Friday 30 September 2016

Beyond Belief!

Travel South Yorkshire Is At It Again
 Sheffield's trams to Ecclesall terminated at Banner Cross ...
... which has changed just a bit.
Then services were extended up the hill, past the church and into the top bit of Millhouses Lane.
For many years replacement bus service No 82 terminated in the same place. But it too is very different now.
Just round the corner, beyond the car on the left (there is one in both pictures!) Sheffield Corporation (as it then was) built a splendid shelter combined with ladies' and gents' "facilities"
This was orignally for bus routes, those that ran into the bus station from Derbyshire and those terminating to make connections with the frequent "cars" to the centre of Sheffield. It is very different now.
The toilets have long-since been closed but are not yet turned into a coffee shop or craft workshop. The windows at the back of the shelter ...
... have been bricked up giving the whole experience an aura of unease and doom.

But why the second shelter?
There is competition at that stop! Stagecoach 88 (GREEN) runs every ten minutes into Sheffield City Centre and beyond. First bus 81 (PINK) arrives along Ecclesall Road every 20 minutes. First Bus 82 (PINK) approaches via Woodholm Road combining to give a bus every ten. Under normal circumstances, 82s would turn right at the top of the road ...
... but they don't. They turns LEFT them do a terrifying U-turn across the ludicrously busy Ecclesall Road South and use the lay-by to complete the turn. So the 81s uses the lay-by as well. There is one doing it in the screenshot above.

But nothing else turns in.

Keep that thought in mind for the next bit if the blog.

fbb has already revealed, in a recent blog, that Travel South Yorkshire [TSY] has bought a new toy. This piece of software allows them to merge timetables and produce more bus stop displays; or so said one of the bosses at a recent meeting attended by fbb.

Here is the display as posted on the "front" shelter at the Ecclesall lay-by.
The services are in numerical order so the first is 65 from Buxton.
You might quibble with "towards" Sheffield - what's wrong with "to" -  but for those crowds of people who wait excitedly for the 65 to take them into town, the panel is very useful.

Next in numerical order is Stagecoach's 88. (Are we missing something, do you think?)
From 0739 to 1907 the timetable provides a "ragged" every 10 minute service which TSY manage to complicate with "every 9-10 mins", then a few more tomes, followed by "every 8-10 mins."

Why bother? If you must summarise, rather than list every journey as fbb's birth town bus timetable book used to ...
... then "approximately every 10 mins" is good enough, surely?

fbb is sure there is something missing. Can't quite put his finger on it.

Next we have the 181. This is a real oddity. The route to Dore (now the 81) used to go via the University and the Hallamshire Hospital, but when the 81 was diverted and extended there First created the 181; a few bits and pieces going the old way at Monday to Friday Peak times.
It tells us the the 181 goes "towards Sheffield Centre OR Western Bank". WRONG! No buses go to Western Bank.

All buses go via Hospital and University (Glossop Road stop); there is no "OR" involved, but just ONE bus (0730) continues to "Sheffield Centre"; that is the Interchange, the same place that is called "Sheffield" for service 65.

Next the 215.
This, does indeed run towards the City Centre, i.e. to the Interchange but were are warned to "see notes". We have come across this note before, at the bottom of Cobnar Road (read again). It reads:-
Now lets look at the schooldays service as published on the panel above.
There is the 1659 schooldays (SD) journey; and next to it is the non-schooldays journey; leaving Ecclesall at ...

... erm ...

... 1659. But the computer system cannot show you that, you have to ring Traveline.


Finally we come to the 271 and 272. All buses to and from Castleton used to be numbered 272, but when the Dore service was re-organised, some were diverted via the University etc. and numbered 271.
Of course neither the heading nor the list of departures tells you which way the buses go; from this display there is no way of finding out. The panel does tell you which company operates this messy timetable.
For passengers who might only travel on buses that ran in 2015, this panel is really helpful. But there is a note against each time, a very small note, which tells you which company runs which journey. Again, no mention of which way the bus goes.

fbb is still bugged by that niggle that something isn't there that should be.

And again we are warned that this timetable has notes.

And we all know what the note is, don't we?
Yes, on non schooldays the 1646 leaves at 1643 so you MIGHT be in time. The 1610, however has passed by 27 minutes earlier at 1543 - so you have missed it big time. But the computer cannot tell you that.


And which days, pray, are schooldays?

Yet again we go back to ex Brighton MD Roger French's telling quote ...
... clearly a concept completely alien to the bosses at TSY!

There is another notice on the "front" shelter.
It tells you that First Bus routes 81 and 82 will serve this stop; actually the lay-by behind the "front" shelter. but the notice is on the front shelter.

Aha! fbb has Twigged.


