Saturday 31 January 2015

Headline Writers Revision Course

fbb offers advice, perhaps?
More people are using buses in Rotherham, with 100,000 more passengers reported since the same time last year. The increase in passenger numbers is being attributed to improvements in the area's bus services following the introduction of the Rotherham Bus Partnership in July 2014.

Representatives from the voluntary Partnership between Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, and bus operators Stagecoach, First and TM Travel marked the six-month milestone at Rotherham Minster Gardens
Rotherham Bus Partnership Group Pic: Left - Right: Phil Stockley, TM Travel; John Young, Stagecoach; Cllr Maggie Godfrey, Rotherham Borough Council; David Young, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive; Ben Gilligan, First South Yorkshire; Ian Ashmore, Rotherham Borough Council

Fare-paying passengers have risen sharply by 240,000 since its launch (timetbale and route changes from July 2014 - fbb), an increase of 6%, and child passengers by 20,000 (2.7%). Latest records show improvements in punctuality and reliability, with 92% of buses running on time and 98.6% as scheduled. The introduction of the multi-operator Rotherham Connect tickets that can be used across different buses have also seen some fares fall.
The partnership monitors and identifies locations and causes of bus delays that affect the punctuality and reliability of services. Timetable and service changes have been made in January 2015 to further improve services.
Rotherham Borough Council's Cabinet member for Safe and Attractive Neighbourhoods, Cllr Maggie Godfrey, said: "Our bus service plays a major role in making sure Rotherham has an efficient transport network which all helps to contribute to a stronger, local economy."
Managing Director at Stagecoach Yorkshire, Paul Lynch, said: "Rotherham's bus network offers a convenient, stress free and friendly way to get around. The Partnership has achieved clear improvements to buses in the town, making it an attractive alternative to the car. I hope that people in the area continue to see the improvements that the Partnership has brought so far, and continue to use the bus whenever it?s the best travel option."
Managing Director for First South Yorkshire, Ben Gilligan said: "By working together in a single united approach for our customers the Bus Partnership is delivering real benefits for Rotherham. Value for money bus services helping connect communities with places of education, work and leisure are providing a real alternative to the car and I'm sure these strong results will give us the platform to continue this improvement."

Sheffield City Region Combined Authority Transport Committee Chair, Cllr Bill Mordue, said: "We are delighted that more people are travelling on Rotherham's buses. We have tried very hard to listen to customers and local communities to provide a bus network that is designed around their needs, and which people can depend on. Together with a flexible network, value-for-money tickets, and figures showing improvements in punctuality and reliability, the passenger numbers at this six-month milestone highlights the potential of Rotherham Bus Partnership and the difference it continues to make."
Phil Stockley, Development Director of TM Travel, added: "This success in Rotherham proves that the best route to better bus services is partnership between innovative bus companies and forward thinking local authorities."

Here endeth the press release.
Events such as this, staged entirely to create a press release, are pretty standard stuff. Someone will have written the quotes and staged the picture. An increase in passenger numbers is worth shouting about; but there are some other hidden agendas.

The heavyweight punch-up in Tyne and Wear (Nexus), with operators threatening death by a thousand oil leaks to the politicians if they go ahead with with their take-over of the buses, calls for a whole range of responses; but the message of growth through partnership is a positive alternative. Take note in geordie-land!

What is strange is that, although the Sheffield partnership involved some signifcant changes of route and operator, the Rotherham cosiness changed very little. So perhaps (say it quietly on Tyneside) the growth has nothing to do with partnership at all!

And then there is UDI from the PTE (partnership? really?) dramatically reducing the amount of printed timetable information available in the county by not producing any! Will that have any effect on future passenger numbers?

But what really caught fbb's eye and caused him to revert to pedantc ex-schoolteacher mode was the press release headine.

Rotherham Bus Users Continue to Rise

The thought of Rotherham folk zooming heavenward is frightening, challanging and wholly illiterate. What they should have written is "Rotherham Passenger Numbers Continue to Rise"! So that is a detenshun for whoever writ the press releese.

Or that's how it seemed until fbb came across this picture on-line ...
... of a Rotherham passenger rising to leap over a service 19 bus whilst clutching  copies of the above text.

And it isn't even April 1st.

 Next (model) rail blog : Sunday 1st February 

Friday 30 January 2015

Lost Line Leads to Leigh - but Late!

Manchester's Busway to be run by First
The announcement that Fearnley's First has been awarded the contract to operate services along Manchester's guided busway guides fbb to take closer look. The Leigh project is part of a much bigger scheme to improve public transport in the City. There are three main corridors under development.
The A664 north to Middeton and the infamous Oxford Road are part of the overall plan. Here a Transport for Greater Manchester video for the latter.
Impressive, eh?

