Friday 22 June 2012

The ftr is 72! Will it Work?

Tomorrow, Mr and Mrs fbb set off for a week's holiday in Largs (Ayrshire, Scotland). Their palatial rented penthouse suite (?) is not equipped with WiFi; but fbb has his dongle at the ready (ooooh, missus!) and is hoping that a connection and daily blogging will be maintained.

Flying in the face of fear and showing a reckless disregard for his own safety and sanity fbb is going to attempt a  LIVE BLOG  tomorrow as his journey progresses. Now isn't that exciting?

Not really; but it will be (a) a useful experiment and (b) a chance to evaluate whether Wifi and/or dongle on public transport is really of any use or just a PR gimmick.

A "Dead Blog" will be published on Saturday in case technology's trials and tribulations tumble terminally into a bottomless electronic pit.
And now, more from Leeds ...

Long Buses, Lilac (?) and Bendy, Leeds to Bradford
News has finally broken that First West Yorkshire is to redeploy its Wright Streetcars on the long standing route 72. Historically this offered a modest 30 minute frequency, but it has now been developed to run every 8 minutes Monday to Saturday daytime.
The route follows the main road ...
.... via Thornbury, Stanningley, Bramley Station and Armley. The journey takes 46 min which is 11 minutes longer that the X6 ...
... which whizzes every 20 minutes past many of the the major built up areas by using the Stanningley by-pass.
The 72 follows the Stanningley Road (top), the X6 takes the by-pass (centre) and (for completeness) the present ftr route 4 runs to Waterlooo via the Swinnow Road and Pudsey (bottom). Clearly First sees an opportunity to further develop the "stopping" service and is increasing the frequency with Streetcars to every 7 minutes.

The X6, however, is the ideal route for centre to centre passengers.
For the record, there is a third route that links Leeds and Bradford by a more circuitous route via Greengates (well to the north of the map extract above).
Service 670/671 would not normally be considered a through service as the journey time and roundabout nature of the route would be totally unattractive.
But the key question MUST be asked. The Streetcars were less than popular in York; their success has been somewhat limited in Leeds so will they capture extra business on the Bradford run? Assuming that they have to carry conductors, the costs will rise dramatically. Is it going to work?

The Omnibuses blog has done some calculations:-
The current Volvo B9TLs (double deck buses) seat 74, the B7LAs (Streetcars) 42.
That means there are currently 555 seats per hour with double decks operating at every eight minutes. This will change to 359  (Omnibuses blog quotes 315 - fbb) seats with a bus every seven minutes on ftr, admittedly with considerably more standing room. 

So: less seats, higher staffing costs, possibly higher maintenance costs? It all looks a bit risky from a commercial point of view. fbb, in blissful ignorance, reckons at least a 30% increase in running costs which, presumably, means a necessitous 30% increase in revenue to stand still. That is a lot of extra passengers!

Then there is the £74,000 worth of infrastructure improvements. Local authorities have an appalling track record in delivering their share of the "bargain"; maybe West Yorkshire will do better than most. fbb also wonders about Wifi. Is it a gimmick? Have you ever tried to use a laptop on a busy bus? Tomorrow's blog may provide some answers (see above)
Stanningley Road

Undoubtedly, service 72 is an ideal route to show the Streetcars at their trendy best; far better than wiggling around narrow estate roads in York. But it is still a "stop-and-start" journey with little opportunity to speed the passenger on the way. All credit to First for not simply ditching the vehicles and let us hope that this project is a spectacular success. fbb is looking forward to an autumnal expedition to the lands north of Watford Junction.
Final thought : which version of First's increasingly varied liveries will the bendy fleet carry? We have been promised "full refurbishment".

Thursday's (21st June) "Route One" (read here) on-line magazine** reports "internal refurbishment with leather seats" and a "dedicated livery" in addition to the WiFi. The article implies that the service will be branded "BRT" rather than "72". If that is so, then one thing is certain; BRT (Bus RAPID Transport) will not be the rapid-est way to travel between Leeds and Bradford!

** If you a reading this blog on or after Thursday 28th June, this link will take you to a new edition of "Route One", not the one that mentions the Streetcars and route 72.
The is happy Isle of Wight Festival goers queueing at the Fishbourne ferry terminal yesterday (Thursday). But queueing to GET OFF the ferry and out of the terminal area as surrounding roads were locked solid. Three ferry trips were suspended because there was no way the cars could be unloaded. Buses were taking 2.5 hours for the 30 minute journey between Ryde and Newport until they, too were stopped. School buses couldn't get to the schools in time to collect the kiddies.

Why the chaos? IT RAINED! Apparently, the organisers hadn't considered that remote possibility. More fun today, Friday? How we LOVE the Festival .....

We are used to queueing to get off the Island, but this level of disruption is unacceptable. Heads should roll and Festivals should be held on Rockall Island. Grump grump!
 Next Blog : Saturday 23rd June : Blogging in "real time"? 


  1. Testing wi-fi tomorrow, eh? If you are planning on publishing your usual tiresome anti-public transport tirade, think again. I don't travel as far north as you're about to but I do find wi-fi on buses and trains excellent. My only gripe is you usually pay for it on the train

  2. I don't see fbb's writings as 'anti-public transport' tirades. On the contrary I find the blogs point out the deficiencies and anomalies in the provision of public transport information. It's of little use having public transport if a potential passenger cannot find accurate information on how to use it. It's a very 'pro-public transport' blog.

  3. For more information see my comment on yesterdays blog, but it will be a shame if the number 72 disappears as it has been used for this service since 1942.

  4. 42 seater, 359 (or 315) seats per hour. That means a partial bus at some point. It might be mathematically correct but it doesn't make sense to have a fraction of a bus per hour.
    Unless the back end of a bendy (sorry, ftr) has fallen off.

  5. No 1 son tells me that (a) Wifi is NOT a gimmick, he uses it regularly and (b) that it doesn't work very well and he has to wait for certain "reliable spots" to actually connect. "I store up outgoing emails until I know they'll go," he says. Hmmm.
    To Anonymous No 1 (above). If my ramblings sre tiresome, perhaps you should stop reading them!!!!

  6. Anonymous no. 1 here. Yes, I think I should follow your advice.