Sunday 17 March 2013

Classic Crossing to Calais ...


When First Bus introduced its new network in Portsmouth in November 2012, a number of features caused local angst. Simply these were:-
Baffling route 0
Lack of links from Southsea to the Hospital
Need to change buses at Cosham in the evenings
So today : timetable changes
Route 0 replaced by routes 17 and 18
     In essence this is route 0 renumbered to remove confusion.
     0 was used for "both ways round" an interlocking loop!
Extra buses from Southsea to the Hospital
     By extending the former route 0 from Hilsea
No requirement to change at Cosham in the evenings
     Although this has reduced evening frequencies on several services.

There are two conclusion that may occur to our readers. One : First did get it wrong in November! Two : BUT the company has admitted its errors and done something to put them right. Whether it's enough to placate Pompey passengers remains to be seen.

And in another positive Portsmouth plan ...
... First Bus have launched a "Passenger Charter" for the area. It really does look as if the much maligned "Worst Bus" of old is making some very positive moves to support its own publicity slogans!

Back to La France ...

... Before the Channel Tunnel.

              mmb* : virtuellement en France 

Travelling by train and ferry to France was, since the early years of the 20th Century, reasonably simple. Of course, if you were well heeled, you could travel the luxury way ...
... by Pullman train, the Golden Arrow, from London Victoria to Dover; then first class on the ferry, tranferring to La Flêon;che d'Or (French for Golden Arrow) at Calais.
Véritablement un voyage en grand luxe!
Even passengers arriving by road or foot were greeted with an opulent entrance ...
... and a grand covered walkway ...
... to Dover Marine station. Here, as with Calais, it was just a walk across the quayside to join the ferry. Oh so very easy. The popularity of the original "Arrow" declined and the train last ran in 1974. But it was another 20 years before the route via Dover Marine (later Dover Western Docks) came to and end.

By the time fbb took his family to Paris in 1991, the final death throes has already begun. The train was a very ordinary Southern Region electric multiple unit arriving at a somewhat run-down station.
There were few passengers and no ferries parked moored alongside the terminal. A rather "tired" Leyland National conveyed the family by road to the Eastern Docks where there was a significant and draughty trek via towering ramps (picture below, ramps bottom right) to board what had become almost exclusively a car and vehicle ferry.
At Calais it was again a bus to carry the party to Calais Ville Station for their onward ride to the French capital. But at least it was still all on one through ticket. Unusually on their return run the train ran into Calais Maritime.

Obviously most cross-channel private travel is either by car ferry or "Le Shuttle" whilst un-motorised persons take Eurostar. But can it still be done? Can a foot passenger still replicate the classic crossing route?

Answer: sort of. A guy on the interwebnet has pubished some sample schedules and here is one from London to Paris. The article is undated but it would appear to be reasonably accurate for 2013.
Whereas the Golden Arrow advertised a 6.5 hour run, City to City, the journey today by this now very unconventional route would take up to 10 hours. The curious classic foot passenger would now leave from Charing Cross and change to a connecting bus at Dover Priory which runs every 20 minutes from 0730 to 2050 seven days a week. The journey takes less than 10 minutes.
It's a more "dodgy" bus at Calais ...
... and a change of train at Boulogne for most scheduled trips; although there are TGV fast trains from Calais, no attempt is made to provide tidy connections.

And long gone is the single through ticket which once could be bought from the Continental Ticket Office at Victoria.
click to enlarge this picture

It makes a 9 hour journey by idBus seem quite a treat! See "iDBUS numéro 1" (read again) and "iDBUS numéro 2" (read again). Of course, Eurostar is a totally superior journey, but its clinical airline style simply lacks the quality and adventure of the cross-channel journey of old.

 *mmb   = "mac monstreux en bus"

 Blogue prochain bus ou rail : Lundi le dix-huit Mars 
   also pictures of United Counties 100th clebrations   


  1. The changes to the Portsmouth services are helpful, and the timetables were available on the First website well in advance. When I was in Portsmouth a few weeks ago, First hadn't updated their printed timetables or maps, but there was a new edition of the City Council public transport map.

    I guess there's no entirely satisfactory way of numbering a route as complicated as the former 0, and the 17/18 solution is certainly an improvement. The disadvantage is that it looks like two separate services - the new Council map shows both 17 and 18 terminating at Southsea, with nothing to suggest that the services are linked into a loop. Perhaps First will find a better way of showing it on their maps.

    I thought that First's original plan for evening services was sensible. Unfortunately, they didn't make it easy for intending passengers - the timetables for the truncated services didn't show the route numbers or times for onward connections, just a footnote "Evening connections available". But I guess making passengers change buses was never going to be popular, however it was presented.

  2. Shoot the proof reader - "La Flêon;che d'Or" - I assume you mean La Flèche d'Or