Sunday 31 May 2015

In The Loop or On the Loop? [2]

Stagecoach Loops

When fbb "were nobbut a lad" and British Rail had just electrified the line to Northampton, the less chubby one enjoyed many a cheap day out. Northampton to London was a "normal" 20 shillings and six pence and Margate, for example, was 21 shillings. That was London to Margate for a tanner AND the Underground was included.

So to Margate he went. There was a ride on an open topped bus, this one ...
... from Ramsgate to Pegwell Bay where, later, would appear a cross-channel hovercraft terminal.
But way back then, fbb-to-be was able to enjoy a feast of omnibological loveliness supplied by the East Kent Road Car Company.
This coach showed  the destination "Excursion 2". But the lad vaguely remembers a ride back to Margate on a frequent bus service (was it 25?) which seemed to go everywhere; Cliftonville, Broadstairs, Rams- and Margate.

It was this circular service that Stagecoach branded as "The Thanet Loop". With a large circular loop-with-a-blob on the vehicles and timetable leaflets.
In essence, the service was one example of that rarest of beasts, namely a genuine circular. Needless to say it has had a "brand refresh", losing its hoop loop in favour of some strange typography ...
...more of a Squiggle than a loop!
Back in the sixties, the lad thinks he remembers a bus every 10 minutes (?) which has grown in 2015 to eight buses an hour both ways round.
The route, however,looks much the same as it ever was.
Margate is top left, Ramsgate bottom right. Westwood (centre left) was site of the huge Triang (later Hornby) factory...
Click to enlarge and you may spot some loop predecessors passing the works!

Not to be outdone, Eastbourne has got a loop ...
... this time with a real genuine loop and not a squiggle.
And the colour is similar to First's Falkirk feature. 

fbb can remember travelling on this service only a few years ago but can't remember its pre-loop route number. Possibly 6?
Frequency is but half of its Thanet "twin" at every 15 minutes.
Two Stagecoach "loops" to First's one!

Scouring the deepest recesses of internet world, fbb found a third Stagecoach reference to loopiness; this time from The Wirral.
This "brand" did not appear to be for a particular route, but as a PR exercise when Uncle Brian bought Uncle Giles' buses in the area.
So First's loop in Falkirk is certainly not a scoop!

Who pinched that logo from whom? Or simply do great first minds and great stagecoach minds think alike?

 Next bus blog (29) : Monday 1st June 

Saturday 30 May 2015

In The Loop or On the Loop? [1]

A Multi-Useful Brand?
A Dictionary of Buiness Jargon offers:-
Provided with information and included in a decision-making process. For example, "She's new to the board, but be sure to keep her in the loop." This expression uses loop in the sense of "a circle of individuals among whom information or responsibility circulates.

But in Falkirk, "On" the Loop might be better.
The Scottish Government-funded bus service to support the Falkirk area’s major tourism drive was officially launched this week at the Falkirk Wheel with the unveiling of its distinctive new bus design. (The service started back in April)

The new hourly bus service, named The Loop, is funded by Transport Scotland and operated by local bus operator First Midland Bluebird. It has been launched by Falkirk Council to boost connections between the area’s world class tourist attractions and other road and rail services over the summer season.

The Loop takes in The Falkirk Wheel, Falkirk High and Grahamston Stations, Falkirk Town Centre, Falkirk Stadium, Callander Park and The Kelpies ...

... with dedicated bus stop signs featuring VisitFalkirk branding to help signpost visitors to the route.
Falkirk Council’s spokesperson for Transport, Cllr Dr Craig Martin joined Managing Director of First Midland Bluebird Paul McGowan and Sarah McKenzie of Falkirk Delivers at the Falkirk Wheel to spout pre-pepared soundbites and reveal the brand new design for The Loop buses, which features images of main attractions including The Kelpies (reduced-size version alongside) and The Steeple. The Falkirk Steeple is, erm ...
... a steeple!

Cllr Dr Craig Martin (launch photo left) said: “Funding from Transport Scotland and First to launch The Loop has enabled the Council to drive forward with its ambitions to make the Falkirk area a top tourist destination. Now there is a dedicated and frequent (hourly?) bus service linking up our main tourist destinations to improve the visitor experience in the area in time for the busy summer season and we are confident that businesses and attractions will benefit as a result.” Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?

It would appear, from what popped up on line, that one idea submitted by the local design company Paul Tonner ...
... (of stunningly original logo fame) was to apply the brand to buses using existing routes 3 ...
... and 5...
 ... the route for The Kelpies.
But, in the end, a dedicated route 100 is operated ...
... but with no sign of a map on-line.

