Monday 30 April 2012

Magic at Manvers

War in West Melton breaks out again, nearly.

See :-
"War in West Melton" (read again)
"War in West Melton : Update" (read again)

Just over a year ago, First started a competitive service 22, branded with "two little ducks" (as in Bingo calls), running every 10 minutes Monday to Saturday daytime between Rotherham, Wath and Barnsley.
Now, dedicated blog reader and transport observer, if you were starting a new competitive bus route, upping the "ante", you would want to shout it from the rooftops; especially if you were hoping to pinch a few passengers back from First.

On Sunday 29th April, less than 24 hours before the service starts, how is Stagecoach's delayed but  massive fight-back presented on their Yorkshire web site?
Hidden at the end of a long, long scroll-down list of changes is:-
Changes to bus routes and timetables from 30th April 2012
Service 22 MAGICBUS Rotherham – Manvers – Wath
New limited stop service running from Rotherham to Manvers and Wath. It will run every 20 minutes during the daytime on Mondays to Saturdays.
This service will be limited stop between Rotherham town centre and Swinton stopping at Parkgate Shops, Rawmarsh (Dale Road) and Swinton (Woodman roundabout). It will then serve all stops between Swinton (Woodman roundabout) and Wath.

Special fares will be introduced on this service including route specific magicbus fares.
Stagecoach has ordered some leaflets, but, again, a day before the start date, nothing had appeared in public. fbb e-mailed twice asking for a leaflet which, he was told, were "on order"; a copy would be posted "as soon as they arrive". Nothing so far. fbb's South Yorkshire spies had seen nothing as of Friday last, but no-one had yet ventured as far afield as Barnsley. There be dragons.

Meanwhile, back in Travel South Yorkshire [TSY] Towers, Director David Brown's team of accuracy enthusiasts have re-issued the First 22 leaflet with Magicbus journeys at the back.
The front cover of the leaflet does show the Magic Bus name ...
... and there is a note explaining what will happen, ...
... but nowhere does TSY tell people that Stagecoach's version misses out all but two stops between Rotherham and the Woodman Inn roundabout. 
And a word of advice to Stagecoach publicists. Despite what your parlous advance publicity says, this roundabout is not, and never has been, at "Swinton". Actually the Woodman Inn isn't at the roundabout either, it's a couple of hundred yards up the road to the left, behind those trees.
The "centre" of Swinton is at the Co-op "stooers**" and Library about a mile away. Both 22s turn off towards Manvers down Golden Smithies Lane, here ...
... at "The Gate" traffic lights long before stopping adjacent to "t stooers".
Warning! If you want to get to Swinton, make sure you miss the Magic Bus.
The main shopping centre is about halfway between the 22 route and the railway station, just above the "k" of Rockingham.

So let us summarise ...
May 2011 First competes aggressively with Stagecoach on the Rotherham, Wath, West Melton and Barnsley corridor with a bus every 10 minutes serving all stops and numbered 22. Stagecoach does not respond.
Plenty of duck-branded of leaflets and timetables are distributed; most buses quoting their quacking quality from day 1.
April 2012 Stagecoach eventually responds with a Magicbus service omitting most stops over half the route, running every 20 minutes between Rotherham and Wath only. This is also numbered 22 and will, of course, sail past most people waiting between Parkgate and Woodman Inn roundabout. They will be so pleased to be excluded from cheap fares!
Fares Stagecoach promises "Special fares will be introduced on this service including route specific magicbus fares." but seems unwilling to tell anyone what this means. The leaflet is early awaited.

Even route number to be used seems baffling. Travel South Yorkshire call it "22", the same as First's 22; the same as First's other 22 in Sheffield; the same as Stagecoach's other 22 in Barnsley and the same as Stagecoach's other 22 in Doncaster. But 22 it is!
When the service was first announced it was due to be the X22, which makes more sense as it misses out a significant number of stops. Traveline Yorkshire doesn't seem to know it's "limited stop" either.
Magicbus only stops at Rotherham bus station and ONE of these before zooming quickly to Rawmarsh and Woodman Inn, NOT Swinton.
Buses magazine for April tells us that it is 22M (for Magicbus).
But 22 it is. We think! And it starts today. Probably.
Thanks to "junesboy"
from South Yorkshire Transport Forum
These are the buses awaiting "Magicbus" logos.

