Saturday 31 August 2013

Talking of Breakdowns

Yesterday, fellow blogger Busing tackled the problem (and the consequences) of a vehicle breakdown (read again) and, inconsequentially, fbb was involved in just such an incident on the very same day. The "locus in quo" was Yeovil whither fbb had journeyed at the suggestion of a blog reader.

1025 Seaton : Axe Valley 885
1050 Axminster (first old crusty departure)

1106 Axminster : Southwest Trains
1127 Yeovil Junction (£5.70 oap day return)
1150 Yeovil Junction : South Western Coaches 68
1155 Yeovil Bus Station

Once upon a time, route 68 ran from Yeovil via Junction Station to the villages of Stoford and Barwick. More recently, in connection with Southwest Trains and First Great Western, the route was extended across the town to serve Lyde Road and, in doing so, to call at Pen Mill Station.
Junction station, spike'n'dot at the bottom
Pen Mill, dot on loop top right.

For the first time, in recent history at least, a proper link between the Weymouth to Bristol line and Southwest Trains at the Junction station is available for interchange.

September 2010 News Item

South West Coaches has extended a local service in Yeovil to provide a link between the town’s two railway stations. The revised route is operated by a new Optare Solo, the company’s fifth.

Steve Caine, South West Coaches’ commercial director, says: “We wanted to provide a rail-to-rail link from Yeovil Pen Mill station to Yeovil Junction station for commuters who need to change trains. This allows them an easier route than has been provided in the past.”

The new 8.8 metre Solos are 2.33m wide SlimLine models, as the narrower width suits the route conditions better than a standard 2.5m model. They seat 28 and can carry 21 standees. It has a 5.9-litre Cummins six-cylinder engine and an Allison five-speed automatic transmission.

If the timetable works!
After the midday arrival, fbb and Mrs fbb repaired to Marks and Spencers for a snack lunch; very pleasant. Thereafter Mrs went shopping and fbb took the quick nip to Pen Mill. The 68 was 15 minutes late leaving the bus station; and thanks to heavy traffic arrived 18 late at Pen Mill!
fbb's pre-blog investigations continued for 30 minutes or so, concluding with some further light refreshment in full view of the bus stop; waiting  to return to join the good lady wife for a little concluding joint retail therapy. 

But bus came there none.

After 40 minutes, fbb concluded that, for South West Coaches, things were not going to plan.
Fortunately there was a timetable in a frame on the pole outside the station, and therewith was a local Yeovil phone number ...
... which fbb called. 

The highly personable young lady did her best; but technology (aka a bus tracker system) was not delivering the goods; for which she apologised. "Radios were so much better," she sighed "I will ring you back."

And she did.

It transpired that one of the two vehicles on the 30 minute frequency service had broken down. The replacement motor did not appear to have a bus tracker wodgitt fitted. Meanwhile the one serviceable vehicle was "running a bit late". The hope was that a bus would be there in about 5 minutes.

20 minutes later it arrived. fbb had been waiting one hour and twenty minutes!

By then, due to heavy traffic ("It's always bad on Fridays," wailed the driver), road works on the narrow road between Junction station and town ...
... ("What a daft day to do it," he continued with stolid resignation) the eagerly anticipated fbb bus was now running almost exactly a whole hour late.

Thanks to the technical wonder of mobile phone, fbb could adjust Mrs fbb's schedule and still connect adequately with their train back. But what of those wishing to use the link for real?

At Pen Mill the recorded announcements were happily forth-telling the bus service from "The Station Car Park", routinely every 30 minutes; whilst up the Junction, the screens ...
... were broadcasting downright lies to an unsuspecting public. "On Time" - Phooey! As one harassed shopper explained to her Barwick neighbour already on the bus, "The three o'clock didn't come." To which the better informed neighbour replied (at 1605), "This IS the three o'clock!"

Two issues grate with fbb, and neither of them concerns the breakdown. Bad stuff happens. That's Life!.

What's the point of having a clever bus tracker cum radio system if it doesn't work or some vehicles don't have the wodgitt fitted?

What's the point of having electronic displays at stations when they can't be updated or over-ruled by a real human being. Surely South West Coaches should be given a terminal to allow their "nice young lady" to tell the truth?

fbb had plenty of time to investigate, cope and make alternative plans. Most other passengers, be they ex train or striving to get home for their tea, were simply left to struggle and suffer. And take away a very poor opinion of the bus industry.

"Nul points" for technology, South West Coaches, First Great Western, South West Trains, Yeovil Town Council, Somerset County Council, The Flat Earth Society and anybody else in sight for combining to mess things up so brilliantly.

More from Yeovil later!

