Tuesday 31 July 2018

Jaunt to Jerusalem (1)

No 1 son has just returned from a speaking engagement in Israel. To titillate his father's fancy, the lad send a few photos of the city's tramway system, a k a Jerusalem light rail. Before we take a look we need to remember that Jerusalem is a divided City; divided religiously (Moslem, Jewish, Christian), divided politically (Jew, Arab) and divided linguistically (English, Hebrew, Arabic).

The rights and wrongs of these tensions are not an appropriate discussion for a public transport blog, but wherever you go, they are there.
"Not pleasant, but you do get used to it", fbb was told.

City buses are green and run by Egged as is much of the rest of Israel.
Traffic in the city is horrendous, exacerbated by the huge number of tourists. Here tourist coaches are parked near the Garden of Gethsemane and way off into the distance..
In the 1990s, the city authorities decided that a rapid transit network was the solution to pollution, traffic and the steady decline of some parts of the city centre. Three "light rail" routes are planned, the first of which is now open. Work began in 2002 and the line opened in 2011.

A word of warning; because of the Arab/Israeli "divisions", names can appear in their Hebrew version, their Arab version, their English version or any combination of all three.
We will join the line at its current northern terminus, courtesy of Google Streetview. At Heil Ha'avir in the north ...
... trams tun forward some distance from the current terminus ...
... into a long "headshunt" from which an extension is in the development and contracts stage.

Almost all of the line in on "reserved track" with traffic light priority at junctions, a system which didn't work properly in the early days leading to a temporary and very slow timetable. (Sounds familiar??).

For those of us used to tourist pictures of Jerusalem or even the Biblical accounts, it comes as some surprise to realise how small the ancient city was ...
... with that grey blob (upper right) being the old bit, with a few Biblical sites "without the City wall"!
 The tram route just grazes the Old City near the Damascus Gate (blue blob, centre right).
Somewhere behind the tram, beyond the terrifying traffic and partially below road level is that (in)famous entrance to the city.
When Paul left Jerusalem to arrest what eventually became known as Christians, he would have exited this way ...
... but not through the big gateway. That was built by Ottoman dictator Suleman the Magnificent (in 1537) ...
... he of the hyper-hat. Perhaps he was only four feet tall and needed the mega headgear to be spotted in a crowd!

Recent excavations have revealed a Roman gateway at a lower level again, if not the actual Pauline egress, certainly something very much like it. Opposite the Damascus Gate and up the old Nablus Road ...
... (note the profusion of tourist grot) is the (likely) site of the Garden Tomb from which Jesus rose, as celebrated on our Easter Sunday.
No 1 son paid a visit and pronounced the experience as very moving.

Talking of moving, over the back fence of the tomb's garden ...
... is one of several out-of-town bus terminals. Here is a 263 turning in from Sultan Suleman Street.
This is called "The Arab" bus station and the 263 will take you north to Bethany whence you can change to a shared taxi for the journey on to Jericho.

At Tsahal Square, the tram tracks veer right to travel along Jaffa Street.
We will conclude this brief excursion tomorrow as the trams travel roughly westwards.
Meanwhile, in passing, herewith a map showing planned extensions to the red line and the proposed green line for which companies have been invited to tender.
And immediately the press has picked up on the touchy politics of the city.
An international tender to build and operate Jerusalem’s second light rail line is failing to draw bids from overseas companies, which are fearful of arousing political opposition back at home because the proposed line runs into parts of the city seized by Israel in the 1967 war.

Israeli government officials say they have been told that the most problematic parts of the proposed Green Line – a project that could cost as much as 5 billion shekels ($1.4 billion) and stretch along 22 kilometers – are the ones that reach Mount Scopus and Gilo.

Mount Scopus, the site of the main Hebrew University campus, was controlled by Israel before the Six-Day War as an isolated outpost. But Israel subsequently annexed land between it and West Jerusalem. Gilo, a neighborhood in the city’s south, was annexed along with other areas of East Jerusalem shortly after the war.

Tomorrow we stick to the trams!

 Next Jerusalem Jaunt blog : Wednesday 1st August 

Monday 30 July 2018

Technology - Phooey or Phantastic!

First The Good News
By sometime Friday 27th July (time unknown) Travel South Yorkshire (TSY) had "found" Stagecoach journeys on route 65 between Buxton and Sheffield.
Previously TSY only advertised the two High Peak journeys, much to the delight of that company's management and the chagrin of Uncle Brian's boys!
What the new and correct version does NOT tell you is that the two 65s have different routes between Great Hucklow and Buxton. Don't get on a High Peak Bus if you want to go to Litton; avoid Stagecoach if your desire is to visit Waterswallows.

