Monday 31 July 2017

Branded Buses 3 Inter Alia

Daft Information Screens Again
Bristol correspondent Paul was in Teignmouth recently and was very (UN)impressed with the Devon County information display. This particular Monolith was outside the W H Smith store in Regent Street Teignmouth.
So bemused was Paul that he quickly snapped the screen.
Route 2 is going to Exeter via "Dav" whereas route 22 will terminate at Beach Road ...
... also via "Dav" (?).

Obtaining the 22 timetable ("Hop22" to be specific) doesn't add much to the mixed messages offered to the passenger.
The departure is the 1426 to Dawlish Warren; no mention of Beach Road on the Stagecoach timetable. But it is true! The terminus of the Hop22 is here ...
... at the inland end of Beach Road Dawlish Warren.

Paul reckons "Dav" is a non scrolling Dav-vlish (Dawlish) confirmed when he looked at the screen a few seconds later and the 22 was now going via "vlish".

Helpful - Not very! Devon's data is daftly delivered by this disappointing device.

Branding Buses Bewilders!
The chaps who work for GoAhead's Plymouth City Bus have come up with a jolly good idea (?) implemented with gusto and enthusiasm over the last year or so. Lets paint our buses in different and bright colours and call them Red Flash, Blue Flash, Yellow Flash, Green Flash, Taupe Flash and Heliotrope Flash.

The first in the fray, four years ago, was Red Flash.
This was chosen for service 21 which runs from Barne Barton on the northwest of the centre ...
... to Plympton and Chaddlewood on the east.
Other than the label ...
... and a bit of marketing hype, the routes were very "normal". The name appeared on the publicity as well as on the vehicles ...
... but, oddly, not on the on-line list of timetables where the route was just plain 21/21A.
No flashing there! But it changed yesterday.

You see, the Plymouth folk are tired of their flashing red buses. The Flash is now trash! The branded route is in the process of being re-branded; no longer a Flash but a mere Spark.
From a Flash to a Spark, Plymouth Citybus’ recent £3.5 million fleet investment takes to the roads this Sunday 30th July.

Sixteennew Enviro 400 City vehicles will bring new standards of passenger comfort, capacity and performance to Plymouth’s bus network on top of a bold new identity. The new brand, ‘Spark’ is a step up in passenger transport, boasting free Wi-Fi, executive leather seats and for the first time in the Citybus fleet, USB charging points throughout.

Not only are the new buses comfortable and look great, but they are good for the environment too. The euro six diesel engines now have a carbon reduction upgrade, meaning the emissions are independently tested and certified as low emissions vehicles.

The new vehicles will be rolled out from 30th July on route 21 and 21A, serving Plympton to Barne Barton via the City Centre. The cross city service is the busiest in Plymouth currently using Redflash buses, introduced four years ago, which will now be moving onto the City’s northern corridor.

Of course, the new buses are the very latest with WiFi, charging points, "leather" seats ...
... wheels at each corner and a big powerful engine to make them go.

The vehicles look special, the route and frequency is unchanged so the big question for the Management is whether lots of extra passengers will travel because a Flash has become a Spark.

No 1 Son is In Vancouver ...
... although he didn't tell mummy and daddy he as going. It is some sort of conference thing at which he is performing in some way. But he did send some piccies which fbb will follow up in due course. 

First is the Skytrain; not to be confused with Mr Laker's doomed airline.
Vancouver's Sky Train link Airport with Downtown (that's the town centre to you and me) and here it is, about to transport him there.
Then there is the route 405 bus which took young sir from Conference Centre to Hotel.
Very different from Red Flash and/or Spark!
More investigation needed. To follow when fbb can find the time.

August tomorrow! Already! The years much be getting shorter, like Kit-Kats!

 Next bus blog : Tuesday 1st August 

Sunday 30 July 2017

The Monolith of Mystery

HAL is at Work Again?
HAL 9000 is a fictional character and the main antagonist in Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey series. First appearing in 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) is a sentient computer (or artificial general intelligence) that controls the systems of the Discovery One spacecraft and interacts with the ship's astronaut crew.

Back in the late sixties we were all agog at the film 2001 A Space Odyssey. fbb went to watch it and can honestly say that he didn't understand it at all back then and his comprehension has not improved since. Somewhere in the plot was an ominous black Monolith which "was full of stars".
Northampton correspondent Alan reports something similar has landed (materialised, been transporterised - who knows) into a suburb near him.
Alan, wit and raconteur that he is, begins his emails with a puzzle. "What," he asks, "is Smiler doing at St James?"
But it is not THAT Smiler - it is this S.M.I.L.E.R.

It looks as if some clever salesman has persuaded the Borough Council to spend money on a trendy Monolith that is not fulled with stars, but with adverts and, possibly, bus times. What does S.M.I.L.E.I.R.T. offer to the adoring public?

Offer Number One - serious neck injuries. Observe the people enjoying this exciting new technology; eyes shaded ...
... head thrown painfully back.
If only Northampton's bus passengers were about eight feel tall, they could read the screens with ease.

