Thursday 9 October 2014

Council's Clochemerle Conundrum [1]

For This Relief Much Thanks

Clochemerle is a 1934 French satirical novel by Gabriel Chevallier. It is set in a French village in Beaujolais, inspired by Vaux-en-Beaujolais ... 
... and deals with the ramifications over plans to install a new urinal in the village square.
There was a 1972 BBC television serial based on the novel, with Ray Galton and Alan Simpson adapting the text. Filmed on location in France, it starred Cyril Cusack, Wendy Hiller, Kenneth Griffith, Roy Dotrice, Cyd Hayman, Micheline Presle, Bernard Bresslaw, Hugh Griffith, Nigel Green, Madeline Smith and Wolfe Morris with narration by Peter Ustinov.

The series was shot on location in Colombier-le-Vieux, in the department of Ardeche, south of Lyon.

The series is still available or purchase on-line and is often described as "politely amusing",  euphemism for not really very funny. fbb remembers watching the first episode only; but it was on the then up-market BBC2.

The steam railway there, which appears in the programme, had been restored by enthusiasts the year before shooting.
The Chemin de fer du Vivarais, often called Le Mastrou or Train de l'Ardèche, is a tourist railway in the Ardèche region of the South of France. The metre gauge line is 21 miles long. The railway is renowned for its historical steam locomotives in Mallet articulated locomotive style, as well as a collection of historic rolling stock and diesel railcars.

The line runs between Tournon, in the Rhône Valley, and Lamastre in the Doux valley. From Lamastre, the original line ran a further 12 miles to Le Cheylard. Originally opened on 12 July 1891, the line closed on 31 October 1968, and reopened as a heritage line the following year. In 2008, heritage services were suspended due to lack of funds to repair steam locomotives, among other issues. In 2013, steam returned to the Vivarais and services were resumed.

Another for the list of "things to do" before fbb shuffles off this mortal coil; a list which is ever lengthening as life expectancy is shortening and energy is evaporating!

But for a modern Clochemerle experience, we must return to the bumbling borough council, installers of the optimistic, nay mendacious, signs ...
... to the lavish facilities available for National Express passengers in Northampton, an insignificant urban back-water with a catchment area of up to a quarter of a million persons.
Why National Express should tolerate such an insult is a great mystery. The mystery is made ever deeper by recent revelations from a senior bus manager in the town, viz Steve Burd, boss of Stagecoach.
I would advise you that the Northampton bus operators offered to agree to the allocation of bays 13 and 14 in the North Gate Interchange to National Express, but National Express took the view that it was more important for their services to be located at a point where there was car parking rather than at the centre of local bus operations.

But National Express offered this rejoinder:-

I can confirm the stop was changed (to Victoria Street - fbb) due to refurbishment at the Bus Station. The new stop was chosen as advised by the local council due to access.

So, it IS Northampton Borough Council's fault.

But the paucity of  provisions for passengers' private proclivities is about to change.

As we shall see tomorrow.
But, in the meantime, guess what? The demolition of the old bus station is not going as well as expected.

"The demolition of the Greyfriars bus station site has been delayed by up to six months after 'more asbestos than anticipated' was found in the building," the leader of Northampton Borough Council said.

That's David Mackintosh, remember? He explains the problem.
"DSM Ltd, a specialist in town centre demolitions, had now been appointed to take forward the 'second phase' of the demolition work after Kier completed the internal stripping of the building." 

Video from the local paper here

"DSM Ltd will be reviewing and considering 'all demolition options' for the building during the next 12 weeks."

"A number of issues have been encountered with the building, that was constructed in the 1970s, and we were not always sure what we were going to find in there. It is a massive building and we have found more asbestos than it was anticipated we would have to deal with. We did not have the full site plans to look at so we were relying on people's best estimates rather than facts."

