Thursday 31 December 2015

A Lovely Leaflet [part 1]

Wot No Map
Mr Chad was a wartime "character"; but he appears here as part of a little look at a lovely leaflet. It comes from ...
... Carousel Buses, now part of the GoAead group. Back in the days of the Great Britain Bus Timetable (year 2000, for example) Carousel did not exist.

Together with his Buckinghamshire timetable book (see "Excellent Technology ..." read again) fbb was sent the leaflet for Carousel's block of services centred on Uxbridge.
So fbb went back to a 2000 edition of GBBTT to see what was there.

Arriva The Shires were running every two hours from High Wycombe (service 305)
From Oxford, the same company offer service 300 every two hours, upped to hourly from Beaconsfield.
These were joined by the famous ex Green Line 724 which trekked round northern London from Harlow via Watford and Uxbridge to Heathrow.
And it still does.
The distinctive buses still run every hour.
In 2000 a Saturday journey all the way would take just under three hours. Today, also on Saturday ...
... nearly 20 minutes longer. That tells us something about traffic conditions.

But Uxbridge to Heathrow has changed a lot. In 2000 the GBBTT wasn't interested in local buses, so the London Transport routes between Uxbridge and Heathrow were not included. Alas, fbb cannot tell you when the A10 started; but doubtless a blog reader can help.

It now runs every 15 minutes via the delights of Stockley Park.
Stockley Park is a business estate in the parish of Harlington, located between Hayes and West Drayton in the London Borough of Hillingdon. It is home to companies such as Apple, Gilead Sciences, Canon, BP, Sharp Corporation, Marks and Spencer and GlaxoSmithKline.

Stockley Park was built upon a tip that was used by Londoners who would load barges on the canal and come to tip the industrial and private waste from West London. Topsoil was added to the site to cover the waste and the modern offices were built on top.

Before that it was site of the Dawley Wall farm and gravel pit, and before that it was seat of John Bennet, 1st Baron Ossulston.
So apart from the 724 and the non GBBTT service A10, a lot has changed since.

As we shall see, via the lovely leaflet, tomorrow.
beyond the
The third kingly wise-manly gift was Myrrh

When a tree wound penetrates through the bark and into the sapwood, the tree bleeds a resin. Myrrh gum, like frankincense, is such a resin. When people harvest myrrh, they wound the trees repeatedly to bleed them of the gum. Myrrh gum is waxy, and coagulates quickly. After the harvest, the gum becomes hard and glossy. The gum is yellowish, and may be either clear or opaque. It darkens deeply as it ages, and white streaks emerge.

The resin is used to add perfume to oils and similar; and the oils ...

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

... were used for embalming dead bodies.

So the third gift was embalming fluid.
What a lovely prezzy for the new-born baby. Some advance stuff for its funeral.

But that completed the picture. The baby Emmanuel would be a King, a Priest and a Sacrifice to pay the price for the sins of the world.

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav'n replies

Which, 30 years later, takes us to a cruel death on a cross but a gloriously empty tomb on the third day.

It'll soon be Easter.
        Next Carousel blog : Friday 1st January   

Wednesday 30 December 2015

To Boldly Go ... (2)

Alan Takes a Butchers ...
Although brand new railway stations have opened recently at Cranbrook and Oxford Parkway with much corporate jollity we await news of two more; Coventry Arena and Bermuda Park on the line between Coventry and Nuneaton. The line at Coventry Arena also passes right beside the Ricoh Arena, home to Coventry City Football Club and the Wasps Rugby team. It has done this for many years so the reaction to the opening of the station might be "better late than never". However, Euston we have a problem. Two in fact.

London Midland's pocket timetable booklet for December 13th 2015 to 14th May 2016 ...
... has a timetable showing departure times from both Coventry Arena and Bermuda Park.
But yesterday (December 16th) the station was closed while the public address system played patronizing announcements to no one.

The soccer and rugby fans have no chance of catching a train to the match because although Thomas the Tank Engine has two carriages, that is one more than Coventry Arena station is currently planned to have. The line has but one Class 153 single car unit which shuttles between Coventry and Nuneaton, taking a hour for the return trip. 
The delayed Coventry Arena station, when it opens, will remain closed for an hour after the final whistle. The train operator has advised the travelling public to stick to the roads on match days. Despite a £13.6m investment to upgrade the Coventry-Nuneaton line with the new station, only one hourly, single-carriage, diesel train will trundle along the track. While the Ricoh arena has 32,600 seats, the train has just 75. 
Francis Thomas, Head of Corporate Affairs for train operator London Midland, said: "We only have the one diesel train. It only has 75 seats. Until further infrastructure changes are made, we are limited. There just aren't the trains available"

This is a picture of the one class 153 one car 75 seat diesel unit pictures some days after Alan's visit.
Perhaps Mr Thomas would like to count it (or them).

