Friday 23 December 2011

Something Really Mysterious at Christmas

And not THE mystery!

  (here) is something really festive (?)  

But Newport (South Wales) buses don't run on Christmas Day OR Boxing Day. Not quite as festive as the video might imply. Other Newports are, however, available.

The Christmas bus mystery is this ...
... "Who most deserves a Christmas bus service? And who gets one?" We are told that we live in a multicultural and secular post-Christian world, so why the inevitable Christmas shut down?

London, population 7.4 million:
fbb has tried to find the service 847 timetable referred to above but failed. It's not on Traveline, it's not on the Transport for London site, aka Boris' Bus Bonanza. London General don't admit to it. Does it actually exist? Possibly. fbb has found an application on-line for a London bus permit but, helpfully with no times.

Next up (as they say on TV) is Manchester, 2.6 million inhabitants, ...
... which is fairly typical. But there is a service 43 to the airport on 25th ...
... but no sign of a timetable on Transport for Manchester's web site. Stagecoach's site gives very basic details of a very basic service:
In the interests of accurate reporting, fbb did try to find the Transport for Greater Manchester on-line Christmas Guide ...
... but failed miserably.

South Yorkshire (1.9 million) is less well off ...
... with a very limited Boxing Day  service in Sheffield only, paid for by Sheffield City Council; not a penny from the PTE. Bargain fares are on offer at a flat rate of £1 per journey. The other bits of South Yorkshire are bereft of buses, even on Boxing Day. But you can enjoy a lovely e-card from Travel South Yorkshire (here), even if there are very few buses for Santa to ride on!

The other PTEs largely follow the Manchester pattern with nothing at all on Christmas day and skeleton services for all those fleshless people who wish to travel on Boxing Day.

Bristol, with a population of about 420,000 offer this ...
... including a busless Boxing Day as well, except for the Airport service.

We now move down the population statistics to Brighton where the bus company has a reputation for excellent customer satisfaction and first class community involvement, courtesy of dynamic Roger French ...
... but not on Christmas Day, apparently.

Things are more confusing in Oxford, another "Go-Ahead" area which doesn't go very far ahead on Christmas Day.
And, Oxford Bus, you are not the slightest bit sorry, are you? If you were you might run a bus or two.

Meanhile chummy Oxford "partner" Stagecoach seems to think there may be passengers, but they will have to pay premium nightbus fares. A real encouragement to travel!
But you can get from Oxford to Heathrow and London, again at a premium fare of £25!
So fbb would be reasonable in expecting empty omnibological roads for the festrive season on the Isle of Wight, right?


Manager Mark "Mighty Mouse" Morgan-Huws has provided hourly departures on five main routes linking all the Island's main centres of population from approx 0800 until 2300. He reports that the service covers its operating costs at normal (rather pricey) fares and he has no trouble in finding volunteer drivers. He is a little more coy when it comes to rates of pay. Yes, even hourly to the very rural West Wight area which virtually closes down for the full festive fortnight.
But sadly, nothing to Seaview and Bembridge where resides a busless and be-sofa'd blogger of some notoriety. Feel free to feast on the festive facilities (here); AND it's normal Sunday services on Boxing Day!

The Island's population is about 140,000.

fbb is expecting Santa to bring him a mobile phone which takes pictures, (boy does the old codger enjoy dicing with technological danger) so, hopefully, a picture or two of happy passengers alighting from or boarding our beautiful buses will be published on "The Big Day" (which is actually about the same size as any other day!). Try the blog again at 1600 on 25th.

But the question remains. If puny Isle of Wight can justify unsubsidised hourly buses from pre-dawn to post-dusk, why is the rest of urban England so deprived?

Or is it just too much bother? It's so much less hassle to shut down. We don't want to be bothered by those annoying passengers, do we?
     faced with festive frolics and     
        a farrago of family fun,        
   fbb is posting two updated repeats   
        on 24th and 25th December;      
 originally blogged for Christmas 2010. 
  Anyway, fbb could do with a day off!  
   fbb's mini Advent Calendar: December 23rd   
The songs we know specifically as carols were originally communal songs sung during celebrations like harvest-tide (etc.) as well as Christmas. A "carol" was originally a round dance and, accompanied by a topical song, it was an essential part of "wassailing" This was yet another pagan activity designed to encourage new life after a cold winter. So we go from "Here we Come a-Wassailing" to "We wish you a Merry Christmas". "Figgy Pudding" ...
... was a just reward for chilly wassailers.