The Monolith is located at:-

St James Square
St James End (on the timetable display)
St James The Square

or on top of the Monolith itself

For those with their personal step latter to hand, here is what you might read on the Monolith fro  the Planet Zog.
Alan explains:-

Smiler sits outside the Natwest Bank at a location that someone who programmed it thinks is called “St. James Place”

I do not want to be critical ... (Voice from the back- “Oh yes you do”.) ... but:-

It is not real time information, (offer number two) but I think the whole system had gone “phut” on Friday.

Offer number three - useless infromation.

Service 3 terminates a mile short of Lower Harlestone.
At 1417 it should be in Wootton.

9 / 9A Northampton is meaningless. The "o/s" 9A is travelling away from Northampton! 

What is all this near, opp, o/s guff? Just letter the four  adjacent stops A,B,C  and D and use those letters as reference points.

All THREE of these routes will take you to Northampton

I hope the thing is still under test: If it is not it is a case of Smart Monolith - Stupid Information.

More Blakey than Smiler.
Your data.

Stephen Lewis (17 December 1926 to 12 August 2015), credited early in his career as Stephen Cato ...
... was an English actor, comedian, director, screenwriter, and playwright. He is best known for his television roles as Inspector Cyril "Blakey" Blake in the LWT sitcom On the Buses and Clem "Smiler" Hemmingway in Last of the Summer Wine.

Thanks to Alan for providing much of the material for this blog.

 The missing branding blog : Monday 31st July 

Saturday 29 July 2017

The Best of Times; The Worst of Times

Was It Not a Mr W Shakespeare Who Wrote ...
O Stagecoach, Stagecoach,
When sorrows come, they come not single spies
But in battalions. First, the hist is slain:
Next, your rear car gone; with the most violent author
Of queueing carriages: the people muddled,
Thick and unwholesome in their thoughts and whispers,
As delay mounts up on yet greater delay.

Many will remember this speech from Hamlet (Act 4 scene 5) when the deranged Prince of Denmark had just endured a very troubled carriage ride to Elsinore Castle.

Stagecoach likewise did not cover itself in ferroequinoloical glory on Thursday last as fbb travelled from Axminster to Sheffield.

Departure was 1606, late in the day to accommodate departure of grandson, a welcome guest at fbb mansions for the previous few days. The class 159 had a non-working air conditioner - so no surprise there. A chum of the fbbs, who was an air conditioning engineer, explained that the kit on UK trains was cheap and cheerful and inadequate to deal with hot weather. So it fails!

Never mind eh? The guard was able to switch in the standby air conditioning as illustrated here.
If you have the appropriate tool, you CAN open the windows!

A quick nip across London and the old crusty was able to meet up with No 3 son in good time to board the 1955 to Sheffield. This path is nearly always a real treat because it takes a High Speed Train back to Leeds for overnight maintenance. 

East Midland Trains HSTs have not been fitted with high back seats - bliss!
And you can go into the vestibule, lower the window and peer out warily of your personal survival, of course. But again you get real air, not the reconstituted stuff.
At 1955 the train slid effortlessly out of Platform 1 at St Piecrust and fbb and son settled down to a lengthy chat in preparation for Friday's business meeting in the City of Clanging cutlery.

After a sprightly start from the terminus, it became clear that summat was up. The train slowed to a crawl. "We seem to be stuck behind a train that should be on the slow line" opined the chubby one.

South of Luton Airport Parkway, the fbb's fast train was switched over to the slow lines and thereupon through Parkway and Luton Stations. The problem became obvious. There in down fast Platform 5 ...
... stood a very forlorn and very slow speed train.
Research revealed this to be the 1900 departure to Corby which languished, busted, at Luton.
OK, clever reader, you are right. the piccy above is NOT of the failed 1900; it is just any old train at Luton. fbb was, as yet unaware of how things were to pan out, so, at this stage, the delay was not significant.

Even after the train was signalled back on the fast lines, things went in fits and starts. The very nice lady on the speaking spout told us that there were other trains ahead of us that were delayed, and we would be speeding onwards very soon.

What did she know?

Progress was NOT high speed.

Then for unfathomable reasons, more crawling as the delayed and frustrated fbbs approached Kettering and, oddly, the train was again diverted onto the slow lines through the station.

To pass a slower train?

Nope - to pass a completely empty platform!
The reason was not explained; but as the weary travellers regained the fast lines, the guard announced that our train was now in trouble as the rear power car as busted and we would be running at reduced speed.

Now that is odd. Because smart No 3 son logged a similar notice on his smart phone ...
This was recorded somewhere north of Luton, after the first delay.
And so to Derby where the late running train sat motionless in the platform for at least seven minutes. Eventually it was signalled away and it then crawled northwards, by now with no announcements or apologies other than the nominal "we are sorry for any inconvenient."
By Chesterfield fbb was running 50 minutes late with an actual arrival in Sheffield at 2301. 

