Sunday 30 June 2019

Bric-à-Brac Blog

In the sixteenth century a phrase appeared in French which has wandered into English and changed slightly of the the years. In French "à bric et à brac" meant, simply, random bits and pieces. "bric" and "brac" were nonsense words with no true meaning and no obvious origin.

In English the phrase came to mean "assorted stuff" of no great value.

Today's post may well be in that category.

Bewildered in Brighton
As part of his short holiday with No 3 son, and while Mrs fbb was being baked on Centre Court at Eastbourne, your brave and adventurous author set of for the wilds of Sussex by the Sea. His travels took him by bus to Brighton whence he aimed to proceed by train to Ford (on the line to Chichester and Portsmouth).

For which he would need to buy a ticket.

Brighton railway terminus is some distance from town centre and beach, but has, for most of its life. a public transport connections down the hill; a tram in about 1900.
Later, the Terminus Hotel was demolished and a small bus station created in the space.
The station itself is a magnificent edifice with a graceful curved roof ...
... and a large concourse. fbb was expecting to find an equally grand ticket and enquiry office. There was a flower stall, M&S food and WHSmith ...
... three more shops ...
... a coffee stall ...
... another coffee stall ...
... and another row of shops.
But where was the booking and information office? There were plenty of self-service ticket machines with hardly anyone using them .... but ...
... look over there, in the remote distance past the Pasty Shop ...
... was the "Travel Centre". When fbb arrived the queue was out the door, a line of over 30 persons hoping to buy their tickets from six sales positions. It was very cramped and, because many of the "customers" has complex enquiries, it was painfully slow. Thankfully fbb had allowed plenty of time because it took just under 15 minutes to buy a £7.50 day return to Ford.

As far as the old man could tell there were no printed timetables for trains anywhere, just a rack of tourist destination leaflets - most of which were unreachable by the railway.
And bus information? Well that's another story; but fbb is sure that, once upon a time, Brighton and Hove Buses had a splendid enquiry office in one of the units on the concourse. It is not there now.

All this customer (non?) service is in the hands of GoAhead (technically GoVia, the franchise holder) and is obviously designed to force persuade customers to obtain their ticket is any way possible except by dealing with a real person.

Bewildered by Bright Bus
Yesterday fbb reported that the link to a Bright Bus Tours (First Bus in Edinburgh) web site was not working - it just linked to an opportunity to buy a web site!
Some other bits of on-line publicity are, to coin a phrase, disappointing. First Bus "South East and Central Scotland" is still announcing the upcoming development with an Arthurs Seat tease ...
... whilst heavily promoting the improvements to service 600.

Another link also fails ...
... and elsewhere we are invited to buy tickets on line.
But there aren't any!
Come on chaps and chapesses, buck your ideas up, it all starts tomorrow!

Beautiful to Behold
And nothing to do with public transport. Two items appeared in fbb's Twitter litter bin. One was a picture of a field ...
... and the other of a guy who has ripped up his lawn and replaced it with a wildflower meadow.
There is a growing campaign to encourage wildflower verges (where safety and visibility are not compromised, of course) ...
... and they look marvellous.

Livery Delivery Mystery?
Travelling from Clapham Junction to Eastbourne and back, fbb saw lots of relatively new Thameslink trains.
Will GoAhead get round to painting them some day soon?

Meanwhile in East Midlands territory, Abellio (Dutch State Railways) has announced its new livery for the recently acquired (from Stagecoach) rail franchise.
The local press reported that it was similar to the former Midland Railway colours and style.
More like the Royal Train, perhaps?
But, here we go again; new franchise spends huge amounts of passengers' money on repainting everything. It takes years and, just when it's all done, another company takes over and it starts all over again.


And which looks nicer, new or old?
The "royal" purple would look distinguished; but only if it was kept really clean and polished to a shiny gloss. And what is the likelihood of that happening?

Back to Brighton
A "record" shot of fbb's service 7 disappearing into the distance showed something of the architecture of the station.
Upon closer inspection is also showed that the Red Star parcels service was available there.
Red Star?
A brand of British Railways providing a parcels service using passenger trains.

