Friday 17 August 2012

Near to Towyn via Halesowen [2]

What is the difference between
a bus station and
a bus station?
From the late 60s to March 2007, Halesowen had a "real" bus station; seen here in 2004. To allow for an extension of the shopping centre a new "bus station" was built on the old site and opened in December 2008.
The distinctive Maybrook House remains in the background. Instead of separate shelters, however, the new facility consists of two main "mega Shelters" with access for pedestrians from the paved area outside the shopping centre ...
... under repair when fbb visited in the Halesowen monsoon season! What facilities does this new edifice provide for waiting passengers? Apart from being under cover (but in two separate bits), not a lot. Here, for example, is the welcoming information desk.
It has very limited opening hours ...
... which meant that fbb was unable to check whether a full set of timetable leaflets was available. However a second and brief visit at 0940 yesterday reealed that ther was a real man behind a security screen and he had a rack of leaflets. But the net effect of this is that there is no timetable inftormation available at all for most of the day. There are huge frames at each stand ...
... with small departure lists, a line diagram and running times; leaving the enquirer to perform the necessary mathematical gymnastics. There are also three electronic departure boards ...
... listing in time order. Surely a passenger knows the time but is looking for either a route number or a destniation. To add to the unhelpfulness, the electronic board only shows ultimate destinations with no mention at all of intermediate points. To find a bus for Cradley, for example, you need to go to the spider diagram ...
... or scan a list of locations in alphabetical order ...
... or a list in route number order ...
... none of which will get you to Cradley.
Apparently no such place exists.

On the whole, it is easy to find your service if you are a regular but, for the outsider with little local knowledge, it is not as helpful as it should be.

There are a few mysteries. 
Does the 002 at 1540 go to Merry Hill AND Merry Hill Centre? 
fbb thinks not! And how's this for a mysterious destination, shown on one of the signs that lead out to the bus doors?
Not Excluding Wednesdays and Mondays? O.K., fbb knows it stands for National Express West Midlands but does not know why it is there or, if there is a good reason, why the acronym remains unexplained.

The bus station large shelters have no refreshment facilities, not even a coin-op sweetie machine, very few seats and, potentiallly distressing, no toilets. So, is it really a bus station or would Mrs fbb's native nomenclalture "Halesowen Bus Stance" be a better title?

And talking of toilets: there are some in the shopping centre. After a cup of tea with Mrs fbb who had enjoyed a brief tour of ASDA (?), fbb espied this notice on a small lift leading from the upper level (the ground floor) down to the caff on the lower level (the ground floor at the other end of the building).
Sadly, as fbb's needs became a little more urgent, there were no signs to the toilets or the other three lifts! fbb had to ask, with an unforced pained expression. Likewise there were no signs to any of these important locations from the bus shelter. And presumably none of these facilities are available when the shopping centre is closed down for its beddy byes.

Back in the happy days of Birmingham's trams, the Rednal terminus had huge shelters and an equally huge toilet block (glimpsed right) to deal with the crowds enjoying a happy afternoon on the Lickey Hills.
And that Rednal toilet block is now ...
... the Lai Ling Chinese restaurant. Wonder whether the diners know where they are sitting?

 Next Blog : Saturday 18th August 

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