Friday 31 May 2013

Ferry Peculiar

fbb's limo in Q for 1230 ferry yesterday
Moving in this morning
Travellers Tales
One of the reasons why fbb and Mr fbb are moving is to honour the concerns of the wider family. No 1 son put it very succinctly a year or so ago. "I would like you to move to the mainland, dad; so when you have your massive heart attack, I won't have to be queueing for a ferry to come and see you!"

How considerate of the boy.

Whilst the Solent is a useful barrier to keep much of the horrors of the bigger island away from the smaller island, it can present problems. One upon a time, for example, you would know what the car ferry fare was. Single, Return or Day Return. And a price rise for the Summer season.

Now we have "yield management" systems. So when fbb booked his final (?) departing single via Red Funeral for yestserday, 30th May, he found this price on-line:-
£51 with the offer of "Premium Service at £68"; Ouch!

fbb informed Mr fbb of this price. Her riposte, proffered over the clanking chains that bind her to the kitchen sink, was a slight shriek. "I looked earlier and it was only £23.50!"

From £23.50 to £51 in just over an hour seemed a bit harsh, even for "yield management." The good lady was called to the computer. "Perhaps I didn't ask for a single," she opined. "It wouldn't give me a single and kept asking for a return time."

Aha! The game is afoot, Watson.
Look, there is Mrs fbb's price, £23.50. But that's only one way (outward from the Island). So add on a return journey later in the day and, sim sala bim ...
The two together add up to £42.25.

Yes, you've got it; you've done the maths. Single £51, Day Return £42.25. Wonder what fbb booked?

Unfortunately he can't (or won't) answer that question because, when competitor Wightlink was ridiculed for a similar nonsense, their spokesidiot announced, "If we catch anyone buying a day return and NOT COMING BACK, we will ban them for life!" Yes, he really did say that.

And, talking of Wightlink ...

Neighbour and friend Julia is due a visit from her family for the weekend of 7th to 9th June. So, redolent with joyous generosity, she offered to buy the ferry ticket for the gang. Not being computerised, she telephoned and made the booking. "Would you like us to post the tickets or will you collect them at the terminal?"

"My son will collect then at Portsmouth, please." "No problem," came the efficient reply.

About to jettison her usual batch of junk mail a few days later, she spotted an envelope marked "Wightlink". Bemused, she opened same and, yes, you've guessed it, inside were ...
... the tickets her son was to pick up at Portsmouth. With a grimace of resignation, Julia posted the tickets to her boy and, despite the incompetence, all was well.

Until  few days later when another Wightlink envelope arrived ...
... containing a duplicate set of tickets. Then the next day ...
... lo and behold, a third set arrived.

What a ferry bonanza? Should Julia seek to flog the duplicates to her chums and make a tidy profit? Or had she, in a fit of senior citizen insanity, booked the trip three times? The latter certainly did not happen because each ticket has the same reference number. The former ... hummm ... tempting.

Presumably the hand-held ticket checking thingeys would have spotted the error and, instead of being banned for life, Julia and her family would be hung, drawn and quartered and their heads displayed at Gunwharf terminal on blood stained spikes. Customer service? What customer service?

Too great a risk. Far worse than not using the return half of a day return.

But whilst Red Funnel just tells us how wonderful they are ...
... (so much better than the opposition!) ...

... you can enjoy a full account of Wightlink's fares policy on their site. It is much clearer than the opposition's. fbb has edited the text downloaded from the website to clarify some of the more esoteric points.

Prices vary...

By day of scheduled sailing, generally fares are lower for travelling midweek or Saturday or Sunday out of peak periods. Except when the Isle of Wight Festival is on; when we will fleece you until you bleed.

By time of scheduled sailing, generally the fares become lower the later in the day that you travel on the ferry i.e. after 09:55, 13:00 or 20:45 hours. At these times up to three additional passengers travel free on many of the fares. Very late ferries were the cheapest but we've recently withdrawn those sailings completely.

For length of stay away; a stay away of up to 4 nights is generally cheaper than a longer stay, for example. Of course the cheapest deal is not to travel on our services at all.
A quote can be obtained by visiting our online booking system and selecting the ferry crossing and party details for your trip (there is no need to register and if you do we will bombard you with spam by the tinfull) or by calling us on 0871 376 1000 (calls cost 7p per minute plus network extras so we rip you off for a bit more of your money).

On the day of travel normal fares will apply either through the Reservations Office or at our Ticket Offices. In most instances fares will be cheaper if paid for at least the day before travel. A £4 administration fee will apply to most vehicle bookings made via the call centre and most vehicle tickets bought on the day of travel at one of our ticket offices will be subject to a £10.00 administration fee and possible impounding of your accoutrements; which is very nasty indeed. All bookings made online will continue to be exempt from the administration fee.

