Saturday 29 February 2020

Birthday Bus Bash (?) Part Three

Information Pleases - In Part
fbb has already extoled the bus station office with its full set of route timetable leaflets of which fbb's I J K T became a little soggy and battered.
Stops in Exeter High Street are very well furnished with clear labelling from Stagecoach ...
... and somewhat less clear from Exeter City Council.
There were fares offer posters with real timetables, the latter being bespoke for the stop not just a complete leaflet glued in ...
 ... and a useful network map and city centre plan. Well done Stagecoach.

The local authority once had electronic departure panels at each stop, but these are replced by one per block of stops and oddly they face the road, not the bulk of the pavement.
There are FIVE screen to watch and it is easy to miss what you are looking for. Again fbb suggests that such displays should be in route number order and not time order. A potential passenger usually needs to know (e.g.) when the next K is; folk rarely ask themselves, "It's 1253, where shall I go next?"

Do we really need to know which company is operating the bus? Cutting that out would help with:-

Sowton Park & R

Digby Retail Par

And how about including the Hospital as a via point? 

But it is out on the road that things are disappointing. On fbb's K you have the full range of Stagecoach's bus stop "flag" collection (and an apology for poor photos and oddities over-enlarged from Streetview, but the weather was awful!)

You could have very old flags with peeling sticky labels ...
... flags with easy to read route numbers in white on blue ...
... and flags with very small route numbers and misleading destination names. (yes, that is what was in use here c/o Google - but fbb missed it in passing!)
Most flags, however, were unadorned with route information.
One white-on-blue on Tithebarn Way shows route L ...
... which only passes at peak times. Explanation needed, please, at the stop.

An even bigger disappointment was the number of shelters with inviting spikes ...
... but devoid of flag.

The I J K T complex of routes is difficult to unravel for a beginner and clear, correct and helpful information on the flag would be a huge encouragement to new and occasional users.

 I   Centre, Countess Wear,IKEA
 K   Centre, Countess Wear
 T   Centre, Countess Wear, Topsham

fbb will opine yet again that the bus stop is free advertising for the service and should be of high and consistent quality. Ideally a stop flag should provide route number, summary destination and stop name and there should be a frame with a timetable or, at worst, a departure list, both in a large enough frame.


Not when compared with a new bus, its driver and fuel!

Whilst route equipment was disappointingly poor, the bus itself was an excellent vehicle. Its cove panels were well used to promote the services ...
... including the excellent Falcon. There is also a clear network map for city services.
But sadly it is incorrrect. Some recent changes are not included - like route L to Pinhoe, formerly F2.
The L is THE service to Pinhoe running every 15 minutes!

Services in Exeter are generally very good; fbb's K was an excellent ride, well driven by a helpful and friendly driver - such a pity that the detail is so disappointing.
Maybe new boss Mike Watson will sort it out, BUT ...

Proposals for I, J, K (and L) are "out for consultation" ... 
... and will change maps and bus stop flag information in various ways. Are "the lads" waiting for that? OR, has everyone been poised with excitement to use the new livery and pallid beachball on a new range of bus stop vinyls?
Or maybe not!

 Delayed Weekend mixture blog : Sunday 1st March 

Friday 28 February 2020

Birthday Bus Bash (?) Part Two

To be companionable, and to ensure the inner man was appropriately fueled, fbb joined Mrs fbb for refreshments. First stop was Exeter's Waterstones for coffee ...
... where a full and frank scheduling meeting was instigated. Mrs fbb would enjoy some retail therapy in Exeter High Street whilst el chubbo would continue his Birthday treat by taking an exciting (?) bus ride.

To ensure that the "gang" could catch Axe Valley Travel's return working at 1340, fbb's trip would need to start pronto-ish. So an early lunch was scheduled just along the High Street in Marks and Spencers' caff.
Bacon butty having been munched in double quick and possible indigestion creating time, fbb was back outside at High Street stop 5 (fortuitously - no, well negotiated!) just outside M & S.

His bus left at 1220 but whither?
fbb had glimpsed at these services back in Autumn 2019, soon after they changed. He was on a day out to Topsham and had no leaflet or map to guide him, so drew his own ...
... somewhat better, he avers with his usual modesty, than that provided by Stagecoach on their leaflet.
Note that the K disappears top right into the wide blue yonder!

The original blog is (here).

The pedantic will notice, maybe, that fbb plonked the Science Park blob in the wrong place - but he was only guessing as you will discover.

There is a niggling problem with Stagecoach's map in the area of Whipton Barton.
Those arrows on the loop are misleading. For most of the day buses run both ways along Whipton Barton Road; only occasional terminating journeys do the arrowed one way shuffle. The eastbound arrow on Pinhoe Road is explained in VERY small print so, make the print bigger and remove the westbound arrow completely.

Did Stagecoach amend a previous map where everything terminated via that loop?

fbb bade a fond farewell to the clockwise circular route J ...
... and boarded the following K ...
... for his expedition to the Science Park, so new that it simply does not exist on some maps.
We are in the dark lands of development to the east of the M5, once the uncrossable boundary of Exeter expansion. Google earth shows us roughly what to expect.
Our route is via that proto-loop on the aerial view above.

We left Exeter with a throroughly acceptable load ...
... all of which had alighted by the loop at Whipton Barton. The final alighter left us on new-build Tithebarn Way ...
... at a stop not yet picked up by Streetview.
fbb alone was driven over the M5 bridge and into the jungles of the darkest Tithebarn Link Road.
On Streetview we have just a country lane ...
... but our K will re-appear later at the former mud-blocked road on the right. Streetview re-establishes its view of the street a little later ...
... where lots more housing has now sprouted. This is "Minerva" part of the Tithebarn Green development.
At the brow of the hill we turn right and almost immediately meet a sign for the Science Park.
Appropriate for the expeditionary nature of the ride, we are now in a minor monsoon! Sadly, and a bit like the search for Dr Livingstone (I presume), there was no sign of human life and, obviously, no passengers for the 20 minute frequency.
Presumably "Section 106" money from the developers is paying for the empty buses.

