Wednesday, 25 September 2019

At The Bus Stop (3)

A Closer Look
The idea was for fbb to unravel the information available at Solihull Station and, from the displays there, to further understand the network available to the worthy residents. There wasn't enough time for a total exploration, so fbb started with the two routes to Birmingham.

Service 4 looked frequent and impressive with above-the-window branding on the single deck buses.
Quite what the difference was between a 4 and a 4A was not clear as the departure list at the stand only referred to service 4 ...
... which offered 8 buses an hour but not at the traditional 7/8 minute spacing. Clearly four 4As every hour never reach Solihill. The PTE offered a very detailed (too much information?) timetable for the 4 ...
... so fbb needed to look at the National Express operator site. Ah! It becomes a little clearer.
They start from Gospel Oak, Gospel Lane. NatEx had a map on their site ...
... which showed Gospel Lane but without any little flags for the 4A. fbb later discovered that if you ask NatEx for the 4A, you get the same timetable but a flaggy map to Gospel Oak. So now you know!

The PTE network map explained it all very simply.
The 4A trips bear right a short distance after the Acock's Green Roundabout ...
... to terminate at the end of Gospel Lane outside the pub turned co-op.
And here is "The Oak" in happier  oozier (?) days.
The main service 4 follows the Warwick Road, running parallel to the railway.

Intriguingly, service 4 buses all had names ...
... but fbb could find no explanation of why, or what linked the various little labels.

The other bus to Brum is the "Platinum" X2.
 This is five minutes quicker into the city (so not much gain for an "X") ...
... and it runs via Lode Lane and the Land Rover Works ...
... before joining with its partner, the X1, at Sheldon. The X1 runs via the Airport and NEC to Coventry.

The Platinum routes have their origin (sort of) in the former 9xx network of "higher quality" services, of which five remain.
Indeed the route to NEC and Coventry used to be the 900, at one stage branded "Timesaver" ...
... and, before becoming X1/X2 was equipped to Platinum standards.
Back in Solihull, only a part of this information could be gleaned at the bus stop.

There again, MOST passengers are regulars, so they know the length of their journey and where the bus actually goes. But, for a newcomer, and without timetable and map in printed form, extracting this sort of comforting detail from a mobile phone is very hard work.

NatEx buses are all exact fare only, the drivers do not give change.
But nowhere at the stop is any guide as to what your fare might be. There were posters on the buses ...
... which implied that you would buy a day ticket at £4.60 rather than two singles at £2.40 - or £4.00 if bought after 0930 Monday to Friday but all day at weekends.

But would you really pay £1.50 from Station into town centre ...
... if you knew in advance that it was only one stop!
One thing that was very noticeable from the bus stop departures lists.

The buses ran at fixed times throughout the normal bus operating day. Off peak Monday to Friday the minutes past each hour were almost the same from 0900 to 1500. On Saturday and Sunday, all day until early evening.

In Sheffield very few bus timetables on a Monday to Friday could be laid out with the good old phrase "then at these minutes past each hour". Surely it would encourage passenger if they knew by heart when the bus was coming? (click on the timetable for an enlargement)
As explained earlier, there was not a lot to choose between information in Brum compared with Sheffield; neither place would be easy for a novice but if said novice were adept at accessing stuff on-line it would be possible to assemble enough information to find his way around with a modicum of confidence.

The crunch question is, "how many would take the trouble?" for anything other than their regular "commute" or shopping trip.

Tomorrow, before moving on elsewhere, the fbbs report on their trip to see Ruth, who lives in Knowle.
Another failure for Boris?
The Boris Bus was a political animal that nobody really wanted except Boris! The engineers at London's bus companies did not like them one little bit - to complex, too expensive to operate and too epensive tyo maintain. The lumbering beast failed to secure any sales outside London and present Mayor, Mt Khan, declined to order any more.
As this items was being typed at 0900 this morning, a formal announcement about receivership was expected.
 Next At the Bus Stop blog : Thursday 26th September 


  1. The names on NXWM buses are mainly after employees' wives/girlfriends/daughters etc, Eddie Stobart style.
    The exact fare policy has always been a bone of contention for non-locals, although it has certainly speeded up buses over the 40 plus years that it has existed. Thankfully NXWM introduced contactless payments (capped to day ticket rates) last year, which gets around the exact fare issue.

  2. If FBB would like to enlarge his picture, the fact that the 4 goes to Solihull and the 4A to Gospel Oak is listed on the side of the bus!

    Running at every 7-8 minutes, I'm not entirely sure why any visitor (of which there cannot be many at Solihull) would care where a 4A goes, given the only mention is on the side of a bus.

    To use an FBB-style phrase: "It isn't always as complicated FBB pretends it is!"