After a refreshing cuppa, fbb crawled into his hotel bed at 0030. Excellent preparation for a dynamic business meeting on Friday morning, NOT.

Breakfast was taken after the meeting, a first time sampling of the facilities in the relatively new Moor indoor market.
Large Breakfast £4.50!
Two of the slices of toast are for No 3 son, who consumed similar.

Return train (1149 from Sheffield) to St Pancras was somewhat better but, again for no obvious reason, it ran between five and six minutes late all the way. The fbbs were anxious to imbibe from the trolley. But trolley came their none.

The guard explained, "a  trolley should have joined us a Derby - I don't know why it didn't."


As Uncle Will said "When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions." 

Very disappointing.

And a question harking back to Thursday evening. Should passengers have been informed of a possible problem BEFORE they left St Pancras? It was obvious things would not run smoothly.

Thankfully an ever reliable class 159 took fbb back from Waterloo to Axminster on time all the way.

And how did the meeting go?

Very well INDEED!
Third Brand Blog
Due to the exigencies of the situation, this is postponed.
 Next absolutely no idea blog : Sunday 30th July 

Friday 28 July 2017

Branded Buses; Bland Buses; Well Planned ... (2)

Any Colour As Long As It Is Red ...
... or yellow, or blue, or orange or purple. The return of the craze for all-over advertising buses in the Metropolis makes a nonsense of the edict that all London Buses must be plain red to reinforce the image. 

Route 724 was a Greenline service from Gravesend to Windsor.
Subsequently, following the demise of the long distance network, it has been branded ...
... privatised and unbranded ...
... threatened with total withdrawal, renumbered X26 and ignominiously truncated to a plain red non-event.
Before "mainly red" became "totally red", Metrobus managed to maintain a smidgen of its identity with a bit of blue and yellow.
Withing living memory, there have been a number of route branding "crazes" whilst retaining "mainly red".

The 38 with a weird font was a case in point.
Some services gained a sort of yellow ribbon effect on the side.
Whether putting a large number 11 on the front, right next to the same number 11 on the blind was really helpful is a moot point ...
... but route details were repeated to the right of the blind display, just next to the blind's route details. There was also a route "strip" at cantrail level. 

Such whimsies disappeared, as did intermediate route details in favour of a simple ultimate destination.
From too much information is changed to too little?

From white on black lettering ...
... to yellow on black lettering ...
... and now; back to white on black as on the Borismaster, above!

But, guess what, the powers that be at Transport for London have come up with yet another jackpot idea.

The think tank has been working on overdrive. "How about ..." say the lads and lassies, "if we put route branding on our all-red buses."

 "And, while we are at it ..." chortle the excited planners, "put the route details along the side instead of those horrid adverts."
Super smashing!

"And - it gets better ..." they exude, warming to their task, "... we can put some odd-shaped and trendy bits of colour on the back of the bus so folk can see that it is a trendy clourful route branded route!"

"And - even better ..." they cry as tears of inventiveness dampen their cheeks, "we can tell people how often their bus might run at the same time."

The originality of these ideas is truly mind-blowing.

The new “Tube-style” design approach aims to make the UK capital’s buses “as simple to use as the London Underground”, says the Mayor’s office.

The trial – which is taking place in Barkingside, east London – will see individual bus routes given their own colour in a system similar to the one used throughout London’s Tube network.

Buses and stop signs will be marked with these easy-to-identify colours, while key destinations and interchanges on bus routes will be listed on the side of the buses so that passengers can tell “at a glance” where they are travelling.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, says: “By bringing these new distinctive route colours to areas of the network, we’re making it as easy to navigate areas of London by bus as it is by Tube. It’s another key part in our efforts to encourage Londoners to take to the bus and help us tackle congestion, air pollution and make our city better for everyone.”


How about producing a timetable and a route map for the customer to carry with them. No need to prod a mobile phone or peer at a departure list. Just look it up on a ....


It is a pity that the colours (247 YELLOW) ...
... don't always match he spider maps (247 GREEN)
But the 150 is BLUE on both and the 128 is PURPLE on both.
Sadly, the 275 cannot be red, can it; as the bus is red. MAGENTA does not match the Barkingside map.

Of course it is nowhere near as simple as it seems because colours might be right at Barkingside, but, for example, conflict when the route reaches Romford.

Hmm again? A good idea, but impracticable for the whole network?

Tomorrow : A flash and a spark and it all changes!
Personal Note

fbb is in Sheffield today, having left Axminster at 1606 yesterday. The meeting which he is attending may result, amongst other things, in a small but significant breakthrough for GoTimetable Sheffield. If negotiations progress according to plan, the old man will have a frantic few weeks of on-line work in preparation for a big timetable change at the start of September.
Please excuse any blog inadequacies over the next few weeks.

Blogs may need to be shorter or (like trains into Waterloo) be cancelled entirely!
 Next branded bus blog : Saturday 29th July