The Government made several attempts to privatise Red Star Parcels. The British Railways Board attempted to sell it in June 1993, attracting seven bids. Only two were considered to be serious; and in November 1993, the board recommended that the sale be abandoned. 

On 5 September 1995, it was sold to a management buyout, for a peppercorn rent. Privatisation of the network led to the creation of private passenger train companies, and the loss of a national network heralded the start of the demise of Red Star.
In January 1999, Red Star was acquired by LYNX Express Ltd. All Red Star parcels offices in stations closed on 25 May 2001, with the loss of 360 jobs. Lynx blamed the closure on network disruption after the accident in Hatfield in October 2000.

In fact, fast delivery by road was more competitive and is a business that has grown way beyond the level operated by BR's "premium" service.

But it is good to see that Brighton Station is only about 20 years behind the times.

 Next Eastbourne blog : Monday 1st July 

Saturday 29 June 2019

Exciting Expedition IN Eastbourne (2)

But First we Divert to Edinburgh
First Bus has already announced that it would be entering the City Tours market in Edinburgh. This business is exceedingly profitable for Lothian Transport, the council's arms length company. Over the years other competitors have "entered the market" but, very soon, have been bought out by the incumbent.

Rumours in the industry have suggested that the profits from the tours business have been subsidising Lothian's competitive incursion deep into First's traditional West Lothian bus territory.

A tease graphic was released a few weeks ago ...
... and First's boss in Scotland, (Andrew Jarvis) warned us all that we would "certainly notice" the buses. fbb understands that 14 vehicles have been kept well hidden in the darkest depths of First's Caledonia depot in Glasgow, from which one was released yesterday for the formal launch.

Pictures and a press release had been distributed in advance.

And wow! (click for a full-size view) ...
... young Mr Jarvis is right.
TSU 640, incidentally, was a "City Sightseeing" branded vehicle, operated in Cambridge by Stagecoach!
It is interesting to note that, certainly from an off-side view, there is no mention of First Bus in the livery design. Presumably the legal lettering gives the game away.

Other "launch" pictures show happy passengers (First Bus employees? Rent-a-Crowd film extras?) enjoying a sun-drenched ride round the city.
Happy "customers" indeed.
Other shots show cheery orange shirted staff brandishing orange coloured leaflets on the top deck.
The tour prices are cheaper (much cheaper) than Lothian's ...
... and First will run only one route rather than the three slightly different tours operated by the incumbent.
Public service begins on Monday 1st July and fbb will be interested to hear how that critical First first day pans out.

Will this hurt Edinburgh's piggy bank as intended?

Might there be some sort of "deal" involving a retrenchment in West Lothian? Of course, such collusion would be quite illegal and such things simple don't happen.

Do they?

And a bit of a bludner; the press release invites readers to take a look at the Bright Bus web site ...
... but there is nothing there except an application to get yourself a web site.

Back to Eastbourne
So, what can you do with The Crumbles?
Answer: did some very large holes ...
... fill them with sea and protect them with two large sets of locks ...
... and built huge numbers of houses and flats.
Remember that grim desolation at the end of Claude Lane's tram line?
Below is a Google Maps view from a similar position.
But that tells you nothing. Rise up with Google Earth and you can see what has happened to The Crumbles.
The big grey splodge upper left is an ASDA superstore and the tiny dot in the sand (lower right) is Martello Tower No 66 referred to in yesterday's blog.

Serving this lot by bus presents some challenges, not the least of which is that the two halves of the development are not joined together. There is a bridge ...
... but, as we shall see in Monday's blog, it is only for pedestrians. The Sovereign Harbour development is in two completely separate chunks called, imaginatively, "North" and "South".
Then, even more exciting, is the "white on brown" visitor attraction sign to "Sov. Harbour Village" - where geese graze contentedly on the green and Gaffer Dribbledrip enjoys a pint of scrumpy in the Red Lion.
We shall see how all this fits together with a bus service in Monday's blog.

 Next Bric-à-Brac blog : Sunday 30th June