Friday 30 September 2011

Fifty-Three Fades Further

How to ruin a bus service - AGAIN!

Way back in March, fbb blogged about the reduction from hourly to two hourly of the "main line" bus service between Sheffield and Mansfield (read again). The once-prestigious route ...
... last-remaining of the longer distance bus links from the Steel City, seemed to be "on the way out". fbb certainly did not think that his prophecy of doom would be further fulfilled within just over six months. 

This is where we were back in the spring ...
... with the occasional evening service 53A diverted in Mosborough and Renishaw. 53As also form the Sunday service.

So, from 30th October, Stagecoach will no longer be running 53A journeys. Instead a much-revised 53A is taken on by the Trent subsidiary, T M Travel. Needless to say, nothing has yet appeared on South Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Traveline Yorkshire, T M Travel or Stagecoach web sites, but something manifests itself mysteriously on Traveline East Midlands.

As an aside, and repetitively, fbb wonders why we cannot have one single national timetable library. It could easily (?) be funded via the registration system and would ensure that the eager enquirer would not have trawl tediously through web site after web site to find out "what's going on". 

But, before we rush to congratulate Traveline East Midlands on its perspicacious provision of prior publicity, it's instructive to take a look at what their technology delivers; and it's not a pretty sight.
First hurdle to overcome : Traveline's "system" means the "old" timetables are mixed up with "new" if the route number is the same; so here we have journeys headed "5" running for the last time on 23rd October and journeys headed "6" starting the following week.

But, for reasons only known to the potty programers producing pages for Traveline's users, "old" journeys south easterly from Sheffield to Mansfield appear on the same page as "new" journeys in the opposite direction (and vice versa, if you can follow; you can't? Tough!). 

So, on the same page, you can go from Eckington to Bolsover until 23rd, and from Bolsover to Eckington from 30th. So that's nice and clear, isn't it?
 "23B" and "Pronto" available
"120" and "tram" available 

But look more closely at the points served from 30th. The "new" 53A no longer runs between Sheffield and Mansfield. For a through journey you first catch a tram, or service 120 bus, to Halfway Tram terminus, where there is "easy cross-platform interchange". Incidentally, these comments refer to the Sunday timetable.
If you get the connecting run wrong, there's only two hours to wait for the next 53A in the cold, the wet and perhaps the dark. You then board your 53A to Pleasley. Pleasley?
This is Meden Square showing a daytime 53 through bus to Mansfield and a glimpse on the right of a pretty but rudimentary shelter.
Here you will need to change, evenings and Sundays for your journey to / from  Mansfield. Connections with "Pronto" (which IS a bus service, but without a number, Trent-style) would appear reasonable, but still connections which "cannot be guaranteed". One less-than-pronto Pronto from Mansfield and you have a long, long wait in picturesque Pleasley.

And why not run the bus into Mansfield?

Two reasons. Firstly, by turning at Pleasley the new 53A can be operated on a "one bus in steam" basis; it would need extra "resources" (namely, money) to continue to Mansfield. Secondly, Pleasley is in Derbyshire, just on the border, whereas Mansfield is in (shh, don't mention the word out loud) N*tt*ngh*msh*r*. And we wouldn't want to work together for the benefit of the public, would we?

But fbb can let you into a secret; that little shelter in Meden Square is actually over the border and in, well, you know where. Wonder how the 53A turns round without crossing into "furrin parts"?

fbb predicts that within 12 months the 53A with be withdrawn "due to lack of demand", demand finally killed off by unhelpful scheduling and cheapskate funding.

How to ruin a bus service; too right buddy!

Never mind, there's plenty of room on the roads for lots more cars.

P.S. O.K., only a right loony or fbb (the two can be interchangeable) might WANT to travel through from Sheffield to Mansfield this way; the more rational might try a change at Chesterfield (X17 to Pronto); but that's not much better in the evenings and on Sundays. There will be many passengers who have to change, and thus pay extra for the privilege of a less convenient and more tedious journey.

Service 53A timetable from 30th October is (here).

