Saturday 16 March 2013

You Shall Find Calais Lying in my Heart

A recent survey by the CILT ...
.... which, when fbb was nobbut a lad, used to be called, more simply, The Institute of Transport, asked a survey question about "social networking" web sites. The question was, in essence, "do you rely on social networking sites for obtaining up-to-date information?"

The reply was not at all surprising to fbb.
Of course, the raw statistic is not the whole answer. How many were asked? How many were superannuated elderly has-beens like fbb? Would the results have been the same if the survey were taken on a University campus? etc.etc.

But is does at least suggest that, instead of spending vast chunks of our fares revenue on facing the book or twittering like a cage of demented canaries, bus companies could better spend their money on staffing an enquiry office and/or a local telephone line.

Maybe even print a timetable book!

Thanks to Bob Breakwell, reader and commentator, for sending this item.
Back to ffb's French "thread" ...

              mmb* : virtuellement en France 

Queen Mary I of England

Calais was regarded for many years as being an integral part of Kingdom of England, with its representatives sitting in the English Parliament. This was, however, at odds with reality. Maintaining Calais was a costly business that was frequently tested by the forces of France. The British historian Geoffrey Elton once remarked "Calais, expensive and useless, was better lost than kept".

Thus, on 7 January 1558, the French under Francis, Duke of Guise took advantage of a weakened garrison and decayed fortifications to retake Calais. The loss was regarded by Queen Mary I of England (the original "Bloody Mary") as a dreadful misfortune. When she heard the news, she reportedly said, "When I am dead and opened, you shall find 'Philip' [her husband] and 'Calais' lying in my heart."

But, since the early years of the 20th Century, Calais developed as the main port of entry and exit for travellers to England.
Calais Maritime had a magnificent station building offering the easiest of interchange facilities. Arriving from Dover, the brave and intrepid traveller merely had to cross to the station, undergo the formalities of "La Douane", then repair to whichever train would convey them onwards to their destinations in Europe.

Needless to say, Calais suffered horrific bombardment on the Second World Way and most of the harbour facilities were badly damaged or destroyed completely.

By 1952 a temporary terminal was in use, but a frail shadow of the original.

Notice the notices displayed above the awning which guided passengers to the correct train and platform. How did they ever manage without computers and electronic displays?

Then in 1955 a new terminal of sinple functionality opened ...
... but still linking ships (left) with trains (right). Intriguingly this building still stands unaltered after nearly 60 years of use!
It was photographed two weeks ago by lorry driving chum, David. But, as we shall see in later blogs, there is a singular lack of railway and lines and lines of vehicle lanes. Things have certainly changed since the 1900s!
You do wonder how a "classic" foot passenger might be able to make it?
click for a clearer, larger view

The 1955 terminal block is in the lower centre of this view.

Tomorrow we return to "Old Blighty" and take a look at "classic" ferry facilities in Dover. We will bravely pose the question, "can we actually replicate the traditional foot passenger crossing today?"

 *mmb   = "mac monstreux en bus"

 Blogue prochain bus ou rail : Dimanche le dix-sept Mars 


  1. Taking your first point I'll let off some of my own steam.

    I live in Maidstone and Arriva closed their enquiry office here a couple of months ago. A replacement 'facility' is located in the Maidstone Borough Council 'Gateway' which is a couple of floors above. Not that easy to find and away from the bus mall. Visiting it a few weeks ago and seeing the queue at the entrance desk I gave up and stopped off the Armstrong Road Head Office/Garage a couple of days later. It is the former Maidstone Borough Transport Department/Boroline depot and offices. I had done this every few months as the first reception area has a rack with all of their current Arriva Southern Counties leaflets in it (Good for them). This time however, although the rack is still there, there is a notice on the first door 'Unauthorised Visitors' which goes on about if you want information etc you must visit an enquiry office, call the travel centre (in Luton I think) or go on line!!

    The terminology seems over the top and unwelcoming to what are their customers. I can understand that they don't want it to be 'besieged' by public enquiries but it was their decision to close the enquiry office. What High Street brand would tell its current and potential customers that they are 'unauthorised' and give them an unwelcoming message!

    Arriva have also closed their enquiry office in Tunbridge Wells and the one in the new Bus Station at Chatham is funded in part at least by Medway Council. As indicated in Buses magazine the one at Sevenoaks has been taken over by Go Coach in conjunction with the two local councils.

    Such an attitude just distances the operator from its customers and their concerns but does presumably reduce the complaint figures as people give up trying to contact them.

  2. Thanks Clive C. No surprises there, then. One day, someone in the industry will wake up - but it may then be too late to save our national pubic transport network which, despite its increasing failings, is still the most comprehensive in the world!