It is possible that a second timetable frame on or near the old shelter (the "back" shelter) may have a timetable for the 81 and 82, but most passengers would look at the obvious diplay next to the poster about the 81 and 82 in the "front" shelter. If this service is competing with the 88, surely the information should be in the same place.

But because the First Bus stop is given a different name in the dreaded database, it will be treated as a separate stop.

See the Roger French quite above!

If TSY really want to serve the public, then services 65, 181, 215, 271 and 272 can be merged together into one departure list. After all they do all go to the same place(s).

0700 181 University ONLY
0730 181 University and Interchange
0750 272 Moorfoot and Interchange
0800 181 University ONLY
0807 65  Moorfoot and Interchange
0813 271 University and Interchange
0953 271 University and Interchange
1037 65  Moorfoot and Interchange
1048 271 University and Interchange
1143 271 University and Interchange
1207 65  Moorfoot and Interchange
1243 271 University and Interchange
1343 271 University and Interchange
1407 65  Moorfoot and Interchange
1543 271 University and Interchange NOT on schooldays
1610 272 Moorfoot and Interchange schoolday ONLY
1643 272 Moorfoot and Interchange NOT on schooldays
1646 272 Moorfoot and Interchange schooldays ONLY
1659 215 Moorfoot and Interchange
1700 181 University ONLY
1741 272 Moorfoot and Interchange
1837 65  Moorfoot and Interchange
1845 272 Moorfoot and Interchange
1945 272 Moorfoot and Interchange
2007 65  Moorfoot and Interchenge
2200 272 Moorfoot and Interchange
2359 272 Moorfoot and Interchange

Something like the above would be very helpful. fbb has asked the GoTimetable Sheffield technical team and they say that a well designed and simple piece of software could create a list as above very easily.

Of course, it would need a computer operator who understood where the buses went.

No, it's too much to ask!

 Next Meringue blog : Saturday 1st October 

Thursday 29 September 2016

It's Thrilling at Pilling (Conder Green P.S.)

A Change of Plan
Today's blog was to have continued the theme of over reliance on technology to the detriment of passenger information; but a series of thee pictures sent by correspondent Roy from Sheffield sent fbb down a different track.
Well, down the same track actually to Pilling, a stop on the railway from Knott End to Garstang.
Much of the land around the village is below sea level and a windmill, Dutch style, was traditionally used to pump water to a safe level.

Pilling Windmill was constructed in 1808 by Fylde millright, Ralph Slater, who also built Marsh Mill in Thornton-Cleveleys and the Clifton Windmill near Preston. 
The mill was converted to steam power in 1886 and the sails were removed the year after. It continued to operate until 1926, after which it fell into disrepair. By 1975, however, the mill had been renovated for residential use and is still a private residence today.

On 2nd February 2007, the mill was fitted with a traditional "Lancashire boat top" cap by the owners Nick and Catherine Edwards.
The cap was designed to match Marsh Mill at Thorton Cleveleys and was built by Neil Medcalfe - a traditional millwright from Lincolnshire.
In 2008, the restoration of the mill was continued with the fitting of a traditional balcony around the outside, reinstating a view of the mill that had not been seen for over 100 years.
But Pilling station was not at Pilling as such, It was at Stake Pool ...
... a little futther along Pilling Water, one of the many inlets that characterise this marsh area.
Because the land is flat, there are no embankments to indicate the course of the branch line. Almost everything has been ploughed up and incorporated into neighbouring fields. This aerial view of the village does, however, suggest the line of the track bed along the northern boundary of a light industrial area.
And, as if to preserve the frail memory of this little line, a station barrow is located at the road junction nearby.
Here is Roy's close-up.
The label on the side is almost certainly a recent addition (Garstang and Knot End Railway - one "t" in Knot(t) is not an fbb typo, that's how the company name was spelled!) but the trolley almost certainly dates from the 1920s

And if you follow the sign to Pilling you come to the rather superior caravan park ...
... complete with heated swimming pool.
Much of Fold House Park is built across the now-disappeared branch line.
But at the entrance is something rather odd for a Caravan Park.
Here is another Roy picture.
The real loco at the rear is called the "Pilling Pig". This particular engine never ran on the branch line, but its adopted name is memorial to this ...
... the third loco to work the line and nicknamed Pilling Pig. Built by ....
... Hudswell Clark, the present loco once worked for the National Coal Board. Its minuscule brother is an unpowered model, used as a flower bed.
It is called ...
... The Pilling Piglet! Sweet. The big pig carries a coat of arms of the original company, again with one "t" in Knot!
Well done Fold House Park for this glorious piece of fake but fabulous nostalgia.

Roy's third picture takes us back to the Fleetwood and Knott End Ferry.

