Tuesday 31 October 2017

Weird Happenings ...

But First The Last
From Sheffield Roy, pictures of the last T M Travel journeys on Service 65.
Both vehicles are from a batch operated by Metrobus in their Transport for London fleet ...
... from which they retain their TfL red paint job. Were T M Travel bosses hoping for huge numbers of Nostalgia Nuts riding the last ever T M Travel trips on the 65?

Note for High Peak Buses - double deckers would be a marketable attraction for the route, especially in summer.

Nippy Nips No More
Nippy Bus was founded in September 2004 beginning with five partially demand responsive bus services, 4 of which (N1, N2, N4 & N5) started from market towns via villages in South Somerset to Yeovil serving parts of the town before reaching the centre. Route N3 operates as a local circular town service within Yeovil. After First Somerset & Avon cutbacks the company launched daytime services route N7 to replace First's 61A and route N8 to replace First's 56 under contract to Somerset County Council.

But ...
... it Nips no more.

Weird Happenings 1
Remember Towcester to Brackley where a service of zero buses during the day is to become a bus every 30 minutes? (read again). There was a comment on the blog that this change, due from November 5th, was postponed; but nobody seemed to know why.

Steve Burd, Stagecoach boss in Northampton then explained the problem.

Shortage of buses?
Shortage of staff?
Major road works?
None of these. Apparently the bus stop NaPTAN code for Catch Yard Farm Estate did not work and so Stagecoach's registration went phut.

Stagecoach submit their registrations electronically via the over complex, over engineered, over costly system adopted to make life difficult by The Traffic Commissioners.

Beyond belief.

Sorry folks, you can't have your buses because the confuser is confused!

Weird Happenings 2
Hot news from Birmingham.

To speed up the buses, Travel West Midlands are ...
... closing nearly sixty bus stops that are "little used"

But surely if these stops are "little used", then the rarity of a passengers will hardly delay the service? Generally Birmingham Corporation's lovely circular bus stops ...
... did tend to be close together. This encouraged folk to catch the bus because the stops were nearer their homes and places of work.
Here are some that are removed from the 45 and 47.
So this one stays ...
... this one (Breedon Road) goes ...
... and this one stays.
Looks pretty arbitrary to your author but maybe local knowledge supports the plan.

But then fbb was always well aware that bus services would run so much better without all those pesky passengers wanting to travel.

Weird Happenings 3
Hot news from Sheffield Supertram.
About time too! Trams are often packed to the roof, even off peak, so an improved service is long overdue.
Sounds a good plan.

And how is this improvement to be achieved?

Monday to Friday off-peak and all daytime on Saturday the previous 10 minute headway extends to every 12; harder to remember and longer to wait. Good news indeed.

Yes, it is hard to believe - but the same twaddle is being promulgated by the PTE for whom Stagecoach runs the tram on a contract.

fbb found Supertram on-line, (which no longer has its own web site), after a struggle; but when he searched for news of this change, this appeared.
Now that would be a major improvement in the service - all the way to Northampton.

fbb was looking for a quote which had appeared earlier, but had since disappeared from the Stagecoach pages. But, no worry, the PTE prints the quote.
Sure thing buster. Reducing the frequency is a really good way to attract more passengers!

That's where fbb has been going wrong all these years. Fancy not understanding that more people will travel if you run less buses or trams. This should be a major part of any college or university Transport Management course. It is truly revolutionary.

Or truly weird.
But today (or, more specifically, tonight) is Hallowe'en.

Of course, Hallowe'en used to be about rejecting the devil and all that he stands for. Sadly, commercialism and "letting the kids have a bit of harmless (?) fun" has turned it right round. Hallowe'en now seems to exalt the world of evil and the occult, however lightheartedly.

Why pumpkins? They were originally designed to scare off evil spirits, based on several spooky folk tales.
 Turnips, not pumpkins!
Wouldn't it be more wholesome to use All Hallow's (i.e. Saint's) Eve to do good and kind things for people; November 1st is All Saints Day. Our world needs a few more Saints, surely? Certainly we could do with less horrible things.

In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honourable.

