Monday 30 September 2013

Mr Darcy Cuts the Mustard [1]

It was an anguished "txt" ...
... (if such an inanimate electronic thing as a "txt" can be anthropomorphised) that started it all! And European truck driver David was there because of the drivers' hours legislation. Blog readers familiar with the intimate details of quantum physics and the ramifications of superstring theory may just have the intellectual capacity to understand the detailed restrictions imposed on lorry drivers in the interests of safety. Ordinary mortals will struggle.

driving hours : you must not drive more than
9 hours in a day
this can be extended to 10 hours twice a week
56 hours in a week
90 hours in any 2 consecutive weeks

breaks and rest : you must take:
at least 11 hours rest every day
you can reduce this to 9 hours rest 3 times in a week
an unbroken break of 45 hours every week
you can reduce this to 24 hours every other week
at least 45 minutes break after 4.5 hours driving

Of course, the above is a summary. Please feel free to obtain the full 56 page booklet ...
... which also includes all the additional regulations for recording this on your tachograph.
This machine records your journey ("tacho" from the Greek for "speed" and "graph" meaning "graph") and the disc can be inspected on demand by officers of the Ministry of Something-or-Other. Punishment for infringement can include  massive fines, loss of licence and thus livelihood.

Because of some complex financial misunderstanding, a delivery in the previous week had taken a day longer than planned, thus David had "run out of hours" and was stranded in Dijon ...
... for a compulsory day's break. So what does an avid reader of the fat bus bloke blog do on his day off?
Answer : he parks his big blue left-hand drive lorry/truck**on an industrial estate (Zone Industriel) and explores Dijon's public transport network. Then sends dozens of interesting photos back to fbb HQ.

Mr Darcy? Wet Mr Darcy?
Not the celebrated TV "incident" now immortalised in a statue (but never part of the original "Pride and Prejudice"); but, according to some, the watery "Saviour" of Dijon.
In the same way that Joseph Bazalgette (pronounced "Basil Jet") saved London from "The Great Stink" of 1858, so Henri Darcy provided Dijon with fresh unpolluted water in the mid 1850s.

Fountains ...
... a cinema ...
... and a much revered kebab shop ...
... all bear his name to this day. Apparently no visit to Dijon is complete without sampling a Darcy kebab! For the purposes of this blog, however, one of the main transport interchanges of the city is in and around Place Darcy (the Square) and Square Darcy (the Park).
Driver David's "txt" came at he end of his investigative day when he realised that the bus service past his truckstop spot was not as frequent as some. Sorting out a helpful answer opened up a wide range of hitherto fbb ignorance; but also exposed some tantalising problems with modern public transport publicity.

The urgent "txt" came through, as you can see, at 1827 and David was hoping for a bus at about 2000. No sweat, thought your chubby blogger and returned a "no panic" message to Dijon, "get back to you at 1900 after the ITV news."

"Maybe too late," came the response from France. fbb had forgotten that 1827 in UK is 1927 in France and thus a quest for details of a bus at 2000 was moving into the "DO PANIC and quite a bit" zone of omnibological stress.
Our readers will be gratified to know that fbb realised his temporal bludner, abandoned the evening news (depressing as ever) and swung into frenetic action. Not only should readers be encouraged by that, but, in addition, that David did catch the last bus of the day (but one) and returned to his big blue base for a refreshing slumber prior to zooming off to Calais on the morrow.

fbb's wrestle with the Dijon bus web site will begin in Wednesday's post. Today is the launch of Stagecoach's  Gold  service from Torquay and fbb is invited to the knees-up. A full report, therefore, is due tomorrow.

In the meantime, pass the mustard.
** David's lorry/truck is a 19 year-old Volvo FH16 (i.e.16 litre engine). It is, so David tells us, the oldest FH16 working every day. fbb still prefers the more technical terms "big" and "blue"! When last mentioned in the blog, fbb heinously reported that it was a Mercedes. David's reponse, "Aaargh! NO!"