Next blog : Saturday October 1st

Thursday 29 September 2011

Jean's Jolly Journey

Travel on the Cheap? : this is Jean ...
... a good friend of Mrs fbb's since Junior School days (Sshhh! Don't tell anyone but that's about 55 years!). Jean and her husband David own a hill farm with sheep and about 300 highland cattle near Carsphairn ...
... which hasn't changed much, over the years! It is sort of halfway between Dumfries and Ayr. The farm is even more remote than the village!
So Jean decides to spend a few days with Mrs fbb. And she is quite good on the confuser. Some journey!!!
Being a good, canny Scot, Jean is up for a good deal; so here goes with all quoted fares being returns:-

Phase 1 : from the farm to Dalmellington in a neighbour's car.
Fare : a box of half a dozen eggs

Phase 2 : by Stagecoach service 52 to Ayr
Fare : FREE, senior citizen. 
For the purists this is on the Bellsbank Estate; Jean boarded in the town centre.

Phase 3 : by Stagecoach service X77 to Glasgow
Fare : FREE, senior citizen. 
Nice motor. 
The coach arrives at the well-appointed Buchanan bus station.
Phase 4 : by First shuttle direct to Glasgow Airport.
Fare : FREE, senior citizen. 
Phase 5 : by plane to Southampton International Airport.
Fare : FREE with accumulated vouchers from a Flybe credit card.
Taxes etc. : £73.98 (that's the price of  "free" air travel!)
A quick hop and a skip to the adjacent Parkway Station.
Phase 6 : from airport by train to Southampton Central.
Fare : £32.20 (there's not much call for a Senior Railcard at Carsphairn)
Fare includes the ferry.
Phase 7 : Bus from station to ferry terminal
Fare : FREE (that's free for everyone.)
Phase 8 : FastJet from Southampton to Cowes 
Fare : included with train (see above)

Then a short stroll through West Cowes, followed by

Phase 9 : Floating Bridge to East Cowes 
Fare - FREE (that's free for all foot passengers.)
Phase 10 : Lift from the fbb's to their home
Fare : FREE to Jean!

Journey time (with plenty of "slack" to cover possibly untoward happenings), just over 8 hours.

fbb's involvement was to provide detailed instructions for the legs from Southampton Airport onwards and (shame and embarrassment) with a journey via a non-existent ferry for the return. Take a detention; write 100 lines, stand in the corner for a week! Lest our readers should be concerned, there was plenty of "slack" in the return schedule as well, so no harm done.

Oh, yes, and the return X77 broke down (briefly)!

What about the train as an alternative?

Estimated best journey time just over 11 hours via London.
Allowing similar "slack" to the "plane" option. 
Best price on offer : well over £150 but impossible to calculate.
Rail fares are such a minefield. 

Question : Are the train companies missing something, here?

P.S. Herewith : sheep, highland cattle and Jean's husband David, with bucket.

Next blog : Friday September 30th  

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Alan Analyses the Alterations

Yesterday fbb commented that Travel South Yorkshire
was offering future service changes from 5th Sept 2011.
Today the web site is showing the first few changes from
30th October 2011!
 Back to today's blog ...

"Northamptonshire Changes" Road Trip

fbb is indepted to Alan,  his Northampton correspondent, for this account and begins with a very crude map of the area for those who are less than familiar with the county of boots, shoes and Des O'Connor.
Alan's trip began with Cooks Minibus service 43...
... from the County Town to Wollaston. In loving memory of Yorks bus service Bellgraphic ticket system  (read again), the driver of the ex. County Council owned vehicle went one better. (Or worse?). He was using a pad of Johns Groves emergency tickets, i.e.hand written receipts. How quaint! Note also the informative destination display.

In Cogenhoe the driver advised two elderly ladies waiting for their usual, but now revised, bus to town that he would be back in 45 minutes after going to Wollaston.

Memo to NCC : perhaps it MIGHT be a good idea to tell people their bus has changed?

And so to Wellingborough, that celebrated home of all that is good (bad, appalling, execrable, cr*p?) about bus information. See previous blogs; Weeping for Wellingborough [1] (read again) and [2] (read again). 
Firstly a picture of the timetable display at the Library, the only place in the town where you can(not) get leaflets.

Even the natives are revolting. (Well it is Wellingborough!)
In case this picture is too pixelated to read, it refers to the difficulty, nay "grate" (sic!) difficulty, for those want to get to or from, amongst other places, their "collage" (sic!).  The results of the protest are plain to see from the resolutely unchanging timetable.