And Now The Not-so-good News ...

... here in central Sh*ff**ld.
An important stop on Charter Row, used by shoppers from The Moor ...
... also has accurate information now; up to a point.
There is, as usual in Sheffield, no timetable on display ANYWHERE in the city, even at the Interchange where there is plenty of display space. There is no map, ditto. This is important for the 65 as there is no guide to the different routes as above.


But what is even poorer, as snapped by Sheffield newshound Roy, is that ...
... the 65 did not appear on the electronic display.
A good house point to Stagecoach for, at short notice, getting some branding on their buses for the 65 ...
... but a bad point for the destination displays.
The bus is going to Buxton, not Tidewell. Please do not comment that this is to comply with DaFT's "advice" on "split registrations" (to circumvent silly anomalies in the drivers' hours regulations.) It is utterly wrong to wantonly risk confusing the customer to satisfy some perceived piece of Pharisaic legalism.

If it really is "advice", then ignore it! Such is the privilege of listening to "advice". If it is a legal requirement to deceive the passengers - then still ignore it! The customer should always come first.

And Now The Really Bad News

When computers began to arrive in the hands of the general public, we were all told that they would change our lives, give us all more leisure, save money and make for more efficient home management.

The very wise schoolteacher put in charge of the embryo Computing Department at the school where fbb toiled offered a very different point of view.

"Computers will not save time," he said, "they will not save money; they will not be more helpful and they will not save on labour costs - but they will do the boring and repetitive things without making mistakes."

"If," he added prophetically, " they are correctly and sensibly programed." That was in 1973!

And this is 2018 and these are the last three journeys from Buxton on Stagecoach's route 65.
The 1535 from Market Place goes a long-long way round to Millers Dale to carry schoolkids on schooldays only.
On Saturdays and non-schooldays it leaves at 1606 and follows the normal Stagecoach 65 route.

The 1736 is a positioning journey to get the bus back to the depot at Chesterfield. At Tideswell it becomes a 66 (otherwise Hulley's route) but, cleverly, offers a path back to Sheffield by changing on to an X17 in Chesterfield. Note "c" tells us this and confirms that through fares are available.

Clever scheduling and helpful to the potential passenger.
Now let's ask Traveline's web site for a journey from Buxton to Sheffield after 1700.
Back pops the reply ...
... with no mention of the 1736 opportunity. The 1735 and 1755 options involve trains and the 1801 runs you via Bakewell.

Buxton to Chesterfield?
No 1736!
But the 1807 is fun!! You catch a bus to Macclesfield and then ...
... after two hours and 42 minutes you are in Chesterfield. Enjoy the ride - enjoy the fare. £25.30.

But it gets worse! Buxton to Sheffield after 1500:-
Hooray; a sensible answer!
But is it? The 1534 is that schooldays only route 65a. The enquiry was made yesterday for a journey today and Derbyshire schools broke up on 20th July. Whoops!
Just in case, fbb rang Traveline yesterday afternoon and asked for the last bus from Buxton to Sheffield for today. Yep, you guessed it; he was told the 1534 service 65a.

If you hang about for half an hour, the non schooldays version will turn up.

And, yet again, no mention of the 1736 via Chesterfield.

Thought for Stagecoach management - would Tesco be happy to hand their publicity over to a local authority managed system?

For a final fling, try Stagecoach's own journey planner.
Only two options? Really?

Complete gibberish. But, for the thrill, we will look at the 1606 departure, which should be the through journey to Sheffield running on non schooldays.

Travel time
04 hrs 27 mins

16:06 Depart from Buxton, Market Place (Stop D)
bus 65 towards Tideswell
16:32 Arrive at Tideswell, Fountain Square

18:02 Depart from Tideswell, Fountain Square
bus 66 towards Chesterfield
18:40 Arrive at Brookside, Brookfield Community School

18:51 Depart from Brookside, Brookfield Community School
bus 91 towards Chesterfield
19:01 Arrive at Chesterfield, Cavendish Street (Stop T1)

19:30 Depart from Chesterfield, Cavendish Street (Stop T1)
bus 50 towards Sheffield Centre
20:33 Arrive at Sheffield Centre, Sheffield Interchange

More gibberish than gibberish.


