Wednesday 4 October 2017

Farnborough Fun : Farnborough Farce (2)

The Gold Experience
Of course, there were no timetable leaflets at Farnborough Station (half-heartedly "Main") for Stagecoach "Gold" service 1, although there was room on the rack ...
... and plenty of room for a second rack for bus information.
The single rack (as above) was not in place when the "Station Map" was assembled for the Notwork Rail enquiries web site. First Group have promised better bus/rail interchange information for their South Western Railway franchise, but, as with everything in today's rail industry, it could be years before anything happens - if anything does..

Standing at the station entrance, it is clear that things have changed since Google Streetview took its pictures. The single bus stop was on the left ...
... with taxis on the right.
Now there are parallel bus lanes with shelters on the right as in this over enlarged view from the street.
Gold leaves from R and S whilst other, less frequent, routes leave from T (far right). One of these services is the delightfully named YoYo ...
... (yes, really!) which pops in at peaks only.

The "Gold" bus stop flags are looking very faded ...
... and can be quite difficult to read. There is plenty of space in the frames ...
... for timetables to augment the simple departure list, but there are none. 
fbb was well impressed with the buses, still shiny from their introduction last December. And there, neat the foot of the stairs ...
... was a slot containing timetable leaflets. The leather seats, the "wood effect" floor and the shiny lights on the stairs were cosmetically impressive; but would they actually attract extra customers? What was really helpful to fbb and Mrs were the on-bus announcements and next stop displays.
These made the journey stress free and replaced a hesitant peering out of the window for something that said "Netley Street". Image is everything, we are told, but the dark blue and gold maps leave a lot to be desired for legibility in gloomy light conditions.
The "real time" screens were working but another information inconsistency appeared.
"Montgomery Lines" does not appear anywhere else  except on Traveline's detailed timetable.
fbb would like to show you a photo of this part of Aldershot, but Google Streetview cameras were switched off and a chunk of Gold route 1 remains, presumably, subject to the Official Secrets Act.
No go  beyond here as service 1 passes the barracks!

fbb was generally impressed with Gold, but disappointed, yet again, that full information was hard to find. But, according to at least one anonymous, the old man is living back in the 1950s in expecting to be able to obtain a printed timetable for a bus service.

Sunday 1st October involved a lovely visit to Farnborough Baptist Church, small but very friendly ...
... followed by the Ruby Wedding Bash in the Meade Hall at the Crown and Cushion Minley.
Meade Hall? Apparently an ancient name for a communal building for communal feasting and communal rejoicing; there's one in Beowulf!

Return to Axminster was "as outward route reversed". It could have involved a bus from Farnborough to Basingstoke, but, by the time the fbbs were delivered to the "Main" station, normality was restored as shown by the display just above the (unmanned) entry barriers.

Everything from Waterloo was running about ten minutes late "due to an earlier incident", so the fbbs operated a "suck-it-and-see" approach to their journey home by hopping on the first train to Basingstoke (for which there was a half hour wait).

The Farnborough caff supplied a nice hot cuppa ...
... and there was another 30 minutes to wait at Basingstoke - well, nearly 40 as the Exeter train was also running late.

Mrs fbb was able to order a "jimmy hat" as a birthday gift (for someone else!) on her mobile phone, clever girl that she is.
And so, let the FARCE begin.

On Mondays to Saturdays there are two trains an hour to Salisbury, one continuing to Axminster and Exeter. Often a six car train loses three cars at Salisbury leaving the remaining three for the quieter bit of the line. 

On Sunday the service is only hourly from Waterloo to Exeter until 1715, so all trains are usually six cars.

Except the 1715 on Sunday 1st October. 

Upon arrival at Basingstoke it was clear that a very well loaded six cars worth of passengers were crammed into three. The crowds in the train refused to squeeze into a tighter lump (clearly they don't usually travel on London's Central Line!) and the guard was becoming more hysterical and less practical. 
In the end she closed the doors (with fbb and Mrs just squeezing in by force of personality, old age and bulk). There was not a word of apology on the train.

About forty frustrated passengers were left on Platform 2 with an hour to wait. On leaving the platform there was an almighty crunch as something immovable at the edge of the platform - possibly it was the edge of the platform - graunched the outside of the door against which Mrs fbb was pinned.

There is a 1745 from Waterloo but it doesn't stop at Basingstoke. Did anyone arrange for that extra stop?

By now the train was about 20 minutes late, not at all ideal for the single track sections west of Salisbury.

