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


  1. Fascinating blog but, dare I say it, not quite what it seems.

    The Trent bus pictured is on service X53, not the 53. The 53 in those days was service 3 but the renumbering arose from a desire by the SYPTE (bless!) to have some common numbers of the various services in the Sheffield - Mossborough corridor.

    The X53 was the development of a limited stop service jointly operated by Trent and East Midland between Nottingham and Sheffield using a section of the then new motorway. In later life X1 and X2 were born from that with Chesterfield being included on the route. Sadly, drivers hours, route length and tachograph legislation all had apart to play in their eventual demise.

    Anyway, back to the blog. The traveline timetable is now corrected and "inwards" and "outwards" journeys are correctly matched between 53 and 53A. What is just as disturbing in the long term welfare of this route is that the commercial 53s have been retimed before noon so that the notion of a two-hourly frequency is now lost. Yet another hurdle for passengers to face.

    Your comments about there being not enough passengers in a year's time might be true of the service as a whole!

  2. Thank you, anonymous. The X53 picture was included for aesthetic reasons. Something of the history of the route and its variations was covered in my previous blog (on the reduction from hourly to two hourly).
    I also note the less than helpful revised times for the 53 which have just "appeared".

  3. The concept of using frequent local urban services to provide part of a longer interurban journey is quite widespread in Germany, and other countries where so called 'integrated' networks exist. If the urban part of a journey is a tram (as in this case in Sheffield), then it may well be quicker than a bus that has to cope with dense traffic (even a limited stop type of service). However the connection time may reduce this advantage. Your post clearly highlights the negative aspects of this type of 'integration', although it clearly does, as you say, reduce costs. I do sometimes wonder if those who trumpet the virtues of such 'integration' ever use such services, and particularly, if they have experienced the special joy when an advertised connection fails!

    For my part, I can recall using the Trent Nottingham-Sheffield service (via the M1) in 1979, when it was run with a crew-operated Bristol VRT. Some years later, I also used the Sheffield-Nottingham service in Stagecoach days, on a wet Sunday - so people do actually make those journeys! Am I a right loony? Probably best left for others to determine that!

  4. Ooops again - the Stagecoach service I used more recently was the Sheffield - Mansfield route (the 53). I think the direct Nottingham service had ceased by then.