Tuesday 31 March 2020

Life And The Limits Of Lockdown (2)

And Now For Some Good News
For Sheffield ...
fbb already reported that his "bĂȘte noir" Travel South Yorkshire had done sterling work to get a full list of timetables in place in time for the next big cutback - yesterday 30th March. So it is, pretty much, all on line.
These tables are listed by District (Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield) and appear to be up-to-date.
A click on the service number brings up, usually, the timetable prepared by the operator.
Sensibly "the lads and lasses" have chosen to eschew their "sustainable" non-leaflet standard format in order to get stuff out quickly. Equally sadly, all the pre-virus timetables are still in place and available to download ...
... with just a tiny header to warn users that everything in this section is ALL WRONG!
Why not just remove the links?

It always amazes fbb that PTE and operators spend huge amounts of time and money all doing the same job, namely delivering timetables, maps (sometimes) and journey planners. Not surpisingly all the whizzo technology at SYPTE towers has yet to deliver an updated journey planner.
Surely it would be sensible to have just one source of information for an area? Like an electronic all-services timetable book which might, under the present circumstances, have to be on-line.
So why does fbb help produce yet another source of information?

GoTimetable Sheffield, which is, by some strange coincidence, an on line timetable book containing all services, was also updated in time for the big uncoordinated change yesterday. Available as an "Android" App and a standard "www" web site, it allows search by route number or location.
Each service has a simple banner explaining what has happened. There is a red warning at the top of the scrollable timetabled and a "What's New" menu page summarising the whole sorry mess.
The data compiler (that's fbb!) and the technical team are poised in their various lockdown situations, ready to amend and update as further changes happen; and, possibly, just possibly, common sense might prevail and the Sheffield Bus Partnership might start working together.

It would, sadly, be the first time such a revolution has happened since the Partnership was instigated.

But Hooray For The Potteries!
A correspondent tells me that D & G Buses (now part of the proliferating Peddle portmanteau of passenger transport provision) had been working together unofficially with First Bus to offer co-ordinated transport in Arnold Bennett's "Five Towns".

Actually Bennett knew there were SIX towns but thought that the phrase "Five Towns" was more mellifluous as part of his skillful wordplay.

But we digress.

Here from First's Potteries web site.
"Our friends at D & G bus ..." - a real turn up for the (on-line timetable) book.

Just an example. First's 98 and 99 are suspended ...
 99 is "replaced" by D & G's reduced-to-hourly 94A.
And from D & G itself?

This is a difficult time for all, and the world changed with the announcement of a national lockdown. Passenger numbers have fallen to 15% or less of normal numbers.  With the help of Local Authority partners, and our staff who are being magnificent, we continue to provide a reduced service on most routes.

Please note that bus stops and third party websites will not be updated. Currently our own website is the best source of up-to-date information.

And the web site tells is, for example ...

32X Tean - Cheadle - Werrington - Hanley fast and direct
This service is temporarily withdrawn, but First Potteries' Kingfisher service provides alternative journeys - visit www.potteriesbuses.com for details
33 Newcastle - Westlands
Normal service - click HERE for the timetable

35 Newcastle - Cross Heath - Chesterton
Normal service - click HERE for the timetable

38 Crewe - Haslington - Sandbach - Congleton - Macclesfield
This service is temporarily withdrawn, but Arriva North West service 38 provides alternative journeys - visit www.arrivabus.co.uk for details

Hearty congratulations to all who are working so very very hard to "get bus travel done", as a certain politician might opine.
Of course "working together" however "unofficially" is utterly illegal; but surely the grey suits in Westminster and the boffins in the Competition and Marketing Authority will offer the same legal freedom to buses as they have to Isle of Wight ferries?

Meanwhile the Sheffield Bus Partnership delivers uncoordinated timetables even on "officially" registered joint services.
Beyond belief!

But No Good News For Hull!
Wasn't HMG planning to help the rail industry - even the non franchisees? Maybe not, it would appear.

Filling Your Time : Filling Your Patterns?
Adult colouring books have been something of a modern craze. Apparently it is good for relaxations and mindfulness. We are all different, of course, but fbb was never very keen on "colouring in" when he was a sproglet. The crayoned pictures never looked as richly coloured as the illustrations and doing huge areas of sky was really tedious.

