Thursday 31 May 2012

Inspecting the Spectre

Moving the Ghoulposts in York
This picture, captioned "an ftr" (should that be "a" ftr?), is a reminder of the much maligned bus service that was to be the "ftr" of passenger travel in York. 
But it wasn't.

So come with fbb on a Ghost Tour of York ...
... or ride the Sightseeing Bus ...
... as we seek the shadowy remains of a once heralded step into the ftr of bus travel. Back in March the articulated Wright streetcars were withdrawn from route 4 and replaced with conventional double deck vehicles. Although spectacularly "trendy", they had never been popular with the public or with the City authorities. Route 4 ran down narrow estate roads with little opportunity to deliver the quality atmosphere that First's publicity suggested.
So, in York at least, ftr is dead and buried; but whoever looks after stops doesn't seem to have grasped the purple monsters' demise as the ghostly remains are evident throughout the city, as here at the station ...
... in fact almost everywhere!
Maybe the York city fathers can't afford to buy some purple sticky-backed plastic and hide the historic logo, but you would expect new timetables to be posted, wouldn't you?
This one was at Acomb Methodist Church, and below it was another ftr timetable with a different and later date; but still resolutely showing the ftr logo and equally out of date! To be fair to First, the timetable hasn't changed a great deal, but ...
... the use of the now expunged logo hardly inspires confidence. Perhaps information display at stops can also be blamed on York city? But you would hope that a bus operator had a passing interest in knowing that its own information was up-to-date.

And we can be certain that all is hunky and dory on First's own web site, can't we?
No we can't. There it is again, to the right of the purple band; the dreaded ghostly remains of ftr York fearlessly featuring in First's "future". Whereas in Leeds the ftr name (there written FTR) retains its shadowy presence over the ftr fleet's current operation. And the purple monsters still run.
But First's dedicated ftr web site seems to have disappeared into the ether. Clicking on links to "ftr" pages now simply redirects the user to, for example, the main First West Yorkshire site. So the "eminence pourpre" may be fading away there as well as disappearing in York.

But one bright spot is provided by York City's bus map. The most recent edition (October 2011) simply refers to route 4; prophetically propelling the purple poltergeists into their present purdah.
On the map, at least, the ftr never had a future.

Dave Alexander, big cheese of First Bus in almost everywhere in "The North" ...
... has hinted at re-deployment of the ftr fleet "elsewhere". It certainly won't be in London, where purple monsters repainted red night have been as "up-front" as the equally unusual "borismaster"; we will have to wait until First's publicity panjandrum produces some positive pointers.

In the meantime the ghosts of ftr still add that touch of transport mystery to the streets of York.

 Next blog : Friday 1st June 

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Grim Happenings at Glenfield Hospital [3]

Passengers and the Proliferation of the Paranormal!

See Grim Happenings at Glenfield Hospital [1] (read again)
See Grim Happenings at Glenfield Hospital [2] (read again)

Yesterday, amongst other mysteries, fbb was querying ghost buses and their stops at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester.
Hospital "loop" road north : what stops here?

Then a few blogs ago, fbb was being grumpy about stops in Hedge End with labelled that were several days out-of-date. 
But this stop, on Groby Road ...
... takes a whole supermarket full of biscuits, as they say! The "flag" was photographed by long-term friend and Leicester resident David. The pic was snapped a few days ago on Monday 14th May.
The mind boggles at its hoplessness. The last major revision to services in the top left hand corner panel was made in 2009, as per this leaflet from Arriva:-
It's hard to know where to start, so fbb has decided to examine the detail in route number order. Our readers will need to be patient and keep their minds stunningly alert to follow this, so here goes.

