Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Sheffield Scheme Shocker! (Part 1)

Positive Publicity Project (?) Propounded
Starting "in March" a new logo will grace the streets of the Steel City. Announcements have been made, there have been detailed reports in the local press and excitement is mounting as the city's bus operators join together to publicise bus travel.

It sounds like a miracle when you look back over the last few years.

Way back, First Bus had a cunning plan to promote their business nationally. It was called "Overground". It promised stable networks and core services with a frequency of at least every 10 minutes. There would be "London Underground" diagrams of the network showing useful interchange points and using coloured lines just like "The Tube" in the Capital.

But not exactly like "The Tube" as Glasgow's first efforts show.
Later versions, still showing only frequent routes, were more like Harry Beck's original thoughts with slopes at 45 degrees but with far less geographical accuracy. Then it became more detailed and thus more confusing!
Some areas still use the map style, e.g. Aberdeen ...
... but, slowly and surely, the "Overground" brand disappeared and with it the promises of stability and frequency.

Sheffield had a First Bus Overground scheme and map.
It was awful! Not only was geography unnecessarily mangled, but the resulting "diagram" was often simply misleading to the travelling public. The Parson Cross area to the north of the city was farcical. And, of course, it did not include Stagecoach routes; you had to refer the their map for that.

Then came Optio.

See "Oscar Oversees Optio" (read again)
First came "Orange", with a joint ticket (but not for all fares) on services between Fulwood, City and Mosborough where First and Stagecoach operated "jointly".

This was followed (back in 2011) by Optio Red.
This covered service 52 which, confusingly, had two different routes in the Woodhouse area of the city BUT the same route number.

No more Optio schemes appeared and, slowly but surely, the scheme fizzled out.

Meanwhile in Stoke on Trent we had a network based on fruit!
But very soon the fruit started to rot away and the present network lacks fruitiness.
Back in Sheffield, in November 2013, came the Sheffield Bus Partnership.
This offered much but delivered little. Routes were reorganised, some long-standing traditional links were broken and it was all intended "to make bus travel easier in our City".

Of course it wasn't and it didn't. It was a thinly disguised plan to reduce costs, and to take the main companies into profit. The publicity mendaciously talked about "improvements" but there were none, only cuts.

Also, the publicity was inaccurate, unhelpful and largely non-existent as far as usable information was concerned. But, commercially, it began to work. At least one of the main constituent parties moved into "profit", but the other, reputedly, still struggles.

And passenger numbers continued to fall.

Something had to be done.

Did "the partners" improve their publicity? NO! Indeed, the PTE stopped producing printed material and the operators made only a pathetic attempt to replace them, with leaflets often appearing days (sometimes weeks) after a timetable change.

The only benefit that came out of all this was a set of two network maps.
They were (and are) nearly accurate and have been produced (in inadequate quantities) for some (but not all) of the route changes.

There was also a Citybus multi operator day fare ...
... which, in a true spirit of partnership, did not allow you to ride on tram for which privilege you have to pay and extra 30p! At £4.50 it is hardly a replacement for a discounted return fare, but did, just about, offer a very slightly better deal if your "commute" involved two routes with different operators. Weekly and Monthly versions are also available on the same basis.

Did it make such travel decisions easier?
No! Each of the "partners" retained their own schemes, all of which offered a cheaper price than CityBus.

Big Deal, Partnership!

And passenger numbers continued to fall.

So, now, we welcome a brand mew scheme ...
... the detail of which fbb will explore tomorrow.
 TOP BIRTHDAY GIFT AWARD  goes to No 1 son for the weirdest gift fbb has ever received, ever. Here is a clue:-
For those of our readers who are not familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet, or for languages written therewith, the full picture is more helpful.
Hopefully the Russian is correctly translated and the original is not a set of rude words!

Believe it or not (and fbb didn't, at first), it is 192 pages (hardback) of pictures of bus shelters dotted around the former Soviet Union. There can be few things more stimulating to an old man's jaded mind than such an exciting volume.

Because of a stint of three major "performances" - Church Service 25th, Bible Study 26th, Talk to Fellowship 28th (long-suffering congregation and/or audience!) and blogs to create, your author has not yet had time to explore this surreal publication. Expect a fuller review on due course.

Compiled by Christopher Herwig and published by Fuel it is currently on offer on Amazon at £13.30. (Other bookshops are available!).

And there is a sequel.
Clearly, that would be too much excitement for the old man. Think of his blood pressure!
 Next Buses for Sheffield blog : Wednesday February 28th 


  1. Whatever the shortcomings in the availability of timetables in Sheffield, maps have generally been available in decent quantities and have ben upadted regularly (though this didn't stop Arundel Gate office having large quantities of the September 2017 map on display some time after the February update was available on some Stagecoach buses!

  2. Overground was actually pioneered by City Line in Bristol long before anyone had even thought about merging Badgerline Group and GRT Holdings.

    1. Indeed it was, with the new post-deregulation service network.

  3. Can’t match the magnificence of two volumes on Soviet / Russian bus shelters but I did espy a postcard on sale in Stornoway some years ago depicting the unusual Isle of Lewis four-sided concrete bus shelters. The logic being that whichever way the wind blows you could find shelter. And believe you me the wind blows in the Hebrides (-:

  4. Just a comment to Dennis Drat. On my various but sporadic visits to Sheffield over the last few years, I have NEVER seen a bus map on display at either Sheffield Interchange or the Arundel Gate office.

  5. There has been at least one large (poster size) network map on display at Sheffield Interchange for several years - and it's been regularly renewed. The fact that fbb has never seen it suggests it's not in the best of locations. I would need to check but I think there's actually more than one.