Thursday 28 February 2013

24 - 2

A Digression ...

A Little Look at Lyon (Transports Lyonnais)
fbb and Mrs fbb were due to have a rail-based holiday in Lyon a few years ago. It was cancelled due to lack of custom; which is a pity, because the city has some magnificent public transport. Four lines of metro ...
... are grouped with two funiculars in the "old town", one of which is run as a heritage line.
Then there are five tram lines with visually striking rolling stock.
Line 5 is relatively new and Wikipedia's helpful graphic hasn't quite caught up yet!

As an extension of line 3, there is a fast tram from city to Airport ...
... which looks equally impressive! It is not part of the TCL [Transports en Commun Lyonnais] network but (UK politicians please note) fully integrated with it.

The TCL web site does not distinguish between trolley- and motor-bus but there are plenty of both. Of particular interest is the "C" group of routes marketed for their frequency and high quality.
C1 to C3 are trolleybi; C4 to C26 are motorbuses with significant sections of reserved or dedicated road space.

Repérables par la lettre C, les lignes majeures proposent un service de haut niveau. Elles proposent un service attractif et permanent tout au long de l’année, y compris durant les périodes de vacances scolaires. En bref, il s’agit des lignes de bus sur lesquelles on peut compter à tout moment et en toutes circonstances avec les itinéraires les plus directs!

If fbb were to want to travel to the location of the parked ex London Routemaster bus (see yesterday's blog : read again) he would need to catch a C26 from Lyon Part Dieu station. The bus would be a Citelis 18 articulated vehicles like this ...
... and a fair bit of the journey would be on reserved trackway, like this ...
If you are keen there is a 8 minute video of part of the route here ...
... but it's not the most exciting piece of visual entertainment!

The C26 was created in 2011 by upgrading parts of two existing routes:-

Inchangée en itinéraire entre la Part Dieu et l’Hôtel de Ville de Saint-Priest, la ligne C25 empruntera un nouvel itinéraire dans Saint-Priest (passage par l’Esplanade des Arts et la rue E. Rostand) afin de proposer à davantage de quartiers les liaisons attractives proposées par la ligne vers Parilly (correspondance avec le métro D) et le centre de Lyon. Si elle effectuera dorénavant son terminus principal à la Plaine de Saythe, un trajet sur deux sera toutefois prolongé du Lundi au Samedi entre 5h00 et 21h00 pour desservir notamment la rue de Collière, le boulevard des Nations (ZA Europa, Maison d’Arrêt) et la Plate Forme Sogaris Promotrans. Pour la desserte de ces différents secteurs, la ligne C25 remplacera l’actuelle ligne 94.

The TCL web site offers journey planning, a frequency summary and departure times from each stop. With considerable effort fbb was, however ...
... able to find a (very) small print link to a PDF file of the printed  timetable leaflet. The key words (bottom right) invite you to download (téléchargez) a diagram (schema) and timetable leaflet (fiche horaires) for the line.

En France, comme en Angleterre, on doit préserver un voile de mystère au sujet des horaires d'autobus!

But an on-line leaflet was dowbloadable ...
... with a route diagram ...
... and a real timetable, of which this is a small chunk.
Every journey is shown which is very necessary indeed as the Monday to Friday timetable pays not even lip service to a repeat pattern of times although the result is roughly (very roughly!) every 12 minutes. As Stuart Linn of the "Résaulutions" consultancy would explain, "typically French!".
click for an enlargement
Alighting at Saint-Priest Plaine de Saythe (centre of map) ...
... it is but a short stroll to the junction of Route d'Heyrieux and Ancienne Route d'Heyrieux where the RM was parked a fortnight ago. But it might not be there now!

A brief blog cannot really do justice to "Transports Lyonnais" but at least it gives a flavour of what is available. Of course the cheapest way to get there is by IDbus all the way from London Victoria - only 16 hours on the coach as previously blogged (read again). But tomorrow we enter the dark and fearful world of government transport policy; we return to the "24" theme on Sunday.

