Monday 30 September 2019

Tuesday Trip To Topsham (2)

It would have been possible for the fbbs and their two house-guest chums from Mid-Wales to visit Topsham by public transport but, thanks to the non-National "seniors" National Concession scheme, they would have had to pay, and pay quite a lot - so it was Seaton to Topsham in the fbb limo.

Research suggested that any of the various car parks would be suitable as the town is quite small, but an obvious contender was the Shoppers car park in Fore Street ...
 ... a k a Matthews Hall car park.
It had the bonus of an obvious and very useful building with two doors labelled white on green. (sorry, three doors; forgot the disabled).
There were two disappointments. Importantly the white-on-green signs had been removed and the "facilities" were no longer available.  
Also, the car park was small and completely full.
At least fbb was able to practise his eighteen-point turn in an available width of about 30 cm more than the length of the car. Maybe you have to reverse out round a couple of blind wiggles?

Eventually both problems were solved by settling in the last place available at the Topsham Quay car park.
For this relief many thanks.

There is growing concern (which fbb would heartily echo) about the shortage of "facilities" in our towns and Topsham is a prime example of utter inadequacy. Nevertheless, parking at the far end of the main street (Topsham Quay) gave the visiting party a chance to see the terminus of Stagecoach route T ...
... which allowed your blog writer to muse again (see yesterdays blog) on the crowds carried by the oddly scheduled service. The building alongside which the bus reverses is the Quay Antiques Centre ...
... located in a structure as odd as its associated bus terminus. It did contain a huge number of antiques observed with interest by two of the four visiting antiques!

Whether travelling by car, by bus or by train, the walk through the town was both a great delight and utterly fascinating. The main street starts well enough near the unsatisfactory shoppers car park ...
... but it becomes narrow and quaint as it descends to the quay.
It is obvious, now, why the Stagecoach T approached "round the back"!
On both sides of Fore Street there are lots of little alleys and passages, many with well tended floral displays; some leading elsewhere, others ending in a fence, gate, or brick wall. Fascinating.
There was a wonderful cheese shop ...
... offering one product that fbb was NOT allowed to purchase!
fbb thinks it unlikely that the clothes shop was established back then ...
... or that gloves are still made in Chapel Place!
Sadly the secret garden is no longer a secret ...
... but the frequent 57 still has its main stop opp and o/s the Nelson.
Here is the view back along high Street and Fore Street towards the Quay.
The Nelson has a menu that ties in well with fbb's dietary needs!
So that's a very quick thumbnail of Topsham and clearly the fbbs will have to go again, perhaps by train this time - which leads gracefully into tomorrow's blog.

Just enough readership sanity to thank those who replied to fbb's appeal for explanations of the odd evenings and Sundays only service on route T.

Here is a sample of the wisdom added as comments yesterday by several Anonymice. Thanks very much for your comments!

From what I remember, it's as simple as the T declining in frequency from every 30 minutes (sometimes 15 in peaks) as the Exmouth service has increased in frequency to what it is today. Back in the 70s and 80s, as the 5 and later 356/357, it was half-hourly and whilst the 57 and T take different routes to the city centre, once the 57 splits off, the roads served by the T are also covered by the much more frequent K and R/S and now the I and J too.

The extension to the Quay came in the minibus era. Quite simply, the T isn't as needed as it once was and I think the remaining journeys may be tendered.

Quite simply?

Historically the T was simply an extended K. The I, J and Science Park extension of the K did not exist as it was all fields and no roads. At one time the combined K&T was every 10 mins with T continuing every 30 mins.

Stagecoach decided to try increasing the 57 from every 15 mins to every 10 mins with Gold specified buses and withdrew the T completely. Some locals complained of the lack of a shopping bus from the quay end of Topsham and with council agreement the two shopping journeys were added back.
The retained evening and Sunday Ts cover for the reduced I, J, K and 57.

Erm, yes!

Whilst it is correct that today's T is an extended K, I would say it's more accurately the other way around in that the K is a truncated T. The T pre-dates the K by many, many years - go back to the 1980s and the K didn't exist, the T was the core service. Go further back, and in Exeter Corporation days, Topsham didn't have its own city service, the CW went to Countess Wear, being replaced by the T in 1967, but it was served by the joint ECT/DG service 5 to Exmouth, precursor of today's 57.
But before the 1980s?
On balance, fbb thinks that he probably shouldn't have asked - but, knowing no fear and (as usual) without the use of a safety net, the old man will unravel and unwrap today's I, J, K and T in a future blog.

I, J, K and T via Pinhoe Road ...
I, J, K and T via Topsham Road
Bet you can't wait.

None of this intellectually challenging background can detract from the delights of Topsham.

Well worth a visit however you get there.