But the modern ones replace tedium with potential frustration.
What happens when you get a bit of the pattern wrong and spoil the whole page? Aaaargh!

But this idea from Hornby looked more attractive.
How about a really nice maroon with cream round the windows?

Sadly it is only for "Kids".
Hmmm. It doesn't say how old "Kids" have to be. As fbb sinks gracefully (?) into his second childhood ...

... maybe he should start with the really challenging dot to dot?
Just a tad patronising, mayhap, even for a young 'un?

 Heathrow blog returns? : Wednesday 1st April 

Short Thought

No one has ever explained why Moses is pictured lugging a couple of huge gravestones own Mount Sinai. The so-called ten commandments are remarkably short in Hebrew and would fit easily on a couple of shards of rock about the size pf playing cards.

But were they COMMANDments?

The Hebrews (Israelites : Jews : Children of God) were privileged to be the Covenant People of Yahweh (the "I am God" God!). A "Covenant" is a formal agreement made between two (or more) parties. The "set of ten" was the core of the covenant.

Each party has something to give and something to receive.

So the first part (1 to 5) is what God expects to receive and the people agreed to give. The principles have not changed, surely, for people of faith.

Worship no God but Me
      Fair enough if you want the "covenant" to be real?
Do not make idols to worship
      The need to focus on what is really important  
Do not mis-use My name
      OMG, don't ; mutual respect is essential 
Observe a Sabbath day (take a proper break - chill)
      Just one day in seven for putting Faith first
Respect your Family (and those you share your life with)
       And, obviously, putting others first as much as poss.

So, what about the other half of the Covenant?

Monday 30 March 2020

Life And The Limits Of Lockdown (1)

fbb has not really had time to think about the consequences of "lockdown".

Clearly, this provides one key privilege of being old and "past it", namely the fact the various agencies send the old man a pension each month, so he has no fears about his inability to earn money.

But huge sympathy for those who jobs have evaporated.

The fbbs' Christian "Ministry", specifically a fortnightly Bible Study and a monthly Sunday afternoon fellowship meeting, are closed; which means less preparation pressure.

Then there is his work for GoTimetable Sheffield.

Two and a half days of frantic timetable acquisition and editing have ensured that users of the App and web site will have an up-to-date and complete set of timetables (bus and tram) from today onwards. Not beautifully done, but adequate for a transport world which will continue to change, almost certainly at short notice.

Much of the information was released late last week, so it has all been a bit hairy.

It was Roger French that set the old man off on a new project, instigated before lockdown, but a good way of keeping the "leedle grey cells" more active than they would be whilst watching daytime television!

Roger reminded fbb how bad public transport information was at Heathrow, particularly in the wind tunnel that is Terminal 5 bus station. At much the same time fbb was adding his two penn'orth to the ether in the form of a series of short blogs about Terminal 5.

Part 1 here
Part 2 here
Part 3 here
Part 4 here

Roger suggested that things were somewhat better at Heathrow Central bus station ...
... but No 1 son has a negative view. He often jets off to far flung places (or did before the Virus) and has found the big tent confusing. There is a strong emphasis on long distance coaching ...
... with plenty of head-in stands ...
... and swish electronic departure boards.
But the humble bus is most definitely second class; with services leaving from a line of shelters beyond the luxury of the tent.
When fbb visited a few years ago, he was disappointed with ambience and information. Leicester's Haymarket and St Margarets bus stations are far better.
So why not have a go at a GoTimetable Heaathrow?

How easy would it be to assemble timetables (NOT simply departure lists) and route maps for the various terminals - and even add rail in as well?

An interesting challenge to while away the stay-at-home hours spentj tearing up newspapers for use in "the smallest room".

Nostalgia Corner
Here is Heathrow before Heathrow!
The straight road across the top is the old Bath Road (A4) and the map shows Heathrow Hall.
Sometimes it is quite hard to remember that the present airport is actually one year (and a bit) YOUNGER than fbb.

And why did the Duke of Northumberland have a river in Middlesex?

