Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The Flight of the Falcon Part One

Taunton to Bristol
There was a heavy ground frost in Sunny Seaton yesterday; so it was that fbb set off carefully in his limousine for the outskirts of Taunton. A bit of roadside parking was available and there was a five minute walk to the possible site of the stop.
Here was a shiny new flag on the lamppost opposite the "busway" ...
... a temporary fares poster ...
... irrelevant for fbb's journeys as all fares are £1. There was also a timetable frame with departure lists for each direction but, as usual, no timetables.
fbb decoded not to prostrate himself before the sign of the Falcon in order to read it and merely bowed low in his imagination. Also at the stop were TWO PASSENGERS.
But they were going to Plymouth. on the previous departure from (near) Taunton.
About 10 minutes later the coach to Bristol rolled in a few minutes early.
fbb paid his quid and joined five other people already on board all of whom travelled all the way to Bristol.

One of the troubles with the Somerset Levels is that they are, to use a technical geological term, level. There is not much to delight the eye and once you have seen one river, you've seen them all. There's the Parrett, The Black Ditch, The Brue and King somebody's Drain (fbb can't remember) all dutifully labelled on the M5.

The one visual excitement is the vast Morrisons distribution depot.
We lave the M5 to take the A38 via Churchill (where we wait time at, oh the ignominy of it) a First Bus stop.
No passengers alight or join on this section. At Bristol Airport we pass the old terminal building and control tower ...
... before reaching our stand alongside the new terminal which must be at least ten times bigger.
Our driver had to hand her identity tag to the man in the hut who then raised the barrier and lowered the rising bollards.
What would have happened if the tag had failed to activate the gubbins? There was no other way onto the Terminal stands. Sometimes, technology can be counter-productive.

Here we have a crew change. Our driver had a break and the new female type woman is ready to take the help/steering wheel, having arrived there on an earlier run. Because we have electronic ticket machines this process now takes an inordinate amount of time.
There is heated debate about timing with, apparently, different sets of times on the two staff duty sheets. By the time this is resolved our on-time arrival had become a ten minute late departure. "No problem," our exiting chauffeur opines, "you'll have plenty of time to get to Bristol."

Why is staff change-over so complicated? Sometimes, technology can be counter-productive.

The day was sunny, clear and cold and even Bristol's less attractive southern approached looked delightful. "Look," an adult female passenger said to her daughter, "there's Clifton Suspension Bridge."
And we might have had enough time, had not the City Authorities been digging up "The Centre" (onetime "The Tramway Centre") in preparation for the rapid transit busway.
It was a very slow crawl all the way from Anchor Road through to St James Barton, just the route needed by our Falcon
The 20 minute turnaround time had become zero, the Colston Tower clock showed 0855 ...
... and a small clutch of passengers was eagerly awaiting the 1030 departure.
The clutch included two Megabus passengers, also bound for Plymouth who were politely told that this Stagecoach vehicle would not do; they would have to wait for a different Stagecoach vehicle. "But it says Plymouth on the front there" was the rueful plea.

There was also the Wheelchair Crisis. Our driver had been warned that a wheelchair-bound passenger would be waiting. But the storage locker for the ramp thingey was, helpfully, locked; and our driver did not have a key.

Clearly unaware of such incompetence, the enthroned passenger had left her wheeled chariot and, with some assistance, was climbing the steps. "I got steps at home, so I can manage," she said in response to our drivers profuse and embarrassed apologies.

The stop name ...
... is misleading. It is on Bond Street about halfway between the Cabot Circus sausage-about and the St James Barton nearly-roundabout; by the A4044 on the map.
There's nothing to indicate a Circus, Cabot or otherwise, adjacent to this row of stands.

The journey was comfortable, the drivers were excellent at driving and politely helping passengers but "there was room for improvement" in the detail.

But with barely a moment to draw breath, fbb is on his way to Plymouth; 10 minutes late.

 Next Falcon Blog : Thursday 18th February 


  1. It's the "Kings Sedgemoor Drain"...

  2. Thanks Katie - I remember now you've told me!

    1. There are still free toilets at Bretonside Bus Station during daytime hours at the other end of the bus station. There is also a bus stop sign at Marley Head as I spotted today when i tried Falcon details below.
      I went for a short trip to Exeter today to try out the Falcon service and I regret to inform you that I will NOT be able to recommend this service to anybody.

      Planned to travel on the 10.00 from Plymouth which arrived at Bretonside from the garage 8 minutes after departure time so we left 11mins late. The coach was quite warm and comfortable and arrival at Honiton Road P&R was 10 mins late.

      Now the homeward journey. Caught the Blue P&R to Sowton for the 14.40 departure but not long after arrival a Falcon went towards Bristol presumably the 14.05 about 30 mins late. At 15.02 another Bristol bound bus arrived and waited time and left on time at 15.05. At 16.15 another Bristol bound bus arrived and on speaking to the driver he was unaware of any problems with the service although he was nearly quarter of an hour late.
      Finally at 16.20 the 15.40 departure arrived and the driver was able to inform me that the 14.40 had to be cancelled as the driver had shut the door and the glass in the door had fallen out. This was the same bus as I had travelled to Exeter in the morning and this bus has devloped a loud rattle since this mornig which did sound like glass rattling in the frame.It had been further delayed by road works in Bristol. The were very few passengers this afternoon as the bus arrived presumably with the 2 buses of passengers totally 4 people.
      During my 100min wait I spoke to a couple of P&R drivers who knew nothing about the service and I tried to contact the phone number on the bus stop which was unattainable.
      Arrival back at Bretonside was 41 late as the Falcon service now appears to use Exeter Street and The Viaduct in Plymouth rather than going through Bretonside.

      Some more punctual starting procedures and more running time in the timetable is needed before this service will become acceptable

  3. Thank you VERY much for this post. Yours is the ONLY site which actually explains where to get the Falcon bus service from! Well done.

  4. Passengers need to ride in a vehicle to reach airport early so that they could take their flight timely.
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