On the return journey to the city centre, the first genuine passenger was picked up on the Pinhoe road at the stop near the Pinhoe Hoard.
fbb was just musing about the unlikelihood of many families venturing thither in the monsoon when ...
... mum and dad and two little kiddies trotted off through the downpour to their limo having rotisseried. fbb was already feeling the limitations of his bacon butty at Marks and Spncers!

The Pinhoe Hoard - nope fbb had never heard of it.

The hoard was discovered in 1999 by local metal detectorist Jim Cobley about a mile away from the new pub and just over the border in what is now Broadclyst parish.

So it was really the Broadclyst Hoard?

Jim reported the find to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, where it is now displayed on loan.
The hoard is a fine example of Middle Bronze Age metalwork (c. 1400-1200 BC). It consists of fourteen objects including five complete or near complete armrings, four fragments of armrings and five fragments of palstave. (as seen on the pub sign)
A Palstave is an early Bronze Age axe!

An uneventful but rain soaked ride ended at Sidwell Street ...
...  whence fbb squidged damply back to the tattered remains of the once-grand bus station. Rather than wait in the draught and the sideways rain plus vertical drips from the roof, the gruesome twosome decided to avail themselves of a slightly delayed but toasty warm 9A and a shorter walk back to fbb mansions than from the 52.
Tomorrow fbb will look at a few interesting (?) omnibological snippets from his visit to Exeter.

 Next Bus Bash blog : Saturday 29th February 

Thursday 27 February 2020

Birthday Bus Bash (?) Part One

First Bus' Jurassic Coaster originally ran all the way from Bournemouth to Exeter. Indeed many years ago fbb took a train from the Isle of Wight to Exeter via Westbury and rode the X53 all the way back to Bournemouth, such is/was his dedication and much stronger bladder!
The service was subsidised by a cabal of local authorities anxious to see tourism develop. Together with initial enthusiasm from First and the bag of pennies from the supporters the service expanded and appeared to be doing very well.

But, local authority money was reduced, withdrawn and First opted for commercial operation.
The pattern of decline continued with removal of the through service and pruning of the timetable making return journeys harder and harder to complete. This, combined with an almost total lack of publicity along the line of route, meant that total withdrawal was inevitable.

At the Exeter end, Stagecoach ran from Lyme Regis all the way to Exeter, so only two (small?) groups of passengers lost out. There was then no bus from Beer to Exeter without doubling back to Seaton and changing or travelling infrequently via Branscombe into Sidmouth ditto.

Seaton and Beer people in particular were incensed that there would be no through bus to the ginormous Devon and Exeter Hospital.

Devon County Council thus arranged a tender with Axe Valley Travel (AVT) for one service 52 Monday to Friday return trip from Seaton and Beer into Exeter (arriving 1110 and departing 1340) operating via the X53 route past the Hospital. This would allow time for limited shopping in Exeter and visiting at the hospital, but would be inadequate for the majority of hospital appointments.

So fbb's Birthday treat was a ride on AVT's service 52, now over two years old.

The old man and his slightly older wife toddled along to Marine Place to join the journey. For a small company AVT's publicity is remarkable good.

Clear label on the shelter ...
... full timetables in a frame ...
... and even a small rack with one timetable leaflet therein.
Other operators, take note!

This contrasted with the info provided by Devon County which seemed to think the 52 started at Lyme Regis ...
... an irrelevant fact (were it true which it isn't and never has been), followed by an equally irrelevant and in part incorrect heafing for the local service to Beer.

The bus stop flag has never admitted to the 52, but the X53 has been expunged.

As a special treat the electronic screen was working, but was largely unreadable with text too small and back lighting too feeble against a bright February sky.

fbb did wonder what the purpose of the 32 digit reference number on the display unit might be and who would bother to use it.
But 20 brave souls joined the bus at Seaton ...
... and settled next to windows provided with a spattered mud version of Contravision.
The bus has been on the road earlier doing a school run to Lyme Regis under heavy rain and high winds.

One solitary soul joined at Beer. Three alighted en route in the Sidford area; two joined. One alighted at the hospital on Barrack Road.
One alighted at the curiously named Livery Dole on Heavitree Road ...
... one at the Pyramids leisure centre (elderly lady with walking frame off for her Tuesday workout?) ...
... but the majority joined fbb and Mrs to leave AVT's finest and its plethora of rattles and creaks at Exeter bus station.

This was not the most luxurious style of bus travel.

Only three passengers used the unique locations served by the subsidised 52; the rest could easily have used the 9A (unsubsidised). It makes you wonder?

Regular readers will remember the on-and-off saga of the new (too small, of course, and further from the main city centre) bus station.
Well work has started on the commercial development but not (again, of course) on the new bus station. Money-making stuff must come first and let the public suffer!
Several stands have been lopped off the end of the present structure including the enclosed waiting room.
Signs still point to the toilets but the way is blocked.
There is access at the other end of the bus station, but why leave the signs in place?

It was cold, draughty and the roof leaked. The bus station is owned by Exeter City Council but, neither they nor lessees Stagecoach care enough for their passengers to make it even slightly habitable.

Welcome to third world public transport!

At least the enquiry office is still open (one set of doors not working, obviously the electrically powered entrance with disabled access ramp) and fbb could, joyfully, obtain a leaflet for the second part of his day of anniversarial thrills.

 Next Birthday Bash blog : Friday 28th February