 Next Topsham Trip Train blog : Tuesday 1st October 

Sunday 29 September 2019

Tuesday Trip To Topsham (1)

Actually, the fbbs went last Thursday but the alliteration is better on Tuesday! They were in the company of their chums from Mid Wales who were staying for a few days. They have visited several times before and Top[sham was not previously a destination.

Amazingly in their 6½ years at Seaton, the fbbs had never ventured thus far either!
Located south east of Exeter, Topsham is near the confluence of the River Ex and the smaller River Clyst. Nowadays the little town's river views are somewhat dominated by the M5 bridge.
Nearby is the Countess Wear bridge ...
... which carried traffic in the good old days.
The bridge itself has had a number of makeovers and is now much wider!
There is a still a Countess Wear Hotel ...
... now the Beefeater front entrance to a much more modern Premier Inn.
Buses past the popular Premier pub pass along the main road to Topsham in the person of the No 57 bus c/o Stagecoach. This route has gone from unassuming 57 ...
... via Go 57 ...
... to Stagecoach Gold. Long-term readers of this blog will remember that fbb was invited to the official launch of the Gold 57.
The service runs every 15 minutes Monday to Saturday daytime and every 30 evenings and Sundays. A recent development has been the N57 ...
... continuing the 30 minute headway throughout Friday night and Saturday night.
The route is simple in Topsham ...
... with the bus continuing to Exmouth where it fulfils the role of a local service to Brixington.
Exmouth town centre is off the above map extract, centre left.

So what is route "T", we hear our perceptive readers cry.
Lettered services have their ancestry in"city" routes operated by Exeter Corporation Transport later taken over by Devon General.
Look up service T today and you are taken to a complex Stagecoach timetable for

I  - Digby • Whipton Barton • City Centre • Countess Wear
    • The Rydons • IKEA • Digby

J - Digby • IKEA • The Rydons • Countess Wear
    • City Centre • Whipton Barton • Digby

K - Science Park • Tithebarn Green • Whipton Barton
      • City Centre • Countess Wear

T - Whipton Barton • City Centre • Countess WearTopsham

It is probably best not to try and understand these services, but if you are keen to do so, it works like this; The I and J and alternate ways round an "East Exeter" circular focused on Digby Retail Park and IKEA.

K provides additional journeys over part of the circle with an extension into the rapidly developing Science Park located between the Pinhoe Road and Honiton Road. To confuse us all, the K shows the same number in both directions so, through the city centre, I & K and J & K run in opposite directions.


Which leaves T!

Here it is.
An hourly evening service just like an I and a K, but continuing from Countess Wear to Topsham, and not just the Topsham of Gold 57, but to Topsham Quay.

On Sundays the hourly T runs all day!
Our knowledgeable readers will, obviously, be asking the key question.

What runs to Topsham Quay during the day Monday to Saturday?

Answer? Nothing! Or, more correctly, nearly nothing ...
... just a couple of odd (very odd) short workings from City to the Quay.

At bus stops between Countess Wear and Topsham, Stagecoach have provided a special timetable page for route T, a page not available on-line.
And, before you jump to any conclusions, there is nothing happening on the Quay each evening and all day Sundays that might justify the T service - not even a service of tea?

fbb is hoping one of his better informed readers (better informed on matters Exoniensian) may be able to explain the mysteries of Stagecoach T. The old man is baffled - it is quite a Tser!


 Next Topsham Trip blog : Monday 30th September 

Saturday 28 September 2019

Weekend Extra

Doncaster Debit Developments
Firstly Aberdeen and now Donny - what is the world coming to? Here is the pretty picture from Aberdeen ...
... and here is the rather wordy press release from First South Yorkshire, expurgated by fbb.

From Sunday 29th September ‘Tap & Cap’ technology will be trialled on a 6-month basis offering customers capped fares (within Doncaster) via their contactless device such as their bank card.

All single journeys made with Tap & Cap will cost just £2 so customers don’t need to ask for a ticket or tell the driver where they’re travelling so long as it’s within the Doncaster boundary. A second journey is charged at an additional £2 and the third is capped at just 70p taking the full price to the same as a day ticket - £4.70.

Any additional journeys made that day are free!

Well they would be - it's a day ticket!

And if a customer continues to tap throughout the week the cost of all their journeys is the same as the week ticket - £16.50. Customers can keep track of what they pay as this is automatically calculated at the end of the day; they can use our online portal to track what they have been charged.

Hopefully some Doncastrians may understand what a "portal" is?

As part of the changes on September 29, mobile ticket prices will be aligned with other payment options so Day and Week prices, including ‘Tap & Cap’ are consistent.

Erm, that means we are putting the price up - no longer a tempting (?) discount for phone users.

This means the mobile Day ticket (currently £4) will be available at £4.70 and the mobile Week ticket (currently £15) will be available at £16.50.

We really don't want you to use your phone any more, despite having persuaded you to do so for the past n years!

