Tuesday 11 February 2014

Timewarp Taunton Trip [2]

First, Delight : Then, Disappointment!
There was a smattering of vehicles in "Taunton" livery in the town centre; but, frankly, the overall picture was disappointing. Having enthused about the town network map ...
... at the bus station, fbb expected to see one at each of the main bus stops in the centre. None at all! The plan of the centre stops (above bottom right) is not available on line (it should be!) but the refuelled and refreshed obese one chose to take a butchers at stop H.

Only there wasn't one!

Thanks to his encyclopaedic knowledge of Taunton's central stopping arrangements (?), fbb knew that Stop H should be at the end of Castle Green, the walking route from bus station to town centre.

But it wasn't there. Instead, the excited passenger, thrilled with the new-look for his (or her) local buses, is greeted with this:-
Tired, bashed and bent "Parade 3"; advertising the awful (and expensive) Traveline and some tatty bus company called "First"! Presuming that this brand change has been in the planning stage for some months, surely First Bus The Buses of Somerset could send Job Experience Boy out with some vinyls and a stepladder?
And where, pray, does bus route 1 go?

The stop says "Wellsprings"; but the bus doesn't.
How long would fbb have to wait for a bus showing "Wellsprings"? The timetable is different again ...
... and marginally more helpful. The route map even manages to invent a Taunton locality, Pyrland ...
... unknown to the Ordnance Survey or even Google Maps.
Pyrland Hall (top centre, above) appears to have become King's Hall School.
Perhaps there's a major new housing scheme about to appear in the school grounds?

"Pyrland Wards 1 and 2" (on/near service 1's Tauntonian trajectory) is an NHS provision for people with mental health problems.

Back to the service 1 timetable which has "Priorswood shops" as a timing point. But service 2 goes to "Priorswood" and Priorswood shops do not appear on the service 1 map. [Secret revealed. Priorswood Shops are on Dorchester Road, shown on the route 1 map; but shhh ... Careless Talk costs Bus Passengers! Service 2 also stops there, but on Eastwick Road which crosses at the end of the parade]
So - could do better! Is this another case of handing everything over to a sub-contractor who works from a database rather than reality? Has R*y St*nn*ng ever been to Taunton?

And what about those ex-First buses? The boss of "The Buses of Somerset", Marc Reddy, has stressed that the change from grey to green is indicative of a "work in progress" and not just "a paint job". fbb understands that all buses will be gloriously green by the summer, possibly with some new or newer vehicles to upgrade the fleet somewhat. We are also promised better fares information and an up-fettling of the enquiry office; maybe even without a 30 minutes lunch break?

But why not add a sticker to old-liveried vehicles?
And if that "image" is considered negative, try making it positive. When First Aberdeen introduced refurbished buses as "Platinum", temporary replacement vehicles were lettered up as such; "your usual buses are being upgraded" on the side panels. Why not do something similar in Taunton?
Tell the passengers what's happening!
[fbb's paste-up skills are minimal; but you get the idea.]

Whilst Taunton bus station impresses, the town centre depresses. Simple sticky-backed plastic could have made the change more memorable throughout the busy "Parade" area. Maybe the work in progress will deliver soon. fbb hopes so, because the vision and the new image ought to succeed. Unless the impetus fizzles.

But, before his journey back to Seaton, fbb had one last task to perform. And that involved a return to the bus station and a visit to the now-open enquiry office.

P.S. The web site doesn't work as well as it should. Too "clever" for its own good?

 Next apple-bus blog : Wednesday 12th February 


  1. R*y St*nn*ng has indeed been to Taunton; nay, he even lived in the area in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Turning to my copy of the excellent "The Years Before National", there's an address in Wiveliscombe; companion volume "a NATIONAL bus company album" has plenty of his own pictures in the area too.

  2. My 1957 Western National timetable shows town service 206 as running to Pyrland Estate (Dorchester Rd) every hour, and service 210 arriving every 40 mins- so hardly an invention of the esteemed Mr Stenning!

  3. I agree, Dennis! But the name does not seem to be used now. I can find no mention of it on any map - including that available from the local authorities.