 The Northampton saga conclusion follows tomorrow 

 Next Bus/Rail Blog : Sunday 1st September 

Friday 30 August 2013

That's The Way NOT to Do It! [1]

Northampton Station Closed in 1987!
Oh no it didn't!
Oh yes it did!
But it was Northampton on the Boston "Elevated" in the USA.
The orange "El" ...
... was replaced by the underground (metro) "Orange" line.
Meanwhile, in the Northampton we all know and love, there have been developments in the arrangements for the station rebuilding works. We can usefully compare the set-up with that outlined in yesterdays Sheffield Tram blog.

You nay well remember that most buses are diverted away from West Bridge and temporary stops have been provided for the remainder. The westbound example was particularly underwhelming ...
... with no pole, no flag and no timetables. Recently this has changed, with a replacement replacement westbound stop on the top of the bridge. Little white rectangles can be espied in the picture below.
The new westbound stop has Stagecoach timetables and a flag but nothing from Uno which operates past there in the evening.

But information at the station itself is still lamentable. On the way in you can have ...
... wheeled access to. So that's allright, then. On the way out and just outside the booking hall you can follow arrows to ...
... and no mention of Town Centre, or, heaven forfend, buses. ["Buses, what are they?" said a fictional spokesman for London Midland, the train operator.] Our Northampton correspondent, Alan, was able to persuade the people with the confusers to update the Station Information poster; from uselessly out of date ...
... to just useless.
The internal road network at the station is still laughably wrong and replacement temporary stops "X" and "Y" are in the wrong place. They should be roughly where the green line directs cyclists to waver back across multiple lines of cones and traffic having already crossed pointlessly at X and Y. Fortunately the poster is so unimaginative that no-one ever uses it, right or wrong.

Before we look at present day arrangements, we should be reminded that, prior to the start of work on the new building, potential bus passengers would walk out of the station building, bear left across a short-stay parking area and there on their own little bus lane ...
... would be east- and west-bound bus stops with shelters, timetables and a modicum of electronic information. Of course we could go back even further to fbb's dim and distant youth. Having alighted from their Jubilee-hauled express (?) and exited from the London and North Western Railway's finest red brick ...
... it was a quick nip up the steps to the bus stops.
Even better; when busy trains arrived from London, the station staff would open the door which led direct onto West Bridge. This was located at the top of the footbridge stairs and the creaky wooden footbridge was, in those far-off days, glued on to the road bridge.
Interchange was simple; and whilst many passengers would walk to town, others could catch red Corporation buses to the town centre stops close to All Saints Church or green United Counties buses to Derngate bus station. And just across the less-busy road was the stop for westbound routes.

So, tomorrow, we look in detail at the supposedly simple process of alighting from a train from London and catching a bus westbound to the delights of dynamic Duston.

 Next Bus/Rail Blog: Saturday 31st August 

Thursday 29 August 2013

That's The Way to Do It!

fbb has previously blogged about the temporary timetables and diversions to cover relaying of track on the Sheffield Supertram network.

See "One Big Problem with Trams ..." (read again)
See "... Is What Happens When they Break!" (read again)
On his way to prepare for the Rotherham 100th celebrations, fbb decided to don his heavy disguise, to empty his mind of previous knowledge and to attempt a journey over the Supertram route that was being relaid.
Upon arrival at the railway station, he made his way to the tram stop where it was clear that "summat were up."
And on the platform the uppedness of the summat was fully explained.
On the "opposite platform" fbb was clearly instructed to take a tram to Castle Square, i.e. in the wrong direction ...
... where Supertram staff would be in place to guide him to the replacement buses as shown on the fbb map above.

And they were ...
... clutching Olympic-style orange pointing hands on sticks. These were gesticulated violently towards Arundel Gate; supported by plenty of arrows tied to assorted lampposts. 
There was a choice of two routes but fbb was advised to take the first bus out which was the B2 all stops route. "All stops" did just what it said on the tin; including a surprisingly convoluted wiggle via the end of the bus station ...
... to get to a station stop; where  no-one boarded. fbb could have saved 12 minutes by leaving the station via the main concourse and catching the bus; it wouldn't have been such fun! But the notices did not offer that option, probably because the "all stops" bus is less frequent than the tram plus express bus version.

On the tram route proper, men in dayglo orange overalls were laying track (or, more accurately, poking new rails into the slots cast in the concrete) ...
... as the bus sped (?) through chicanes and over to the "wrong" side of Park Grange Road. It was disconcerting to revert to good old traditional tram-stop days and load in the middle of the road, then veer over to the "down" side.
For obvious reasons this normally busy thoroughfare has been made one-way "up".