Reservations and fares are valid on the crossings shown. Should you not travel at these times you may be liable to a surcharge at check-in or be waterboarded before embarking.

Open return tickets may be purchased by telephone or at ports, however a surcharge may be payable when the return crossing is confirmed. We recommend booking a return crossing in order to guarantee your preferred time of travel; a grovelling letter to the Managing Director begging for the space may be useful

Perhaps No 1 son was right!

 Next Bus Blog : Saturday 1st June 

Thursday 30 May 2013

Glasgow, Simplicity Itself (?) Part 3

The fbbs are on a ferry at 1230, leaving Isle of Wight residency for the last time after approx 30 years. Very emotional!  Tears will be shed! The downsized cupboard in Seaton, Devon, becomes their new pad sometime tomorrow. Praise God for the speed of the move and the provision of buyers and sellers in today's usually-difficult market.
And hello East Devon.
As you would expect, on-line, response to the new network, as first announced, was varied:-

Not keen:-

SimpliCITY more like ConfusiCITY, service 1 will go to either Drumchapel, Balloch or Helensburgh service 19 will either be Easterhouse/Robroyston, Blairdardie/Summerston but the best is the 38 to Easterhouse/Chryston/Barlanark/Baillieston. The amount of cuts is ridiculious to Broomhill, Cairns, Drumgagard, Bargeddie Scheme, no doubt first will expect SPT to step in. I have followed First since they took over Strathclyde Buses/Kelvin Central Buses but i cant wait to see the back of them in the Lanarkshire area where i am, they just keep cutting services right back and fill the area with buses fit for the scrapheap.

Or, more reasoned (a little more reasoned?):-

As for all the greetin faced loonys, at least First have put it up and given people time to look at it? Majority of the changes are for the better with a better frequency on most routes. This has been in the offing for a while I'm told so they have obviously been working at it and not just mashed it together.

The scheme as announced was based on "doing a Trent" with the same number for several different destinations. But common sense prevailed and suffix letters re-appeared after the public consultation.

There has been plenty of publicity; starting with a trendy (?) on-line magazine which raves enthusiastically about absolutely everything ...
... including new buses ...
... with WiFi, of course. Being Wifi-d will be "rolled out" over the whole fleet by the end of the year, we are told. Oh. goodie!

And the magazine has a full list of the changes.
It is not clear on-line whether this "mag" is available in hard copy for those of us who like to stick to easy-to-read printed matter. Nor does the chubby one know whether timetable leaflets for individual routes are available; they should be, but you never know these days.

For the wired community (WiFi-d community) real, proper PDF timetable are available to downoad. And the are so, so much better that First's oft-befuddling standard on-line offering. We saw the new 60/60A and M60 PDF versions in yesterday's blog (read again), all neat and tidy. But, on line, standard HTML style, ...
... we have 60, 60A, 61 and M60 all intertwined and, for the "ordinary" passenger, almost impossible to unravel. Not good.

But the Simplicity guide, although lacking timetables as such, is particularly helpful. First comes a list of services pre-change ...
... and what they have changed into. Then a simple list of old service numbers and the new ...
... followed by an in-depth study route by route, again based on the "old" numbers.
Below each "headline panel" (as above) is a full and understandable description of the change in detail. To an outsider living far from Glasgow, this makes sense.

An even greater bonus is that each PDF timetable (the good and tidy ones!) is accompanied by an excellent route map; this for the 60 and 60A along Maryhill Road.
These are really, really good. And, there's more! A City Centre detailed map as well, provided for every route.
Again, really, really, really good - an example that others should follow.

Assuming that this stuff was readily available in hard copy (a big assumption these days), then it would be hard to fault First in their desire to inform Hamish MacPublic of the new network. 

Has Hamish MacPublic understood it all? Now that's a quite different question!

 Next Bus Ferry Blog : Friday 31st May 

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Glasgow, Simplicity Itself (?) Part 2

The Maryhill Road Corridor
Pre-Sunday 26th, key bus routes via Maryhill (Glasgow) were as follows:-

 61  Summerston : every 12 minutes

 40  Drumchapel and Clydebank : every 12 minutes

 119  Milngavie  : every 20 minutes

See "Glasgow, Simplicity Itself (?) Part 1" (read again). Note also that C8, 10, C10 and C12 are rural routes venturing into wild and open country to the north, where be dragons and Balfron. 16 & 17 are operated by Glasgow Citybus and explained (inadequately, maybe) in yesterdays post.

So, here goes with the First Bus revamp:-

 61  Remains largely unchanged running through the City centre from Sandyhills but has an increased frequency of every 10 minutes to its usual terminus at Summerton.

 60 & 60A  Run every 10 minutes through from Easterhouse replacing the every 12 minute service 40. Both routes run together through Maryhill to Canniesburn Toll (top left of map above).

