Sunday 30 November 2014

Loose Ends?

A Poke at Stoke
It was way, way back in July (2014!) that First Bus introduced a brand new network in the Potteries. Almost every week since, the local paper ("The Sentinel") has included articles about dissatisfaction, petitions and all round opprobrium for First Bus. "Albert Biggle can't get to his pigeon loft anymore; he's 107 and fought the Kaiser when he was only 7." etc. But there have been serious concerns and the hard-done-by minority have been far more vocal (apparently!) than the satisfied or apathetic majority.

So, from today, First Bus launch a NEW NEW NETWORK barely 5 months after the last new network. fbb is somewhat ignorant of the Potteries in detail but will report in due course. There has also been an unexpected rise in competition in the area.

But this second substantial change does provoke a question.

Is it wise to undertake these massive network-wide re-orgainsations? Two previous attempts (Southampon and Portsmouth) resulted in major changes within 12 months. We Brits are averse to change, so perhaps a softly softly approach is better with a planned progressive revision over, say, a six or twelve month period?

And what happens if this latest re-jig doesn't work?
James Young squared!
Sir James Young Simpson, 1st Baronet (7 June 1811 to 6 May 1870) was a Scottish obstetrician, born in Bathgate, and an important figure in the history of medicine. Simpson discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform and successfully introduced it for general medical use.At the age of 28 he was appointed to the Chair of Medicine and Midwifery at the University of Edinburgh.

Some of us have heard of him. But few of us have heard of his near namesake.
James Young (13 July 1811 to 13 May 1883) was a multi-talented chemist and industrialist who prefected a technique for extracting paraffin from oil bearing shale. The first foray into fracking!

The production of liquid and solid paraffin wax from coal formed the subject of his patent dated 17 October 1850. In 1850 Young & Meldrum and Edward William Binney entered into partnership under the title of E.W. Binney & Co. at Bathgate and E. Meldrum & Co. at Glasgow; their works at Bathgate were completed in 1851 and became the first truly commercial oil-works in the world.

So to launch their new vehicles for the Edinburgh to Bathgate services (there's a clue in there, somewhere!) , these two honorable gents appear emblazoned on the back end of a bus. Here's the front ...
... with the usual gaggle of the great and good that accompanies such events. Left to Right: Michael Connarty MP, Graeme Morrice MP, Paul McGowan MD of First Scotland East, Cllr Tony Boyle & Cllr Alex Davidson

And here is the back end ...
... partly hidden behind a group of excited schoolchildren.

Left to Right : P7 pupils Serena Crossan, Elise Petrie, Ciaran Moran and Jay Findlay find out more about the area's Pioneers with First Bus.

"Look interested for the camera or you'll be in detention tomorrow!"

The new vehicles will operate on the following services:-

Service 20 every 30 minutes between Whitburn, Bathgate and Broxburn with one service an hour extending to Edinburgh

Service 21 every 30 minutes between Fauldhouse, Bathgate, Blackburn, Livingston and Broxburn with one service an hour extending to Edinburgh

Service 22 every 30 minutes between Harthill, Whitburn, Blackburn, Livingston and Broxburn with one service an hour extending to Edinburgh. 

Another First Bus livery for our rapidly expanding collection.
Will They or Won't They?
There have been continuing rumours about First Bus in Plymouth. One minute it's pull back, reduce, wind down; the next, positive developments are announced. Service 6, for example was started in direct competition with Plymouth Citybus, charging a cheap fare of £1. See "It Takes no Efford at all to get to Effort" (read again).
First have just introduced a Sunday service and extended part of the Monday to Saturday frequency to Sainsburys, just along the road from the previous terminus.
The stop is here, on the correct side of the road for the store, with Sainsburys nestling in a deceptively bucolic wooded copse.
The £1 flat fare still applies, all the way. Vehicles are unchanged.
And for many years Western National and successors First ran buses between Tavistock and Callington ...
... as in the 1999 service from the Great Britain Bus Timetable.
This traditional route was lost under retendering to Western Greyhound and then Plymouth Citybus ...
 ... leaving First with a return school journey only. It appears that First's planners have decided to use that school bus to bring back "their" 79; with a difference.
It runs Monday to Friday only between those school journeys, hence the early finish. It leaves Tavistock 5 minutes before CityBus, does not do all the twiddles via Calstock, Metherell and Harrowbarrow ...
... and thus takes 27 minutes rather than 46 or 54. Surely this must hurt the finances of the GoAhead version?

First Plymouth ain't dead yet - well not quite. First's web site, however is a bit moribund. As of yesterday there was no mention of 79 in the PDF timetables list under the general heading of "Timetable Booklets".
No map either.
The HTML timetable was, however in place.
The Stagecoach Gold Rush - Devon Style
It was just over a year ago that Stagecoach launched their Gold service between Torquay and Plymouth and between Torquay and Dartmouth. fbb was well impressed with the celebrations and the gold biscuits with edible labels. His original blog is (here). Susequently doubled in frequency to Plymouth with the Datmouth service being a shuttle from Totnes, the service has obviously done well. Indeed done better than the First bus equivalent which faded gracelessly from the scene soon after Stagecoach started.

Flagship Stagecoach Gold bus service carried it’s one-millionth passenger during week commencing 24th November

Stagecoach Gold runs up to every half hour between Torquay and Plymouth, 6 days a week and up to every hour on Sundays

An anytime day return between Torquay and Plymouth is just £7.20, and between Torquay and Totnes is only £4.90

100% of Gold customers would use the service again and recommend it to a friend*

This time, the PR brought out, yet again, the local Great and Good ...
... presenting a prize to the lucky millionth passenger. She was awarded an annual season ticket for the service worth £940.
Kirsty Fawthorpe, who uses the service on a daily basis, said “"I use Gold to commute to work every day to Totness (Whoopsie! Stagecoach PR gurus really should know that Totnes only has one "s" - bad housepoint!) and think it's a fantastic service - really comfy seats and, of course, the free wi-fi is great. When I heard I'd been selected as winner of this competition I was absolutely over the moon - it was a lovely surprise!"

Well, what a surprise. The millionth passenger was a well satisfied regular user of the service. It was good thing they didn't get grumpy old Ethel Figgis from Paignton who would have said, "it's too (expletive deleted) expensive. I can't afford it more than once a month. It used to be sixpence when I were first married to Arnold, bless his dear departed soul. You can keep your prize."

And young Kirsty uses he free wi-fi as well. What a paean of passenger perfection!

Cynical, fbb; surely not?
 Next bus blog : Monday 1st December 

1 comment:

  1. I think you'll find that the First number 6 bus photographed is now running around Taunton in two shades of green. It even makes it to Axminster occasionally.