From a bus war point of view, it's not much of a fightback. No doubt Stagecoach hopes to recover some of the business it has undoubtledly lost as a result of First's incursion; but this is more gun-boat diplomacy rather than a fully armed fight-back. Sooner or later one side will give in. There will be a "deal" struck. Of course such collusion is utterly illegal ...


If there is any more information, fbb will report later in the week. His correspondents in South Yorkshire are still on the case.

**stooers : folk in South Yorkshire have always used this (attempted) dialect version of "the stores" s a descriptor of "the co-op".

P.S. It's now 0824 on Monday 30th April and the timetable for the Magicbus 22 has not yet appeared on the Yorkshire bit of the Stagecoach web site. Other changes are in place.

P.P.S. 2105 on Monday : still nothing.

 Next blog : Tuesday 1st May 

Sunday 29 April 2012

That's the Wander at Westfield

Intrepid Interchange Investigation
Or, Mission Impossible?
Good Morning Mr Phelps. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find your way from Stratford bus station (just out of picture bottom left) to Stratford International Docklands Light Railway [DLR] Station which is ... erm ... somewhere else.
This tape will self destruct in five seconds.

Unfortunately neither Jim Phelps nor fbb (on a recent visit) had the benefit of either the aerial view or a map. So we start at the huge flight of steps that lead onto the new bridge over the railway line.
There are large glazed panels on the parapets which means that you have a good view of the whole station; a trainspotters paradise.
But where next? Look, a huge direction sign ...
... which takes you down, through the station subway and back to where you started. Failure!

But, there is hope; just a few yards further on is a very tall sign with very small print ...
... to Stratford International (sorry about the camera shake!); but still no actual mention of DLR. This seems to lead along "The Street" which is an unusual feature for an indoor shopping mall. It isn't indoors.
At the street junction, however, there was no sign to either DLR or Stratford International; but there was a man wearing large foam plastic "joke" hands ...
... (something like these) directing people to something somewhere else. "Up there," he said, "and through the double doors." 
Now you were inside the inside bit of Westfield. Using "stab in the dark" technology fbb crossed the "mall" and immediately went outside again. There were no signs. And there, in all its spartan glory, down a huge flight of steps and across an open bit, was Stratford International station.
Now look carefully to the right of the right-hand tall pillar and the left of the orange jacket and what do you see? Not a lot!
But there is an obvious and well designed paper poster (!) stuck on the glass which takes you into the International terminal building. And you keep going, gazing ever upwards, and you then espy ...
... in the gloom of the roof space a sign to "Way Out DLR"; and boy is it way out! So it is outside again and, at last, the holy grail is there; the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow; shargri-la.

Yes you have found the DLR International Station.
Cue Lalo Schifrin's irritating but memorable music. Mission Impossible : Achieved!

Now if this were France, or Germany or the Netherlands; all this would be part of one fully integrated public transport block; itself constructed as an integral part of the shopping centre. But, here in GB, everything is a separate company with rain-forest's worth of contractual paperwork and it's a wonder that Stratford International station isn't at Dagenham.

Before someone sends in a critical comment, fbb is fully aware that only a complete fruit cake would want to walk from Stratford (main) station all the way through Westfield shopping centre to catch a Docklands train that would pass back through Stratford (main) Station 2 minutes after departure. And yes, fbb is a bit of a fruit cake!
black dotted line : fbb's walk route.
See "That's the Wonder of Westfield" (read again)

But, there only was one sign. What about folk who might want to catch the Javelin service to Kent? Or be thrilled with a high speed run into St Pancras? What about people who may want to enjoy the shopping experience and not walk all the way back before catching their train to West Ham?

Perhaps things were better in the "inside" mall? Of course, there did seem to be signs to the car parks.

