Monday 18 June 2018

Variegated Blog (2)

Thanks to a helpful currespondent, fbb is able to complete his gallery of Buses for Sheffield "freebies".
And the obverse:-
Meanwhile, Sheffielders are still waiting for printed information for some of the service reductions introduced four weeks ago.

Pony Clone Returns
A dedicated and frequent bus service between Shanklin (Isle of Wight) and its esplanade began as an enhanced route 44 introduced when the town's cliff lift was closed for rebuilding. The lift gave access to an artificial sea-front stuck on to the foot of the cliffs as the town developed.
Road access was steep and twiddly at the northern end.
Before the frequent 44, various varieties of less frequent open top routes nipped down the hill.

When the lift re-opened, the service remained - but now branded "Shanklins Pony".
Various traditional open top routes came along when the veteran pony was retired. But more recently we had the Shanklin Steamer.
This unique vehicle now rests in the Isle of Wight bus museum, having been replaced, once again, by double decks. Then the service was "rested" (Southern Vectis euphemism for withdrawn!)
But it is back - Schwartzenegger style - for 2018.
Its route is as unchanging as the seasons ...
... and, like the "Steamer", it runs every 30 minutes with a lunchtime gap.
It has "normal" fares (normally expensive on IoW) but it is not clear whether we OAPs go for "free".
Two big disappointments (and commercial downsides) ...
... it doesn't run in the afternoons on Schooldays, just when weary beach-bums need a lift up to town after a day's roasting in the sun;
AND it is not open top.

Poor effort SV!

Can Carrying - Sword, Falling Upon
News that Charles Horton, boss of GoViaThamelinkSouthernGatwickExpress, has fallen on his sword comes as no surprise.
But is that the right outcome?

The company has made a right mess of the new Thameslink service but whose fault is that?

"Last minute" (can be years rather than minutes on the railways) changes to the plans for Thameslink have involved Railtrack ...
... and its boss Mark Carne. But he is going anyway, complete with inappropriate (?) CBE.

Then there is DaFT, the Department for Transport, with Minister Chris Grayling being an obvious fall guy. Effectively Mt Horton has been running the company with DaFT pulling ALL the strings. It is operating under a "Management Contract".
Transport Ministers have a very short life, so Chris Grayling will soon be "moved up", "moved on" or "moved out"!

All three have a major part to play in the timetable shambles.

But those that won't go are the faceless managers at DaFT and the Treasury who are actually making the policy. Remember Sir Humphrey?
What may also survive, unfortunately, is the "not fit for purpose" system of rail franchising.

Only TWO weeks to go to the arrival of No 3 son complete with gaffer tape, gorilla glue, hammer and nails etc. to fix the fbb's new keyboard and thus presage a return to unfettered blogging!

 Next variegated blog : Tuesday 19th June 


  1. What did or didn't do the now non-existent, or even the current National Rail to create the problem? Naively, I'm thinking, that, if the timetables are theoretically sound, their operation is down to the TOC.

    Did National Rail fail in their duty, then?

  2. In summary . . . . Notwork Rail are responsible for allocating "paths" to trains; this ensures that two trains are not allocated to the same crossover at the same time.
    Train Operating Companies then are responsible for allocating the correct number of coaches to each train (based on passenger loadings) and then to ensuring that the driver knows how to driver that type of train and also knows the route for the journey (where the signals are, braking distances between signals and so on).

    In an ideal world . . . . the whole process starts around 12 months prior to the commencement date, so for May 2018 this would've started around May 2017. .

    This time, whilst the planning for Thameslink was started in reasonable time, the decision was taken to delay implementation into several stages, which weren't communicated well to passengers; and additionally route learning through the central Core wasn't started in good time for Great Northern drivers.

    In the case of Northern, Notwork Rail decided in January/February that the electrification work in Bolton wouldn't be ready for May, and the similar work to Blackpool was delayed by several weeks. This meant that the whole re-write of the Northern timetable had to be re-started, and the train diagrams weren't ready until late April, by which time there wasn't enough time to train the drivers on the new routes.

    As is being commented in several publications (and to which I fully agree), the biggest up-cock was that no-one could be bothered to actually say "d'you know . . . we're not going to manage to fix this in time; why don't we delay until December 2018 instead, to give everyone time to get the job done properly". That, of course, would be seen as an admission of failure, and that would never do! Better to watch the job go belly-up and prepare our excuses of "everyone but me!".

    How many times have we seen this recently . . . TSB being the most high-profile failure. Asking for a delay isn't failure; merely being pragmatic.

    Still . . . . I don't suppose it'll really matter . . . . .

  3. Andrew Kleissner18 June 2018 at 15:06

    I agree entirely. I wonder if, in a fragmented industry, any one company putting up its hand might have been worried that it would face a costly legal challenge from the others?

    I don't quite get the bit about driver training. Most routes were open, so couldn't the TOCs train drivers even if they didn't know exactly which diagrams they'd be taking? Or is it that whole depots didn't know which routes they'd be serving?

    1. That's probably the case . . . . TOC's daren't get m'learned friends involved . . . . that way lies the loss of a scary amount of money!!

      However, isn't exactly that what the Rail Delivery Group is supposed to do? Co-ordinate the TOC managements and say "sorry, but we simply cannot do this in time". If everyone stands tall, then m'learned friends cannot find anyone to proceed against.

      Simplistic, yes, but maybe we've just lost sight of the simple answer to a problem often being the best answer . . . . .

  4. By chance, a few of us from Bristol took a day trip to IOW on Saturday, and ended up at Shanklin station to get the bus to Ventnor. Whilst there, I noticed on the bus journey planner the service "TSS", due at the same time as our 3.

    Looking at the TSS timetable on the bus stop, it does mention that Concessionary Pass holders get a discount but have to pay. We were also surprised that it said that the service is operated by a closed-top bus. A statement that now makes sense...

    It seems to be operated by Vectis Blue, with the bus (perhaps the one in your photo) prominently displaying adverts about "home to school", explained by the gap in the afternoon timetable.