Couldn't the Borough Council get hold of the plans from the owners of the property? Oops, the Borough Council ARE the owners of the property! Oops, they haven't kept a copy. Oops, if they had maintained their property properly it could still be used as a bus station. No it could'nt because they wanted to sell it to a developer. Oops, the developer pulled out so we're looking for another one. Oops we're in a deep recession. Oops.

Councillor Mackintosh said the possibility of road closures around the Greyfriars site during the works had been considered, but he believed they would not be needed. He said: "We are considering all options but the default option is still brick by brick.

Get ready for the Press Release; "Town Centre chaos. Christmas road closures!" "Necessary for the demolition of Greyfriars Bus Station", says Councillor Mackintosh.

Perhaps an opportunity for a new BBC2 drama?
This item was added late to yesterday's blog.
Repeated here for those that read the blog early!
Awards ceremonies are many and various, but often they expose the strange and devious ways of the National Public transport mind. The winners of the "best train company" have been announced and this year the glowing citation puts First Scortrail at the top of the list.
Governments of various hues have promised to "reward excellence", to offer longer franchises to encourage investment and NOT to award on price alone. So today comes the news that the new Scotrail franchise has gone to a foreign nationalised train operator. Dutch State Railways will be running the trains in Scotland.
This is a typical on-line comment:
Insane! We have an SNP government that claim they are the protectors of Scotlands national interest. The SNP fought for power's to be clawed back from Westminster. This month they get the power to bring railway's back in house and to create a not for profit company as it has just been devolved in the post referendum settlement. They can't nationalise it as it's not allowed under E.U law. (so technically Abellio is illegal as it's Dutch State railways quango!) So instead of creating a not for profit company that is self financing as it reinvests all profit in improving services I.e network rail or East Coast model. Or giving it back to First group who have created lots of jobs and invested in Scotrail. The SNP think it's better to hand all of Scotrails profits 20 million last year to the Dutch taxpayer. This equals loss of jobs as a Scottish company has lost the contract, loss of taxpayers money to a foreign government and a total loss of any credibility the SNP ever had!

This would be daft it it were done by DaFT; it's even dafter as it's been done by Scottish politicians.

The formal announcement is due today**, but it has been widely leaked.

** i.e. yesterday!
 Next bus blog : Friday 10th October 


  1. Could this be the very same Northampton whose County Council (the regional planning and transport authority) have just issued a press release indicating that they have concerns that new housing developments in Northampton will not be served by bus!

    That as a result they are seeking to obtain/use s106 monies to fund these and will be working in consultation with Northampton Borough Council and the bus operators to deliver it.

    They make it sound as though its a wonderful new revelation, but s106 has been around for years.

    Planning applications would normally go to the Borough Council (Northampton) and be copied to the County Council who would comment on transport matters and recommend where s106 might or should be sought. At some point the local bus operators would be involved/consulted.(My comments are based on my experiences in another shire county)

    Well that's how it should work - surely!

    So why make it sound like something they haven't done or thought of before?. Or is it one of those occasions where the PR department has simply brought in its spin to try and persuade Northampton's public that they are doing something!?

    Extra new bus services in Northampton - where are they going to terminate?

  2. The Vivarais's "other difficulties" are worthy of further comment.

    The last 2 km or so into Tournon terminus was via a mixed gauge track on one of the two SNCF lines used only for goods services along the west bank of the Rhone (the dashed section on the map). The sight of metre gauge steam trains running under standard gauge catenary was a joy to behold!

    However, the railway was given notice by RFF (the French equivalent to Network Rail) to cease use of the mixed gauge section. This effectively caused the closure of the whole route, since all the depot and maintenance facilities were at Tournon station, at the far end of the mixed gauge track, and thus remote from the main route.

    As is often the case in France, where the leisure industry seems less developed than in the UK, the local authority contributed funds that enabled the railway to construct a new base [at St Jean] on its own route (in fact, the railway was part-owned by the Conseil General for a while).

    The timetable was very French: four trains in close succession up the valley, a long lunch break, and then returning at similar intervals.