And those infrastructure problems. There's plenty of infrastructure at Coventry where the standard 1 car train (sometimes 2?) just manages to squeeze into Platform 1 ...
... where it sits for 9 minutes. It arrives after a London train has departed and leaves well before the next one needs to. There is plenty of infrastructure at the Arena Station ...
... capable of taking the promised six-car trains. there's oodles of queuing space complete with hefty railings in profusion.
Just one thing missing.


But surely, you ask intelligently, couldn't London midland borrow a train for match days. Mostly these will be in the evenings or on Saturdays when commuting is commuted. Even if the company really  really hasn't got a train, there is bound to be some stock somewhere.

 (Come to think of it, wouldn't London Midland have a spare set or two at match times?) 

Oh no, sir, says the ever supportive Management in a report from the local paper, chartering is a no-no:-
Ricoh Arena matchday train ticket
would cost fans £17!

Hopes of a short-term solution to the Ricoh Arena railway station fiasco appear to have been derailed after it emerged fans could be forced to fork out £17 for a train ticket.

The committee heard that there were hopes six-carriage trains could be chartered to run every half-an-hour during weekends to serve sports fans. But it has emerged that any charter operator would likely have to charge about £17 for a return ticket in order to make the service financially viable.

Sounds mighty expensive; but then we are privileged to have a privatised railway where every privatised bit of it MUST make a privatised profit. So the passengers who might want to travel to their footy game in an environmentally accetabl manner can get *******!!
Richard Brooks, commercial director at London Midland, said: “It is feasible that six-carriage charter trains could run every half an hour between the Ricoh Arena and Coventry on matchdays.

“But at the standard £2.40 fare, it’s not going to wash its face. It’s not going to be financially viable.”

He added: “You would have to multiply the day return fare six or seven fold.”

Daft is too mild a word for all this. And we still don't know why the station isn't even open yet. Back in September (yes, September), the local paper reported:-
It has emerged that the stadium’s safety advisory group, which rubber stamped a recommendation to close the station for an hour after major events at the Ricoh Arena, was chaired by the council.

So lets get it right. The Council which wants trains approved the decision not to have trains. Cool.

Francis Thomas, from London Midland, said: “We are just waiting for the keys from Coventry City Council.

Yes, here we go again. According to London Midland it's the Council's fault.

“When they think it is ready, they would arrange a meeting with Network Rail and us. There’s no schedule for a handover as far as we know.”

During a recent Warwickshire County Council meeting it also emerged that a new platform at Bermuda Park, in Nuneaton - which is part of the same project - would not open until at least November due to problems involving Network Rail.

Ah yes, it's all the fault of Network Rail.

Or perhaps some secretive international spy organisation is working to disrupt (a) the railways, (b) Coventry council, (c) Wasps Rugby Club, (d) Coventry City Football Club and (e) Common Sense. They are succeeding.

Thanks to our Northampton correspondent for providing most of the material for this blog. 
beyond the
It's the gifts which make all the difference.

What would you take to a new-born baby? A rattle; a cuddly toy or perhaps a woolly jumper. But Gold?

Born a King on Bethlehem's plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign

Maybe a richly decorated gold ring.
Useless for a baby but full of meaning for adults - especially magi. Emmanuel, God With Us, would be a King, a Divine Authority on earth and in heaven.

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high
The role of a Priest was to act as an intermediary between Man and God and incense was a sweet smell to carry prayers heavenwards. "Frank" incense was the very best that money could buy, a strongly perfumes resin ...
... that would be ideally suited to a great Priest. But useless for a baby. Emmanuel is thus shown to be the means for each one of us to make approaches to God.

But the third gift is the spooky one.
       Next bus blog : Thursday 31st December  

Tuesday 29 December 2015

To Boldly Go ... (1)

... Where No Passenger Has Been Before
The Ricoh Arena, home of Coventry City footy club; the Sky Blues of the late great Jimmy Hill fame. And nearby (bottom right) a Tesco Extra, the Arena Shopping Centre and oodles of parking for motor cars. There is even a Frankie and Benny catering establishment. What more could you want for a post-festive farrago of football, fast food and ferapy of the retail kind?

