Sunday 31 August 2014

It's Not Dull, We Went To Cully [2]

Visiting churches is a passion for many explorers but not usually for fbb. So often these once-thriving beacons of community life are promoted as museum pieces. Frankly that's what the fbb's expected at Cullompton. But they were wrong.
Oh, there was History; a gorgeous carved ceiling ...
... a magnificent painted rood screen ("rood", an old word for The Cross) ...
... and an extremely rare "golgotha".
No, neither had fbb!

Cullompton Church is unique throughout England, and possibly throughout Christendom, in possessing to the present day the original carved wooden base of the medieval rood screen. It is sometimes called the "Golgotha" because it is carved with skulls and rocks and crossbones. During the Middle Ages, it was a common practice to erect a carved representation of the crucifixion scene at Golgotha above the stone or wooden screen, which divided the chancel from the nave in most ancient churches. As the congregation passed through the screen to take communion, this visual aid would remind then of the sacrificial death of Jesus, a life offered to the forgiveness of their sins and commemorated in the bread and wine.

 But st Andrews is thriving with three services on Sundays.
It all looked like a wonderful and heartening mix of "ancient and modern"!
But back to the earthly from the spiritual. Stagecoach buses trundled by every 20 minutes in each direction ...
... with a mixture of newer and older deckers.
Devon County's bus stop infromation was in the form of proper timetable extracts, not the more usual and less useful departure lists.
It would have been even more useful to have a route map, especially in view of the multiple northbound destinations. Also passing by was the town service, operated on Devon County tender by Dartline.
This service 350 offers seven journeys Monday to Friday and three on Saturday mornings ...
... linking most of the town with the inevitable Tesco store (red dot, centre right).
The journeys fbb observed did not seem to be replete with eager shoppers!
Redwoods in 1952
"History" from their web site (here)

Redwoods Travel runs a wiggly round-the villages Thursdays only bus into Exeter (675) and Dartline (again) provide the Honiton circular (694). This is a delightful tour of picturesque and quaint Devon communities with one trip each way round the "circle" Mondays to Saturdays.
Cullompton even has a National Express service! The 0505 from Totnes via Torbay and Exeter creeps off the M5 at 0650 seven days a week, calling at The Weary Traveller (pick up ONLY) ...
... near the site of the former railway station, before nipping back smartly on to the M5 to serve Heathrow (1000) and London (1030). The return journey deposits you likewise at 2240 (set down ONLY).

On the whole a good selection of public transport, by today's declining standards, for a town with a population of  a little over 8,500.
The Battle for Tavistock
Hard Times All-round?
First Bus, successors to Western National, have run the bus service between Plymouth and Tavistock with only a brief spurt of cpmpetition in the late 80s. Then along comes a more aggressive (more go-ahead?) Plymouth Citybus and starts Blue Flash 12 in direct competition.
First has responded in various ways, but, until today, both companies were offering a 30 minute frequency. You must assume that neither company was making any money; as the old adage goes, "there's a living for one and a loss for two."

So from today the Blue Flash gets a bit less flashy. The Tavistock service is merged with the existing route 42 between Plymouth, Derriford Hospital and Tamerton Foliat ...
... and theres a goodly bit of renumbering to confuse the passengers!

The 12 Blue Flash becomes 42 Blue Flash
The 42A becomes 42A Blue Flash
The 42 becomes 42B Blue Flash
The Tavistock journeys on Mondays to Fridays are thus extensions of the buses that formed the short workings to the Hospital. A map might make it clearer ...
... or it might not.

The remaining Tamerton Foliat journeys are to be operated by up-fettled older single deck Blue Flash liveried buses; thus further diluting the "luxury double deck" brand.

Diverted and slower buses, complex route numbers and different shaped buses? A good idea? Not really. An attempt to save a bit of cash on a route that's losing money? That's more like it!

Is Plymouth City Bus struggling? Yes. Is First Bus struggling? Yes, again. Is competition a good thing for the industry.

No prizes for fbb's opinion.

Fellow blogger "Plymothian Transit" has published piccies of the Flashy single deckers. (here) is a link
 Next bus/rail blog Monday 1st September 

Saturday 30 August 2014

It's Not Dull, We Went To Cully [1]

Cullompton (promounced Clumpton) is a town and civil parish in the district of Mid Devon and the county of Devon, England, locally known as Cully. It is 13 miles miles north-north-east off Exeter and lies on the River Culm.

