Thursday 28 October 2010

fbb and THOSE maps?

Here's how I created an enormous and fully comprehensive map of Sheffield's bus and tram network.

It all began when a chum of mine decided to write a book.   It would have been what the trade calls a "slim volume", unlikely to win the Booker prize and even less likely to achieve sales of, say, dozens.   The title of this magnum opus?   "Sheffield Transport in 1960."   Not a title to encourage the book buying public into instant salivation!

Anyway, the budding author wanted a map of Sheffield bus and tram routes in 1960 - so fbb decided to have a go.   Herewith an extract: note the pecked line showing that, at least until October 1960, trams still trundled through some of the city's streets.
It is loosely based on a Sheffield Transport production, first published in 1962.  (But using an older pre WW2 map as a guide.)  The full 1960 map can be viewed HERE (pdf).

Then I got to thinking ...

Would it be possible to draw a similar map for 2010, 50 years after trams disappeared - not finally as it happened, they came back! - from the steel city's highways and byways.

The network is hugely more complicated; competition between Stagecoach and Worst Bus is increasing and loads more bits of Sheffield have been built on.  Coloured lines were essential but a separate colour for each route would need a map the size of, possibly, Sheffield.   So this one...
... uses colours for GROUPS of routes serving associated areas of the City.   It seems to work; but user comments would be very much appreciated.   Here is a similar extract to the 1960 version above:-
For the "hairies" the whole map can be viewed HERE (pdf).

Can hard copies be purchased?   Not yet, it needs commercial sponsorship and there may be copyright issues to deal with; so this a both a fun thing (is the man insane?) and a sample for possible development.

In case you were embarrassed to ask - yes it is completely up to date.  It includes the service changes from Sunday 31st October and Monday 1st November.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

I'll Ask my Dad; He'll Know!

fbb gets some very odd public transport enquiries but this one "takes the biscuit".    fbb's No 1 son-and-heir (thats the one who's 35 and does clever stuff with computers at Oxford University) phones from Birmingham New Street Station.
"Dad, I'm on New Street Station and looking for a train to Brierley Hill; can you tell me when the next one is due?"
Therein lies the first snag.   Brierley Hill Station closed in 1962!   "What's at Brierley Hill that's so urgent?"
"I'm meeting man on a canal narrow boat who has just set off from Stourbridge and he thinks he'll be at Brierley Hill at 12 noon."
Now, planning a journey to a non-existent station to meet a slowly moving narrow boat at an indeterminate time would, one might think, tax the ingenuity of even the best Journey Planner system.   And No. 1 son even has one of those impressive phones that does absolutely EVERYTHING except make tea and toast!   (Shame!)
"How about getting to Dudley and then striking our from there?" suggests fbb.   The offer seems to meet with No. 1 son-and-heir's approval, although he is uneasy about the actual location of Dudley.   Son is dispatched to Colmore Row ...

... (an appropriately named row of bus shelters) to catch the 126 - the long standing former Midland Red bus route from Brum to Wolverhampton via Dudley.
Of course what fbb had forgotten and No. 1 son never knew is that Travel West Midlands buses do not give change.  [What a really cheery way of encouraging the occasional visitor to use public transport!].   So son tenders a fiver and is told, firmly but politely that this won't do.   No way!   But, cheers all round; as No. 1 son put it "The driver saw that I was southerner and an idiot and gave me a free ride!"   Now there's REAL customer care for you!
So how did this all end?

No. 1 son arrived at Dudley bus station, boarded a cab and with instructions from his mobile phone managed to get to a suitable narrow boat rendezvous.
I wonder what next.  How to get by bus, unicycle and coracle to meet a fisherman on Chiswick Eyot  (pronounced "eight").  By train, rickshaw and pogo stick from Leeds to the summit of Helvellyn?
P.S. Travel West Midlands fares are ludicrously cheap for long distance rides, so I guess the loss of one fare would be just about manageable; even in these straitened times!

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Where IS Fulwood Anyway?

Sheffield? Probably the best place to start is the church.

An 1850 map shows the original building surrounded by a few cottages, one or two grand houses set in their own grounds; then a number of very rural farms. The church has been much extended from the 1950s onwards to accommodate a growing congregation. But essentially and traditionally Fulwood IS its church.
The first public transport to approach the district was the tram via Fulwood Road - which terminated (in 1901) at Storth Lane a few yards short of the junction of roads at Nether Green.  The destination on the tram was "FULWOOD" although it was a good half a mile up the hill to the church!"
In 1904 a second route arrived via Rustlings Road creeping up the hill and out onto Fulwood Road at "NETHER GREEN", somewhat nearer to Fulwood than the Fulwood tram terminus! In 1923 both services finally reached Fulwood Canterbury Avenue alongside the church.
In 1937 the Fulwood tram route was replaced by a bus service - numbered 60 and extended past the church to Brooklands Avenue where a small shopping centre developed for the growing community of (relatively) wealthy residents.
The tram via Rustlings Road was replaced by the 88 bus in 1952 and in 1955 some service 60 journeys were extended up Crimicar Lane to serve a developing housing area around the junction with Hallamshire Road. These particular journeys showed "CRIMICAR LANE".   So everything still makes sense.