The East Lancs Road (A580) is also getting a bus-favourable treatment.
A string of bus lanes, bus friendly traffic lights and a park and ride near the M62 all feature.
The road will also be equipped with Toucan crossings, so called because two (types of crosser) can cross; i.e.pedestrians and cyclists. [two can = Toucan. Chortle, chortle].
It ll looks very impressive indeed.
Anyroad (as they say oop north), buses will then turn smartly right onto Newearth Road ...
... to the site of Ellenbrook Station.
The line closed pre-Beeching in 1960 with alternative buses, we read, provided by Lancshire United and Lancashire United amongst others.
From here the busway runs onwards and westwards through the site of Tyldesey station ...
... and so on into Leigh.
Here the former Leigh and Bedford Station (or Bedford Leigh, not to be confused with West Leigh and Bedford which is to the west of Leigh) ...
... is obliterated by industrial premises. The busway will end here on East Bond Street (note the purple poster) ...
... before following a bus-prioritised route to Leigh bus station.

Note Queen Street (lower left). When google streetview googled past, there was but one tiny remnant of the long-closed line ...
... namely a substantial chunk of bridge abutment.

The only current service following the East Lancs Road express from Manchester to Leigh is the half hourly X34 ...
... operated jointly by First ...
... and Stagcoach.
The X34 takes 55 minutes and planners estimate that an equivalent through busway service will take just 45, a ten minute saving.

Presumably a network of revised services will be announced in due course. In various places on-line the project is due to be opened in late 2014 but on some pages this has been changed to a very nebulous "2015". No date has yet been announced but local contacts are quoting "several months".

It would be good to be there when it happens (badly disguised fbb hint!!!). Lets hope it's more succesful than Luton!

Yesterday afternoon approximately 20 flakes of snow fell on the vast fbb estates. As just one flake on the Met office roof on Christmas Day makes it an official White Christmas, the fbbs can now record their first East Devon snowfall. None of the flakes survived their fall to earth.
 Next bus blog : Saturday 31st January 

Thursday 29 January 2015

Daring Doings in Doncaster's Dunscroft [8]

The Power of the Press!

Seventy-year-old Charles Worsdale, of Church Balk Gardens, Edenthorpe, said: “Many residents, many of whom are elderly or disabled, have to depend on the buses. This is a vital public service.”

Mr Worsdale, who uses the 67 and 69 bus service, said the changes will make it difficult for him, and many others, to attend appointments at Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

He said: “This will result in considerable hardship for a large number of residents, who have previously relied on the running of the buses via Church Balk for shopping, keeping hospital and doctor’s appointments or visiting family and friends.”

As we saw yesterday (read again), Church Balk at Edenthorpe ...
... gained a half hourly service from the early seventies by extending 159 journeys from Clay Lane estate. Until recently this was replaced by three buses every two hours as routes  67  and  69 , with the 67s looping back every two hours via a bit more of Edenthorpe ...
... viz Edenfield Road on their way to Lindholme.
There was a good service at the edges of the housing, but, arguably for the less athletic, it was a potentially troublesome walk. What Mr Worsdale and his chums get from last weekend is a new service 89 doing a similar loop but hourly and off-peak.
The 89 does still serve the hospital.
To what extent this change  will result in considerable hardship for a large number of residents is difficult to assess from a distance. But Mr Worsdale can still do his shopping and visit friends and even keep his hospital appointments.

Mum-of-three Nicola Tanner, aged 28, of Clay Lane, said the changes would affect parents who use the 76 bus to take their children to Kingfisher Primary School, Coventry Grove, Wheatley. She said: “Some of us have pushchairs.

“We’re all good friends, so we organise between ourselves who’s going to get the bus to school at 8am and who is going to get the next one at 8.30am, because there isn’t room for all of us on one bus.

In fact Nicola had a choice of three buses under the "ancien regime":-
“We’ve been told to get the 84 bus, but there will only be one bus an hour, which means some of us may have to get an earlier bus and then be stood outside school for at least half an hour.”

The 84/84A/84B complex runs every 20 minutes between Barnby Dun and Doncaster (so not one bus an hour) but Nicola now only has two journeys ...
... at about 0807 and 0827; but that's all the journeys she claimed she had prior to the change! She also needs to take a short walk from Thorne Road along Coventry Grove.
The school is on the roundabout at the end.

Surprisingly, however, the press has not latched on to the change at the Wheatley Hills estate which is much more dramatic. Here is a before and after map:-
Prior to 26th January, service  76  ran every 20 minutes to Clay Lane with an additional 20 minute frequency service  77  crossing Thorne Road and serving Wheatley Hills. Occasional journeys diverted via Wheatley Hall Road as    76A . The new  76  now runs every ten minutes - seemples!

Nicola Tanner now has the  84  group from Clay Lane.

But poor, poor Wheatley Hills estate. They have gone from a bus every 20 minutes on service  77  from 0800 to 2000 to a paltry  89  with journeys roughly every hour between 0900 and 1600.

Now that would be a story for "The Star"! But the incisive press reporter missed it completely.

Anyway, all is well because First have explained everything.

A First spokesman said the changes were introduced in response to feedback from customers, and they would not be left disadvantaged.

Unless they live at Wheatley Hills!

The spokesman said: “The new service 89 will provide improved access to Doncaster Royal Infirmary."

Less buses than service 67 and 69; an interesting definition of "improved".

