the date when hardy Hadrian built his wall to keep the Scots out - no jokes, please, Mrs fbb is scottish!] doesn't leave from the bus station; neither does it pop off from Priestpopple; it only calls at the carefully hidden TIC! And the carefully hidden TIC didn't display any leaflets for its "own" bus, whilst the lady behind the counter was busy advising (at length) an enquirer that he should go to Hadrians wall by car! Fortunately, as the bus was "in", info was available from a well stocked rack on the vehicle. Good, but not that good if you happen to arrive when the bus doesn't!
Nearly there - nearly equipped with a usable set of Hexham public transport timetables - just the odd "independent" operators' times to obtain.   But, apart from the departure lists at the bus station, there was nothing to be found.   So fbb might have risked a trip to Kielder [forest and reservoir], but couldn't have planned return times.  As the bus only runs on certain days such an outing would be highly risky.
One "lowlight" at the bus station; an official Northumbria notice on one stop tells me that service 888 MIGHT (sic!) operate in Summer 2010.   As it was, by then, nearly the end of September 2010, this information was not entirely helpful!
It's a good thing fbb travelled to Hexham by car!
... and a pleasing print of picturesque Priestpopple in a placid pre PSV period.

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