Monday 19 March 2012

Publicity Hazard : Pont Hafren [2]

Yesterday, see "Publicity Hazard : Pont Hafren [1]" (read again), fbb forgot to recommend Chris Witts excellent little book, hopefully still available.
Blog reader and commentator RC169 sent this screen shot of the Swiss Railways' journey planner.
The times shown are correct, RC169 assures us. But look at the journey "duration" column. Even with new-style maths teaching RC169 and fbb cannot audit these figures. Surely fine Swiss engineering hasn't failed? Perhaps the gnomes at the Zurich computer centre are having an off-day? For those whose maths is a bit dodgy, the actual journey durations are, from top to bottom, 24 mins, 36 mins, 24 mins and 27 mins. Maybe someone "out there" can explain? 

Back to Pont Hafren

Before the Second Bridge ...

... you took the ferry.
But, therein lies a significant misconception. The boat service did not actually link England with Wales; it linked England with England. The Eastern terminal is at the village of Aust in Gloucestershire ...
... just a few hundred yard south of the pier of the 1966 bridge. The boats then crossed to Beachley, also in Gloucestershire and just north of the western bridge pier. The River Wye, marking the national border, snakes northward with welsh Chepstow to the west. Indeed fbb's invaluable friend and "confidant", the famous P. Dantik, is firmly of the opinion that the 1966 bridge, legally, also links England with England, then continues as a "Wye" bridge into Wales. Mind you, you can't get on or off it on the English west bank!

The terminal at Aust has slowly decayed into the ever-welcoming arms of the River Severn ...
... but it was once a little more secure!
This picture of the queue at the Beachley side shows that the link was well used; helping drivers between Wales and south and west England to avoid a lengthy detour via Gloucester.
Note the excellent non-provision for "Health and Safety"; you were actually allowed to fall off (or even drive off!!) the slipway unprotected by huge barriers or warned by death-threatening signs. How we all long for a rturn to those un-healthy and dangerous days!

Most of the substantial slipway remains just beyond the Ferry Inn.
The video clips below show something of the remains and the delights of the crossing; which it has to be said, could be very rough and unpleasant.

Report from 1844:-
On Tuesday last about half past two in the afternoon the passage boat "Dispatch" whilst beating across from the Bristol to the Monmouthshire side of the Severn, having on board five persons, about mid-way was gallantly breasting the waves, when she encountered a squall, so resistless as to sink her. The catastrophe was the event of moments, and was distinctly seen by persons in the Passage House.

The little boats could hold an absolute squashed-up maximum of 19 carefully sardine-style packed cars (more usually 17) and three vessels maintained the service at busy times.

This clip from a BBC site shows a journey past Tintern Abbey and something of the ferry at Beachley in 1963. (view here)

This video shows the Aust (eastern) terminal then and now (view here).

The Severn Princess, shown here at her launch in 1959 ...
... has been rescued from Ireland and returned home to Chepstow.
It is not clear, however, whether full restoration is possible.
So it was that on 8th September 1966 ...
... the new (the second!) Severn Bridge was opened by H M The Queen.
Queueing for the ferries and summer travel delays were consigned to history; but not for long; a mere thirty years later, a third Severn Bridge (called SSC, Second Severn Crossing**) was soon needed; but that's another story.
Finally, enjoy views from the top of the Aust tower, celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the true second Bridge. (view here)

Tomorrow, however, we begin our review of bus services on and near the Severn Bridge.

**AGH in Welsh, Ail Groesfan Hafren [for non-welsh speakers, note that the word for "crossing" is "croesfan", plural "croesfannau", which suffers from the dreaded consonant change to make "groesfan".]

 Next Blog : due Tuesday March 20th 


  1. SBB Planner- a glitch,as it's OK this morning.

  2. A bit worrying, though, if the computer can't do simple sums reliably and consistently. After all, it's "simple sums" that power the journey planner.

  3. No – it’s not a glitch, and I suspect that Anonymous at 11:59 simply requested a trip from Basel to Olten where the duration shown is as you would expect. With those inputs the plan simply relates to journeys between Basel SBB and Olten stations (Bahnhöfe ?) ith no associated walk legs.

    However, that’s not what RC169 did, and the clue to this is in Option 2 – with the reference to Basierstrasse.

    It seems that RC169 actually asked for a journey from Basel to a specific address - Olten, Basierstrasse 30 – which produces the output listed. The times shown relate to the start of the first bus or train journey leg and the end of the final bus/train leg. However, rather confusingly, the durations shown include a walk at either end (if there is one).

    If you request this plan and click on the little plus sign at the left of the journey or alternatively click on ‘Show All Details’ at the bottom, you will then see the full details displayed including the walk leg.
    So for option 1, there is a 14 minute walk at the end, and for option 2 there is a 5 minute walk after the 1 minute (!) journey on Bus 1. Hence the discrepancy !

  4. NMcB, you are sort of right, although in fact the page came from a link on the website of the company that I was investigating, which had their address (actually Froburgstrasse 9) already filled in as the destination on the SBB page. I merely filled in Basel SBB as the start point, and then started the search.

    Your explanation is correct, but the presentation of the results is confusing and illogical. My recollection is that the German Railways site, which I use for most journey planning, presents the results in a more consistent manner. However, I now see that for this particular journey it doesn't - but the results are different to the SBB's because the DB estimates the walk at 6 minutes against the 12 allowed by the SBB! (Some Germans do seem to have a perception about the Swiss being slow, but I pass no comment whatsoever on that matter!)

    The DB does make it slightly clearer by including an extra column in the results, indicating that there is a walk involved to get to the final destination, and indicating the time calculated for that walk. The durations are for the complete point to point journey including the walk, but the arrival time is that of the last public transport stage of the journey.

    Since the DB site now does the same for journeys wholly within Germany, I presume the site has been updated recently.

  5. It was so much easier when you asked "the man" - and probably more accurate. I have always said that journey planners are only useful if your know the answer in advance.

    Certainly journey planners should never, repeat NEVER, be programed to deliver obviously silly answers because such simply undermines confidence.

    The xephos system does (did?) not get involved in "walks" at the end pr beginning of an enquiry for the simple reason that most people simply do not require that information; and those that do can come to their own conclusions from a map - or more usually, from the people they are going to see at the end of their journey.

    "Walks" are far too subjective to be included in journey plans unless BETWEEN journey legs; and then they need a huge "Health Warning".

    See my recent "Newbury" Blog

  6. It would of course be rather less ambiguous if the journey planner stated the distance that the requested destination was from the nearest public transport stopping point. Thus the journey planner gives departure, arrival and duration times for the public transport, and then says that the last stop is 200m or 300 yards from the requested destination. People will probably have a reasonable idea how long they need to walk those distances - and it could be widely different for different people!

  7. My memory of the Aust slipway was that it was always in the process of decaying into the Severn due to the tides. Not only were there no barriers but where you drove on moved up and down the slipway with the tide. From memory my father had to negotiate our Standard 10 Companion through a 90 degree turn up two gangplanks and onto the deck when we crossed in 1962. Once on board the boat seemed very small against the width of the river, and I was very please to get to dry land at Beachley. I still have the ticket as part of my collection

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