Friday 31 March 2017

Publicity Matters : For Some it Doesn't Matter

fbb does not readily associate Tesco with public transport, possibly with the exception of free buses to certain stores. But when a chum sent this item over the ether, fbb was, if nothing, intrigued. The correspondent had contacted his local store about incorrect price labels on the shelves. The reply was very revealing.

Can we really believe that Tesco, despite its recent fine, could be so cavalier in its attitude to informing its customers of the price and availability of products?

Of course we can't, because the above is a fabricated epistle, created by the ever active mind of an overweight blogging person of some note no note whatsoever.

But below is an actual email!
Back in November 2016, one of our Sheffield correspondents (called Stan Ington, for anonymity) contacted a certain Aberdeen based bus company with some queries about timetable availability and errors. It should be stressed that the original query was about COMPANY publicity.
The "starter" email was via the web site and "Customer Services".

From here on, fbb has abbreviated the emails.

Over one month later (slick reply, eh?) came this reply.

Sadly, Ms J B had been searching PTE non-leaflets (which were error free) ...
... whereas Stan referred to company publicity (which wasn't.

Stan immediately emailed back:-

Thank you for your belated reply to my email regarding errors on your printed timetables (not on the Travel South Yorkshire PDFs produced by South Yorkshire PTE which you attached to your reply). I was referring to the printed A7 size timetables produced by First South Yorkshire and available for a limited time after their publication from Arundel Gate, Sheffield and from the Customer Services desk at Sheffield Interchange. Unfortunately the leaflets in question seem to be no longer available and adequate stocks of them do not seem to be maintained.

Stan went on to repeat the errors which were serious and could have been very misleading to the public.


On 3rd February (2017), Stan tried again.

Did you receive the email below which I sent you on 28 December 2016? I have heard nothing further from anyone at FirstGroup in response.

Since sending this, I have a further question to raise: why were no printed timetables available in Rotherham for the significant changes from 29 January 2017, which included renumbered services? Out of date and incorrect timetables leaflets were on display at Rotherham Interchange and the Customer Services Assistant advised that he had not been given any new ones (presumably by the Company) to replace those which wrong.

Again, more specific details were included in Stan's email.


On 16th March, Stan tried yet again.

Is there any progress on this matter as I have heard nothing further. I would appreciate a considered response to my comments.

Finally on 27th March (Monday last) came a reply to complaints first made back in November 2016. This was the eight bullet points above, parodied by fbb in the "Tesco" item at the head of this blog.

Let us analyse this reply from Ms JB.
Unbelievable! By what twist of intellect can a company knowingly offer its customers wrong information about its products?
Whilst the PTE's abandonment of printed material is inexcusable, First Bus have had over two years to do something about it. The fact that the company can write something like this shows a consummate lack of customer care.
Twaddle! And double twaddle! Costs of producing printed material are negligible when set against the overall cost base of a large bus company.
At worst this is even more twaddle - at best it smacks of poor management and scheduling. It is interesting to note that First's"partner" (snigger snigger) in Sheffield doesn't find it necessary to change its timetables for the same route several times each year. At a rough guess, service X78 (Sheffield to Doncaster) has had a new timetable twice a year (on average) for at least the last six years.
Of this list, only one provides actual timetables. Mobile apps don't (with one notable exception), information points don't and bus stops don't. But there is a deeper problem here. The percentage of First's customers who regularly open up their laptop to check on the time of their next bus is very small. Even a senior man from First admitted to fbb that, when he visited community groups and talked about publicity, they all wanted a timetable leaflet.
No corrected leaflets have appeared. No leaflets of any sort have appeared.

Beyond belief.

And it isn't just Sheffield
fbb heard, from a very reliable source, of a man in Harrogate who contacted First Kernow (Conwall) and asked for a timetable to be posted as he was planning his holiday out West. The reply went something like this:-

Mr Harrogate even offered to pay for the postage!

Beyond belief, again.

For the record, in the 7 years of this blog, the old codger has sent emails on about a dozen times to First Bus companies requesting fares information. He has done this, not as fbb (blogger), but as his real persona.