The service is hourly in both directions between Falkirk centre (ASDA and Bus Station) with a spike to High Station and the Falkirk Wheel. If fbb's maths is OK, the route requires two buses. According to the press release, 5000 passengers were carried in the first month.

And the dedicated stops are branded as well!
Indeed,  very .... pink!

Oooh, look! The Kelpies are pink to celebrate.
But, for some readers, that brand name (What was it? Oh, yes; The Loop) might ring a few bells ...
No 1 son's family cat, Bobba ...
in the energetic pursuit of the local vermin!
And that new bus story (see yesterday's blog - read again) ...
Whilst it is good to see First renewing its fleet (spectacularly under Fearnley's rule), some of the far flung (well, far from Seaton!) bits of the empire have struggled a bit with their press releases. After all, you can't supply a picture of buses that have not been built yet!

But anything new will do for the press. Here is an example from First Scotland ...
... buses hot off the production line! Wow!

But look a little closer ...
... and we see an economical re-use of an old picture from way down South. Will the canny Scots hacks notice as they obediently pen their news-biteso

First Glasgow were a bit better, they showed an old new bus trundling past Kelvingrove Park ...
... which is, for the geographically challenged amongst our readers, actually in Glasgow!
 Next loopy, kelpie, wheelie blog : Sunday 31st May 

Friday 29 May 2015

Not Rushing to Flushing [4]

But first ...
The new vehicles, which feature a mixture of double deckers, single deckers, and midis, will all come fitted with leather seats, CCTV and Wi-Fi providing customers with free internet access. In addition to the dedicated space for wheelchair users, FirstGroup will also provide extra space for pushchairs and trial the installation of USB charging points on some vehicles.

Of the 385 vehicle order, more than 90% (355) of the new buses will be fitted with Euro 6 engines, the biggest investment (£73m) in Euro 6 buses in the UK to date. Test results show that running eight Euro 6 buses produces the same amount of certain exhaust emissions, including Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) and Particulate Matter (PM), as running one bus with a Euro 5 engine. With the majority of its businesses across the UK set to benefit from the introduction of Euro 6 buses, there will be a positive impact on air quality in town and city centres.
Hope that all makes sense!

Back to today's scheduled blog.
Can we fix it?
Yes we can! Despite his faux pas (plural) on he 56 timetable, fbb believes that services 69 and 69A can be presented in a more user-friendly way; a way which might encourage extra usage. But we need to be aware that there is a fifth "market" for which these services are intended.

 Market 5 : Schools 

Some bus operators have been brave enough to remove school journeys from their timetables, but, for others, the revenue and tender money are too important to lose. Here on the befuddling 69 and 69A, school variations impinge and complicate what would otherwise be a relative;y simple schedule.

Here are the school journeys and their Saturday and non schoolday alternatives separated out from the presentation in First Kernow's latest network book.
Of thee 19 journeys on the table, 10 require explanation and modification because of schools. That is too many for clarity and comprehensibility. 

So here goes with an fbb alternative presentation.

 69 : St Gluvias, Flushing schools 

 69 schooldays 

  69 : school holidays and Saturdays 
In the timetable book these tables would sit alongside one another on a standard ⅓ A4 page but would be much better on A5.

 69A : Old Hill and Mabe Burnthouse 

Here we show all buses via Old Hill and the four buses to Green Lane, ASDA and Mabe.
Although there is still schools "clutter" it is less complex than the one mega table sliding arrow-replete over two pages.

Again this would sit on a standard page with room for the service 66 journeys as well.
So we are using one LESS page that the current booklet; which needs two for the combined jobby and one extra for service 66. Bonus.

It might make things clearer for the passenger if service 69A were given a separate number; the differences a really too great to make the use of a simple suffix "A" appropriate.

It is also appropriate to record that timetable mistakes can be also implemented by those who create the table in the first place.
The 0816 from Penryn (pink shading for non-schooldays) calls at Penryn Costcutter at 0823 and the schoolday variant (blue) stops on the opposite side of the road at  Seven Stars, also at 0823. Both columns are wrong in the printed and on-line version.

So it's not only fbb that gets it wrong!
Good Old National Health Service
fbb's appointment with the Dermatology Clinic at Exeter was moved at the NHS's suggestion to a more convenient Axminster. Thank you very much. The appointment was last Tuesday, 26th May.
The confirming letter duly arrived ...

