Sunday 31 January 2016

A Saturday Mélange (on Sunday)

Axminster to East Cowes
Much of fbb's blogging content relates to things that aren't right; and there are plenty such! But the old crusties' journey to the Isle of Wight was trouble free, on time and pleasant. The old man had been invited to help out their fomer church in East Cowes, hence the briefest of brief visits; to the Island on Saturday and back after the service on Sunday.

Leaving the car in Axminster Station car park for £3 for the weekend was considered cost-effective ...
... so this was the schedule offered by National Rail.
0906 Axminster to Salisbury 1016
Plenty of room, on time. Cup of tea and to sticks of a shared Kit-Kat plus the Times 2 Jumbo crossword passed the time pleasantly.

1030 Salisbury to Southampton Central 1104
On time. Busy with loadsa seats reserved; but a tosome with good window view was available.

1130 Southampton Central to car ferry terminal 1137 BUS
This service has changed in character in recent months. Once free, the sponsors have cut their commitment and the fare is now £1 for any distance. Business is less than it used to be when folk would use it for short hops between shop stops. Unusually there were enough seats for passengers on the half hour frequency, times to connect with the Red Jet fast ferry to West Cowes.
Citylink is operated by GoAhead's Blue Star company, formerly Solent Blue Line.

1200 Town Quay to East Cowes FERRY
The fbbs were using the cheaper and slower big boat service which would place them in East Cowes, notably to be prepared for the return journey after church, also in East Cowes.

As ever the "sail abroad" was a delight ...
... bringing back happy memories of a Wight life abandoned nearly three years ago.
That grey horizon smear, misty in the glorious but chilly sun, was the target. The twosome got seats right at the front and the sun was very warm indeed through the picture windows.

Dead on time the ship pulled into East Cowes with a glimpse of the largest Union Flag in the galaxy accompanied by a piccy of the new Red Jet 6 ...
... which is historically being built in the historic former British Hovercarft, former Westland, former Saunders Roe mega-shed.
The newest addition to Red Funnel’s high speed fleet, Red Jet 6,is on schedule to be completed by the end of May and will begin service in July.

The £6m passenger ferry, the first high speed craft to be built on the Isle of Wight and in the UK for 15 years, will also be the first in the company’s high speed fleet to have on-board toilets, chief executive Kevin George revealed this week.

The aluminium hulled craft is similar in design to Red Jet 4 and will uses a water jet propulsion system (the same technology that powers jet skis) to race through the water.

Chum and Senior Island correspondent Alan and Mrs were the meeters and greeters and the four repaired to the Lifeboat noshery for life preserving nosh. eshewing Southern Vectis service 4, the gang travelled in style to Ryde where this building site ...
... is now a new Travelodge, opened last October.
Boring, but cheap (£30 for the night) it provded the necessary solace in preparation for todays duties. The site used to be Wight Motors garage, by appointment motor engineers to fbb!

Public transport worked a treat, and a cost-effective treat as well.
Two senior period returns (including ferry) for about the same price (£77.60) as a ferry ride for the family car; no running costs and less stress.

Don't you just love it when a public transport pan comes together?

Plymouth Upgrades Stagecoach-style
Whist waiting for their train from Axminster, who should approach the fbb's with a cordial greeting but the Minister of their church in Seaton. A bit of a bus photography nut, Ian was on his way to Plymouth on his day off to snap the new vehicles which had been displayed at a do on Friday last.

There were new Park and Ride vehicles replacing those hired back from First after the takeover.
Also due are some posh new buses for the Tavistock and Dartmouth services, the former equipped with WiFi. Apparently there isn't enough Wi on service 3 along the coast.
Also on show was one of the South West Falcon supercoaches. Bus travel at its glorious best. For lots of similar pictures see the Plymothian Transit blog (here).

Which begs the question. How come Uncle Brian can shell out loadsamoney on expensive new stock when, generally, First Bus only managed tat?

 Next rail disruption blog : Monday 1st February 

Saturday 30 January 2016

Whatever You Do, Choose A Good Name

One That Is Distinctive, BUT ...
The Leigh-Salford-Manchester busway was proposed to improve access to Manchester city centre from Leigh, Atherton, Tyldesley and Ellenbrook and regenerate areas of the former Lancashire Coalfield. A public inquiry was held in 2002 and the decision delayed because of and inevitable objection from great crested newts ...
... occupying a site on the route. The Department for Transport granted powers to build the busway in 2005 and it was projected to be built by 2009 but preliminary work only started in 2012. After the public inquiry, a branch bus route from Atherton to Tyldesley and an extension from Manchester city centre to the Central Manchester Hospitals were added to the scheme. Services on the 22-kilometre route will operate on a combination of off-road guided busway, segregated bus lanes and conventional roads using low-emission double-decker buses fitted with guide-wheels.