Volvo's web site still advertises an FH16 .
No doubt the current version has all the latest firkles and wabbits. Volvo's description is euphoric and almost incomprehensible to an outsider:-

Where to begin with the FH16? Let’s put it this way: The FH16 750 is the culmination of everything we know about trucks – and then some. Most people get all hyped up on the 750 digits. And while significant, we would like to point to its real implication: 3550 Nm in torque. Now that’s a number to go bananas over. 90 per cent of the torque is available within seconds and it’s immense enough to offer an experience of never-ending increase. The driveline of the Volvo FH16 750 is the ultimate solution for heavy haulage, construction and long haul. It’s also a truck designed to offer the ultimate driving experience.

fbb never ceases to go bananas over 3500 Nm in torque! 
 Next Bus Blog : Tuesday 1st October 

Sunday 29 September 2013

You'll be Enjoying your Retirement?

Lewis Carroll's "You are Old Father William" (here) is a parody of Robert Southey's moralistic poem "The Old Man's Comforts and How He Gained Them", then well-known to children, (here), originally published in 1799. Like the other poems parodied by Carroll in the Alice stories, the original poem is now mostly forgotten, and only the parody is remembered. Since then, it has been parodied further, including more than 20 versions by 1886! So here's another one:-

"You are old, chubby bus bloke," the young man cried,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet incessantly on buses you ride;
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

          Monday 30th September           

"In my youth," aged bus bloke replied to his son,
"I feared it might addle the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I'll do it again and again."

"You are old," said the youth, "And you're losing your hairs,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
On a decker, you insist on going up stairs;
Pray, what is the reason for that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his bleached locks,
"Some exercise is what I'd do
Now, using  this ointment (a fiver a box),
I climb up to savour the view."

"You are old," said the youth, "Your digestion is weak
For anything tougher than suet;
You gobble a breakfast all swimming in grease
At bus stations; how do you do it?"

"In my youth," said his father, "packed lunches were naff,
With packets and bags all to tie up.
So I took to dining in a bus station caff,
And grew to enjoy a good fry-up."

"You are old," said the youth, "a brainless old dog
Sure your mind's not as agile as ever;
Yet you write ev'ry day in your tedious blog
Do you think you're really that clever?"

26th October : York for the day? Maybe not?

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said fat bus bloke; "your words make me numb!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Stop, or you'll get kicked up the bum street!"

Of course, this scurrilous slur on the elderly blogger's character is one of many opinions.

"fbb is to be revered and respected, an icon of a bygone age, always magnificently turned out, in excellent condition, running sweetly day by day, internal workings in superb order, and a tribute to longevity and experience in every way."

This paeon of praise is not a fabrication; it is a view shared by many and reinforced by blog reader and commentator "Petras 409".

He takes us to the Kingsbridge bus running day, a week ago yesterday. The preserved VR in Great Western livery was there, as was First's similarly adorned Dart. See "Another Anniversary TODAY" (read again).

But the Star of the show was, once again, this beautifully restored (inside and out) Guy.
A little research reveals the history of this vehicle marque:-

In 1924 Guy Motors introduced the first chassis specifically designed for bus use. Designated B, BA and BB it was available in three wheelbases, with the longest, the BB accommodating up to 30 passengers. The following year the BB chassis was made available with the Daimler-Knight 5.76 litre engine and the designation changed to BK (or Premier Six). In 1926  Guy introduced a forward control version of the BB, designated  FBB. 

Thanks, Petras 409, for this serendipitous delight. Sadly the blogging fbb basked only briefly in the encouragement of the positive words of praise; his hopes now cruelly dashed as he sinks slowly back into decrepitude. 

All together, now, "Aaaaah!"

 Next Bus Blog : Monday 30th September              

Saturday 28 September 2013

fbb Goes to University [6]

fbb considered the following as an appropriate headline with which to conclude his investigations of buses to York University:-

Facing Financial Fallout, Fearnley's FirstBus Fights Fiercely with Fantastic Fares to Foil Fearnley's Former Firm's Frustratingly Formidable Forays, Featuring Fearsome Facilities thus Fishing For Further Footfall.

But then thought it would just be plain silly!

But the question still remains. Is there a viable business along the University Road for two major operators? Certainly not, as observed by fbb, during Uni vacations. Trandev Unibus had reduced their frequency from every 7-and-8 to every 15 for the vacation, but First made a publicity point of retaining theirs.
So, at Acomb, across the other side of the city from the Uni, half the (pale purple) 4s became the 15 minute (orange) 5s back to the centre and north to Strensall. First struggled to explain this complexity graphically ...
... and in their printed timetable. Sometimes "clever" operational niceties lead to passenger confusion.