Fortunately all exit and egress was from the opposite side to that occupied by the fatigued, sweaty and crushed fbbs. 

Then came the announcement, "we will be putting an extra three coaches on at Salisbury." Better than nothing but a bit late in the day!

The farce continued with the Tisbury Trauma. Only three cars can call at Tisbury. Actually five can, but because of  "regulations" the back three cars' doors are kept shut. Which, of course, meant that Tisbury-alighting passengers now had to clamber through to the just-added front three. Plus a selection of velocipedes. 

Then came Gillingham (G as in Gutted, not G as in Gin). Here our guard made a valiant effort to shut off the door that had been bashed at Salisbury. More delay.

35 minutes late at Axminster. And the reason?

Plain and simple incompetence, it would seem. On Sundays there are plenty of spare 159s at Salisbury (as was apparent when an extra was tacked on there) so there was no need to roster just three cars for the 1715. fbb guesses that six cars arrive in London at 1659 ...
... and three are held back to form the 1745, leaving just three for the 1715 and ensuring that the two trains (1715 plus 1745) offer no extra seats whatsoever, making the half hourly service a total waste of time. There is no scheduled arrival that might form the 1745.

It was a FARCE, but a very unpleasant one. Unpleasant for the 72 year-old fbbs who eventually found proper seats post Gillingham, but really unpleasant for the crowds left on Basingstoke Station with not a word of apology.

But, after a flagon of tea and a slice or three of toast - plus a good night's sleep - the old crocks were fully recovered. It was an "interesting" weekend!

 Next Karlberg Conumdrum blog : Thursday 5th October 


  1. On 1st October the 1714 from Waterloo was the first train to Salisbury of the day from London as the line to Basingstoke was closed before then for engineering work. That is probably why it was so busy. (No excuse for only 3 coaches though). The xx45 trains weren't running that day so that that doesn't explain it.

  2. Under those circumstances a NINE coach train should have been provided. It was not possible to grasp the extent of the scheduled disruption from a passing visit to Farnborough (Main).

  3. Can't say I miss working for SWT/SWR, but anyway, your referral to 'regulations' at Tisbury would be better explained as the rather old door control system 159s use: you can only select the doors on each set rather than individual coaches.
    As for the short formation, this is an error the planners have made several times: the first down train would have been sent up the night before, and that only runs as a 3-car unless someone has the sense to think ahead

  4. "fbb was generally impressed with Gold, but disappointed, yet again, that full information was hard to find. But, according to at least one anonymous, the old man is living back in the 1950s in expecting to be able to obtain a printed timetable for a bus service."

    Was there not a timetable on the bus?

    Even in the 1970's, bus leaflets were seldom seen in my local Yorkshire stations. You could buy a booklet from the bus company office for 20p (or £1.17 in today's money).

  5. If "Montgomery Lines" is part of the Army base there's no need for the public to know about it. But to include it on the display for visiting military personnel is very helpful.
    A well thought out approach rubbished by a blogger intent on finding fault!

  6. Montgomery Lines is simply the National Gazetteer locality next on the timetable after Aldershot. Via points are usually generated automatically by using the locality names for the stops in the order they appear in the timetable. These can usually be edited in the sign software to improve clarity, especially where a service drifts in and out of adjacent localities to avoid multiple repetition. It just needs a bit of active management if the automatic result isn't wholly acceptable.
    Ken Traveline Dorset and Poole RTI data manager.

  7. Is it really that hard to find bus timetables. For example a search for buses Sheffield Doncaster (an area fbb has often complained about) on Google takes you straight to the excellent timetable for the route or the tsy page for the route. This is how most people find bus times. Not by looking round information offices excepting to find a free copy of every single timetable for miles away like fbb does

  8. Anon (21.54).

    You make an assumption that internet is available. My son lives in Sheffield and it is wonderful. I live in Somerset and in many places it isn't there on mobile devices. Super fast broadband at home is a dream for many as open reach Can't be bothered.

  9. On timetable availability the Stagecoach operation in the Blackwater Valley is actually pretty good as they do have an enquiry office at Aldershot Bus Station which used to be the centre of the conurbation (arguably that has moved more towards Farnborough after its latest development) but as the urban area is spread over 3 counties & about 6 Borough councils there is a lot of parallel development which means it is a little unclear which town is the 'centre'. Both county councils used to co-operate on a timetable booklet which was widely available (my parents used to get theirs from the local library) but I'm not sure if it is still available, I didn't notice a copy at my parents place on my last visit but they did have a collection of relevant Stagecoach leaflets for the routes they used regularly.