First Bus local Leicester route, serving Glenfield Hospital and calling here on its way back via New Parks to Leicester. This stop is only here because of the convoluted way the bus is routed to escape from the hospital. CORRECT
Arriva, part of the 10 minute frequency between Hospital and City, stops here but is not mentionedWRONG

 27  28 
Arriva, part of the 10 minute frequency between Hospital and City, stop here. CORRECT
 27A  28A 28B 
Arriva. These service numbers have not been in use for about three years. WRONG
 29  29A 
Arriva,  part of the 10 minute frequency between Hospital and City, stop here but are not mentionedWRONG
Centrebus. This is the "outer circle" route branded "Circle Line" ...
... but you would need superb eyesight to read the number 40 in the middle of the logo next to the company name. fbb would have liked to show you an enlargement of the logo to prove the point but the Centrebus Leicester web site wasn't delivering any timetables when this blog was prepared. But for clockwise journeys, the sign is CORRECT
Veolia. This competitive route to Groby (?) has not operated for some time. Veolia later pulled out of all work in the Leicester area and have since sold their UK remnants to their management. WRONG
Centrebus. Two peak hour journeys (0712 & 1650) on a Monday to Friday route from Loughborough via Swithland that otherwise doesn't serve this stop. Obscure but CORRECT
Roberts Coaches (successors to Paul James Coaches). A rural route from Coalville via Hugglescote, Stanton-under-Bardon and Newtown Linford. Infrequent but CORRECT
No longer exists. WRONG
Kinchbus, the Saturdays only version of the 54 via Swithland as above, according to Traveline. Kinchbus is part of the Wellgalde group, so Trent in disguise. This route does not, however, appear on their web site so:- possibly CORRECT
Whilst you might think that the 302 (long, long way round to the city centre) service ought to stop here, it doesn't. It leaves the hospital via Glenfrith Way traffic lights and stops on New Parks Way just after the Groby Road Roundabout.

Likewise the Hospital Hopper leaves the hospital via Glenfrith Way but this route is "limited stop" with its first stop after the hospital at Gilroes Cemetery; famous for a misspelt sign (now corrected).
There is no doubt that it is a mess and three quarters. Whilst passengers from this stop will mostly be going to central Leicester, and apart from the 14A and 40 all buses go roughly in the same direction, correspondent David confirms that the same mess is present on the outward stops where correct detail could be very important.

Of course, there is a large panel in the shelter showing all the current timetables so what the "flag" says doesn't matter. Oh dear, daydreaming again! Actually the news is slightly better. Three panels are available:-

for the Arriva group ...
This is accurate but hard to use. As ALL the Arriva routes (26, 27, 28, 29, 29A) follow the same route into the City, it would have been more useful to have one single timetable or departure list for the whole combined service. The harassed passenger has to plough through 5 separate panels to work out when the next bus might arrive. And don't miss the "NS" journeys on the way!
First's 14A ...
and Centrebus City Circle 40 ...
Unfortunately only the Arriva offering has an obvious date and this is very small and at the bottom of a long, long panel. So, you have to trust that you have current information. There are no timetables for the other routes. And, as usual, no idea of how long the journey might take into town; you are expected to know.

Better than nothing, but far from ideal.

 Next blog : Thursday 31st May 

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Grim Happenings at Glenfield Hospital [2]

And now for the big surprise!
In our somewhat frustrated attempt to catch a bus to Glenfield Hospital, we came to the depressing conclusion that service 14A, via the New Parks Estate was the best on offer. The journey time was half and hour and you would catch the 20 minute frequency First service from the salubrious environs of Abbey Road, at the "tatty" end of Leicester City Centre. Nice!

This information was dutifully gleaned from the City of Leicester map and bus guide ...
... which shows just three routes serving the busy Hospital of which only the 14A makes sense from the centre of the City.

But look closely at the map ...
... and you will espy another 9 (repeat NINE) other routes adjacent to the hospital. It is fair to say that none of these routes enter the hospital grounds but stop on the main Groby Road ...
... with the hospital in the trees to the left, across the pedestrian crossing.

What is even better is that services 26, 27, 28 and 29 combine to give a bus every 10 mins Monday to Saturday daytime. What is even better is that the journey takes just 16 minutes. What is even better is that all the routes leave from the well-appointed St Margarets Bus Station.
But Leicester City Council doesn't seem to know this, or, if its Councillors and officers do, they don't seem to want to tell you. Might this be because that data is derived from a "confuser system", and the lad who drew up the departure list (extract above) has never been to Leicester in his life? What is equally depressing is that the Hospital itself makes no effort whatsoever to tell you anything useful.

But there's more frustration to be had yet!