And slashing through the middle of it all is the railway line running between Coventry and Nuneaton. Surely an ideal place for a station which, as well as generating extra revenue for London Midland, might relieve some pressure on the oft-beleaguered A444.
This leaflet is to tell you about major improvements that are planned for the Coventry-Nuneaton rail corridor:
• Two completely new stations – at Coventry Arena and Bermuda Park
• More platforms at Coventry main station, to accommodate six-car trains
• Longer platforms at Bedworth station to accommodate longer trains
• Improvements to the train service, with frequency doubled to every thirty minutes
• Passenger capacity raised to four times its current level
• Equipment at the new Coventry Arena station to turn trains around for an events shuttle service.

And there's a map ...
... which hints at the extension of the service to Leamington Spa via a new station at Kenilworth.

All super good news for the residents of Lady Godiva's one-time home. So, says everyone, lets get the JCBs out and get a-building.

But exactly where is the Ricoh Arena?
The 1930s map extract shows Longford and Exhall station, the red dot on Woodshires Road (it closed in 1939) ...
... with the A444 striking north to Nuneaton. A modern map extract shows how much has changed today!
And if Exhall has a familiar ring about it, you are right. It is the salubrious site of Shearings interchange facility, loved by many a coaching holidaymaker. Here, for brief but frenetic periods of activity, Shearings coaches iinterchange allowing complex inter-holiday coach jouneys. "Will Mr Herbert Thring, booked on holiday AC2345/B/29G please hurry to gate 345B where his coach to Wigan and the Industrial North West is waiting." Such fun!

Anyway, lets build a station.

December 2011 : Funding approved. Yippee!

August 2012 : Work to start in December 2012 for completion in December 2013

September 2013 : Nothing has happened due to uncertainty about the future of Coventry City at the arena. Estimated opening date now Summer 2015.

Following a protracted rent dispute between Coventry City and ACL (owners of the arena), the football club left the Ricoh in 2013, playing home matches at Sixfields Stadium in Northampton for over a year before returning to the Ricoh in September 2014. Within two months, both shareholders in ACL were bought out by rugby union Premiership club Wasps, who relocated to the stadium from their previous ground, Adams Park in High Wycombe. Wasps' first home match in Coventry was on 21 December 2014 against London Irish.

Wasps Rugby Club owning the home of the Sky Blues. There's a sting in the tail. (Groan).

December 2013 : Further "complications"; completion now due in 2017.

April 2014 : Construction to start in May 2014 with completion in May 2015.

Good to have decisive and timely project management, eh?

June 2014 : Contract awarded to Buckingham Group

October 2014 : Construction underway with service to start on 21 June 2015

September 2015 : No date yet announced for the opening

Now then chaps and chapesses; Festina Lente (as they say), don't rush. Take your time. Chillax. It's only a railway station, after all.

And, although complete (we assume), the station is STILL not open.

With all this in mind, our Northampton Correspondent went to have a look. It is his report(s) that form the basis of tomorrow's blog.

And this lavish ferroequinological opulence is what has taken all that time to not be open.
The Coventry Stadium construction team must have learned all they know from the Cranbrook (Devon) construction team; or vice versa.
beyond the

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Well, nearly. They weren't kings and we have no idea how many there were. Matthew records the story in his Gospel.

Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the time when Herod was king. Soon afterward, some men who studied the stars came from the East to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star when it came up in the east, and we have come to worship him.”

They were magi. A Magus was a sort of court astrologer and astronomer (the two were not distinct back then) who would advise their boss who might have been a King of Iraq. They had been following their star maps ...
... as they travelled on horseback. Camels were not ridden back then!

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

Wikipedia gives a long list of explanations for "the Star".
But why bother? This star is God's business and, like it or not, if He is God he can do just what he likes with stars, sky and anything you like.

So, after a brief confab with Herod, they went on; and not to the stable/cave/cattleshed etc.

And so they left, and on their way they saw the same star they had seen in the East. When they saw it, how happy they were, what joy was theirs! It went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. They went into the house ...

It's what they did next that matters.
    Next "Arena" blog : Wednesday 30th December 

Monday 28 December 2015

The Best of Times : The Worst of Times

More "Worst" If You're Going to Paddington
The "vanished" blog originally
planned for Boxing Day 
West rail 'bedlam' as Paddington 
to shut for four days at Christmas
 24th  Great Western Railway (aka First Great Western) winds down their service early on Christmas Eve.

 25th  No Trains

 26th  No Trains

 27th  Paddington Station is closed (engineering work)

 28th  Paddington Station is closed (engineering work)

fbb's Bristol correspondent sent him a copy of the booklet describing the arrangements in detail. This useful (?) publication also included maps showing alternative routes in use on 27th and 28th. Having read the booklet assiduously, fbb is saddened to report that the leaflet sort of evaporated somewhere between Seaton and Abergynolwyn. So all of what follows is dredged kicking from the interwebnet.