  4. Taunton Pyrland and Rowbarton may be the name of a local authority electoral constituency. It cover a large wodge of north Taunton

  5. The two relevant electoral divisions are named 'Rowbarton and Staplegrove' and 'Taunton North'.

  6. Pedantry: R*y is from the area, so I suspect he's knows quite a bit about what the provinces of equatorial Taunton are known as. And it's not Marc Reddy running this bit of First, it's Alex Carter!!! As for the website, simple links to timetables and maps work for me!!!

  7. Mr FBB, I must profoundly disagree at your assertion that Pyrland is unknown to the Ordnance Survey. It is clearly marked as a housing estate on both the 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 scale maps. Noticing your referencing of an ancient map for the location of the said estate, I am happy to let you know that the current maps on which the estate appears may be readily perused at either the Ordnance Survey's own website or that of Bing Maps.

  8. We welcome all constructive suggestions on how we can build a our new operation at Buses of Somerset. Having said that virtually all of the criticisms of things not completed in the article are in our programme of actions to roll out.
    We took a very deliberate decision in the planning stages not to vinyl over the cracks. For too long things have been vinyl'd over and we want to be transparent about what we are doing. We are actively promoting the fact that this is first rebuilding the business as a local business. The bus stops are a good example. We decided not to spend time and money on quick fixes but instead to concentrate on a methodical and progressive replacement of everything once and for all. We don't want people to think of this as an exercise in applying vinyl over what we have. Things take to time to get right and that is what we hope we are progressively doing. The Taunton town stops are already being finalised. We've even been talking tithe local council about letting us reopen the toilets that they own in the bus station and closed. Believe it or not they have solar only offered to lease them to us. We've even got ten sets of interim bus vinyls ready to go on as you suggest, although they are rather tastier than your designs! Please keep visiting us as time goes by and enjoy seeing your short term frustrations eased...but keep the suggestions coming.
    The Buses of Somerset

  9. And apologies for the typos in the above, but unfortunately the text can't be amended in the preview when using an iPad!
    The Buses of Somerset

  10. Have to say whilst I think First have screwed up so many services nationwide and I am not their biggest fan you have to give Buses of Somerset time and also kudos for them to coming onto blogs and answering criticism with constructive points. Also I'm glad they are taking their time here and hopefully if this works this could be the start of something major nationwide. If nothing else at last they are finally giving things a go and starting out the right way..shame that just down the road in Dorset their drivers were on strike again!!
    Anyway props to you all for daring to break the First mould and thinking outside the box. I for one hope this will be a success. Only issue is the Southern Vectis style £10 day ticket...very unappealingly priced, particualrly as around £8 used to cover the whole southwest!

    1. Our day ticket is still available for connections with neighbouring First networks and we still accept First South West day tickets. Each of the businesses has to work to run viably within the local market. That viability locally is heavily impacted by the concessionary fares scheme we are covered by, and for detailed and technically tedious reasons, we can't offer a day ticket at less than that price I'm afraid, especially on an area where a very high proportion of our customers are travelling on concessionary passes.

  11. Visited Taunton today and admired the maps and timetables on the wall at the Bus Station and wondered how long the timetables would last! Very few bus stops outside the town centre appear to any timstable information at all

  12. Well done to First for this. I must admit there is a slightly bitter taste looking at the timetables due to the recent withdrawal of most of the remaining evening services (which may be a Council decision of course although I have a feeling Minehead might be a commercial decision) and most services are 'daytime only'.

    Re timetable displays the critical point is in a few months' time when some times change. Will the quality be maintained i.e. will the displays be updated? In my experience fancy new displays introduced for a launch, new brand etc. often tend to be updated poorly or not at all and get tatty or may even display out of date brands or routes. Any good operator / local authority needs a 'change system' that keeps track of all publicity sites and updates them with changes. First's assurances about this project bode well for this so let's hope they have included a 'change system'.

    I do like the maps but care is needed to ensure that timing points appear on them otherwise it's hard for a non-resident to navigate the network.