Blog readers will remember the problem with the tides, necessitating the withdrawal of the ferry service when water was low.
But what is going on here?
Possibly the last ferry before the service is stopped has just arrived at Knott End slip. Because it is low water, the slip is covered with slimy Wyre river mud. So, out nips one of the crew and hoses it down BEFORE passengers are allowed to alight.

Superb customer service!
Another Bus Partnership
But this one is called an "Alliance".
(click on the graphic above for a larger, more readable view)

Liverpool was one of the early "partnership" projects but the chumminess applied only to a few routes. This scheme would appear to be more widespread.

Sheffield Bus Partnership was poorly disguised joint scheme to reduce services, Will the same thing happen in Liverpool?

Merseytravel will now enter into a formal ‘Bus Alliance’ initially with operators Arriva and Stagecoach — who together operate 90 per cent of commercial bus services in the Liverpool City Region – focused on growing the number of fare paying passengers, improving customer satisfaction and driving up investment for the benefit of all who use bus services.

That's much the same hype as was published in Sheffield. 

Tomorrow we return to the joys misuse of technology.
Where might that be?,
 Next technology blog - Friday 30th September 

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Have You Been to Conder Green? [2]

It's All On Line - If You Can Find It
The old and abandoned xephos database confirms Darren Wichman's memory that his bus from Knott End to Conder Green used to be Stagecoach service 89. (See "Have You Been to Conder Green? [1] " (read again). Way back in the early 2000s, buses ran every two hours (daytime) seven days a week  with a proper evening service; last bus from Knott End was 2134.

The first port of call to trace the present service (if any - Lancashire have joined the cut-backs club and are well to the top of the slash-a-service league) has to be Traveline North West.

Here we get our first shock.
"Where you can plan any public transport journey within our region."

Only you can't!
The North West Journey Planner
is no longer available.
To be directed to a journey planning service
for the area you are travelling in,
please select from the list below,
thank you:
And here is the list below.
Click on Blackburn with Darwen and up pop "a journey planning service for the area".
Only it didn't. It linked to the "national" Traveline web site. Surely there is a local journey planner for some or all of Cheshire?
Nope. And for Lancashire, where be our troublesome locations, the same again.


What about Manchester? Ir does have a journey planner that looks very different from Traveline. It must be much better because it has lots of huge whirling circles to entertain you while it is thinking.

An enquiry for a journey from Knott End to Conder Green finds the locations; they are all in the database.
But the sneaky folk in Transport for Great Manchester wont give away national journey data.
Meanies. Merseyside has a journey planner but ...
... cannot get there from Knott End. You can take nearly all day from Liverpool, but the planner resorts to a taxi for the last leg.
But there is yet hope. National Traveline will find a timetable, but only after you have planned a journey. Not much good if what you want is to interrogate the 89 - if it still exists. An enquiry yesterday evening offered another ...

... smidgen of hope.
The 1930 appeared to be the last sensible bus of the day but best not try the 2005 departure arriving Cinder Green at 0653 the following day!

From Esplanade By Esplanade, Knott End On Sea, take 89 bus to Ship Road By Conder Bridge, Conder Green

fbb is not a party to what, or where, "Esplanade by Esplanade" is. Perhaps there are two Esplanades at Knott End.

37 minutes, Depart 19:30, Arrive 20:07

We are told the operator - looking better so far.

Kirkby Lonsdale Coaches

Shall we click on "Service Timetable?

Today's Live Departures / Service Timetable

Why not? fbb is always willing to have a go. And, tada! The timetable is electronically generated from the database. How jolly clever ...
... and utterly useless.



Listen to Roger French, AGAIN.
Of course, the average bus user will have long since given up - as did Darren Wichman, fbb's enquiring friend.

But, armed with the operator name, fbb was able to inject some small amount of sanity into the problem.


And Kirby Lonsdale Coaches web site HAS TIMETABLES.
And, with much rejoicing ...
... here it is (click on the table to enlarge it):-
And now we can see why fbb had so much trouble with his databases. The main daytime service is numbered 89H, possibly because it runs via Lancaster Hospital, so the idiot computer system (or the people that designed it) treats it as a separate and unconnected service ...
... which it isn't.

IF the closed Traveline North West had chosen to announce its demise HELPFULLY, it might have provided a link to Lancashire County Council's bus timetable site. Here the "split of 89 and 89H will befiuddle a search by route number. BUT, joy of joys (?), a search by location will reveal the two services that are really one.
But there is still a snag. The search her is by stop name (too much information?) so you really need to know what you want before you can look for what you want. The associted map, however, is better but you need to scroll to see the ferry from Fleetwood. Surely the Bourne Arms Stop should have "for Fleetwood Ferry" added to its name?
More guessing?

Knowing the truth (AT LAST) meant that fbb could offer Darren the comfort of knowing that he could get to Conder Green and back.

If the pub is still open?
Jim assured us that it is!


 More Missing Common Sense - Thursday 29th September