But there is (un)real time information in Wellingborough ...
... and how truly helpful of the County to indicate, with consummate clarity, the THREE different places that the westbound services X4 and X47 serve when they arrive in Northampton.

Gentle hint to NCC - they are ALL the same place. How about using the SAME NAME? But, then again, if you confuse people so much they'll stop using the buses and that will save all that embarrassing subsidy money. Now, there's a plan. 

Alan was off to the station, a ghostly destination served by ghostly buses for which there is not a jot or tittle of information in the town centre.  
And one further manifestation of NCC's cunning plan is at the invisible station where we are told, (a) in big, bold type, that there are NO BUSES from the stop; together with a long and tear-jerking paragraph about the sadness of things, and (b) we are also given, stuffed in the bottom of the frame and nearly illegible, the timetable of the buses that leave from the stop.

Question to NCC staff. Do you have a brain, even if it is shared between several of you? 

And so, off to Corby, where information sources will have improved since fbb's recent blog (read again), won't they?
NO! Despite a diligent search, Alan could find no source of bus timetable leaflets in the town centre. The Library offered to print out a copy of any leaflet he wanted, but for 10p a page.

Question to Corby Library and/or the NCC. Have you tried to print out Stagecoach PDF files? Have you tried to read them when you have the hard copy in your hand? Question to Stagecoach. Have you?
Alan's return to Northampton was fairly uneventful by comparison; a service 67 to Market Harborough with a typical Centrebus destination display; an arrival at a stop which was "out of use due to road works" only there weren't any so it wasn't; and a straightforward trip back on the Stagecoach X7.

All in all, a profoundly depressing commentary on public transport in the 21st century.

The 67 runs via the picturesque Northamptonshire village of Dingley; bet you thought the name was made up, but here it really is:-
Very picture sque?

Next blog : Thursday September 29th

Tuesday 27 September 2011

A Delightful Derbyshire Derwent Diversion [4]

Grovelling apology department : added at 0940 on Tuesday 27th.
When this blog was prepared, the published timetable for buses via Bamford was incomplete; so fbb reported NO Sunday service. This has now "appeared" and is available by clicking on the appropriate heading below. The incorrrect comment has been removed from the blog!
 fbb's quirky snippet department:
This from Ian Allan's latest (e-)mailing:-
Honk, Honk : Honky-Tonk : Honk Kong?
Back to the blog ...

By Bus to Bamford, still!

By 1981, buses via the A57 to Derwent and Bamford were almost moribund. This was the winter timetable ...
... with a barely noticeable improvement on Sundays in summer, namely a couple of journeys to the Snake and on to Glossop. An increasing emphasis on leisure activities based on a much improved dam-side visitor centre at Fairholmes ...
...combined with funding from Derbyshire County Council, stopped the rot. On Sundays, Bank Holidays and summer Saturdays, cars are banned from the road north of Fairholmes; so it's walk, cycle or take the specially provided shuttle bus.
So the timetable today offers two Monday to Saturday service 241 journeys via Bamford to Bakewell.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Travel South Yorshire leaflet if it didn't have a few weird bludners, so the map for the Bakewell journeys seems to think some of them go a different way; or maybe a spooky, unadvertised gi-normous one way loop. 
None of them go via Baslow according to the timetable, or do they?; but that's what happens when you rely on expensive Swedish software. Cue for an investigation by Kurt Wallander?
Then there's a "mixed bag" of mainly 242 trips via Bamford to Castleton. The 51A is basically a schoolday bus for Tapton School which, despite what the timetable says, does stop at Crosspool near the Post Office.
On Sundays, the timetable provides additional links from Chesterfield and to Derwent.
The keen and omnibologically savvy reader would be forgiven for expecting the whole lot to be expunged from history from 30th October; an ideal case for the dreaded cutbacks.

Needless to say TSY is, as yet, telling us nothing; except for the following "future" changes ...
...from September 5th 2011. Shouldn't that be past changes, TSY?
Even the usually efficient Derbyshire appears to be struggling with its data management this time.
Traveline Yorkshire is equally trappist on the matter.