Having pulled out of Heslington East, presumably to give more buses to compete with Transdev as far as the main campus, First had diverted its service round a little terminal loop.
For some strange reason this route did not attract many passengers. Presumably students were happy to miss out on the joys of the Uni's central boiler house ...
... so in May of this year the loop was withdrawn. Needless to say, the ever usefulless Traveline hasn't quite grasped this revision, 5 months later!
Do try to keep up lads.

But all this was of academic interest to the increasingly damp fbb as he began his final run from Heslington Hall back to the city.
Loadings were hardly huge with about a dozen riding to the centre. First is slightly disadvantaged by its city route via Clifford Street. This is on the fringes of the main shopping area ...
Clifford Street bottom left :Piccadilly top right

... whereas Transdev's 44 serves Piccadilly. The distance between the two is slight, but psychologically Transdev's Unibus is just that bit more attractive. As fbb was due to meet his better half in Marks and Spencers Piccadilly store cafe ...
... the squelch from Clifford Street was depressing! The 44 stops right outside the very welcome automatic doors leading to dry, to warmth and to a cup of tea and a sandwich. Bliss.

But as fbb's attack of alliterativitis hinted above, First has significantly revised its fares in York from tomorrow. And route 4 now returns to Heslington East.
For some time the company has matched Transdev's "free rides within the campus" offer, presumably with no cash input from Uni authorities, so the extension back to Heslington East will be a challenge to Transdev's exclusive deal. Furthermore, the revised route 4 timetable is registered as a "frequent service" which means that buses must run at least every 10 minutes but the service can be more frequent. Easy to drop a few Transdev spoilers into the fray?

The extension of the Osbaldwick route (6) to Heslington East is less understandable. Presumably the idea is to attract away some of Transdev's business from the new campus to other parts of York, particularly the Hospital and Clifton Moor, the latter hitherto served by route 20 (see yesterday's blog).

These changes come with some dramatic reductions in fares for the non-Uni denizens of ancient Eboracum.
Who says that "revised" fares always means "increased" fares? Both for the University and for the city the oft-maligned First is making  real effort to attract and keep their passengers. All we need now is some nice new buses. How about it Mr F?

For the record, fbb reports that the confusing linking of routes 4 and 5 at Acomb is removed.
Each service is sensibly separated and variations have been added with a 5A joining the 5. It all makes for a much tidier presentation at Acomb compared with the previous complexity. 

All this is shown on a brand new York network map as used for the Acomb extract immediately above.
But the new (and excellent) piece of First Bus cartography isn't one of First's web site "maps to help you" on offer on line! The York City map was already out-of-date before this weekend's changes and is, from tomorrow, significantly more unhelpful. 

The new map can be found (clue below) ...
... if you manage to throw the right numbers on the FirstBus web site dice. Perhaps it will appear tomorrow when the changes start?
Hey! There they go again!
FirstBus has just announced a fleet of 22 new buses for the prestigious X1 Excel trunk route from Peterborough to Lowestoft.

These buses will boast free WiFi for passengers, air chill and luxurious leather seats with additional legroom. They will also be the only bus service in Norfolk to introduce 'Next Stop' announcements ensuring passengers never miss their bus stop. All 22 new buses will be showcasing a new purple/blue and gold 'express' livery, highlighting the improved benefits and including destination vinyls on the windows. (At the bottom of the windows, actually; "stuff" obscuring the passegers' view out has been banned by First at a senior management level : a very welcome decision! - fbb)

This impressive route runs half hourly over the full 120 miles of the route with short workings giving four buses an hour between Norwich and Great Yarmouth.

fbb is amused by the Frankie Howard "oooh missis" style of the rear advert!
Ooooh (missis) feel the luxury of our leather seats! Feel your own seat missis!
 Next Bus Blog : Sunday 29th September 

Friday 27 September 2013

fbb Goes to University [5]

The West Yorkshire Road Car Company had, for many years, run buses to the Yorkshire coast.
Various route numbers have been used ...
... and, under National Bus Company ownership, the brand "Yorkshire Coastliner" was created.
With privatisation, the brand was developed and the logo became more swirly!
The modern service settled down to offer a 30 minute frequency between Leeds, York and Malton; continuing forward to Pickering and Scarborough each with an hourly service. Over the years more and more Pickering buses have extended across the moors to Whitby.