The earliest evidence of occupation is from the Roman period; there was a fort on the hill above the town and occupation in the current town centre. Columtune was mentioned in Alfred the Great's will. In the past the town's economy had a large component of wool and cloth manufacture, then later leather working and paper manufacture.

A large proportion of town's inhabitants are commuters but there is still some local manufacturing, including flour and paper mills. It has a monthly farmers' market held on the second Saturday of every month which is the oldest event of its kind in the South West. It is home to two grade I listed buildings: the fifteenth-century St Andrew's parish church (of which more later) and the seventeenth-century house known as The Walronds.
This superb building has been recently refurbished and returned to its original cream stucco finish.
All that now remains to be done is to return to pedestrian crossing to its 17th century heritage style complete with Dickensian crossing sweeper!
In all there are seven grade II* listed buildings and ninety grade II listed buildings in the parish. Like so many former bustling market towns, Cullompton suffers from the disease of commuter-land with several scruffy shops and a good number of closed establishments. fbb and Mrs visited on a Friday and, as usual, the passing traffic was busy but there was plenty of room in the town's car park and tables a-plenty in the cafes.

Traditionally buses have been provided by Devon General ...
... and or Western/Southern National. Successors to the former, Stagecoach, have plied the main road from Exeter since privatisation. In Great Britain Bus Timetable days the 54 ...
... ran from Exeter to Cullompton and DevonBus (tendered) 373 formed the link via Willand and Uffculme to Tiverton.
Over the last few years the Exeter company has improved andre-organised groups of routes into min-networks, one of which was initially branded as Culm Valley Connect and numbered 1 (etc).
A later development (in 2012) caused some ire (and a feeble petition) when Stagecoach routed all buses via Bradninch.

We the undersigned passengers of the Culm Valley connect bus service (1, 1A, 1B) buses deplore the changes and cuts to the service to be implemented on 2nd April 2012 and ask Stagecoach South West to reconsider them. This particularly affects people commuting to work and students going to school/college.

We particularly deplore:-

• the loss of the direct service to Exeter with all buses going via Bradninch;

• the extra time added to journey times between Exeter and Cullompton,

• the six double decker buses an hour trying to go through the narrow and steep roads of Bradninch which neither us or the residents of Bradninch want;

steep and narrow Bradninch?

• the loss of the service running down Langlands road in Cullompton.

To be as fair as possible, a stretch of the High Street (behind the Streetview noddy car as above) is narrow, but hardly dangerously so. The on-line petition attracted 17 signatures (!) and the only change was that buses continued to run via Langland Road every hour. But soon the branding began do disappear from the buses ...
... and there is now little to show that this particular brand ever existed. fbb spotted one solitary bus stop on the outskirts of Willand which still carried the route's logo. Unable to stop and snap, the best  picture is hyper-fuzzy from Streetview!
The core service is every 20 minutes to Willand with two buses continuing, via different routes, to Tiverton.
The timetable is potentially straight forward ...
... on Saturdays and during the middle part of the day Mondays to Fridays, but at school times ...
... horrors abound.

One other fuzzy bus stop photo is somewhat out-of-date. Again in Willand, look closely, screw your eyes up and use a little imagination.
On the bottom of this flag, next to the "DevonBus" logo in green, is the operator's logo. It is First Bus whose through service between Taunton, Tiverton and Exeter was withdrawn in February 2012. 
The 92 was first cut back to Tiverton only, then reduced from a hourly service to just 3 or 4 journeys Monday to Saturday and integrated with the Taunton to Wellington service 22.
Merely a pale shadow of its former self. The present operator prefers to keep its First Bus credentials hidden under the Buses of Somerset cunning disguise. So the stop is misleading, especially if the approaching bus is green, not barbie in hue.
Buses of Somerset loops via Willand

Most of the other stops in Willand were anonymous!

Tomorrow, we have a cursory glance at bus stop publicity in Cully, at Stagecoach vehicles and other services to the town. And, because it's Sunday, we'll go to Church!
Big Show for
Bradley Stoke
Bus Service
Followers of happenings at the University of Western England [UWE] will remember (you will remember, won't you?) that First has taken over the link from Bradley Stoke to UWE ...

... and will, from this weekend, be running direct from UWE via the M32. This was once subsidised Wessex Red 13 (the Bradley Stoke bit) ...

... and it looks as if First are providing it commercially.

So they are having a cut price introductory sale offer:-
£1.50 (75p children) fare for the month of September.

Cheap as chips - if not cheaper.
 Next bus blog : Sunday 31st August 

Friday 29 August 2014

Foot in Mouth? In Praise of our MPs (?)