 60A  Continues very 20 minutes to Milngavie, replacing the 119 which also operated every 20 minutes.
 60   Continues every 20 minutes to Drumchapel and Clydebank. But here there is a decrease of frequency. Its predecessor, the 40, ran every 12 minutes; so from Canniesburn Toll to Drumchapel there is a cut.
This reduction is mitigated by an extra service, labelled M60, which enhances the service 60 frequency to 9 buses an hour from Drumchapel to Clydebank.
Both the 60 and the M60 are shown as terminating at Clydebank Bus Station ...
... but a glance at the map implies that both run on northbound to the Clyde Shopping Centre.
So what's wrong?

Nothing except silly computer systems, yet again. Times for Clyde Shopping Centre (Clydebank, according to First!) are shown on the return timetable only ...
... and completely ignored on the outward tables. How very sensible to show a major traffic objective incorrectly. But the timetable pages were probably designed, as ever, by someone who has never been to Clydebank. Fortunately, fbb has! And Drumchapel. And Summerston.

Despite this obvious silliness, we can see how the Simplicity network works. Between City and Maryhill, buses (60, 60A and 61) run at an improved combined frequency of every 5 minutes; half the buses run to Summerston which, again, gets an improvement. Milngavie itself is unchanged at 20 minutes. Drumchapel to Clydebank is more frequent than the previous Overgound 40, leaving the section between Canniesburn Toll and Drumchapel estate, via the posh Bearsden's Canniesburn Road ...
... as the only section to lose a bit of frequency.
Every 10 minutes with 60A at Canniesburn (right) and 9 buses an hour with M60 (left) with a more than acceptable every 20 between. Very clever.

It is schemes like this that have been implemented on all main corridors in Glasgow. Only time will tell if it will work because, as ever, First Bus needs to balance the costs of increased frequency and the savings of some pruning against what needs to be an increased ridership and a better profit margin.

Revisions in Southampton, recently announced, suggest that its new network has not been as successful as hoped; Portsmouth continues to be titivated; so have First got it right in Glasgow?

From yesterday's "Glasgow Evening Times"

Many electronic displays at bus stops were giving out wrong information. One in Hope Street, in the city centre, still advertised that a 54 bus to Summerston was arriving, even though it is no longer running and has been replaced by a 7 or 7A service.

Bryan Kelly tweeted: "Lots of confused people at stops as LED signs & timetable info boards still show pre simpliCity info!", while David Graham said: "1st day of new timetable NO timetables in bus shelters".

Many others also reacted with confusion to the new service changes.

Lynn Wilson, 64, from Hyndland, said: "I'm a pensioner and use an OAP pass, so it's very difficult for me to find out the changes as I don't use a computer. It would be very useful if they had the timetables on the buses, that would have been a great help."

 Next Bus Blog : Thursday 30th May 

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Glasgow, Simplicity Itself (?) Part 1

What happened last Sunday?
Answer, a lot!

Rather than  try to explain the whole kit and caboodle, fbb will concentrate his efforts on one corridor upon which, for over 40 years, he has travelled to visit the future Mrs fbb, the current Mrs fbb and Mrs fbb's late parents; who resided just round the corner from Alexander Midland's Milngavie Road depot.
Milngavie and Bearsden were blue bus territory, and a rich and resplendent blue it was. With the withdrawal of trams to Milngavie in and the Glasgow (territorial) operating "agreements", Corporation buses turned at the city boundary, Killermont Bridge. Midland ran via Maryhill Road or Anniesland to Milngavie and via Anniesland to the new development at Drumchapel. Later another new "scheme" was developed at Summerston, off the Maryhill Road served by Glasgow corporation and its successors.
diagram of places referred to in this blog

Scroll forward a few decades and the whole lot passes to First Bus. So, before Sunday's "big bang", Summerston was the terminus of long-standing route 61.
Drumchapel, now via Maryhill, was route 40/40A ...
... continuing to Clydebank; the suffix "A" was irrelevant on the Maryhill Road side of the City. The 40 and 61 services were part of the "Overgound" network, First's late 1990s revamp of the City's routes. The most recent First service to Milngavie was numbered 119 and deemed insufficiently frequent to be Overgrounded.
It is appropiate to point out that Bearsden Cross, the traditional "town centre" and near the railway station, has, over the years, lost its First Bus coverage in favour of Glasgow Citybus;
The service 17 (above) continues to Duntocher, passing Ledi Drive at the edge of yet another new "scheme" at Baljaffray. That estate is served by a peak hour route 16 (similar to the 17) and an hourly route 15 which bridges the gap on the map above and runs to Milngavie.
Thus the routes to Duntocher and Baljaffray via Bearsden Cross ...
... are now (almost) exclusively the home of the "independent" and are unchanged from Sunday 26th. Before someone with better knowledge than fbb asks about the 6B; this is indeed a First Bus route running at peak times on Mondays to Fridays only. It was, prior to last Sunday's changes, numbered 118 ...
... and was/is the dying ember First's former services via Anniesland to Bearsden etc. Of course the casual enquirer might have been confused between this and route 118.
Citybus route 118 is an evenings and Sundays version but running to the vast Gartnavel Hospital complex at Anniesland; it does not run to the City centre. 118A is a number no longer used as such.
So we now have the ingredients for the rich mixture that will produce a re-organisation of bus services along Maryhill Road. Mix together:-

