Friday 8 April 2011

Aaaah! The Good Old Days

But were they that good?

Grovelling in a rarely opened drawer recently, fbb has rediscovered his loose leaf folder of United Counties timetables.   Like so many companies, UC caught leafletitius in the 70s but for a while offered a postal update service.  It is interesting to compare 1979 (National Bus Company) publicity with its successors, in this case Stagecoach and Arriva.
Services from Milton Keynes to Deanshanger were, to say the least, sporadic in 1979; but by 2011 Arriva, successor to Milton Keynes Citybus, was offering a far superior service ...
... from occasional to hourly.  These improvements are possibly more to do with the growth of the New City of Milton Keynes, but, nevertheless, improvements they are.

What about Wellingborough, a tad smaller than Milton Keynes?   A half hourly local route to Hemmingwell in 1979, ...
... with weekday and Saturday variants, becomes ...
and easily memorable every 20 minutes with the added excellence of a clear and accurate route map.
So, better twice over in 2011!

Back in 1979, United Counties followed the fashion of the day and made a resolute effort to provide every small community with at least one return bus journey a week.   This led to some well-nigh incomprehensible timetables; in the case of Ramsey to Peterborough with almost every journey carrying detailed diversions.
Only the 0655 from Ramsey was "normal" - every other journey needed some sort of explanatory note.  Stagecoach was quick to undo that style of operation and create clear frequent services aimed at the majority of prospective passengers.  Some villages are sacrificed, but the main destinations are much better off.
The Wellingborough map has already been mentioned - and the improvement in quality is equally evident in the Bedford area.   We move from a crude kindergarten-style offering in 1979 ...
... to high quality, clean, clear and concise cartography in 2011.
So, ostensibly, things are much, much better in 2011.   Or are they?   Is what is obtainable on-line, for example, readily accessible to a non-wired passenger?  How many of United Counties' day-by-day customers have the ability (or the willingness) to download and print out the improved information?

Will Henry Higgins plan his hurried homeward journey to Hemmingwell "on-line"?   Will Ronald Roberts research a relaxing recreation in Ramsey by "logging on"?   If fbb dwells in Deanshanger, who can tell him when the buses run?   Does the village Post Office stock leaflets for the 14/14A?
Where is the obvious place in Wellingborough to pick up a leaflet for the W2?   The enquiry office in Silver street is long gone.   The Tourist Information Office has closed, because, according to Northamptonshire County Council, tourists never come to Wellingborough.  There's a positive attitude, then!   fbb does gather from a correspondent that the lady in the rather splendid library SHOULD have "some leaflets".
Is that facility indicated on bus stops?  Guess.

Good services, much improved - but with excellent publicity NOT readily available.   Which are/were the "Good Times"?   The jury is out.

And now we have "The Cuts".  

P.S.  Back in post '79, pre Stagecoach days, a pic of a United Counties "Street Shuttle", service A to Hemmingwell.
Also, according to Stagecoach, the W2 Hemmingwell service will escape the chop.   Milton Keynes 14 to Deanshanger etc. might be less certain.

EXTRA blog on Saturday April 9th

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