Thursday 25 December 2014

Christmas Presents - Northampton and Sheffield

and the Isle of Wight
No No No

fbb's blog is proud to report on a series of Christmas presents given to customers at the Festive Season of good will to all bus passengers.

First, to the Isle of Wight, again.

Regular readers and bus watchers will remember this:-

Wightbus was axed by the Isle of Wight Council in February 2011, with the last services operating on 2 September 2011. Under a new "Community Bus Partnership", Southern Vectis agreed to take on a number of routes previously operated by Wightbus to rural areas of the island in co-ordination with the Isle of Wight Council and the town and parish councils which the services run in. The services are all run by volunteer drivers.

And the scheme was hugely successful.
It won awards. But, in a pre Christmas treat, the Council has just announced ...
... and we can all guess what that means, can't we?

Ongoing challenges in recruiting, training and retaining sufficient volunteers for the routes have prompted a reduction in the number of days the service will operate.

“We provide buses for the routes and will continue to do so whenever there are volunteers to drive them,” said Southern Vectis general manager, Matt Kitchin.

“The Partnership has taken the decision to reduce the number of days it operates from Monday 5 January - but it is hoped this will be temporary, whilst more volunteers are recruited and trained.”

Most services will now run two or three days a week!

Now please note the reason for these cuts. It is nothing to do with saving money. (Oh yeah?) It's all because they can't train enough volunteers in time. (Oh yeah?) It's all the "Community's" fault; nothing to do with the Council's or Southern Vectis' bank balance. (Oh double yeah?).

And on to Northampton. Remember the new coach station. Two shelters on a creepy back street next door to the old bus station demolition site?
Well Northamptonians have been given an early Christmas present. The two old shelters with inadequate publicity have gone! Hooray! They are replaced by ... brand new bus shelter with no publicity at all! And the lavish Tardis style toilet, also visible in all its expensive and unreliable glory, may be open "soon". It it ideally sited so that vandals can destroy it undisturbed by any passers-by.

In papers due to be discussed at a budget cabinet meeting tonight, it shows the toilet will cost an estimated £22,000 a year to maintain. A spokeswoman for Northampton Borough Council said: We want to provide better facilities for coach passengers in Victoria Street and have already installed new shelters for people waiting, which are nearly complete. A new toilet is being installed and this will be ready for use by the end of January.

For this relief, much thanks.

Just before Christmas, massive improvements were made to the National Express coach station (Chortle chortle) in Northampton. Posters have been stuck up.
No useful information, of course; just places where, if you have the cash for the phone calls or the electronic gubbins needed, you can find it. But don't worry, the bus stop flags for Yorks bus service and a link to Mere Way Tesco are significantly more than ten years old ...
... and are still the only visible indicator of what doesn't stop there.

But the "is it, isn't it" story of Northampton will-we-call it-"Castle"-and-pay-£250,000-for-the-privilege Station is coming to a conclusion. On December 13th the new footbridge and lifts opened.
This was just over two months after the previously announced date, October 6th.

There has been on-going angst over the delay with local MPs and councillors "doing their political nuts" and getting no meaningful response from the station's builders or future operators.

 December 20th 
The much-delayed £20m Northampton railway station will open no later than 12 January, Network Rail has announced it was delayed while Network Rail worked through a "snagging list". Northampton South MP Brian Binley said "bad publicity" had pushed Network Rail into solving the problem. Mr Binley, who had called Network Rail "ill-mannered and arrogant" and threatened to raise the delays in Parliament, said: "One of the people I met with gave the game away when she said, 'I am really unhappy about the bad publicity you have created for us'.

 December 13th 
But speaking a few moments ago, Mr Binley described the encounter as “One of the worst meetings I have ever been to in politics or in business,” claiming Network Rail did not give any further explanation as to the delay - other than to say it is working through a ‘snagging list’. Mr Binley said in a statement: “We have been asking Network Rail for weeks to give us a date for the opening of the station and had tried to meet with them on a number of occasions."

 December 10th 
The MP said he had tried and failed to get Network Rail to agree to round-the-table talks on two previous occasions amid growing frustration over the new facility in Black Lion Hill, but hopes this time the company will not cancel the appointment. Mr Binley said: “Both David and I are looking forward to a meeting, after which we can hopefully tell the people what the hell is happening. People are getting more and more frustrated as they’re still trudging through a shanty town structure in that old station."

 December 2nd 
An MP has written to the chief executive of Network Rail over further delays to the opening of a £20m railway station. Mr Binley called the company "ill-mannered and arrogant". Network Rail had blamed the delays on "unforeseen contractual issues" and said the station, which replaces the existing 1960s building, would open in November.

More news when if it opens. But whenever it does open please remember that the front entrance ...
... with the big sweep of doorways on the main road is, as you can see, NOT the main  entrance. The main entrance (with two poky doorways) is, obviously, round the back.

And finally to Sheffield. The PTE have done a survey. They need to save money.

So they asked the passengers, "If we didn't produce timetable leaflets, would you still be able to find bus times, e.g. on-line?"

Now most of the replies came from an on-line version of the survey. So the majority said, "we would look on-line."

Well there is a statistical surprise!

So the proposal is to stop producing leaflets ...
... maps and (presumably) departure lists at bus stops! Oh yes, and to close the main city centre enquiry offices!
Happy Christmas to South Yorkshire passengers. And tough bananas to the 80% to 90% of South Yorkshire folk who don't go into town clutching a laptop, iphone or tablet to their bosom.

fbb wonders how the bus operators are feeling about his. Once upon a time there was a Sheffield and Rotherham bus partnership. Partnership, phooey! Hopefully the First and Stagecoach will start producing their own, maybe even with understandable descriptions of the route ...
... and maps with the occasional (and essential) road names on them.
Perhaps even a "Partnership" enquiry office; then bump up tender quotes to pay for it.

It might be a better Christmas present that it first appeared!

But this decision must rate as the most ludicrous ever taken by any part of the bus industry. We knew SYPTE was pretty useless, but no-one would have ever believed they were are daft as that! Beyond belief!

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 fbb telly recommendation for tonight 
Dr Who, of course, (BBC1 1815)!
The Lady Vanishes (original version, BBC4 2100) - Plenty of European train scenes; Charters and Caldicott are hilarious. Ho Ho Ho!
 a birthday? 

Most of us will be celebrating today. But celebrating what? Many will be celebrating celebration - an empty over commercialised froth invented by big business. The birthday boy will not be invited. How sad for the individual. How sad for the stability of the world!
fbb wishes that ALL his readers
a happy and meaningful Birthday Party
 Next train blog : Friday 26th December 


  1. And a happy & meaningful Christmas to you too,fbb.
    Many thanks for the amazingly regular, nay, frequent, postings and the continued interest that they provide.

    Best wishes and blessings for 2015.

  2. Sounds like the SYPTE business development (destruction) unit and its policy of implementing new ways of (not) working (or helping customers). Probably led by a Graduate who studied Pre historic Flower arranging or some similar appropriate and useful subject!

    It will of course mean that they can no longer be subject to telling complaints from FBB and others. They can blame someone else (the operators) and take praise for having reduced the levels of complaint that are due to them.