 61  Summerston

 40  Drumchapel and Clydebank

 119  Milngavie

And the result is the chunk of new network which commenced last Sunday, 26th May.

All will be revealed tomorrow.

 Next Bus Blog : Wednesday 28th May 

Monday 27 May 2013

What's Real Time, Grandpa?

A conversation recorded on June 10th 2013 - possible because of the invention of time travel (GoogleTime?) for the use of blog writers.

And what's un-real time?
Well, Torquil, "real time" means that the bus companies tell you, on a computer screen at the stops, when the next bus is coming.
Ooh, look, grandpa - a picture of the stops outside your house. You are clever.

Well there are little boxes screwed to the roof of the shelter; and they tell you when the next bus will come.

Can we go and see them working grandpa?

They aren't working, sadly.

Why have they put in super new things that don't work?
Well Torquil, they did work and showed times for buses like this one; but First Bus isn't running buses along here any more.

That's very sad. How will you get to town?

Another company runs buses past the house and they will still be running.

That's Meridian bus.

So there will be Meridian bus times on the screens then?

No, Torquil.

Why not, gramps?

Because the boss of Meridian doesn't want to pay for it. He says people know when his buses are coming.

And do you know when they are coming?
Yes; they come every 15 minutes.

So why do they put up real time screens, if people like you know when the bus is coming?

Because they think people use them; anyway it's time for tea.
From the Northampton Chronicle and Echo

Hi-tech bus time displays in a Northampton road are redundant two years after being installed after two services were withdrawn. First Bus will end the 29 and 30 services which travelled down Gladstone Road in Spencer on June 8.

It means the ‘real-time’ electronic information displays installed in the bus stops in 2011 now have no use. A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said:

“Even though First’s numbers 29 and 30 services are being withdrawn, the number 31 service operated by Meridian will provide a service every 15 minutes along this route.”

But he added: “Meridian services are currently not part of the real-time system, which means the signs will temporarily be redundant."

Are you sure, spokesman? There's a 31 shown on the sign pictured above? Or have Meridian stopped using the system because you have started charging them as a council "economy"? If so, it will be easy to get them back, won't it?

Or is the "spokesman" talking complete tosh?

Is the whole article complete tosh?

We may never know!

And that sign looks remarkably like it shows timetable times (i.e. theoretical) and not real real time at all. Real real time is usually shown as "... minutes".

"However, bus routes and services adjust to reflect changing needs and the signs are there ready to be used.”

Pleasantly pointless pompous political platitude number 456. And, talking of politics, what does the local councillor have to say about this?
Councillor Gareth Eales (Labour, Dallington) said the most important issue about the loss of services remained the potential impact on vulnerable residents. He said: “The new Stagecoach service will no longer travel down Gladstone Road and will go through Dallington en-route only."

Stagecoach's replacement route 12 will exactly follow First's present route but out and back via Dallington Road, omitting Gladstone Road (southern end) completely. Quite what Councillor Eales thinks it will be doing is anybody's guess.
"With respect to Meridian’s vehicles, they aren’t adequate for senior citizens or disabled people."

fbb protests vehemently. fbb is a pensioner (aged 68) and is not yet totally decrepit. (Getting that way!) Merdian's buses are more than adequate for loadsa senior citizens. Have you read their web site, Councillor Eales?
Can you read the last sentence above? Have you ever been on a Meridian bus?

Have you ever been on a bus?
unsuitable according to Councillor Eales?

"There are many elderly and disabled people who live in and around the Gladstone Road area and to deny them an accessible bus service is wholly unacceptable. We entrust these private companies to provide transport services to the people of the county and we have a moral obligation to ensure such services put bus users first and not profit.”

Councillor; that is drivel! Meridian Bus is in business to make a profit and for no other reason. If you insist on anything special that the company cannot or need not supply, your legal (not moral) obligation is to pay for it. That is the inevitable consequence of 27 years of privatisation and deregulation of the bus industry.

And there are real time screens on the Dallington Road section of the route, aren't there?
Well, aren't there?
 Next Bus Blog : Tuesday 28th May