Thursday 31 March 2016

Manchester Madness Part 2

Didn't Start Very Well
On Tuesday morning, fbb awoke at 0430, twenty minutes before his alarm. A bleary eyed stagger down the stairs and a click on the confuser brought up the above notice.


A bus from Yeovil to Gillingham would blow the foundations clean away from the old man's trek to Leigh to enjoy the press launch of the new £68 million busway.


But, obediently, fbb took heart in the last sentence above and went to the real time journey planner.
One of the delights of the journey planner is that every train is "on time" until it isn't. So the 0552 would always be "on time" until it left Exeter at 0510. Unless it didn't. Anyway, ">More details" simply led fbb back to the big panel above, creating a frustrating and useless circle of non information.


Time to be proactive. Drive to Axminster, park in the long stay near the Co-op (the fbbs have an annual East Devon car park season ticket) ...
... and walk the short distance to the station; tripping over a fence panel that had blown over on Sunday night!
The bright lights of Tesco's petrol station ...
... guided the old man to the station and the departure board.
Looks good. Although one of yesterday's comment writers reported that the 0552 to Exeter ran very late! The worry now was that, on the previous Monday, some trains had run to London via Yeovil Pen Mill, Bruton and Westbury adding 30 minutes to the running time; which would make the whole trip impossible.


So over the footbridge (with no lights working!) to check on the scrolling platform indicators.
This implied that the line was open. One last check ...
... with the mysterious man at the end of a phone.

"They are hoping to get the line open by 0600" he said. "What will happen if they don't?" riposted our stressed-out potential traveller. "You'll know when they get to Yeovil," the man replied cheerily.


But the train did run, arriving about 5 minutes late at Waterloo; and just over 20 minutes later fbb was seated on the 0930 to Glasgow for his Pendolino progression to Wigan, arrival due at 1125.

 NO stress! 

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, fbb discovered that the bus stop for Leigh was beside Wigan Wallgate Station, itself just across the road from Wigan North Western.
The bus stop flag showed 658, the pre-planned service ...
... and very soon along came the selected Stagecoach steed, bound for Leigh and its guided busway.

 NO stress! 

Now here's a thing. fbb has oft told folk that there are very few places in the UK that he has never visited. One of them is Wigan. So a ride thence to Leigh would be a journey of education and excitement.
There are three routes linking the two communities. The most direct, via Hindley is route 598 every 15 minutes but this does not go near the stations. The long way round via Golbourne is route 600, every 12 minutes like the chosen 658. All these are run by Stagecoach but were part of the First Manchester empire until the latter sold out to the former.
How best to describe the 658 route?
There were many closed and boarded pubs, many closed and boarded shops and many tired terraced houses. These were interspersed by a multitude of closed and removed railway lines, some decayed former industrial sites and occasional patches of scrubland.

It was not aesthetically pleasing and illustrated very clearly the difference between the struggling north and the affluent south.

But the people are so friendly and astoundingly cheerful. Despite the sad environment, the Council and local groups had planted many hundreds of daffs in little plots of greenery.
Very pleasant. But soon fbb was at Leigh bus station and it was time for lunch. Inside the shopping arcade was a Costa Lot ...
... and Caffeè Dolce ...
... neither of which stimulated fbb's taste buds. But what is this he espied?
'T market! And, as expected, therein ...
... was a genuine, busy and popular market caff. All day breakfast consisted of two excellent rashers of bacon, an adequate sausage, egg, some beanz and a slurp of timmed tomatoes served with a slice of "buttered" (for want of a better word) toast plus a big mugga all for £4.

There's nowt better on a cold day. And, as if to confirm the northern-ness of it all, the bakery next door was offering ...
... hot barms. No, fbb didn't.

So it was outside to join with the crowds previewing services V1 and V2 due to launch to the public on Sunday coming.
And to complete the profusion of "local colour", it were rainin', luv.

Despite the over preponderance of stress at the start of the journey, and despite the attempts by National Rail to hide the journey from fbb, Traveline was right in every detail.
And its schedule worked perfectly.

There will be more about the busway launch itself in Saturday's blog; the slight delay being the need to absorb all the PR hype issued by Transport for Greater Manchester!

 Next bus blog : Friday 1st April 

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