From the Bible : Paul's letter to the Church at Philippi : Chapter 4, verse 8.

 Next Daventry blog : Wednesday 1st November 

Monday 30 October 2017

It's All Happening ...

... News From The Weekend
But, first, a grovelling apology to Stagecoach. A blog or two back, fbb opined hat there was little sign of "Wave" branding on the buses operating service 21. True, but the leaflet for the route is "Wave" branded.
Perhaps shiny new buses in a new "refreshed" wave livery are on their way? How about French film posters?
(Filmic allusion : "Nouvelle Vague", New Wave)

High Peak Does Peaks and Dales
Yesterday, the service between Buxton and Sheffield was taken over completely by High Peak Buses who had been previously running two return trips. T M Travel are no longer involved. Two buses have been painted in a green Peaks and Dales livery, similar in colour (but not design) to the Trans Peak paint scheme.
YJ52 FPK used to be with Travel deCourcey of Coventry.
Both dedicated vehicles have been "fettled up" as they say "oop noorth".

The new leaflet arrived at fbb mansions by first class mail on Saturday; unsolicited, but thanks to correspondent Julian.
The timetable is improved, with seven return journeys Monday to Friday, six on Saturdays and three (as previously) on Sunday. (click to enlarge the timetable)
The schoolday variation via Chelmorton and Taddington (65A) is there because the afternoon run of the former service 193 ...
... is now worked as a diversion of a Sheffield-bound 65. The "to Buxton" schedule has a dedicated inbound tun, still numbered 65A, with both journeys now running only on schooldays. Lets hope passengers travelling in the Sheffield can read the timetable correctly and don't turn up at 1600 when schools are open.

There are details of through fares ...
... and a rudimentary map.
High Peak does now accept Derbyshire Wayfarer tickets on this route, a decision that will bring joy and delight to many a Sheffield resident seeking a superb day out.

Sadly the company web site was still showing the old timetable yesterday ...
... although the new information was available as an "update" in a separate part of the site. Someone should have pressed a pre-set button at 2020 on Saturday evening as T M Travel's final journey arrived in Sheffield!

One improvement that could be made to the leaflet would be to have a better map of stops in Buxton. Derbyshire's timetable and High Peak's show the 65 as terminating at Sylvan Park ...
... whereas Travel South Yorkshire gives a different point of view stop.
fbb suspects that these are the same place, but thinks (?) that buses pass Buxton Station ...
... and terminate here, on the opposite side of the roundabout from Sylvan Park Car Park.
Surely, to encourage tourist usage, the railway station should get a mention somewhere?

Leeds Express Leads The Way
On Saturday last, Stagecoach started its new hourly service from Barnsley to Leeds as featured previously in this blog. Sheffield correspondent Roy was up with the lark and pictured the first ever X10 after it departed from Barnsley bus station at 0700.
YN60 ACJ used to be a National Express coach.
Roy was also in Barnsley to see the 1000 departure and it was a double deck, packed to the rafters.
Wowsers! First day success.

Roy kindly sent a copy of the leaflet which may explain things.
Yep! That explains it!

How joyous it is to see some real supermarket-style promotion of a bus service. Sheffield bus partnership, please note!
The above feeble mini-leaflet is also produced by Stagecoach!

And Then There's First Bus
This weekend was due to see the final and for ever closure of Exeter Bus Station.

Oh yes it was
Oh no it wasn't

But the pantomime continued and the bus station will remain open until ...

Sometime when?

Arrangements had been published, revised services registered, bus stops and shelters installed on nearby streets and everything was ready. Then, of course, everything was un-registered.

One of the new registrations was for a change to First's pathetic X52 from Lyme Regis to Exeter. This was to be extended from the old terminus to Exeter St Davids railway station.
The general buzz from bus watchers was that this, too, would not change and would continue to terminate at the Bus Station.

Oh yes it will
Oh no it won't

Go to the horse's mouth, says fbb. So off whizzes an email to First Bus in Dorset And Lots Of Other Places. "Please send your new timetable for the X52"

A reply came from Norwich (an obscure corner of Dorset?), by post (haven't these Norwich folk heard of e-mail?).
It was the old timetable. There was no explanation, no comment like "we're not changing", just a sheet of printout in an envelope.