In the meantime our readers might like to explore the TCL Lyon web site (here). And then fbb's mistakes and misunderstandings can be corrected by better informed blog commentators!
News just in (well 1600 yesterday actually), is that the current Director General of South Yorkshire PTE, one David Brown ...
... (Moriarty to fbb's Holmes), has accepted the post of DG and Chief Executive at Merseyside PTE. His salary will be a modest £149,000 per annum. Fortunately he will be too high up the ladder of power to spoil Merseyside's leaflets and maps by replacing them with Sheffield look-alikes? Surely? Please! [Eaxmple of a Merseyside leaflet here]
 Next Bus Blog : Friday 1st March 

Wednesday 27 February 2013

24 - 1

Jack Bauer rides again? Not quite!
24 is an American television series produced for the Fox network and syndicated worldwide, starring Kiefer Sutherland as Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) agent Jack Bauer. Each 24-episode season covers 24 hours in the life of Bauer, using the real time method of narration. Premiering on November 6, 2001, the show spanned 192 episodes over eight seasons, with the series finale broadcast on May 24, 2010. In addition, the television film "24, Redemption" was broadcast between seasons six and seven, while a feature film of the same name is also planned, with filming scheduled to begin in summer 2013.

A fine series - never watched by fbb. Far too scary.

But a 24-type trail begins with some emailed piccies from David the trans-European trucker referred to in previous blogs.
David, a long-standing chum from the Sheffield connection, drives his big blue lorry to France every week to deliver and collect a wide variety of, erm, stuff. On the way he occasionally snaps "formidable" photos of French fascination. (The shot above was in UK!)

This one started this particular bloggathon.
Of course, it's an ex-London Routemaster, adapted for some promotional purpose but still running. It carries French registration 3155 WF 42.
The rear platform has been enclosed and a sort-of porch roof added, but otherwise the bus is unmarked. So, question one is, "Where is it?". 

Chum David is a tease and enjoys setting fbb some puzzles to challenge (strain?) his decaying mental faculties; and his third shot is just this ...
... namely the no through road sign. Always up for the challenge, fbb turns immediately to Google Maps and types in "Heyrieux".
The maps for the settlement called Heyrieux proved to be a false trail. But an alternative line of enquiry occurred to fbb. Was "ancienne" route d'Heyrieux not, as literally translated, an old road in Heyrieux, but, as we might say in good old Blighty, "old Heyrieux Road"; as in "Old Kent Road" for the old road leading to Kent.

Gottit in one; two actually.
Heyrieux Old Road forks off Heyrieux (New) Road in the village/town/suburb of St Priest near Lyon. And it is in an industrial area; exactly the sort of place that David will be delivering his stuff. Oddly, Google Streetview has a credibilty gap at that very junction; it fizzles out on the section of the D318 on the map above. Streetview does not view the junction of the two Heyrieux-named thoroughfares.

Google maps aerial view does, however, show where the motor was parked ...
... namely on the left, near the gateway, with the hedge in the background.

Later, we will consider the history of the vehicle, known to London bus geeks as RM1425. Its story has some interest, even for non-London enthusiasts! But tomorrow we take a look, out of pure curiosity, at how we might get to the place where the bus was parked by public transport.

Please do not attempt to make the journey on fbb's recommendation; the bus may well have chugged away into the sun-drenched distance of Lyon by the time you get there. And Lyon is a long way away ...
...  (centre right-ish, on the Rhône) to go for a wild goose bus chase!
a note from our Northampton correspondent

News comes that the Traveline West Midlands call centre is being moved to that delightful Birmingham suburb of ...

... Exeter.

"Ooh ah, Sarehole Mill, that beem on the Dart boy Totnes, m'dear?"

And we all know what happens if you contract out manufacture of your lasagne!
Sarehole Mill, Hall Green, Birmingham

Some jocular johnnie has suggested that "Sarehole" could be an appropriate anagram to describe the proponents of this Traveline policy. But fbb cannot work out the relevance of "Rasehole" or "Searhole" or even "Earholes". To the pure, all things are pure, eh?
 Next Bus Blog : Thursday 28th February 

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Worrying Wobbles in Weston [3]

We wonder about Webberbus.
On their web site, the company tells us of its ancient heritage in the motor garage business, but the present operation dates only from 1999. Mind you, that's quite long-lasting for a post deregulation start-up bus business!

Over 50 years ago F.Webber & Son expanded their haulage business into passenger transport, taking children from all over Exmoor to school with a simple network of contracted services. Today the family still offer similar services, which are now operated by WebberBus which was formed in 1999 when a second depot was opened in Bridgwater ...

... and we became a Limited company in 2004.

Their portfolio is a mixture of competitive commercial services and a substantial batch of tendered routes. Their website lists oprations in Bridgwater, Taunton, Minehead and Weston-super-Mare. Their vehciles are of high quality and presented extremely well. fbb met them a couple of years ago in Taunton and they looked so much better than those of the incumbent, First.
Their web site lists four services in the Weston-super-Mare area ...
... of which the 4/4A, 83 and 85 are tendered. 