It was only later that carols began to be sung in church, and to be specifically associated with Christmas. The first song to be accepted by the church was "While Shepherds Watched"; and no sniggering at the back about sock-washing, please.

Somehow it seems INappropriate to hear carols blared out of shops' loudspeakers or sung by groups of street urchins muffler-clad young people begging for pocket money. The words are too significant for that.

Mary, of course, sang the first ever Christmas Carol, called "The Magnificat", from the Latin translation of the first line, "My soul magnifies the Lord."

God has remembered me, His lowly servant ... His name is holy. From one generation to another He shows mercy to those who honour Him. He has stretched out His mighty arm and scattered the proud with all their plans
from Luke Chapter 1 verses 49 to 51
Like the words of most carols, quite a challenge.

And now a quiz question : Which carol (often sung in churches and in most hymn books) has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus or Christmas in any way; it has (almost) no Christian content whatsoever? Answer on Boxing Day.
 Next Blog : due Saturday December 24th  


  1. I suspect that the boundaries of the Isle of Wight, by limiting the possible destinations, means there is (counter-intuitively) a bigger market for bus travel than in places where the choices of places to go are larger. Canterbury at the centre of East Kent - approximately three-quarters bounded by sea - seems to be good bus territory for the same reason (though not on Christmas Day). But the Sheffields and the Bristols are having to compete with travel to nearby towns and cities that probably isn't concentrated enough for an immediately viable bus service.

  2. The problem is often the willingness of staff to work and at what rate they will do so plus what level of risk/customer focus the management have (for instance First Leicester provide nothing on Boxing Day whilst Arriva Midlands will provide a full Sunday daytime service - without eveings - on Boxing Day so including interurban routes as well as city services but then Arriva Midlands early finish times are comparitively early for a major city being all off by 18:00). London with strong Unions and a bureaucratic local goverment control fail in all respects whilst the smaller local business of Southern Vectis (an island company for island people) may be more flexible. I have worked for an operator who ran Boxing Day services and whilst they were reasonably busy with drivers paid triple time it was not a commercial operation (whether further operation in following years saw an improvement in numbers to improve the situation I don't know as I had left by then).

    Always surprised that cities with larger ethnic minorities didn't have a better service (where both the local populace and driving staff have less attachment to the holiday for cultural reasons) but then these also tend to be the areas with stronger unions and entrenched procedures so it will probably remain the smaller shire towns/cities & regions that will lead the way and wait for others to follow in their wake.

  3. I guess the carol that you are looking for is:-

    Good King Wenceslas looked out...

  4. Have a chocolate peanut RC 169 : you are correct. I will still give the answer on Boxing Day for those who don't always read comments.

    Thanks anonymice for your comments.

    Happy Christmas to all

  5. Hi. The TfGM Christmas bus guide is linked to on their front page, under the advert for the igo pass. The timetable for the 43 is on the Traveline website.

    Merry Christmas

  6. Thanks most recent anonymous. I am afraid that I find the incessant clutter of slow down-loading graphics on modern swirly web sites so off-putting that I often give up. The internet was designed to disseminate information, not provide graphical entertainment! But, I am just an archetypal grumpy old man!

  7. When has Marc (sic) Morgan-Huws (Is Mighty Mouse and insult or just a comparison with Fat Bus Bloke?) been 'coy' about pay rates - have you asked or known others who have? I guess Southern Vectis has followed its agreements with the RMT? I certainly can't see him being overly generous in the face of any demands by the RMT and paying them over the odds! Given that the vast majority of Island residents either don't pay of have period tickets, I guess the fares aren't that relevant?

  8. Certain not an insult, heaven forfend! Clearly a recognition of his status as the guy in charge of such a superb festive service.