10 years later the Crimicar Lane route was extended further up the hill and around to Barncliffe Road to serve the now substantial development of  "Hassall Homes" built on the former rural hillside.   Some 60s terminated at Woofindin Road (near the church) and showed "NETHER GREEN" and a few journeys that still turned at Hallamshire Road now showed "FULWOOD".

Finally in 1971 to allow for one man operation, the route was diverted to run up Hallamshire Road, into Barncliffe Road and back down Crimicar Lane.   Some journeys still turned at Fulwood Church (still shown as "Nether Green"!)

And eventually we arrive at the situation today with the dubious privilege of competition.
The 60 has been renumbered 40 (why?) and now shows "FULWOOD" although it still follows the former 60 (Crimicar Lane) route far, far from the real Fulwood. Meanwhile the competing Stagecoach route 120, which now strays even further from its "Crimicar Lane" heritage, still shows "Crimicar Lane" despite shadowing the 40 (Fulwood?) stop for stop for all but the last half mile or so.

Only the erstwhile 88, which became an 86 and is now a 6, runs to traditional "Fulwood".

Just to add to the increasing incomprehensibility, Stagecoach thinks its service 120 terminates at Redmires Road Hallam Grange Road (which it does!) whereas Travel South Yorkshire tells us it runs to Lodge Moor (which it most definitely doesn't!!!)

Confused (dot com?) - fbb, not at all surprised!

P.S. For about 20 years fbb lived by the orange arrow on the upper part of Crimicar Lane - please feel free to go and visit the non-existent blue plaque.

Friday 22 October 2010

Journey Planners : Jolly Pathetic

Or: it's not just Sheffield that gets it wrong!

Consider a simple journey from Ryde (Isle of Wight) to Havenstreet, the HQ of the Island's steam railway.   When is the last bus of the day?   The timetable says 1755 with the arrival time ominously in red.   This means the journey goes beyond Haylands on request.  

What does traveline's website say?  NO SUCH JOURNEY!

What does traveline's call centre say?  Fbb tried it (at vast expense) whilst typing this blog.  The answer, "1640 from Ryde; there's nothing after that."

xephos ( gets it right by actually telling me that the 1755 departure is by request to Havenstreet.

Mayhap you wish to go from Shanklin to Alverstone, a pretty little village ideally suited for walks on the Island's downs.    The outward timetable is disappointing with two morning journeys only going to Newchurch.

But if you are wise to the ways of bus operators and their timetable mysteries, you might look at buses in the opposite direction; and you would see....

...that these buses come back to Shanklin via Alverstone, so those elusive morning journeys are perfectly possible.

How does Traveline's website deal with this comprehension conundrum.

Firstly it tells me that the bus (e.g. the 1100 from Shanklin) is going to Langbridge Langbridge!  26 years of Island life reveals no such place.  It is, in fact, Langbridge Farm situated about 400m beyond Newchurch church; the first safe place for the bus to turn.   The bus shows "Newchurch" on its blind, not "Langbridge Langbridge"!

Then it tells me to get off at Winford, cross the road and wait for the next bus going back to Shanklin; which is, of course, the bus I have just alighted from!   Helpfully I am told that the stop is called Forest Road East, and that it is situated on, guess where, Forest Road!  That interchange would be really jolly if it was pouring with rain - and huge fun when, dripping from the deluge, you realised that you could have stayed in the comparative warmth and comfort of a Wightbus!

Needless to say, xephos gets it right!

A piccy of Newchurch, showing distinctive weatherboarded church and popular Pointer Inn. [Useless Fact No 1037 : The Pointer Inn was Jimmy Tarbuck's favourite Island pub!].   Langbridge Langbridge is off to the left at the bottom of the hill by the church.

You and I spend something like £75 million in a year in taxes and hidden bus company costs to pay for Traveline and Transport Defunct journey planners; plus significant sums if we ring the call centre. For that heap of our cash, shouldn't the system tell us what we want to know?

Sunday 17 October 2010

Sheffield revisited - in despair!

[see blogs from 11 July and 9th September]

It transpires that Travel South Yorkshire, despite having huge plush and very modern offices bang in the centre of Sheffield (and close to all central bus stops!), have very real difficulties in working out where their buses go.

Indeed a man from Stagecoach who DOES know where HIS buses go has recently asked TSY to get their route information right.   The nice man from Stagecoach was promised that it would all be corrected with the next issue of the relevant leaflet.   And so ...
... we have the NEW leaflet for the revised 88 and 88A.