The ever reliable (!) Traveline also shows a service 77 ...
... which, according to a nice Webberbus lady who replied to an fbb email, was cancelled four months ago. Well done traveline.

Service 4 runs every 30 minutes ...
... service 83 is hourly ...
... as also is route 85.
It looks like a four-bus operation, presumably staffed and run from the new Bridgwater depot which is a significant 22 miles from Weston.

On the surface, the company looks efficient, neat and tidy; a tight ship. They even have an 0800 number (freecall) for enquiries which is just how is should be. BUT ...
... the Council is not at all happy! This from the local paper:-
North Somerset Council says it is axing a bus company from operating in the Weston area following ‘persistent complaints of poor service’. The council says it is looking for another company to operate the 4, 83 and 85 services because of what it describes as an absence of supervision that Webberbus has over its drivers. The authority’s deputy leader Elfan Ap Rees says the company has been given notice of the termination of its contract with effect from July.

wouldn't like to meet HIM down a dark alley!

Cllr Ap Rees told the Mercury on Friday: “I can confirm that we have given notice on the those three services. This follows persistent complaints of poor service. They include buses not running to schedule and in some cases not even turning up at all. The main cause appears to be a total absence of supervision in Weston in the afternoons, allowing drivers to do as they please. Officers have had a number of meetings with the company in an effort to improve the management and reliability, but without success. I therefore had no choice but to ask officers to terminate the contract with effect from the end of July. This was done last week and we will now re-tender these routes to begin new services when the Webberbus contract expires."

Councillor Ap Rees sounds Welsh, and not from Zummerset; but the problem with Webberbus seems serious. Is it possible that the Company has over-reached itself (cf Premiere?) and really is failing on the supervision front? Are the schedules simply too tight to allow a reliable service? And is that the Council's fault? From the outside and at a distance, it seems odd that such a good-looking company should arouse the ire of North Somerset Council so spectacularly.

Will other councils wiggle out of their bureaucratic worm-holes and find the same in their areas?

Will Fearnley's First win back the dregs of their erstwhile network come June?

See also yesterday's "Omnibuses" blog (read here)
You wait for one centenary and two come along at  once (well, nearly).

Our Northampton correspondent is poised to report and snap away with his Box Brownie. Incidentally, two of the bus routes on the advert above (402 and 404) provided a service to teenage (f)bb from home on Orchard Hill, Little Billing to the delights of Derngate Bus Station, Northampton. 
 Next Bus Blog : Wednesday 27th February 

Monday 25 February 2013

Worrying Wobbles in Weston [2]

The Perils of Privatisation : The Traumas of Tendering : continued
click for a larger view

Yesterday we saw how First Bus was the dominant operator in Weston-Super-Mud-Mare. Discovering who else runs what is a little daunting. For example, Traveline tells us that Bakers Dolphin runs service 5 and service 14 journeys ...
... (actually evening trips) but the company's web site doesn't mention them.

Crosville offers two PDF files of timetable pages on their site; one, because of the pictures of tourist-type routes, might well be a summer-only production and thus out of date.
The other shows five services on a map ...
... but has no mention of a service 153 on the timetables overleaf. A quick check by email brings a prompt but disappointing reply. Crosville have cancelled all their quoted services except the 100, which is commercial ...
... and competes in the Summer with First's original open top route.
For a while, Crosville operated this open topper which came originally from Cardiff ...
... but more recently has been with the Bath Bus Company aka RATP.
They also run the 16; which is tendered and runs from new devlopment at West Wick ...
... hourly into Weston ...
... a typical start-up route that might well be unprofitable until all the housing is finished.

So is it Crosville's 16 that has caused some consternation? The quality of stuff on their web site does not suggest that management has a keenness for reliability in information provision. fbb wonders why operators spend much find gold on swirly trendy web sites and then don't bother to update them. Rather than contracting out, managers or their minions could learn very simple HTML code and update their site themselves. That saves cash for sub-contractors and means it can be done in "real times" and, above all, cheaply. Web sites don't have to be swirly and trendy, but they should provide simple, easy to understand  and up-to-date information. Like telling us what buses the company actually runs!

Or is the problem a Webberbus wobble in Weston? 
Probably - but the "Omnibuses" blog has already revealed all with its posting today!

So, tomorrow,  we need to have a look at their operation.
it's fbb's birthday today - so a nice pic of a London DMS to celebrate
only two to go to his Biblical sell-by date!
 Next Bus Blog : Tuesday 26th February