The service is scheduled to begin in April 2016 to coordinate with associated road and tram works in Manchester city centre.

So only seven years late! This was the scene a few days ago!
It might be ready?

First won the contract to run the buses and a few days ago put one of the luxury motors on show. The press release showed us a guide wheel ...
... together with a large road wheel; presumably just in case our chums from the Fourth Estate didn't quite understand the principles.
Guided Bus experiment in Wigan : June 2005

The buses are designed to have a "wow" factor complete with the now-essential WiFi and charge points for your devices.
But what is needed is a striking name for this service. Leigh-Man has fruit implications ...
... but would offer the possibility of free Breakfast Juice packs on early commuter runs. Man-Leigh has unfortunate sexist overtones! The answer is to choose a name that has associations of quality and many multifarious advantages.

How about hanging your hat on the James Bond image.
The above motor, one of several in fbb's personal fleet (joke!), is an Aston Martin V8 Vantage. And this ...
... is the First Bus Manchester Leigh Busway version. It has swish seats ...
... and chummy little tables upstairs.
It has really sexy headlights.
Ever concerned about the image of the bus in this car-owning world, fbb feels that the ecclesiastical purple might look rather dull with a coat or two of Mancunian Meterological Murk. 

But what if the James Bond Aston Martin image passes the average Mancunian by? What other images might be revealed by the name "Vantage".

Oddly this Vantage sells clever technology to improve the power of bus engines!
This one sells catamarans.
This one sells fight gear - ideal for late Saturday night trips?
This company sells Health Care; great for passenger suffering from travel sickness?
And the pills as well.
Or insurance?
Even clever computer stuff, so you can work your "device" having charged it in the back of the seat in front of you.
Do the buses have an onboard coffee machine. Easily supplied!
And while you while a while away in the traffic jams, the avoidance of which is a Busway half-promise ...
... an on-line goss service. (goss, apparently, is newspeak for "gossip".

And, our last appropriate selection ...
... a computer accountancy package offering two important possibilities. For the passenger, a program to calculate the advantages and disadvantages of the impossibly complicated ticket offers available in Greater Manchester.
And for the politicians, the same software can be adapted to calculate the massive cost overruns caused by delays of seven years.

fbb understands that a court action is pending against the Great Crested Newts.

A final comment from Ernest Gribble of Gasworks Lane Tyldesley.
"Ey up lad; what's all 't fuss abaht? It's nobbut a b***** bus. Tha' dont need to talk abaht devices; I keeps me device private. Forget abaht charging, I've gotta pass; But, ecky thump, will it cum on time?


The fbbs are trekking to the Isle of Wight at the invitation of their former Church. Back Sunday. There's engineering work; it's SouthWest Trains - so there might be some jolly news on Monday. Neighbour with blunderbus and guard cat with sharpened claws ...
... on duty at fbb towers!
 Next blog : Sunday 31st January 

Friday 29 January 2016

All On Line - Or Nothing On The Line?

Congratulations to ...
... for their very useful map which shows how rail travel has increased over the years; very interesting.
A combination of a click on a daot and a slide of the slider show statistics year by year.

That white dot in the middle of nowhere is of some interest.
According to the statistics this station has seen significant growth.
Now there is a snag with this technology. The white dot is Launceston where the station closed completely in 1966!

Launceston railway station was situated in Launceston, Cornwall, United Kingdom. It was served by both the Great Western Railway (GWR) and London and South Western Railway (LSWR).

There were actually two stations adjacent to each other, the northern station serving the line to Plymouth, which was built by the Launceston and South Devon Railway (later GWR), and the southern station being on the North Cornwall Railway (for the LSWR) which was operated by the London and South Western Railway.
The two stations unusually shared a "back to back" signal box from 1916, despite being operated by different railway companies. A connection between the two railways was provided in 1943. The GWR station closed to passengers in 1952, all trains then using the LSWR station. Trains were withdrawn from the former LSWR line on 3 October 1966.