... on Thursday 28th May! fbb had attended two days previously.

The potential problem turned out be of no consequence. The scabby thing on fbb's temple turned out to be a harmless sebaceous hyperplasia; or, in English, a scabby thing! It is, said the doc, age related; a polite way of saying, "fbb you are old, what do you expect?"

Hey ho.
 Next bus blog "in the loop" : Saturday 30th May 

Thursday 28 May 2015

Not Rushing to Flushing [3]

Comprehensibility Lumbered
when Confusingly Numbered?
Back in the "good old days", the suffix letter A added to a route number meant that buses showing the "A" were very similar to the un-suffixed route but a minority of passengers may need to take careto get th correct bus for the "minor" diversion..

Our friendly 69 and 69A are very different once that have traversed the old hill, to the north of Falmouth town centre, and called at Penryn.
Indeed the web site "timetables" section shows an additional 69B which is (a) very different again, and ...
... (b) has minimal affinity with its "parental" schooldays variant by serving Penryn College; otherwise a totally different route! There is no sign of this beastie in the new timetable book pages.

The long lost principle that the route number should define the roads served and the destination name should indicate where along that route the bus will terminate is a lost cause in today's information not-so-super highway.

Thus it is that the 69 and 69A serve very different markets at their outer ends.

 Market 3 : Mylor Bridge & Flushing 

Geographically, Falmouth and St Mawes guard the entrance to Carrick Roads, a huge natural harbour. The Falmouth River is still navigable at high tides by smaller boats as far as Truro and the Roads is/are famous as a parking place for laid-up vessels.
But all these creeks and inlets make for a difficult area for bus routes; made more challenging commercially in recent years by the explosion in second homes and holiday lets. 40 years ago,
Western Nations served Mylor Bridge (right) and Carclew (top) in a big loop as routes 561 (clockwise) and 562 (anti-so).
Todays 69 also loops, but via Flushing, and with no indication by number as to which way round it goes.
In 1974, Carclew residents could, of course, go the "long way round" via Mylor Bridge, but thy needed to look at the bottom half of the timetable to seek their ultimate destination. Now they have to walk!** It is perhaps for this both-ways- roundreason that the current 69 journeys are shown as a "circular",spilling over to a second page and stretching the table and credibility!

Mylor Bridge is a pleasant village whose main street, Lemon Hill, leads down to yet another inlet ...
... whereas Flushing, once providing homes for wealthy sea-captains, is the larger settlement but with the bus at one extremity and the ferry to Falmouth at the other, linked by long narrow (and unserved by bus) waterside streets.
fbb is hoping that a comment writer will explain what buses ran to Flushing (if any?) in the 1970s; it was not a Western National destination. fbb's higgerance is disappointing.

 Market 4 : Penryn Local 

Service 69A runs to Mabe Burnthouse ...
... via ASDA.
Of course, it also links the Old Hill area of Falmouth with this exciting superstore (?).

Oddly, as you will see from the map extract, it duplicates service 2 and, less helpfully, leaves Falmouth at similar times, although return timings are better spaced.
It's exclusive market is serving the unnamed wiggle to the right of the above map. The wiggle is (or are?) Greenwood Road and Green Lane, newer housing "over the hill" at Penryn.
Falmouth University at Penryn (ancient settlement of Tremough) is in the Parish of Mabe but the origin of the name Mabe Burnthouse is "obscure".

From a "public service" point of view we have two routes (69 and 69A) which serve a mixture of four markets. But is it really necessary to present this information in such a user-unfriendly way?

Of course not. fbb will bravely (after his bog-up with the 56) offer an alternative in tomorrow's blog.

And, talking of First's 56, competition arrives from AtoB Newquay Travel ...
... hitherto operators of mainly school contracts, taxis and coaches.
Oh, look. A nice simple timetable with no shading, no notes and no seasonal variatons to bemuse Joe Public. Given a choice, fbb would plan to use the 171; less likely for the old man to get it wrong.


** For the pedantic, Carclew (blink and you will miss it) is served by the Monday to Friday shoppers bus (route 66) between St Gluvias and Truro.
Carclew House, one of Britain's lost houses, was a large Palladian county house near Mylor Bridge in Cornwall, United Kingdom. The House was rebuilt in the 18th century and again in the early 19th century but was destroyed by fire in 1934.

The owners of Carclew were the Lemon family; hence Lemon Hill and The Lemon Arms in Mylor Bridge. But not Miss Felicity Lemon, secretary to Hecule Poirot!

 Next bus blog : Friday 29th May