Tuesday 8 July 2014

Wandering Woefully W(r)ound Wellingborough

When fbb last looked at Wellingborough, the withdrawn town service W4 was about to be re-instated by Northamptonshire County Council. See "Weeping for Wellingborough 2" (read again). The tender went to Soul's of Olney from September 2011, having previously been in the capable hands of Centrebus.

From 30th June this year the service was retendered with Meridian Bus of Northampton/Milton Keynes.
The timetable was changed to give a drivers' break in the middle of the day.
Looking at the rail timetable we see that journeys offer reasonable connections into London bound trains departing at xx34 ...
... and equally viable (if trains are on time) out of the train from London arriving at 1416.
Connections to and from the north are less convenient.

So how is this potentially useful retendered route publicised? Not very well at the station ...
... where the old Souls' incorrect table is proudly displayed. The main difference is that the mid-day break doesn't exist on the older version.

What about information in the town centre? Northampton County Council produces a very good map of the Wellingborough network, W4 via the station ...
... and cross-town to Barnwell. Note the newly instigated Pendolino service from the station!
The map also has a good town centre plan ...
... but nowhere does it tell you which service stops at which stop. None of this is on display in the town.

The Church Street stops have substantial shelters ...
... and posh green signs ...
... which date from the short term enthisiastic days when the Council provided green vehicles and, briefly (very briefly!) provided some m*rk*t*ing for the network. Profuse apologies to County Councillors for using such an offensive word!

But there is more good news. (No there isn't!) There is a big display frame adjacent to the stops ...
... which, as you can see, is absolutely packed with useful information.
So our last chance of finding out when the W4 might actually run is by looking at the timetables in the frames within the shelters themselves.

Oh dear!

The Souls' service features drunkenly in one display ...
... a superb example of the absolute circus that is bus publicity in Wellingborough.
But, do not rush into condemnation just yet. There is another frame with another W4 timetable ...
... an out-of-date Centrebus version which ceased during the first part of 2011. And it is incorrect, of course.

Never mind, we can always check the destination display. This bus is surely going to the station ...
... no. It's on its way to Barnwell. The bus began its life with Stagecoach East London.
Well done all concerned. It makes Cornwall look positively superb; and, refreshed (?) by the Wretchedness of Wellingborough, we return to the far west tomorrow.

Thanks to our Northampton correspondent for supplying material for this blog.

 Next bus blog : Wednesday 9th July 


  1. An interesting follow up would be to ascertain whose responsibility the timetable frames / panels are?
    One suspects that they were erected by the County Council, but the responsibility for updating the information was devolved to the Borough Council, who either have redunded the person responsible without considering the implications, or have simply lost the key!!
    Each of the aforementioned organisations will no doubt spend much time and effort blaming each other (and then attempt to blame the Bus Companies), instead of actually going out and doing something about it.
    I feel a site meeting in September coming on . . . . . .

    Seriously, though - this is just one manifestation of the state of public infrastructure in these days of council cutbacks. When was the last time anyone saw a verge being trimmed? On a journey from Welsh Wales to the Home Counties on Sunday, it was easy to tell the council boundaries - it was where the grass had been cut (or not)! And how often can one clearly see road signs now? Not often - the undergrowth is now overgrowth!!

  2. "From 30th June this year the service was retendered with Meridian Bus of Northampton/Milton Keynes."

    It wasn't. Meridian Bus are operating it commercially, and I understand the only way it was viable to do so was one bus and one driver, which is why there is the lunchtime break.

  3. Thanks, Neil. I do not see much longevity for the service as a commercial venture. One possible alternative would be to divert the half hourly Stagecoach 45 to the station. It serves a nearby road. But presumably the benefits for Stagecoach are negligible and the costs too great?

  4. If Meridian bus are running commercially then surely it is in their own interests to produce some publicity, even A4 duplicated sheets, and stick them up in appropriate places - and that would include the outside of timetable boards if access to the inside isn't available.
    Yes, it would be a cost, but not much of one.

  5. Alan, northampton8 July 2014 at 15:09

    Northamptonshire County Council leaves road side publicity to the operators. In practice this means that if it is a Stagecoach service timetables are kept up to date, if UNO they might be and as for the others .....
    In Northamptonshire we are very familiar wit the phrase -
    "that's not us, that's County Council / Borough Council / Operator / Contractor's responsibility (delete as appropriate.
    For a Northamptonshire councillor's attitude to public transport google "Rupert Reichold taxis" or refer back to a long ago blog here.

  6. Alan, actually it isn't that clear. Technically the roadside in Northamptonshire was supposed to be maintained by the County Council (the W4 timetable shown is a NCC style timetable) but they have been so bad at doing so in recent years that most of the operators have taken to doing so themselves after repeated broken promises. These confusions tend to occur where a council previously did update the information and then stops, or cuts back its staffing to a point where it struggles to carry out the task, without warning the operators so they are expecting the council to do it when the council can't or won't, once the situation is clarified then normal service will resume (some operators will do it well, some do it to a basic level driven by cost and some won't do anything).

    I've made a note to ask our roadside maintenance person to remove the old Centrebus timetable from Church Street the next time he is passing Wellingborough though it probably won't be until after the summer holidays.

  7. I personally have been on the service, the drivers are not friendly they don't even speak understand what you're saying, there slow and when you make a complaint the boss is rude and very arrogant when replying to you, mind you he has a colorful history with VOSA and others.....

    1. What colourful history is that? Please elaborate...