“These are not cuts, the total level of resource is the same. We’ve refocused that resource following consultation with our customers in 2014, which asked for a simpler network with faster and more frequent buses from certain areas."

3 minutes faster from Moorends on the X8 and slightly more frequent from Stainforth on the 87 but on Mondays to Fridays only. But I am sure that the relatively few disadvantaged passengers (?) will be encouraged to know, as they shiver at their bus stop, that their resources have been refocussed. It can be quite painful, you know.

“However, this is an on-going process. We will be going back out in the community to get feedback after these changes have come in to force and if we need to make more changes to meet customer requirements we will.”

Yes, the man hints, we'll probably have to change it all again soon. Don't expect us to get it right first time!

Any big change can cause heartache, but these blogs have shown how easily the end user can be misled, either deliberately or by default, by the way the alterations are explained. fbb thinks this "refocussing of resources" could have been better explained by avoiding "operator-speak" and "management speak". In practical terms, tell people area by area what has changed, don't expect them to grapple with long lists of roads, route numbers and frequencies.

A house-to-house delivery of a network booklet with the excellent First Bus map would seem to be essential for a major and contentious change like this. Enjoy a bit of the map! (click on the map to enlarge)

 Next bus blog : Friday 30th January 

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Daring Doings in Doncaster's Dunscroft [7]

But some folk are never satisfied?
 "The Star" Doncaster edition began complaining on Monday 19th. 
This little article is worthy of more detailed analysis.

Angry passengers have condemned decisions to cut ‘vital’ bus services serving their Doncaster neighbourhoods. Eight bus services are due to be cut on Sunday by First, the borough’s biggest bus operator.

We know that he press likes bad news, and the headline focussing on bus cuts is grist to their journalistic mill. and, from a simplistic point of view, from the point if view of a hack who has never travelled the byways of Barnby Dun, eight routes are withdrawn; nine if you include the 88! The reported does offer an incomplete report on replacaments.

Services 67, 68, 69, 83, 84 and 85 will be replaced by 84/A/B and 89 services.

This, of course, only refers to the revised pattern of service via Barnby Dun as per yesterday's blog  (read again)

The 84/A/B services will operate between Doncaster and Barnby Dun, while the new service 89 will link Doncaster and Edenthorpe via Wheatley Hills. The 76 service will also operate a revised route, while the 76A and 77 will be withdrawn.

Again only part of the truth.

But it would appear that there is more to this change than fbb has hitherto revealed. We need to take a ride on a Doncaster trolleybus to Beckett Road.
Buses no longer serve the "terminal loop" but the former council houses, now refurbished, remain ...
... but not the little "parade" of shops. In the early 60s trolleybuses were withdrawn and by 1981 the Beckett Road route was numbered 163 by the PTE.
It was joined, in part, by Doncaster's only "cross-town" service (?), the 158/159; which ran, partly via Beckett Road (158 journeys), and then continued to new housing and a terminus at Clay Lane estate. Part of the service was subsequently extended to Church Balk in Edenthorpe.
The road that passed Wheatley Farm had been enlarged ...
... to provide a Thorne Road by pass and access to warehouse trading (Wheatley Hall Road) giving the 158/9 a faster route to Clay Lane.
Hey ho, we need some bus maps. Firstly a PTE map showing services similar to the above timetable extracts.
click on the map for enlargement

Note that back in the eighties, there was a frequent "local" service (179) along the Thorne Road in addition to those routes featured in this series of blogs. Note also, in passing, that route 190 to Wheatley Hills (estate) was a sporadic but infrequent variant of the 179.

The 158/159 was also noteworthy in the vehicles used for a while. SYPTE had purchased a small batch of Metropolitans (4?) which were not a success. Their fuel comsumption on Sheffield's hills was ludicrously high and they were eventually consigned to Donny to work on the flat between Weston Road and Clay Lane. The route was also Doncaster's first (and only?) Videmat Route.
fbb's appallingly messy slide shows passengers loading at Clay Lane estate for the trip to Weston Road. Note also that these vehicles carried the Doncaster Borough coat of arms as well as PTE livery, an idea that was soon knocked on the head by the big bullies at county HQ.

So in the heady days of the PTE as bus operator, residents of Beckett Road had their own frequent service; Clay Lane had a bus every 15 minutes, Church Balk Edenthorpe was served every half hour and Wheatley Hills estate had an off-peak 190 every 35 minutes.
Seventy-year-old Charles Worsdale, of Church Balk Gardens, Edenthorpe, said: “Many residents, many of whom are elderly or disabled, have to depend on the buses. This is a vital public service.”

And, of  course, that was the policy of the PTE; buses were an essential public service to be expanded and encouraged. Then along came privatisation and deregulation.

We will complete our investigation into the pearls of wisdom penned in the press in tomorrow's blog.
First Bus' first busway in Manchester
It has just been announced that First Bus has been awarded the contrct tp run services on and via Manchester's guided busway, still under construction.

fbb will take a look at this project on Friday
 Next bus blog : Thursday 29th January