Sunday 15 March 2015

Old One, New One and Red One [Two]

Back to the Future

Isle of Wight bus company Southern Vectis has announced plans to invest more than £1 million in new buses for one of its main routes. The plans for the Number 1 Cowes and Newport service include investing £1.2 million in four new single decker buses and four new double decker buses.

Southern Vectis general manager Matt Kitchin said: "In our December 2013 survey, customers were very clear about the enhancements they would like to see on this popular service and we have listened to them. We are proposing to introduce a number of changes to Route 1, including brand new double and single decker buses. This would mean more seats during busy journeys. The changes are due to come into effect in March 2015, so now we want to know what our customers think of our proposals."

Now there's a funny thing!
As "cheeky chappie" Max Miller once said - often!

Miller, known as the Cheeky Chappie, stood out in the drabness of the Forties and Fifties, not least for his flamboyant attire; the gaudy plus-fours, decorated jackets and ties, white trilby hat and diamond-topped walking stick. He died 50 years ago last Friday.

Southern Vectis had 500 replies to its "consultation" undertaken in December last. This was in response to a proposed timetable change for the Cowes service. SV actually (and bravely) published the full proposed timetable. And, there's that funny thing, the timetable which starts today is exactly the same as the poposed one.

Never undertake a consultation unless you are sure that you will get the answer you want.

The launch was impressive (fbb was not invited!).
A selection of vehicles was lined up including two new ones. The new timetable for the service 1 has a hint of history about it. Because; the Monday to Saturday timetable will feature a bus every 15 minutes to Cowes Co-op. These journeys will be run by new double deck buses.
Separated out from the "normal" route 1 will be a new route 1 a bit like part of the old route 1. This will have new single deck buses and will run every 15 minutes to the Pontoon calling at the Co-op on the way back, just like the old one.
The route will be branded Red 1. And here is a timetable extract.
All buses now serve the diminutive Park and Ride ...

... with 8 buses an hour (formerly four) usually picking up and depositing thin air. And, yes, that is pretty much all of the park and ride site. The new map shows how route 1 has been separated from route 1 (the red one).
Will this scheme be better? Under the old timetable you could, if you got on the wrong one, travel round the terminating loop to your required destination.
Now you can't. The new old one is quite separate from the new red one; like it always was in the traditional days of the the 1 and 1A. The company makes much of the extra capacity on the new double decks, but those extra seats now roll along every 15 minutes instead of every 7/8.

And there are still four buses an hour to interact with the hourly ferry.

fbb predicts that at the next rethink there will be two 20 minute double deck services to the Co-op and some peak hour express journeys for the Pontoon. All numbered one, of course.

Back to the future indeed.

A Northampton Bombshell (Literally)

Today's the day that the former Greyfriars bus station is to be blown up. As the hapless councillor Mackintosh said about a year ago, "we will take the bus station down brick by brick so there will be no road closures and no disruption"

The company in charge of the demolition, DSM Ltd, said that bringing the 1974 building down ‘brick-by-brick’ as originally intended, would be too costly and time consuming.

Today, then we have a massive "exclusion zone" (yellow roads on map), residents are being evacuated from properties all around the area and the Grosvenor shopping centre will be closed "for the duration".

On the day of demolition a safety zone will be set up to keep everyone safely away from the demolition site. The exclusion zone will be in place by 8am, and anyone living in the exclusion zone will be evacuated from 8am.

Letters have been set to all residents and businesses in the exclusion zone to explain what the arrangements will be on the day and what they will need to do. Businesses within the exclusion zone, which includes the Grosvenor Centre, will be closed but will be able to open as soon as the demolition is complete and the all clear given. The roads will be cleared up and opened shortly afterwards.

The Grosvenor Centre and Mayorhold multi-storey car parks will be closed from 6pm on Saturday 14 March, but will also reopen as soon as it is safe to do so after the demolition. Wellington Street, Upper Mounts and Campbell Square car parks will also be closed on Sunday 15 March and will reopen later in the day.

So no disruption, then.

fbb hopes to bring pictures tomorrow and the actual demolition will be available live on-line by video link. If you can see anything for the dust!

So nothing can possibly go wrong?

Can it?
Video entitled "Thy Blew up the Wrong Building"

But tomorrow, fbb reports on something really, really stupid.

 Next technology blog : Monday 16th Match 


  1. According to BBC local news Leven Valley have decided to close down due to the high cost of Insurance. A reported 300% increase which is blamed on the claims culture!!!

  2. Rant time...
    Southern Vectis route 1 changes - benefits:
    Increased capacity (but only on half the journeys, so turn up and go passengers have a 50/50 chance).
    Possibly more reliable, as they've put more time in.

    Definite and potential disbenefits:
    Only half the buses now serve the Pontoon.

    Simple service structure (which at nine years old now, was quite long-standing!) ruined.
    Previously, buses followed the main roads and the route followed was as the same as the car: board bus, go straight to Newport.
    Now, they've introduced the awful criss crossing via Three Gates Road. This is absurd - obviously there was a reason they got rid of this with the 2006 network review, and I can’t believe they’ve returned to it. A Cowes - Newport bus being on Three Gates Road is travelling in the wrong direction to where people want to get to - adding both actual minutes to the journey time, and the psychological factor of being on a bus not making any progress.