But here goes; what's happening, line by line.

 Hereford and Oxford 

Trains from Hereford join an hourly fast train from Oxford which travels north to Banbury, reverses and runs on Chiltern metals into Marylebone. Click to enlarge the diagram.
Trains from Cheltenham etc, terminate the Swindon where connections are available with anything that happens to be passing. The journeys will take much longer than usual.
Stopping trains from Oxford follow their normal route via Didcot and Reading and terminate at Slough. What happens next is a real thrill (NOT!) which we will examine later.

 Wales & Bristol Parkway 

These trains will run as normal to Didcot West Curve where they will bear left to Oxford, Banbury (reverse) and Marylebone. The journeys will take much longer than usual. 

 West Country and (hourly) Bristol Temple Meads 

These run as normal to Reading, then fork left and trundle gently into Waterloo. Click to enlarge the diagram.
Reading is the dot at the top right. Guess what; these journeys will take longer than usual! Trains on the half hour (see below) will terminate at Reading and passengers will be able to continue to Slough or take anything into Waterloo.

The big problem is that no-one is telling you how long the journey takes. Here, for example, is what it says about Bristol.

Sunday 27 – from Bristol Temple Meads
before 09.30, trains to London Waterloo will leave at 06.40, 07.30 and 09.15
from 09.30 to 19.00 trains to London Waterloo will leave Bristol Temple Meads on the hour, except 14.00

Hang on a sec. Every hour from 0930 to 1900

trains terminating at Reading will leave at 30 minutes past every hour, except 11.30, 12.30 and 14.30

Does that include the 0930?

after 19.00, the last direct train to London Waterloo will leave at 22.10

Does that mean that there are trains at 2000 and 2100 or not?

And nothing is said about intermediate stops, so tough HSTs if you want a train from Swindon or Chippenham. Not very good, is it?

 Now -  Wow! How about Slough? 

It's all very simple. You catch a bus to Hillingdon Underground station where there is a choice of Metropolitan or Piccadilly line into London.
Did fbb read Metropolitan or Piccadilly?

From Hillingdon ...
... to Paddington?
Clearly, Transport for London have built a new tube railway specially for 27th and 28th December. fbb awaits a full report.

It is VERY poor, isn't it.

 And Local "London" Lines? 
Henley on Thames
Train to Twyford (as normal although at abnormal times), train WEST to Reading, the do a "U" turn and catch a train EAST to Waterloo.
Enjoy your four-leg two hour and twelve minute nip to Waterloo! VIA BASINGSTOKE!

Or, says the diruptions web site, to can travel from High Wycombe; but it tells not how to get there.

There are buses from here to High Wycombe and locally from intermediate stations.

Easy-peasy; normal service to Slough. The very much not easy-peay. Even not-so-Great Western suggest you go to Waterloo via South West Trains and Windsor's Riverside station.

No Heathrow Express. No Heathrow Connect (the brown line on the map above). Use the Piccadilly Line. It will take much longer.

Catch a bus. And we won't tell you which one.

As if all the above wasn't bad enough, the site goes on to tell you, "from 29th December to 3rd January we will be running a revised service." And that's it. Thanks a bunch Great Western Railway.

Is this really the best you can offer? Surely the least you could supply is line by line timetables? Presumably the company is running to a timetable and not making it up as they go along? "Hey, Burt, take this HST to Reading, will you. We haven't been there for an hour or so."

And why are there no maps on line but there are maps on the leaflet?

Of course it is (mostly) on the Journey Planner (unless you want the Greenford Branch), but surely passengers need more than this. they need the confidence, for example, that there is a later train if they get held up. They need timetables to help them make decisions. If it really takes over two hours to get from Henley to London, maybe start from somewhere else or not go at all.

There is, of course, another alternative. Close down completely for FOUR days and not two and run pre-booked coach services for those needing to make essential journeys. While you are at it, you could run some on Boxing Day as well.

At lot cheaper for the company and, for many passengers, a lot quicker!
beyond the
As well as Simeon, Mark and Joseph were also approached by Anna.

There was a very old prophet, a widow named Anna, daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher. She had been married for only seven years and was now eighty-four years old.

She never left the Temple; day and night she worshiped God, fasting and praying. That very same hour she arrived and gave thanks to God ...

... and spoke about the child to all who were waiting for God to set Jerusalem free.

If Mary and Joseph needed any confirmation, Simeon and Anna's response to Emmanuel confirmed everything that the angelic vision had brought to Mary. The child was very special indeed.

But there was still more.
The most mis-understood, misplaced and mistaken story in the Nativity sequence. How wrong can we be?
    Next new station blog : Tuesday 29th December