As Hamlet didn't quite say, "There is something (very) rotten in the state of Denmark First Bus' attitude to its customers."

And to a regular comment writer who hides under the "Anonymous" tag but regularly offers snide opinions and person attacks on fbb, please note that this blog's material emanated from a long-tern resident of Sheffield and a regular bus user. His frustration is real and practical.

And How Would You Find Out
fbb likes to keep an eye on what may be coming up in the Steel City. So, from time to time, he checks the Travel South Yorkshire web site. Hitherto, to be fair, this has been very up-front about forthcoming changes.

A few blogs back, fbb commented that TSY had not publicised the seasonal changes for Derbyshire services which came into effect last weekend. Poor show.

But amazingly, whilst looking out for the next lot of changes (due at the end of April), fbb discovered another change First's web site. The information is well hidden in the "Planned Changes" section of the web site.
Presumably, if Stan wants to go anywhere by bus, he must search TSY and company web sites to make sure these secret "Planned Changes" don't affect his chosen journey.

Beyond belief, yet again! Here is First's secretive note.

Revised timetables will be introduced on services X1 and X78 from Monday 13 March

We're constantly monitoring all our services - because of the roadworks on Meadowhall Road, Sheffield and other roadworks near to Meadowhall, which is adding further traffic onto Meadowhall Road, we're introducing timetable amendments to services X1 and X78.

Back to TSY's site and, yes, there were the revised tables.
But TSY has never announced the revision on their changes page.
How would Stan Ington or any other potential passenger find out? Presumably after they had missed their bus!

Beyond belief, yet again.

Tomorrow, perhaps, we can be a little light hearted, especially in view of the date!?

 Next light hearted blog : Saturday 1st April 

Thursday 30 March 2017

Meyzieu Tram Train Mystery (4)

Mystery Solved but More from Meyzieu
When fbb was viewing the street adjacent to the "rhône express" depot, he was confused.
On the right, out of shot, was the depot, straight ahead was the "main line" running off right to the airport and TGV station but there was another set of track on the left. Looking from the depot gates there was a Lyon tram (of bulbous front end fame) parked in a field.
It turned out that this was a station called Meyzieu Les Panettes ...
.... served on Mondays to Fridays only.

Station à 2 voies à quais située immédiatement au sud du centre de maintenance de Rhônexpress. Elle a été mise en service le 10 juin 2014. Cette station ne dessert en temps normal qu’un parking-relais de 500 places. Elle a en fait été créée uniquement pour desservir un parking délocalisé du stade de Décines d’une capacité de 4 500 places.

On Mondays to Fridays it is a Park and Ride stop with additional use for events at the "Stade Olympique" when a total of 4,500 places are available.
Yes, we get the point. But where is the stadium?

Answer, take the tram back towards Lyon from Meyzieu and you will spot the stadium and the junctions to a special tram station opened for events only.
Although there is a single crosssover connecting them, the trams usually run two separate and independent services in addition to the "normal" schedule. There are shuttles from Lyon (left) and from the aforementioned park and ride at Meyzieu (right).

And they are well used.
Here is a view of the double station under construction ...
... looking from the north back towards the stadium.

Impressive in the extreme.

And one last delight from T3 which takes us back to the Zone Industriel tram station. There is a connecting bus linking the tram with some of the main Industrial sites.
"Zi" is a sort of brand, used for a whole collection of similar services to "Zones Industriels" throughout Lyon.
There is only the Zi2 at Meyzieu.
Buses run a figure-of-eight loop with the tram station at the intersection.
the timetable offers journeys at morning and evening peaks plus lunchtimes as follows.
Again, very impressive.

Once again we recognise that all this transport joy comes at a price. The fares are cheap (except on the "rhône express" to the airport!!) and the service is good because it is a highly subsidised system set up under a political will to make public transport part of a holistic environmental and social philosophy. But, of course, taxation is high!