But the fearless fbb has delved into the dark and dismal depths of Tr*v*l*ne **st M*dl*nds and can reveal, the surprising good news, that the service is actually improved. Notable is a return journey to Derwent Monday to Saturday; and four journeys on Sunday, three via Derwent.

Full timetables from 30th October are available here:-

and for completeness 

You read it here first!

Always happy to to give a helping hand to Travel South Yorkshire; boy do they need it!

And for incompleteness, the 272 [Sheffield to Castleton via Fox House] is not included above because the only noteworthy change is the withdrawal of the 0640 journey from Sheffield. Blog readers may amuse themselves spotting the other change, namely the difference between Sunday evening journeys before and after 30th October.
Presumably there is a good reason for the 2 minute change at Hunters Bar on Sundays; SIX whole minutes for the 1.1 miles from there to Ecclesall? Must be because of the hill?

Next blog : Wednesday September 28th  

Monday 26 September 2011

A Delightful Derbyshire Derwent Diversion [3]

By Bus to Bamford

The first buses to run near to Bamford were run by a Mr Hancock from Castleton to Sheffield. Sheffield Tramways and Motors took the service over in October 1927 and numbered it 72. Today's buses still follow much the same route along the A6187; but as First's service 272. Trent buses had a significant presence in the Peak District until the late 1980s and operated jointly on the 72.

In a strange twist of fate, First now operates only route 272 of the former extensive Sheffield Transport Peak District network; the rest are mostly operated by T M Travel, once again part of Trent. 
Our blog, however, seeks to examine services approaching Bamford (etc) from the north, see map above. Once again it was the takeover (in 1927) of Hancock's route from Sheffield to Ashopton as Sheffield route 49 that started the pattern of service.

In June 1930, the A57 (running east-west across the bottom of the above map extract) gained an occasional Saturday service 39 variant via the Snake Pass Inn to Manchester, Summer only and "joint" with North Western Road Car Ltd.
In the winter it ran to the Inn only and was solely Sheffield operated. Sheffield Transport always called it the "Snake Inn" omitting the word "Pass".
It is probably fairly obvious from news and weather bulletins why the pass is best avoided in the depths of winter.

From 1935, a service 47 variant left the 39 at the little village of Ashopton and travelled north along the banks of the river to the tiny hamlet of Derwent. This picture is captioned "Derwent with its total population" ...
... but taken pre-bus in 1905. Turning south from Ashopton in 1938, a variant numbered 44 served Bamford village and station. In 1951 this route was extended, generally following the River Derwent, to Bakewell. Detailed schedules became complicated with 47s extended to Snake and 39s diverted via Derwent; all too esoteric for a simple blog!

But more water was needed for the big industrial areas, so the decision was taken to construct a third dam in the upper Derwent valley. This would obliterate the communities of Derwent and Ashopton.  During World War 2 a massive viaduct was built at Ashopton to carry the A57 across the site of he future lake ...
... and the populace of both villages was rehoused at a specially constructed community at Yorkshire Bridge.
Graves at Derwent were exhumed and the "contents" reburied at Bamford ...
... and, in the early days of the reservoir, the spire would re-appear eerily through the morning mists when water levels were low. Poetic, eh?
Sadly the spire was later blown up in a very early manifestation of "elf'n'safety" concerns.

Thus it was in 1943 that the bus services were diverted over the new road network although the Ladybower reservoir was not formally commissioned until 1945.

Pre- and post- dam, bus services were sparse, as seen here in an extract from a 1951 winter timetable with headings for service 47. Journeys with note B were actually service 44 continuing to Bakewell; leaving the 47 as a Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays operation. The schedule was joined by two service 39 trips on a Saturday.
... and, by 1985, schedules were at an all-time low ...  
... with two service 44 trips (now renumbered 244) to Bamford only; running Monday to Saturday, and a winter Sunday journey to Derwent. The Sunday service was very slightly improved for the summer with two route 39 trips across the Snake Pass to Glossop where connections could be made for Manchester.

Our final blog in this series will look at the equivalent bus services today, literally; and the consequences of the dreaded cutbacks as they manifest themselves in changes from 30th October.

The suspense will be killing you!

Next blog : Tuesday September 27th