The Duke of Northumberland's River can be described as a distributary of the Colne and a tributary of the Crane.

This section of an ancient but artificial waterway diverts water from the River Colne at Harmondsworth (just west of Heathrow Airport) flowing eastwards to the River Crane. The section past Heathrow was diverted south in 1944 when the Airport was constructed. Both rivers have recently been diverted again because of  Terminal 5. They skirt the western and southern perimeter of Heathrow Airport then separate at The Two Bridges in Bedfont, southeast of Terminal 4.
The Duke's River then flows east to join the Crane in Donkey Wood, by Baber Bridge in North Feltham, west of Hounslow Heath. 
His Dukeship owned Syon House and the channels were dug to provide water for his estate and its associated appurtenances.

 Next Lockdown blog : Tuesday 31st March 
Short Thought
Is a parent vindictive if they punish their children? If so then fbb must be one of the most heartless and vindictive human beings that walked the earth!

Of course a loving, caring parent will set behavioural limits, draw boundaries, praise them when they comply and punish when they step over the line.

What the punishment is (or was) is a feature of contemporaneous society. We no longer thrash our children thoroughly and make Nanny put them to bed without supper (well, not often).

So what are God's behavioural limits and boundaries?

Enter an old man with a beard staggering down a mountain in 1200BC clutching a couple of too-heavy-to-carry gravestones.
Absolute twaddle!

Sunday 29 March 2020

Variegated Blog (part 2)

Working Together (1)
In a surprise but sensible announcement, HMG has recognised the potential problems of maintaining links to the Isle of Wight during the present crisis. Wightlink has just announced the complete closure of its route between Lymington and Yarmouth to allow limited human rescources to be redeployed on the Portsmouth Fishbourne car ferry and Portsmouth Ryde passenger routes.
What has HMG done? A most sensible thing.
Competition law is suspended. Wightling, Red Funnel; and Hovertravel can now collude, work together, arrange joint timetables - in fact work sensibly TOGETHER to help passengers complete their journeys and, more particulatly, to aid the transfer of freight from Mainland to Island

Working Together (2)
HMG has also taken cotrol of all rail franchises (we know that!) AND extended similar support to the non-franchised "open access" operators (e.g. Grand Central, Hull Trains). This mini bail our went down well with the Stock Market last week. Rail company shares rallied somewhat.

Stagecoach shares leaped by a significant 6% because ...
... as pundits and investors reported, the franchised rail operators like Stagecoach will live to fight another day.


Stagecoach no longer holds any rail franchises! It does operate Sheffield Supertram, but the rail bail out does not include that operation.

Well done, stock market clever people.

Working Together (3) ... Or ...
fbb was taken to task, had his knuckles rapped, for being critical of some of the information being promulgated in Sheffield. "Poor timetable people," he was informed, "are really struggling with repeated schedule re-writes and a cataclysmic drop-off in passenger numbers."

fbb's slighty askew comments about two Sheffield routes were not intended to be critical of any one person in particular but they were born out of a profound frustration at the apalling LACK of working together.

For once, South Yorkshire PTE, a k a Travel South Yorkshire, has managed to get a full set of timetables on-line a couple of days before the next timetable earthquake.

So well done PTE.

But look at this.
The 120 is one of four joint services in Sheffield and happens to be fbb's home to anywhere bus route of many years ago (when it was route 60). Under "normal" circumstance buses are run alternately on the core of the route; one from Stagecoach dutifully followed by one from First, equally dutifully followed by one from Stagecoach and so on.

The frequency was generally even; every 5 Monday to Friday, every 6 Saturday and every 10 on Sundays.

But from Monday, First will run an hourly service ...
... and Stagecoach will run their usual Sunday frequency of ...
... every 20 minutes!

What is even dafter is that Stagecoach is running like every day was a Sunday, so it runs full route from Halfway to Fulwood (as "normal" on a Sunday). Meanwhile, First is running hourly like it was Monday to Saturday, i.e. only from Crystal Peaks. Stagecoach "normally" runs from Halfway to Ranmoor on weekdays.

The there is service 53 from Mansfield to Sheffield, a Stagecoach route. This is the helpful advice provided on the Stagecoach (IN Sheffield) web site.