Livery Delivery : Confusion Profusion [2]
will appear later next week
It's actually quite difficult to do ...
... but our politicians try very hard; and often success.

There was a bit of a problem at Ipswich over the recent bank holiday weekend. Engineering work overran much to everybody's surprise. (NOT!)
Several morning peak hour trains were cancelled and things only got back to "normal" from about 1030. Then other problems occurred and later in the day things got worse again.

Douglas Carswell was incensed!
John Douglas Wilson Carswell (born 3 May 1971) is a British Conservative Party politician. He is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Clacton, having been first elected as MP for Harwich in 2005.

Something should be done, and quickly. So he posted a tweet:-
Sadly, young Carswell doesn't seems to know that Abellio Greater Anglia is not the bĂȘte noir this time. The company comes pretty low in a "popularity" poll, second from bottom in fact, according to a survey by "Which" magazine.
But statistics can be misleading. Even "Which" admits that the average of all the companies is only 49% which makes Anglia's 40 seem less heinous. But there's surveys and there's surveys. Whom do you believe? The Rail Delivery Group (The Association of Train Operating Companies in heavy disguise) have a different set of stats.

The Which? scores are markedly lower than the passenger satisfaction results collated by the watchdog Passenger Focus from a far bigger sample. However, Which? said its scoring system, based on overall satisfaction and likelihood to recommend a company, used the same criteria it employed for other markets. Respondents were polled in early January, soon after the latest price rises.

The Rail Delivery Group [RDG]  said: "As we acknowledged last month when the independent watchdog found that more than four out of five passengers were satisfied with their overall journey, the industry needs to build on the improvements it has delivered over the last 15 years."

That's an average of 80%. But the RDG would say that, wouldn't they?

But Carswell has inserted foot. Engineering work is the the job of Notwork Rail.
Trains were cancelled on Tuesday, August 26 because of over-running engineering works at Ipswich. It follows a day of misery for commuters after over-running Network Rail work led to a series of cancellations to early-morning services. The early termination of services this evening will last until midnight.

A signalling equipment fault between Ipswich and Manningtree and a broken down train between Colchester and Manningtree added to this morning’s train problems. According to Greater Anglia, there were delays of up to 60 minutes.

The incident came just hours after Network Rail bosses said they were confident the work would be completed on time and trains would be running as normal ...

... between London and the region following the two-day track closure at Ipswich.

It is the 10th time in six years the company has been unable to complete work on schedule on the Great Eastern Main Line.

Of course, things may change in wildest Essex now that Mr Carswell has jumped ship, resigned from the Conservatives and joined UKIP.
Is this the ultimate manifestation of foot and mouth disease?

We may well wonder what key transport policy ideas will emanate from the inventive mind of Farage and his chums.

Transport Policy
We will make customer satisfaction number one for rail firms; not cost cutting and will look seriously at reopening some rail lines that Beeching closed. We will make foreign lorries pay for British roads with a ‘Britdisc’ and we will stop persecuting motorists.

Yeah, right!

Back to Ipswich and its problems.

Others have proffered some opinions on the engineering faux fas!
At least the BBC gets it right, as does MP Gummer. That's not John Gummer ...
... who left parliament in 2010. But his little boy, Benedict, known as "Ben".
He wants to see heads roll at Notwork Rail. And if the press reports are correct (if?) then he is right to make the call.

On Ben's web site, he claims to be working hard to improve rail services for Ipswich.
Leaving aside the misuse of the word "regular" for frequent, what does that last phrase mean? Currently Nederlandse Spoorwegen run a train every 30 minutes from Ipswich to London ...
... so Ben's aspiration for a train every 60 minutes may be tough to deliver!
Perhaps he wants to chop 10 minutes off the running time. Perhaps this is part of the Norwich in Ninety campaign which Ben has latched on to.
Chancellor George Osborne has announced a new taskforce to look at speeding up journey times to East Anglia to drive growth in the region. Plans for a new expert group charged with finding ways to speed up rail services to the East of England by as much as 25% have been set out by the Chancellor. The new taskforce will be made up of Department for Transport officials, experts from Network Rail, and local MPs.

Sounds a wizzo idea but, well ... next year is election year.

Cynical, moi?

fbb wonders whether Ben has told his constituents that the project is costed at £550 million at the moment. Past experience suggests that the figure may double before the project is competed in ... when? And will Ben support the next ten years' ticket price increases to pay for it? Seems a lot of lolly to get Essex man (and woman) to their desks a few minutes earlier.

 Next bus blog : Saturday 30th August