Except that the 88 and the 88A both terminate at Bents Green and NOT Banner Cross - indeed the 88A does not go NEAR Banner Cross!
So, if you are still paying attention, the 88A runs to Bents Green via Greystones - although SYT doesn't seem to want to tell you that.  Meanwhile the 88 runs to Bents Green VIA Banner Cross and stops at High Storrs School on the way, just like the 88A - although SYT doesn't seem to know that  either.    An fbb map may help.
High Storrs School is at the "H" of High Storrs Road, by the way, clearly on BOTH routes!

And the fun (or is it fantasy) continues at the other end of the route, at Ecclesfield.

Some buses start from Mill Road and are then timed at Morrisons 4 minutes later; quite straightforward.   But what about the bus that starts at 0610 from, er, Morrisons and four minutes later manages to get to, er (again), Morrisons!   Indeed most daytime buses seem to perform this 4 minute trundle round the supermarket car park; wasting fuel and confusing potential passengers.   Of course there is an explanation - seemingly hidden in the Travel South Yorkshire sea of oblivion!

Again an fbb map explains all
The 88 arrives via Shiregreen Estate, stops at Morrisons and then proceeds to turn at the triangle of roads at the top of the map, calling at the Health Centre (The "H" on the map) on Mill Road as it does so.  So ALL the 88s stop at the Health Centre, not just a selected few, and then they travel south again calling at Morrisons.   So from a passenger's point of view the "terminus" is Ecclesfield Health Centre and NOT Morrisons. 
So why have SYT got it so wrong?   POSSIBLY because they blindly use data from Stagecoach's "working timetables" - for company reference only - which only records some buses at the Health Centre, namely those that start their day's work there. 

And possibly because they don't think about what the passenger needs to know, or, worryingly, because the folk in the posh office block simply DO NOT KNOW where the buses go.   Maybe they should buy a day rover and have a look.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Superb Salzburg

A splendid example of the best public transport information!
You may go the Salzburg for the scenery, the magnificent architecture or to worship at the shrine of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. You may even nip up the road to visit Aldolf Hitler's mountain hideaway at Berchtesgaden. What is certain is that you will have no difficulty in finding your way around by public transport, thanks to the excellent timetable book and map.
The book - priced at one euro - is approx 300 pages stuffed with timetables and other useful information, including "Volldampf" (steam railway), "WolfgangseeSchifffart" (boat trip) and even "nostalgischen Obusses" (preserved trolleybi)! The frequent city service timetables take a bit of getting used to as they are presented quite differently from what we get in GB.
The hours are along the top, the minutes read down and the shading shows when the times move into the next hour. With practice, this is a much better way of interpreting "repeat pattern" services! And the maps; wow ...
Detailed country services map, city services showing all stops overlaid on a fully detailed street map and an enlarged diagram of the city centre. You simply cannot go wrong. The City fares structure is based on a flat fare with heavily promoted day, weekly, monthly and annual tickets - couldn't be simpler; even if (like fbb) you last studied German at "O" level half a century ago!

So how does this compare with GB?

It doesn't, not in the slightest. Saltzburg is (very roughly) the size of Northampton, where after a short-run blaze of timetable and cartographical glory a year or so ago, life reverts to a search for Stagecoach and First Bus leaflets with the addition of some County Council publications for tendered routes. The Northamptonshire website does offer a comprehensive timetable set, but, as ever, not much use for browsing, for network coverage or to "educate" the newcomer. You have to know what you want before you look for it!

Salzburg 10 out of 10, Northampton an grudging 2 out of 10.

And Salzburg has superb trolleybi!

Saturday 2 October 2010

Not a Grotty Grotto

Stagecoach service E1 runs from Sunderland to South Shields keeping fairly close to the coast.   And it passes Marsden Grotto.   It doesn't look very much like a grotto, does it?   When fbb visited [excitedly] there was very little clue to the delights to come; just some smallish adverts advising  us all to book up for our Christmas dinner!  Indeed, Mrs fbb was decidedly underwhelmed by the unimposing vista and was on the brink of deciding to abort the visit.
But at the end of a rather dingy entrance was a lift shaft; descending, not into the bowels of the earth but to a pub built into former smugglers caves at the foot of the cliff.
In 1898 Vaux breweries upgraded the premises, creating something like the present style of building.   The bar seating areas extend back into the rocks but the fbbs sat outside on the terrace and enjoyed a delicious supper of fish chips and mushy peas washed down with a large glass of white wine and lemonade.   All enjoyed to the lapping of the gentle waves of the North Sea and basking in the bucolic glory of the September evening's setting sun!  (very poetic, eh?)
The E1 runs every 20 minutes Monday to Friday daytimes (every 30 mins evenings and Sundays) so a safe exit after any imbibement can be guaranteed!   Sadly the bus you travel on wouldn't look like this ...

Nevertheless, fbb strongly recommends this little bit if quirky north-east-ness ...
But, sadly, fbb was on his way north to Scotland (via Hexham, passim) and paid his visit by motor car.   Shame indeed!    And below, a 1930s view (?) with a more exciting lift shaft.