The Doncaster week ticket will no longer be available on-bus from 27 October to help speed up journeys for customers by reducing boarding time.

When are customers going to experience this oft-vaunted "speeding up"? No sign of it yet - anywhere! And how does NOT selling a £16.50 ticket speed up boarding times?o

Other channels will remain available and additional outlets will be added from November including Payzone outlets.


Our customer communications campaign will commence next weekend and we are particularly keen to stress the value ‘Tap & Cap’ provides to those who wish to travel between Doncaster town centre and many outlying areas such as Cantley, Rossington, Edlington, Armthorpe, Hatfield, Thorne, Moorends, Skellow, Carcroft, Conisborough and Edenthorpe, where the cash single is £3. ‘Tap & Cap’ will offer a £2 flat single and consequently a £4 return.

A noticeable reduction, but beware - with Tap 'n' Cap is becomes oh, so easy to increase fares BECAUSE THE PASSENGER WILL HARDLY NOTICE!

Please note all other ticket prices are unchanged and customers can continue to use contactless ticketing as normal.

The Law of Unintended Consequences
If it is as good as Government help for Thomas Cook - don't hold you breath.

But here is an extract from First Bus' Bristol staff newsletter - concerning the collapse of Wright Bus.

This collapse is having a direct effect on us here at First West of England, in two ways:

On a day-to-day level all warranty work and parts supply has ceased immediately. This will make it difficult for our engineering colleagues to deal with any repairs that may be needed until alternative arrangements can be put in place and parts sourced from elsewhere.

More immediately, it gives us a severe bus shortage here as First UK Bus Division was in the process of taking delivery of a batch of 50 Streetdeck double-deckers for operation in Leeds.
Their arrival would allow 23 middle-aged Volvo double-deckers to be transferred to us. Unfortunately not one of these buses has been delivered to Leeds, so no cascade can even start until they do. My information is that 30 buses have been completed and are ready to ship while some 20 vehicles are in various states of construction on the (now stopped) production line.

We are hoping that negotiations with the administrator will lead to the release of these buses within the next few weeks. In the meantime, we are going to be very tight for buses!

Who would run a bus company, eh?

Colour Supplement
Ribble Remembered?
From Roy (in Sheffield) a picture of two Ribble Buses, one new-ish and one ancient - the newbie bedecked in traditional livery from days gone by ...
... part of the celebrations of 100 years of that much-loved company.

Secret Sheffield Stagecoach?
Also from Roy, a newly delivered Stagecoach single decker in Sheffield.
Or is it? It, and a few chums, were mysteriously delivered without and Stagecoach name or logos.
Has anybody got an explanation?

British Railways Blue?
Another oddity which fbb has never seen documented before.
The BR "double arrow" logo but in blue. It was part of a tweeted picture of the long-gone Weymouth Quay station with no date or further explanation.

The Potential Passing of Pacers?
Just a reminder of where it all began ...
... a double ended Leyland National bus on a long wheelbase freight wagon chassis!

Deep joy!

And There's More ...
Rebel Town Dream Come True
fbb was chuntering round Colyton, just a few country miles from sunny Seaton, when he really thought he was dreaming. Near to the wonderful lantern-towered church is the Market Place and one of the emporia therein is a little shop called, imaginatively ...
... "The Little Shop". And it is just that - it is not the post office, nor is it the library, nor a tourist information centre - just a little shop in a small community in East Devon.

But in the window ...
fbb's immediate reaction was to rush in and hug the shop's owner, proffering a shower of adulatory kisses and hearty congratulations. Sadly ...
... it was Early Closing Day!

No Room on the Sofa!
TV aficionados will be well aware of the final "envoi" of every episode of "The Simpsons" whereby something amusing happens as the family rush to settle on their sofa. This twitter-transmitted "mash-up" seems to say it all.
Boris Brexit Boredom?

PTE Paint-job Promotes Pulchritude
"The lads" from South Yorkshire PTE have been enhancing the public transport experience for the delight-deprived denizens of various districts of the city. Fresh blue paint is being applied to the heritage Sheffield Transport Department bus stop poles which still proliferate along the steel city's streets.

This example stood outside the fbb's b and b.
The frame is two sided - one shows the departure list, the other has advertorial material.

So what did the aged couple find as they set of on the Sunday of their stay for worship at Fulwood Church?
A "wet paint" sign well stuck over the departure list.

Being the inveterate rebel that he is, fbb moved the offending "affiche" so that it only obscured the unnecessarily duplicate "route lines" above.


You have to have two identical route line diagrams because there are two service 120s. They are identical from the stop onwards with Stagecoach operating half the evening and Sunday service. So the damage to the PTEs publicity machine would not be serious.

No paint was harmed in making this blog.

Tomorrow, a surprising adventure.

 Next Topsham Trip blog - Sunday 29th September