The main reason for this DaFTness is that "advice" from DaFT, the Deprattment Not For Transport. Some journey planners, operated by confuser, not the useful human brain, cannot cope with the DaFT's helpful "advice".

Thanks to Sheffield newshound Roy for the route 8
65 stops and pictures outside Atkinson's store. And here is a better one of the branded 65 on Ecclesall Road.

 Next Jerusalem blog : Tuesday 31st July 

Sunday 29 July 2018

Compilation - You May Have Missed ...

Signalling Silly Cyclists!
One of Boris' bleats about bendibuses was that they were more dangerous for cyclists than "proper" buses. There was simply no statistical evidence for his claim, but it won him political kudos and that was all that was important. Any cyclist creeping along the nearside of a big vehicle, particularly at road junctions, is taking a huge risk. Although the driver has m byirrors, his concentration may well be on his next tricky manoeuvre, to the pedalers detriment.

Which makes a technology from First Bus in Bristol of considerable interest to both parties.
Clearly the idea of this extra technology is a "good thing", but is it yet another bleep in the cab and yet another bit of gubbins to go wrong or to be pinged to oblivion in a mid-deck scrape with overhanging trees?
Would a garish poster on the rear end be more cost effective?
And yes, in his far off youth, fbb has crept!

Mendips Misplaced?
First's first Mendip Explorer has been, we are told, a huge success. Originally just plain route 376, its branding and marketing has attracted many additional passengers.
The route skirts the foot of the Mendip hills as it trundles along the A39. It now has posh Streetdecks to offer the punters a splendid top deck view.
The brand was "developed" by bringing services between Bath and Wells into the scheme.
Single deck buses which previously plied the 376 have been used so far.
Now comes news that the routes are to be converted to double deck.
These buses are not new; but they have been extensively refurbished with an external repaint and an internal re-trim. Most passengers will think they are new buses! They also have the usual electronic gizmos to encourage passengers to plug their brains into their "devices" and ignore the scenery. Bristol's staff newsletter included a rather poor photo of 37772 and the thumbnails below show the bus in its previous livery emanations.
Yet another step forward for First. fbb will not mention Sh*ff**ld.

Background Information
Regular readers will remember (not at all sure why they should?) that, as part of a major refurbishment of fbb's outdoor model railway, the "main line" has been converted to double track.
In order to achieve this, the scenery behind the former single track has had to be expunged, taking away trees etc. and leaving a rather crude rolling countryside.

Trees at ground level would have impeded the progress of Peterville's passengers. Also, the trees covered up the poor quality of fbb's scenic workmanship!

Solution : do a bit of terraforming. This involves a length of two-by-one, some stonework cladding in plastic ...
... and the raising of the scenic items above the level at which they would scrape and derail the trains.

The retaining wall thus constructed is seen here under the watchful eye of the building inspector ...
... here in place to check clearances ...
... and here with landform raised temporarily to its final resting place.
It needs painting, of course.

You can see why fbb needs to get the trees back! They will cover the holes and dodgy joints in bits of plywood fields.

Of course, if his "trainset" were indoors, he could buy printed backscenes in huge variety. Peco (from Beer, just down the road from fbb) has been selling such painted and printed imaginations since the Middle Ages ...
They are a tad old-fashioned by today's standards and many modellers buy or create (using photo software on their confusers) true photographic scenes which are much more realistic. Neither product is suitable, however, for outdoors.

Peco have just introduced the first of a range of true photographic backscenes.
A small village creeps into the far left of Sheet 1 (here ludicrously over-enlarged) ...
... but it does prove that the scene is very real indeed. That is Axmouth Church, a short distance from fbb mansions ...
... with Peco's views taken from the trackbed of the Seaton Tramway. Next perhaps a fishing village (Beer) or a small resort seafront (guess where?) - who knows?

Trains Nouveaux pour La France
rtist's impressions" show long noses ...
... and a brand name that means "unheard-of".
At least it did when fbb "studied" French at school!

Tomorrow we must return to Buxton, Stagecoach, Travel South Yorkshire and Traveline to (hopefully) conclude the tale of the last-minute-itis bursting of Stagecoach onto the Peak District bus scene.

For those fed up with the mention of Sh*ff**ld, please be patient. On the way, in the next week or so, we will have first hand reports of buses in Bowland, trams in Israel, and trams, trains and buses in Stuttgart.

And as we come up to the start of the Autumn term, a favourite time for bus companies to play the re-organisation game, who know what may happen in the UK?

What could be more varied than that?

 Next Buxton Bodge-up blog : Monday 30th June