Hunts Cross, with its 358% passenger growth ...
... is part of the Merseyrail network.
It is quite some distance from Launceston.

Technology reigns supreme!

Less So to ...
It rained a bit on 27th. Brockenhurst Station, for example, was flooded to a depth of an inch or so.
As a result, all trains west of Southampton were cancelled and replacement buses were organised.

Or were they. This was the crowd at Parkway ...
... queueing for the for the replacement buses.
One blog correspondent was travelling westwards on a SouthWest Train and was advised by announcement to change at Southampton Central to the replacement bus service. When he got there there were no buses and he was told he should have changed at Parkway.

According to another correspondent it was "complete and utter chaos with nobody in change and nobody seemingly knowing what was happening. Amazing! Such a thing has never happened before, surely.

Meanwhile CrossCountry (diesel) trains were trundling through quite normally, at least for most of the day. But they were rather full!

On their two site, SouthWest Trains published this apology. fbb adds a comment or two.

Following heavy rainfall in the Brockenhurst area yesterday, services were significantly disrupted. The subsequent flooding affected the signalling equipment between Brockenhurst and Bournemouth.

Have you ever though of having your little grey boxes waterproof, or setting them above the floods. Is there not a system of signalling trains manually? And how come this signalling did not affect CrossCountry Trains. Do they obey different signals?

At around 07:56 yesterday morning we were advised that due to flood water levels rising on the tracks at Sway, Hinton Admiral and Brockenhurst, trains services had to run at reduced speeds of 5mph. There were engineers on site monitoring the situation and carrying out regular safety checks as water levels fluctuated throughout the day.

So it wasn't flooded all the time?

Weather reports forecasted heavy rainfall in the region for the rest of the day; we immediately sourced rail replacement transportation and held them on standby at Bournemouth and Southampton stations from 08:50.

But which Southampton station (see above)?

At 14:50 we were advised that lines were now blocked, as the water levels had risen above the railway track preventing trains from running safely between Bournemouth and Brockenhurst. Standby road replacement transportation was immediately used to convey passengers.

But safely for CrossCountry or did they stop as well?

We also made arrangements to source additional road vehicles, but at 15:41 Hampshire Police advised us that the majority of the roads were also flooded. As a result we were unable to run any replacement road transport between Brockenhurst and Bournemouth for customers at intermediate stations.

Rather than take the advice of the Police, who, as we all know, are experts on running buses along flooded roads, did you go out and have a look?

Arrangements for extra staff at stations were made to help customers with travel advice and onward replacement buses. We also arranged for South West Trains tickets to be accepted by CrossCountry diesel train services whilst the lines were open.

As a result of the flooding, I am very sorry for the disruption you may have experienced yesterday and this morning.

Perhaps a better apology would be to say that "due to over-caution, reliance on outsourced advice and an overall level of gross incompetence, we must apologise. With a heartfelt promise to ensure that we will do very little to ensure that the same thing does not happen again."

It is true that there were a number of unfortunate incidents with buses and flood in the recent Scottish and Northern downpours, but fbb's local contacts suggest that much of this sorry tale was due to over reaction. Even if there really was a need to stop all electric trains (750 volts DC is nasty stuff and does not mix well with water!) there really should have been a better effort to minimise the consequent disruption.

Of course, in the days of steam ...
 And thanks to ...

Alan, our Northampton correspondent who writes:-

Some fifty years ago I spent a week volunteering on the Festiniog Railway. In those days there was still a boat service between Llandudno and the Isle of Man. In the middle of the week there was a works outing from Boston Lodge to Douglas. There was just enough time for a train ride from Douglas to Balasalla and back before catching the return boat to Wales.

Picture enclosed of Douglas station with canopies. The loco is G.H. Wood. The picture comes from before the time that Herr Agfa put the date on slide mounts.

Alan also comments of th possible demise of the horse tram:-

The horse tram runs along the road, delaying impatient motorists behind. The safety elf also probably objects to passengers boarding and alighting in the middle of the road. There was a proposal to move the line on to the parallel promenade allowing the trams, like Blackpool's, to run over unsuspecting pedestrians. This probably upset the safety elf as well and possibly they have now thought about the cost of replacing the whole line between Derby Castle and the ferry terminal and two years of disruption while the whole promenade round Douglas Bay is dug up.
So is it future coats that worry the Island's politicians?

 Next bus branding blog : Saturday 30th January