Yet again, "you pays your money and you makes your choice."
Botheration on the Buxton Bus
It could be that fbb was "a bit previous" in extolling the virtues of the "excellent" leaflet jointly produced by High Peak and T M Travel for joint operation on service 85, Sheffield to Buxton (read again).
Sheffield correspondent Roy reports that passengers have been complaining that "there has been no publicity" and it is alleged that folk have been letting the High Peak bus pass by whilst expecting a T M Travel vehicle. High Peak have taken over two return trips between Buxton and Sheffield.
To add to the problem, another Sheffield researcher (John), who keeps an eye on leaflets (or lack of them) in the two Sheffield enquiry offices (where you are advised not to enquire!), reports that no route 65 leaflets were available earlier this week,

This follows the pattern, now well established, that if leaflets are ever produced they we only ever be obtainable AFTER the service has changed.

The leaflet can be accessed via the T M Travel ...
... and High Peak web sites.
 Next "Sorry Tale" blog : Friday 31st March 

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Meyzieu Tram Train Mystery (3)

Off To See Métro C
The man told driver Dave that the mysterious vehicle parked at the Meyzieu (Lyon) tram depot used to run on line C of the city's metro.
The YELLOW line runs from Hotel de Ville to Cuire with just three intermediate stations. At first glance it looks very short for an underground line and its brevity become more obvious when you look at a map of the whole metro network. The metro lines are the four thick ones!
Things get more interesting when you look at photos of the line.
Train, platform, overhead wire, ballast, rails and sleepers; all perfectly normal. The lighter coloured strip is probably something to do with automatic control, but, look closely.

There is a strip of cogs. In fact line C is the only rack and pinion underground railway IN THE WORLD. Wowsers. (Definition defence : there are, of course, many mountain railways that use rack and pinion and run through tunnels.)

So, how come?

First, some geography.
As the river Saône wiggles its way to its junction with the Rhône it gouges its way through rocky outcrops leaving steep sides up which the old town of Lyon expanded.
To make life easier for the Burghers of Lyon, encumbered with their "bagages of baguettes", a total of five funicular railways were built. Two still operate and one, from St Paul station, has gone leaving only minimal traces; all three were covered in a previous blog (read again).

Which leaves two, both rising to the plateau of Croix Rousse.
All five were dubbed "ficelle" (string) by the Lyonnais, largely because they were rope worked. The PINK line (ficelle Rue de la Terme) closed in 1967 and was tuned into a very spooky road tunnel ...
... now one way up. The YELLOW line is the focus of our attention now.

 1891  A rope worked funicular rail opened between Croix de Paquet ...
... and Croix Rousse with steam as the power source for the ropework.
This upper station  has long since gone, but the multi-windowed building lower right gives a point of reference.

 1904  converted to use an electric motor to drive the "string".
Note the "le truck" (French for "the truck") used for carrying goods and people. Improved rope hauled stock eventually arrived but still with "le truck"!

 1972  line closed for refurbishment and conversion to "crémaillère" system. The word "crémaillère" baffled fbb for some time with Google Translate being unable to do what it said on the tin. Pictures on-line showed open, fire escape type staircases (!) and a phrase book was equally unhelpful.

A housewarming party is called a "pendaison de crémaillère", literally "hanging of the chimney hook".

Eventually, under a slightly different spelling, fbb discovered "cogwheel"; i.e. rack and pinion!

New stock duly arrived and here (tada!) is our mystery vehicle from Meyzieu. (At last!)
The line reopened in 1974 as Métro Ligne C but before lines A and B appeared! To complete the tale:-

 1978  extended at the base to Hotel de Ville.

 1984  extended at the top to Cuire. Now equipped with "proper" trains, it still provides a link up the steep hill but connects with line A and buses at Hotel de Ville and posh trolleybus C1 (and buses) at Cuire.
It is, of course, still "rack and pinion" apart from the last "upper" section between Hénon and Cuire ...
... which, alack, (don't be taken aback), lacks the rack between the track.
Whilst we have resolved the burning question of car MC2, there is a bit more of interest back on Tramway T3 so we will return to Meyzieu tomorrow.

 Next Lyon tram blog : Thursday 30th March