At Spring Lane the interchanging passengers were directed to the "normal" shelter whither arrived a tram in just a few moments.
fbb then decided to change at Gleadless Town End to the P1 route replacing the line to Herdings Park.
Here the news was not so good. There were no directions to the bus stop and with a choice of three, even fbb was momentarily disorientated. He did, however, glimpse a dayglo sign in a shelter ...
... which proved to be the correct clue.

In the previous blog, fbb opined that the replacement route from Herdings Park to Gleadless by bus; then tram to Spring Lane; then bus from there, would prove too complex and lengthy for most. People would surely choose other bus services.
The loadings on the shuttle were, like, nobody, except fbb who was eyed "with polite suspicion" by the driver. fbb questioned him closely and his reply confirmed, "it's very quiet all day." Too right buster!

But there is one remaining mystery. This track relaying work was advertised as taking "about" 12 weeks. The timetable booklet is still available on-line.
The work started on 30th June, so we must presume that disruption will continue for another month.

So why does the ever accurate and ever helpful PTE publish this in its late Summer bank holiday arrangements leaflet?
Perhaps no-one told "the lad" about Park Grange Road?

Laving aside a possible PTE bog-up (what a surprise!) and the poor information at Gleadless, the replacement facilities, the printed publicity and the personal guidance to passengers were all excellent.

But then, by comparison, comes further news from Northampton!

 Next Bus/Rail Blog : Friday 30th August 

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Researching Rosheim [Extra]

Nearly Full Circle but Not Quite.
In 1930, the Strasbourg Transport Company started a tram route to Ottrott (see yesterday's blog, read again). The line was 35km long (a little less than 22 miles) and the journey time was a leisurely 2 hours. Electrified from the outset, the route began with street running, as here in Boulevard de Lyon.
The Boulevard hasn't changed a lot ...
... note the corner building with the tower, but the station is changed radically ...
... with the addition of a huge glazed "bubble", replacing the old building's stone-built magnificence with something more trendy and, arguably, less attractive (?). The whole structure does, however, come to life at night.
But back to the 1930 tramway.

The line wandered through the villages until it came alongside the Roseheim to Saint Nabor line at Saint Léonard, whence it ran parallel the steam railway tracks, seen here with a tram approaching Ottrott.
At the outer terminus there was even the occasional connection with a bus!
the tramway crossed the railway line between Strasbourg and Barr via Rosheim at Obernai as can be seen in this very crude diagram.
click on the plan for a legible view!

Services do not appear to have been frequent. An on-line source suggests that five a day left Innenheim for Strasbourg.

Départs : 5h45, 6h45, 9h30, 13h10, 17h50.

Not quite "clock-face!"

Despite "une grande manifestation de protestation à Meistratzheim le 11 avril 1954", the line closed in 1955 to be replaced by a bus service. All trams were withdrawn from the streets of Strasbourg in 1960.
But they returned, to much public acclaim, in 1994; and the network is still growing as is the length of the trams!
Can we continue to call a seven-car articulated unit a "tram"? Be that as it may, all this brings us neatly back to Rosheim. As the network expands, Strasbourg (French) trams will run across the border to Kehl in Germany from 2015 and, from some time after 2018, the line through Rosheim and Obernai to Barr will become a "Tram Train" route as an extension westwards of line C from its present terminus at the station (diagram, top left).

Extra stops (stations?) are proposed, notably at Obernai, but the deprived Rosheimers will still have a lengthy 2km toddle to hop onto their new trams.
Unless, of course, the plans include new bus links into the tram stops. The proposed timetable provides for a tram every 15 minutes to Barr, two each hour calling at all stops with the other two running "limited stop" to Molsheim, then all stops to Barr. A similar pattern will apply to the line to Gresswiller.

One thing is certain, Euro-trucker David would not have expected five blogs to emanate from his initial phone call from the platform at Rosheim station.

And, finally...
... a YouTube video of a similar "Tram Train" project at Mulhouse (pronounced, roughly, "Mull-Ooze"), just down the road from Strasbourg; well quite  good bit down the road. You see a mixture of trams and tram trains (hard to tell the difference?) and, on the main line, TER and TGV stock. Buses also pass by, so, total integration!


P.S. Thanks to a comment by blog reader Man of Kent on Monday, we can see that the "out of town" bus station in Strasbourg lacks the sophistication of the rest of the town's transport infrastucture! His comment is repeated below.
You may be interested to know that the CTBR bus station ("gare routière") in Strasbourg even has an enquiry office with racks of leaflets for all of the routes that radiate from there (including those that only come as far as out-of-town tram termini; a bit like being dumped at a park and ride site on a bus journey to Exeter, perhaps?). By French standards, the frequencies are impressive - some are even regular interval! "Bus Station" is however a somewhat grand description of what is essentially a bus parking area, around which passengers are allowed to mill uncontrolled, and a series of portakabins.

 Next Bus/Tram Blog : Thursday 29th August