What did it mean? fbb guessed that Norwich hadn't got a clue what was happening in Lyme Regis, but the First web site showed no sign of the previously announced change. So was it or wasn't it?

"Well," thought fbb, "we had better UN-change GoTimetable Seaton" - which was showing both the old and the new tables, the latter courtesy of Traveline as nowt was revealed c/o First.

So on Friday last fbb returned to First Bus in Dorset And Lots Of Other Places. And, sim-salabim, abracadara, etc, there was the new timetable.
Or was it?

Will the X52 stop in Paris Street (outside the bus station) from today? Who knows? Who cares?

Bit it IS all happening - or is it?

Which bus company knows how to communicate with its customers?
First Bus? - not at all
High Peak? - pretty well
Stagecoach? - a mixed blessing?

 Next  weird happenings  blog - Tuesday 31st October 

Sunday 29 October 2017

Let's Go To Instow (5)

We Could Have Gone by Train : Part 2
Stand at the northern end of Barnstaple Station  and there is nothing to see except the station car park and the more recent road network.
But once upon a time there was a railway junction. Bear right and cross the River Taw and you were on your way to Ilfracombe ...
... bear left and the route takes you to Bideford. The bridges and the road over them have all gone, being replaced by a super junction linking to the spectacular Taw Bridge ...
... seen above just before opening when pedestrians were invited to cross.

One on-line source refers to the bridge at the far end of the car park as being built to allow the possible re-opening of the line to Bideford.
This seems highly unlikely (station bottom right) as the "next road round" the roundabout has no underbridge ...
... and cyclists seeking to traverse the Tarka Trail have a somewhat circuitous expedition to rejoin their route along the former branch (blue sign).
The first station along the line was Fremington.
A distinctive feature was the tall signalbox, but the community's fame was in its quay.
It claimed to be the biggest docks facility between Bristol and Cornwall, importing coal, building materials and general goods and exporting ball cay from quarries near Torrington.
Freight continued until well after passenger services were withdrawn.

The station has been re-created and serves as a superb cafe and visitor centre ...
... with a re-imagining of that tall signal box.
Next along the line, travelling west, was East Yelland Power Station.
Long since gone ...
... it had both rail and sea connections.
The power station opened in 1955 and closed in 1984.

Next the line curves southwest to get to Instow.
Here are preserved a length of track, a rusty signal or two ...
... and the signalbox.
The station building (below, upper right) ...
... has lost its canopy but still stands in the ownership of the local yacht club.
And so to Bideford. When originally opened the line stopped short of the town at Cross Parks as shown in this ancient engraving.
Later it was extended to a more convenient location nearer to the Town Bridge ...
... but actually in the community of East-the-Water.
The line continued south to Torrington.

The bits and pieces at Instow are under the care of the Bideford Railway Heritage Centre which has a collection of rolling stock and a small diesel loco at Bideford Station.
Of interest is that the town's Royal Hotel had an entrance direct on to the station platform for the benefit of rail-borne passengers.
Recent history provided a particular burst of fame for the line and the bit of the Tarka Train between Bideford and Barnstaple. It was the site of James May's "Great Train Race" when an OO loco ran all the way between the two.
Buffers Model Shop (at Colston Cross, near Axminster) was very much involved in the project ...
... and the model loco which completed the trip is still "preserved" (and still working!) in the shop.

Thus it would have been possible around 60 years ago for an fbb-and-Mrs clone to get to Instow from Seaton by train all the way.

Seaton to Seaton Junction
Seaton Junction to Exeter Central
Exeter Central to Barnstaple and Instow

Unfortunately, your chubby blogger does not have a suitable rail timetable, so cannot work out how long it would have taken. (Any offers out there?) By car the single journey took 1 hour and 45 minutes!

There may not be much working railway beyond Barnstaple, but there is certainly plenty to explore. Still to be researched, Barnstaple to Ilfracombe and Bideford to Westward Ho! and Appledore.

 Next newsworthy blog : Monday 30th October