Saturday 23 March 2013

Taking a Pill for Portishead [1]

It's so much easier now that we have the internet!
This was TSY's website at 0830 this morning:-

We are currently unable to bring you our normal website because of technical problems.

We apologise for these problems and hope to be able to provide you with our normal website shortly. This page will be updated as often as possible between 0700 and 2200. Outside of these hours please refer to local radio and television news stations and websites for weather and travel updates.

Latest news and disruptions

Traveline High Call Volume

Please scroll down to see full weather disruption information

Due to the adverse weather the Traveline service will not be able to open at 0700 as usual. We are working to get staff on site to resume a normal service as soon as possible. 

The Travel South Yorkshire website will be updated with all disruption information once recieved.

We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

It was followed by a series of twitters referring to service suspensions all tagged "11 hours ago". Back in the "bad old days" key staff would walk into work to ensure that the public was well informed. Even in the bad Sheffield snows of 1963/4 MOST bus services in Sheffield ran most of the time. Even senior bus managers were known to set off early and walk to work.

 Today, all the traffic cameras seem to have seized at 0404 ...
... whilst the TSY journey planner appears to be showing normal service.
But many services are actually disrupted including the 120 shown above! TSY web site wrong.

Hooray for modern technology!
fbb update 1115 approx
TSY web site updated?
But no change in information (or, more correctly, lack of it.)
First Bus web site being updated according to its time stamp; but no change yet in Sheffield infomation.
Cameras now seem to be updating.
fbb update 1230 : TSY site offers ...
... but, surprise, surprise, no link and no updates!

First Bus showing improvements time stamped 1210.
Back to today's blog, uninterrupted by bad weather!

A Pill with Water
The original name Crockerne Pill means literally 'pottery wharf' and arose from the fact that an industrial-scale pottery thrived nearby. The actual kiln was excavated about 50 years ago and is located in the fields above Chapel Pill. The pottery was made in the period from 1100 AD to 1250 AD and was exported from Pill by boat.
The so-called 'Ham Green' pottery has been found and identified in archaeological digs from the Algarve in Portugal to Iceland.

The town was traditionally the residence of pilots, who would guide boats up the Avon Gorge, between the Bristol Channel and the Port of Bristol. Pill was once home to 21 public houses and was known as being a rough place, to the extent that the founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, says in an entry in his journals for 3 October 1755:- "I rode over to Pill, a place famous from generation to generation, even as Kingswood itself, for stupid, brutal, abandoned wickedness."

Faced with such a reputation, it is no wonder that fbb has never been to Pill!

But it was an on-line note about a ferry from Pill across the River Avon to Shirehampton that caught fbb's investigative eye.
In the centre of the above picture is, indeed, the ferry. It is a simple rowing boat and this particular cossing is at high tide with the ancient hostelry of "The Lamlighters" at Shirehampton just visble on the right.
Elsewhere on-line the fares for using the ferry are quoted, sadly undated but probably from early in the 20th Century.

Passengers could cross the Bristol Avon between 7 a.m. and 10. 40 p.m. in summer on weekdays and the service ran from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays.

In winter, the weekday ferry crossing times were from 8 a.m. to 10.40 p.m. and the Sunday times were from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

No cars or sidecars were allowed, but the fare for a motor cycle with driver was between 6d. and 9d., while to take a bicycle across it cost 3d.

The summer fare for passengers was 1½d. until 9 p.m. and double fare afterwards. The winter fare was the same, but only until 8 p.m. after which it was double fare.

An aerial view shows the remnants of the slipways clearly visible as they lead down to the water's edge.
The pathway that led to the ferry is still recognisable as such at Pill ...
... and at the Shirehampton slip is what looks very much like an old waiting room just opposite the (former?) Lamplighters Pub.
So what happened to the Pill ferry? It seems that it closed down in 1974, after providing a cross-river link since mediaeval times. Quite what the status of the crossing was is not clear on-line; perhaps a blog reader can elucidate? But the withdrawn ferry was replaced by a foot and cycle crossing which is still available today.

But where?
Tomorrow we shall take a virtual walk from Pill to Shirehampton by the alternative route, thoughtfully provided by the Department of Transport. fbb suggests that you take some virtual sustenance as you could be "gone for some time"!

 Next ferry blog : Sunday 24th March 


  1. IMHO
    In the 'bad old days' staff tended to live a lot closer to work than they do these days. This isn't always a matter of choice particularly when employment is less 'guaranteed' than it used to be, both adults work and/or there are other family factors to take into account.

    I always endeavoured to get to work at such times and on all occasions did so as did other local staff. There may however come a point when it is too difficult or unsafe to do so. I learnt this to my cost two years ago. So I am loath to criticise others.

  2. Agreed Clive. BUT there are always some staff who can get in and man the (local) phones. It would even be possible to re-route enquiries to key "informants" working on mobiles. The snow was well forecast! With common sense and good management at least information should be delivered accurately even if the buses themselves aren't. Back in the 70s (admittedly when I was younger and fitter) I walked six miles to school and arrived on time. By morning break myself and six other staff present were "entertaining" six hundred teenagers in the school hall. Great fun! The head (who lived round the corner from me) arrived by car at 1400!

  3. Another suggestion - with modern IT is beyond the wit of man to be able to divert phone lines to alternative providers. Also could 'they' provide a few key staff with laptop or the appropriate kit to provide a basic service by 'working from home' or an emergency location?

    It seems to be a problem with the UK transport infrastructure - running at breaking point with no contingency built in for abnormal occurrences. Having said that the abnormal weather seems be getting normal so why not plan for disruption? Have they not heard of 'Disaster Recovery'(or 'Business Continuity as it is now called)

    Or is it because everyone is focused on that old bĂȘte noire - the 'bottom line'?

  4. No. it is plain unmitigated incompetence! No excuse whatsoever for poor information.

  5. And of course, fbb, if the route from Pill to Shire involves local buses, remember that the timetable and route numbering of Pill's buses is undergoing total transformation after last bus today!
    The current half-hourly combination of 358/359 (hourly evenings/Sunday) becomes the half-hourly X2 and evenings/Sundays 23 as part of the replacement of the 357/358/359 with the X2/X3/23.

    ...I'm presuming this isn't the focus of Part 2...

  6. But it will all be reviewed on Tuesday! Complete with maps (which unlike First's will be correct!).

  7. This is the third occasion this winter that TSY's website has crashed following a snowstorm. Having said that, the volume of snow and the clearly impassable state of many roads have clearly deterred many travellers -by public transport or otherwise- from venturing out. Ecclesall Road services were making it as far as Hunters Bar this morning, but were near-empty.

  8. Seems like it was "the wrong kind of snow" for TSY's computers. I hope the bus companies, who have been quoting "for full details go to "Travel South Yorkshire", will be complaining with some vehemence.

  9. Where a large organisation is concerned I agree with the sentiments and expectation that something should be done. The problem comes when there is only a few people or as in my case just me, and management and politicians do not provide active support to cover such eventualities. Its easy then to simply criticise the people at the coal face rather than the organisations system or management that creates the problem.