Monday, 23 March 2020

The Virus Bites Hard (2)

Two problems need to be addressed. There aren't enough passengers and there aren't enough drivers. Hence, sensibly, services need to be reduced or bus companies will become insolvent; that is until Boris and his chums come up with support for "essential services" to get people to work, doctors, hospitals etc.

Yesterday we saw examples of reductions of rail services and the more dramatic reduction for National Express which, fbb is reminded, is closely akin the their Christmas Day network.

On the buses, the general policy is to operate Saturday service in Monday to Friday with extra early morning trips for shift workers where needed. "Senior" passes are being accepted all day with no time restrictions - most areas.

Message on the Stagecoach Midlands twitter pages on Sunday afternoon.

"We are pleased to say that all local authorities in the Midlands area (except Northamptonshire & Milton Keynes) have agreed to temporarily allow concessionary travel cards to be used at any time of the day."

Scrooge is still alive and well in the hallowed portals of our caring County Councils.

It seems highly likely that the modest drop from Monday to Friday to a Saturday frequency will be hopelessly inadequate to "balance the books". fbb guesses that Sunday frequencies will be the next step, possibly extended to start earlier.

For fbb, involved as he is in the GoTimetable Sheffield app, it is easy to review operations in Sheffield and nearby. Other large communities will be similar.

It is in circumstances like this that the overview remit of the PTE should be of immense help.
By yesterday morning there was a full list of changes with MOST being linked to temporary Saturday timetables.

Occasionally the timetable layout is a bit dodgy ...
... thanks to the efficiency of modern technology! But not a bad effort.

It is, however, possible to show the timetable sensibly ...
... but it does need the technology supplied by the human brain.

The advantage of going for Saturday times (or even Sunday ditto if necessary) is that information displayed at stops and available from journey planners will still be "correct" if users remember that it is always Saturday for six days a week.

But in Sheffield, First Bus have taken the opportunity to trim some services to a worse frequency than Saturday. These are thus not right at bus stops and this will take time to change.

Route 6 to the hinterland of Darnall ...
... was an unhelpful and confusing every 35 minutes (approximately?) Monday to Saturday. It now becomes every 65 minutes approximately. Awful frequencies; and it is no wonder passenger loadings are so poor.

Some cross-city services are also cut to below Saturday normality.

Services to Kiveton Park and Dinnington have been slaughtered.

The fast X55 ...
... is withdrawn, leaving the traditional X5 which is reduced from every 20 to every 30. More drastic than even that, the associated hourly X54 via Todwick and Kiveton Park...
... is also withdrawn completely, except on Sundays when T M Travel will still run an hourly tendered service!

Illogical says Spock to Kirk!

Todwick and Harthill are now served by diverting alternate X5s thus lengthening running time on the already reduced service. The PTEs presentation ...
... only mentions Todwick as a column heading note (TD) and First's efforts are equally weak.
Here Todwick is just "The Pastures" - OK for regulars but a complete mystery for many.

It would be churlish to expect schedulers to create totally new timetables at short notice without some limitations and discrepancies - perhaps better versions will appear in due course.

Even printed copies? Probably not - it is, after all, all on line.

But, in Sheffield, the champions of "Slash and Burn" have to be T M Travel. 

Service 6, recently increased from every 20 to every 30 ...
... is slashed to this:-
That is somewhat alarming, but less so when you see what T M Travel have done with the 218 to Bakewell. On Mondays to Saturdays this normally runs every 30 minutes and from Sunday next would be upped to every 30 on Sundays.

But now ...
... just 8 return journeys. Some cut back, eh? Sunday service is withdrawn completely.

One tweeter mused that some operators were cynically saving money on services that have always been loss-making. Another suggested that First in Sheffield would not return to previous frequencies even after we return to normal ...

If ...

News also that the Airline X50 ftrom High Wycombe to Heathrow ...
... will NOT now start as advertised. Likewise, Hulley's innvative leisure services from Sheffield and Chesterfield to Monyash and beyond ...



... also suspended is the recently introduced fast hourly service between Chesterfield and Bakewell.

Clearly this blog would become tedious in the extreme if it listed the growing number of "Virus" changes; so today will be the last "Virus" blog for the time being. If anything really newsworthy materialises, fbb with return to the topic.

So tomorrow we revert to happier things with a review of some excellent publicity centred on Bedford and Luton.

Meanwhile, fbb has had to abandon his regular visits to the pub for Double Diamond and Dominoes ...
... the whippet club had been shut down and the weekly jog to Lyme Regis has to be put aside.

But there will still be blogs to write and there is a model railway to rebuild and a God who is good to those who serve him, despite the mess that people, corporately, make of His world.

Habakkuk asked the right questions and, even in about 600 BC, he didn't like God's answer either.

  Next GP blog : Tuesday 24th March 


  1. It's worse than that; not sure how FBB got his emergency timetables for 6 & 218, because as of 7am Monday on the TravelSY website under service changes it has eg
    TM Travel

    Millhouses (Tesco P&R) - Banner Cross -
    Hallamshire Hospital - Sheffield

    Buses will run to a special timetable. To be confirmed.

    If you look at the specific timetable you get the one form Oct 2019 or the supposedly new summer one from 1 April

  2. Here Todwick is just "The Pastures" - OK for regulars but a complete mystery for many.

    I love this comment, as if non regular passengers are wishing to travel on the bus in these unprecedented times.

  3. "Scrooge is still alive and well in the hallowed portals of our caring County Councils."

    What a cheap shot - just typical of you, FBB.

    For the record the moment that we saw that some supermarkets were opening early we put things into action to lift our 09:30 restriction.

    But, in case you haven't noticed, there is a lot going on at the moment, and equally local authority staffing levels have been decimated over the past 10 years.

    This isn't the place to expand on the detail, but there is a huge amount going on behind the scenes at local authorities at the moment. A daft comment like that is just what we don't need at this time.

  4. 'Even printed copies? Probably not - it is, after all, all on line.' Surely you are not suggesting in the present situation that punters should be visiting travel centres and the like at a time when we are hearing of whole chains of shops closing?

    1. From the things I'm hearing at the moment the ink won't be dry before things change again.

    2. I've just been advised by our local, medium, sized family run, bus company that passenger numbers this morning are at 20% of what they would expect on a sunny spring Monday.

      One of our local big group subsidiaries says that loadings on Saturday we at 28% of normal.

      Without rapid and substantial financial assistance there won't be any buses at all.

  5. Andrew Kleissner23 March 2020 at 16:47

    Round our way the buses are operating a Saturday service, which is very similar to the normal weekday service. When I was out walking several buses passed me, nearly all were completely empty. Admittedly we're close to the start/finish of the route, but it is still crazy for the operators to offer such a frequent service,

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