But the status quo was set to change.
In 2009 the equilibrium was well and truly upset by First Bus with a competitive route X64 between Leeds and York.
Yorkshire Coastliner's response (still under the ownership of Blazefield) was "vigorous"! The Monday to Saturday daytime service between Leeds and York was doubled to every 15 minutes. The new 844 route was faster than standard by missing out some of the wiggles and ran across the city of York to Heworth.
First Bus did not last long!
Having seen off First, Coastliner decided to keep running the 844 and in its most recent Transdev incarnation it has taken up the wiggle route; leaving the longer distance services to run "fast". Instead of going to Heworth, the 844 was diverted to run to the University's Heslington Hall.
Readers will remember it was raining for fbb's 2nd outward run to the Uni. Note the huge puddle bottom right which contrived to give fbb a nice (?) unexpected shower as he crossed the road. More drips for the big drip?

It is not entirely clear why Transdev runs the 844 to the University. To maintain the four "Coastliner" buses an hour frequency through York city centre, the 844 ("Non-Coastliner") runs to Stonebow; then cuts back to the Uni via the Morrisons bus only road ...
... an expensive bit of infrastructure served only by the 844 and the Grimston Bar park and ride. The 844 is very much the "long way round". Not surprisingly, fbb was the only passenger from York to Heslington and the bus left empty on its watery way back to Leeds! Perhaps, when the students return en masse, lots of them go to Morrisons for their groceries?

We are beginning to see how useless Transdev's on-line route maps are. Created by an overlay on Google Maps, the outward version for the 844 is hopelessly wrong ...
... ignoring the route via Stonebow (a continuation of "Pavement", top of map). But the map for return journeys from University via York is correct ...

... wait for it! ...
... between University (off map bottom right), Morrisons and Stonebow; and then complete and utter drivel squared between Stonebow and the station. It is absolutely unbelievable that supposedly professional and responsible companies should allow this garbage to be provided for their paying customers. Shame on you, Transdev. [The black on yellow labels have been added by fbb.]

Tomorrow, we complete the story of buses to the University of York with a review of First's response(s) to the intrusive Transdev.
In the meantime, and in the interests of completeness, please note that East Yorkshire's all stops routes 45 and 46 from Pocklington (etc) now operate via Field Lane and University Road. Orbital (tendered?) service 20 (Transdev) ...
... operates a nearly "outer circle" service linking many suburbs with shopping facilites at Monks Cross (sticky-out bit, upper right), Clifton Moor (wiggle to the left of New Earswick) and the big Tesco at Askham Bar (bottom left).
The hourly 27 from city via Fulford calls at Heslington Hall. Transdev has just lost a batch of tendered routes to Arriva including the 26 and 27 ...
... so now we benefit from Arriva's excellent standardised route maps.

fbb's schedule did not allow a full perusal of these peripheral services, but, suffice it to say, there is plenty happening at Heslington!
Too Old to Drive?
fbb was intrigued by this piece in "The Independent" and "i" (son of Independent and only 20p. It has a good "definitions" crossword and is thus favoured "daily" for the fbbs!) earlier this week.

There are 191 people aged 100 or over who are still legally allowed to drive on UK roads, according to figures published today.

Centenarian Les Hale has been driving for 70 years and reckons he is still “pretty good” behind the wheel. The former bus driver, who turned 100 in July, accrued just two motoring convictions over all those years: a speeding offence about 30 years ago and another for obstructing the road. “I enjoy driving… I’m pretty good,” he said. However Mr Hale, of Lydbrook, Gloucestershire, said he was “thinking about packing up now. I think I’ve had enough [of driving]. The insurance premium for his two-door Ford Escort has also risen from “£100 and something” when he was about 90 to nearly £400.

The article was accompanied by a poor quality picture of Les (aged 65) and his bus.
Clearly this needed further investigation! Here's the bus ...
... operated by Edwards of Joys Green (Lydbrook).

461 KTG is a 1961 Metro-Cammell bodied forward entrance AEC Regent V. It was acquired by Edwards in 1973 from Western Welsh where it was fleet number 461. [Needs checking : not a typical Western Welsh destination blind layout - fbb].
 Next Bus Blog : Saturday 28th Sptember