    It's my view that the thought process was thus: "put deckers on half the service", "busiest half is Newport Road/Medical Centre/P&R leg", "but if we do that, we break the P&R to Red Jet link as deckers can't do Pontoon", "therefore must route Round House leg via P&R too".
    The end result is massive overbussing of the park and ride, and the passengers coming from the Round House have to turn off the main road, then head up Three Gates Road the wrong way, just for the privilege of running through the P&R without stopping/stopping for one or two.

    It doesn't take much to see how complex it all is now - what an absolute mess the timetable is, and seeing some early photos on Flickr, the bus destination displays are dreadful too.

    Criss-crossing via Three Gates Road is just bonkers, and to be honest, if it hadn't been for the fact that it was done like that in the 'bad old days', I doubt anyone would have dreamt it up for the current day.

    There's another issue of mixed types on the same route - double deckers have longer dwell times, and are much slower at negotiating Cowes' many parked cars, awkward turns and hills than the very nimble Darts/Enviro200s. But are expected to maintain the same running times and keep headway. Potentially making bunching far worse? And extra capacity isn't much use if things fall apart and the first bus is an Enviro200!

    Less resilience in times of disruption too - with fewer buses serving Pontoon, disruption makes missed connections more likely, while a double decker substituting for a single will now create a half hour gap in service at the Pontoon.

    Now, it's clear Southern Vectis have put a lot of effort, investment and resources into this (with one extra bus required), so I’m not knocking that, but I think they've judged this wrong.
    Sure, their consultation results apparently support what they're doing - but that's not the end of it.
    Ask people what they want, and they'll tell you. Say "double deckers" and people will say "oh yes, that's a good idea, I agree".
    But when you mention the actual practicalities of using deckers (messing about with the service, breaking links, increasing everyone's journey times, and generally making everything more difficult), they might be less inclined to agree.
    Was that part of the consultation? No.

  3. Rant's still not over!
    The other thing I've just discovered (from reading complaints on Twitter) is the timing of the Red Jet connections. Obviously, with only certain buses going there, and advertised as connecting, the bus has to get there early to avoid missing the boat if running late (as opposed to all buses going there, giving passengers a choice of which bus to take and how much risk they want to take!).

    The Pontoon buses are timed to get there 13 minutes(!!) before the Red Jet departs. 13 minutes waiting around is over half the duration of the Red Jet's crossing!
    Plus, as the same bus can't wait around to drop off and pick up from the boat, there's a gap for arriving ferry passengers of seven minutes, too.

    Of course, with all the buses going in there, this wasn't a problem.

    1. And it now means leaving Newport 10 minutes earlier to catch the connection at the Pontoon.
      The bastardised headway created by the change means that you have scheduled alternate 5 and 10 minute gaps from Cowes Co-op with the busy Enviro coming off of a Jet connection finding itself in a 10 minute gap with a double decker up the back 5 minutes later. Scheduling for bunching I think. It does make you wonder if they are trying to cut back to FBB's suggestion and save next winter. This is a horribly unattractive timetable. It is a hugely profitable route and deserves better than this.

    2. I don't think they are going towards FBB's theory at all - they have after all put extra resource into the service with these changes. It would be a very odd thing to add an extra bus in as a way of then making savings.

      My view is that they have tried to solve the capacity problems on the 1, and just made a very bad call and done all the wrong things.

  4. So am I really right in thinking that they have managed to increase the PVR from 7 to 8, BUT, reduce the peak time headway from every 7/8 minutes to every 10? Also, the double deckers are now on the buses that don't go into the Pontoon, so the busiest journeys and the ones where customers would have luggage are now spread across just 4 buses an hour that are actually short single decks?
    And on top of that, they now run all buses via the Park and Ride, even though half of them don't then get to the Pontoon where those Park and Riders are headed?
    One of the biggest advantages of all the buses being in the Pontoon was that you could wait there in the shelter of the ferry terminal or under the walkway knowing a bus would be there every 7/8 minutes. Now you have to go to Carvel Lane anyway unless you have a crystal ball to tell you what they are running like and which is next.
    Blimey, why not just add the PVR for reliability, stop them all in Carvel Lane, and double deck the whole route on the old service pattern?

  5. Pretty much, yes.
    Personally I'd have just put the extra PVR in, to make it more reliable, and kept it as all single decks serving the Pontoon on all journeys. There aren't major capacity issues when the service is running to timetable.

    Looking at their Twitter, today (18/03/15), the third day of weekday operation, the whole service has fallen apart, with buses running up to 20 minutes late and one round trip on the Red Jet leg cancelled - of course meaning a half hour gap in buses at the Pontoon.

    They've made such a bad call with this - it's going to take me ages to get over it!

    1. The service fell apart because BT chose to set up temporary lights around a man hole cover outside Parkhurst Prison causing delays of 30 minutes or more to anyone travelling Newport to Cowes or vice versa. Something the operator could hardly be held responsible for.

  6. As a regular route 1 user I think its fair to say the merchants of doom commenting above have been proven well and truly wrong.
    The route is now reliable in the peaks, I cannot recall the last time I saw the buses bunching or a trip not turning up within 5 minutes of the expected time. The double deckers are very welcome on the busiest section, the buses aren't forced to drive past stops with people waiting because they are full.
    Wifi great idea, its faster than my broadband at home!
    Finally its great to see an operator actually asking passengers what they want then delivering. Better than the arrogant 'you'll get what you're given' from the previous management who also designed timetables timed by Dick Dastardly driving at 90mph at midnight.
    Southern Vectis deserve this initiative to work, good luck to them.