If we were to leave the hospital by the South Exit, we might well spy a bus stop opposite on the internal hospital road.
This one of three on the loop road than encircles the main hospital complex. On Google Maps this one is served by the aforementioned 14A (which it may well be; on a convoluted route to escape from the hospital grounds) ...
... for its route via New Parks back into the City. Odd, though, that traveline thinks buses leave from a station?
But those west and northern "stations" on the hospital "ring road" remain omnibologically anonymous. Indeed that on the west doesn't even have a pole or a "flag".
So what ghostly routes stop there, serving ghostly passengers; or perhaps the privileged few who are part of the secret Glenfield Hospital bus users club? Or does the dedicated hospital bus, the UHL Hospital Hopper trundle round this way for the benefit of NHS staff?
That red dot, on the Traveline route map of the UHL, is definitely at the "Main Entrance"  which is on the eastern side of the complex. And that is the only stop shown on the Hospital's own site plan.
"HH" is, of course, the "Hospital Hopper", helpfully showing the meaningless "UHL" on its blinds; and next to that is a little midi-bus logo and a disabled buggy logo.

Nothing anywhere else. Perhaps buses used to circle the grounds but perform this gyration no more; and hospital managers (of which there are hundreds) don't travel by bus; therefore don't know that unused stops ought to be removed?

No doubt a Leicester bus enthusiast and expert will be able to solve the apparently intractable problem of the Glenfield Ghost buses and its equally ghostly passengers.
the garden at Glenfield Hospital

And, talking of ghost buses ...

There are several more; as we shall see tomorrow when we "virtually" walk to the Groby Road stop to catch our frequent bus service back to Leicester City Centre.

Meanwhile a hospital hopper, when worked by First, leaves the main entrance; but ...
 ... where does it stop next?

 Next Blog : Wednesday 30th May 

Monday 28 May 2012

Grim Happenings at Glenfield Hospital [1]

Dark and Dastardly Deeds of Deception
Glenfield Hospital is a major focus for healthcare in the Leicester area. It is located in sylvan seclusion just off the Groby Road, once the main A50 from Leicester to Burton-upon-Trent.

And you might want to get there by bus. So have a look at the Leicester Hospitals web site:-
Leicester buses arrive and depart from the Haymarket Bus Station at the Haymarket Shopping Centre and St. Margaret's Bus Station in Gravel Street, or from the many city centre stops. Both bus stations are about 15 minutes walk from the railway station where there is a stop for the Hospital Hopper, which is a shuttle bus running between the three Leicester's hospitals sites.

Apart from a list of bus companies, that's it. As a source of information, it is about as helpful as a chocolate teapot. Poor marks to the NHS.

Sorry, there is a downloadable leaflet for route UHL, a health service sponsored link between various sites, clearly provided mainly for staff but available to the public.
This runs from the station but not from the City centre ...
... except that it doesn't, quite. The stop is at "Nila Palace", a restaurant, some 200 metres up London Road and without an obvious direction sign from the station.
And, in case you wondered, the three letters "U", "H" and "L" stand for "Hospital Hopper." And it's no good for weekend visiting; it runs Monday to Friday only.
Never mind, the Leicester bus map and guide will doubtless tell us all that we need to know.
BK is on Abbey Street about halfway between Charles Street and St Margarets bus station. AC is on Causeway Lane outside the new High Cross Shopping Centre. BB is on Haymarket; that's not the same as Haymarket bus station which, as its name suggests, is on Charles Street. BF is on Church Gate, round the corner from High Cross; FF is even further away at St Nicholas Circle but convenient (?) for the Park and Ride Hub. The associated map makes it clear (?).
fbb will be testing you all this tomorrow.

What's more, you'd be daft to use the 302. It is about as long a way round as you could imagine.
The hospital is towards the top of the map, on the little wiggle off the "red" road, the sixth stop from the outer terminus at Beaumont Leys. So that leaves the 14A ...
... every 20 minutes Monday to Saturday, every 30 minutes on Sundays via the New Parks Estate ...
... journey time half an hour. Not much of a service for a busy hospital is it? But if that's all there is, we had better grin and bear it, trudge to Abbey Street's attractive and luxurious stop ...
... and set off hopefully.

But in tomorrow's blog, fbb will surpise you; or perhaps not if you are a regular fbb blog reader.

In the meantime, enjoy this pic of a preserved Leicester bus in its distinguished maroon and cream livery ...
... emulated (approximately) in the "next blog" tag below.

 Next blog : Tuesday 29th May