It all makes fbb really, really glad that he lives on the Isle of Wight where the total number of escalators is ...
... ONE: here at British Home Stores on the busy Newport High Street.

A look at the Stratford bus stations is postponed. Just the thought of Westfield is too exhausting. And thanks again to Alan, long suffering side-kick, for some more snaps.
 Next : Monday 30th April 

Saturday 28 April 2012

That's The Wonder of Westfield

A Shopping Experience at Stratford
After a quick visit to Ann Hathaway's Cottage, fbb was determined to experience the stylish shopping experience of Westfield Stratford City!
The keen observer will have spotted a couple of minor untruths in the sentence above. Firstly, Ann Hathaway's cottage is at Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire. fbb is visiting Stratford London; so a timely warning for our American blog readers. The second lie is that fbb had not the slightest desire to experience any shopping at the vast Westfield "mall". He went, with chum Alan, to enjoy the public transport experience.
Alan was somewhat more impressed with the shopping in general and, in particular, with the Mini glued to the wall of one of the trendy emporia; so he and his good lady wife will be back to ... erm ... enjoy. Alan also supplied many of the photographs (thanks profusely); fbb snapped plentifully but, in subdued lighting, Alan's "proper" camera is vastly superior to the podgy one's mobile phone.

Anyway, here is fbb's simple (?) guide to the various public transport facilities available at Stratford. Today, we begin with a map and an overview; tomorrow we look at the problems of finding your way around in practice.
What we now call "National Rail" first arrived at Stratford in 1839 under the auspices of the Eastern Counties Railway. Currently branded "Greater Anglia" the franchise is operated by Abellio ...
... which is Dutch Railways (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) in minimalist disguise.
Inner and outer suburban services operate from London Liverpool Street to East Anglia with an "Inter-City" style route to Norwich.
 Light Blue B 
A line from Stratford to Canning Town and on to North Woolwich arrived in 1846/1847.
North Woolwich in 1961

Under British Railways, this branch had a chequered history but in 1979 it became part of the North London Line.
In 2006 the branch closed and was taken over by Docklands Light Railway which from December 2011 runs from Stratford International to Canning Town thence on to the Docklands network. The former tracks to North Woolwich will, amazingly, be resurrected as part of Crossrail.
What eventually became the North London Line arrived in 1854. The history is too complex for a short blog, but suffice it to say, this line is now part of the revitalised London Overground route from Richmond.
London Underground arrived in 1946/1947 when the Central line was extended to take over the lines to Woodford and Epping from the Great Eastern Railway. The tube trains pop up from their tunnels to offer interchange, then retreat like frightened moles!
 Light Blue A 
The next change came no less than 40 years later with the arrival of the original Docklands Light Railway route from Poplar. The minimalist DLR platform ...
... has since been resited and enlarged in preparation for the Olympics.
In 1999 the Jubilee line arrived from Stanmore via Waterloo and Canary Wharf. Its colour should, of course, be grey to match the Underground map, but grey did not show up on the fbb cartographical creation!
 Dark Blue 
This shows the vast tracts of land given over to Stratford International. The huge station is on the link line to the Channel Tunnel but it is unlikely that any "international" trains will ever call there. Currently the "Javelin" services between London and Kent call. This service will be suspended for the duration of the Games and be replaced by a frequent shuttle to St Pancras.
Which leaves two bus stations.

 Stratford Bus Station C 
The original and best! Recently rebuilt to be smaller (of course!) ...
... and, tucked away on the other side of the railway and just about visible top left of this shot ...
... is the mysteriously located ...

 Stratford City Bus Station D 
This is served by a small number of "local" bus routes; of which more in a later blog.
So that's seven distinct groups of railway services and two bus stations to find and enjoy. We have, as they say, our work cut out! And, if you have lost your sense of priority or direction, the creamy block in the centre of fbb's map is the Westfield shopping centre.
Sadly, fbb only had 37 minutes at Stratford, thus insufficient time to stay and browse. How sad?

But knowing all this and finding your way around in practice are two very different things : as we shall see tomorrow.

 Next : Sunday 29th April