For information on Stagecoach East Midlands service 53 visit their  service updates page

Ito wouldn't do, would it, for Stagecoach Yorkshire (which includes Chesterfield) to tread on the sensitive toes of Stagecoach East Midlands and tell Sheffield people about buses to and from Sheffield.

It is similar in Rotherham and Doncaster!
These are not some odd backwater set of routes; they are significant links with Rotherham (19) and Doncaster (21, 22 and 25).

It is all a gurt big mess.


Working Together (4)
By absolute coincidence, Mrs fbb found a small pack of old photos carefully filed (NOT) in the attic room at fbb mansions. Of considerable interest was this one ...
... with fbb and his sister front and mum, dad and granny (dad's mum) in the rear. fbb cannot remember the picture, but is fairly certain that it was taken ouside St Matthews' Church Northampton ...
... built in astounding grandeur by the Phipps family on the proceeds of the brewery company! The area round the church was known colloquially as Phippsville and nearby lived fbb's father's cousin Janet, whose wedding was the cause for the stand-to-attention picture. It was sometime in 1955/6 soon after the little lad had started at Northampton Grammar School.

Another rambling digression?

But in the same bag of assorted snaps were pictures of Sheffield Transport buses, badly taken by fbb in his student days.

Knowledgeable readers will, enjoy spotting body and chassis types, but for the purposes of this post, fbb draws his readers' attention to the livery and vehicle variety in Sheffield in the mid sixties. It was, possibly, this variety which drew fbb into his love affair with the Steel City.

There were short ordinary buses but lacking the three blue stripe livery for which Sheffield was famous. It is on a very ordinary City route.
There were buses with similar livery (Roe Bodies used this style) but with a grey roof.
It is on route 32 on its way via Manor Estate to Handsworth, a route which no longer exists as a whole although bits are still served.

Higher capacity for busy routes and folding doors (folded by the conductor) - again bodied by Roe but with standard livery.
This is on its way on the half hourly route to Bradway at the very edge of the city. Now served every ten minutes by routes 24 and 25, joint between Stagecoach and First.

Then Sheffield had lowbridge buses with grey roof and "eyebrows" ...
... acquired to cope with a low bridge at South Anston. 

Modernity came with later batches of buses for tram replacement; the ubiquitous Leyland Atlantean.
This is on an outer suburban route to Beighton, now partly in the hands of Stagecoach Superptam and partly served by First Bus route 8.

There was a dalliance with front entrance front engined buses, not  specifically chosen for the design, but bought because supplies of high capacity Atlanteans were slow in delivery.
This is off to the recently developed Gleadless Valley estates. This was a partnership (snigger) joint route for Stagecoach and First as 1 and 1a running every 12 minutes each. But First pulled out and instead of two twelve minute services over much common ground, First have opened out their frequency to every 15 and there is no co-ordination.

Partnership, what partnership?

But back in those halcyon days, ALL the buses in city and suburbs were run by the council for the benefit of the ratepayers. Buses arrived in new estates before most of the occupiers and there was huge pride in delivering the best possible service.

Most of the buses from Sheffield to nearby towns were either run exclusively by Sheffield Transport or in partnership with British Rail through a Joint Committee (the latter being very much dominated by Corporation staff and policy!).

As time progressed, there were financial constraints and cutbacks instigated by the inexorable growth of private motoring but ...

Sheffielders were proud of their buses.

And today - before the Virus?

 Next cartographic blog : Monday 30th March 
Short Thought
The little known prophet Habakkuk has challenged God to tell him why he doesn't to appear to be doing what the people wanted him to do, namely get them out of "another fine mess they had gotten into".

God has reminded them of the mess and had told Habbie that he has it all in hand. 

The prophet is uneasy about God's plan which appears to involve punishment by a Babylonian invasion (which DID happen!) rather than some "magic God dust" to "make everything right".

There was at least one answer; the prophet was told to write this down:-

And this is the message: ‘Those who are evil will not survive, but those who are righteous will live because they are faithful to God.’

Shouts of "I cannot believe in such a vindictive God"? Maybe, maybe not!