Sunday 31 May 2020

It's Sunday Stuff ...

Church Link
(here) at approx 1015

The Puzzle Picture
Its for the model railway innit?

The lads at Peco had a jolly idea a while back. Why not put together bits from several different kits and thus offer a "bargain pack" of gardenalia. The bargain is brought about by the price being significantly less that the total likely price of the individual bits.
Reader may excitedly spot what ffb has bought to enhance his newly created back yards. The selection of bits illustrated above is just a part of the totality. There is:-

A garden shed
A brick-built cold frame
A lean-to greenhouse in brown
A proper greenhouse in white
Some larch-lap fencing
A water butt
A garden bench.

The laser-cut thingy, the actual puzzle picture, is for:-

A power lawnmower
A garden roller
A wheelbarrow

Then there is a mysterious grey bit of wall with a door which doesn't fit anywhere.

£14 sounds a lot, but there are a good few bits.

Imagine fbb's attempts to glue these diminutive bits of polystyrene together using his stubby fingered wobbly hand. Maybe they will turn out to be rotting disused garden appurtenances!

And what about the glass for the greenhouses etc. Clever people; they tell you to use the package it all came in.

Social Distancing - a P S
Thanks to Roy from Sheffield, fbb is able to bring you a gallery of snippets to show how Sheffield's operators are preparing for the onslaught of very few well-distanced passengers.

Operators are all doing their own thing with various attempts at imparting terror into the minds of anxious passengers. Here's is a "fair enough" Stagecoach notice ...
... with an attempt at politeness.

Here is the PTE a k a Travel South Yotkshire in a threatening dayglo pink ...

... glued to a shelter. And there are new smaller ones at all the bus stops.
They cover up the timetables; but it matters not as these are ALL pre-virus and thus useless!

The Interchange (bus station) has been re-arranged for social distancing with more pink pushy pictures ...
... and extra railings!
Even without the virus, the bus station (a k a Interchange) is usually deserted, so these precautions are not likely to be used by the crowds! But the PTE has been very very busy.

Which may explain why, at 2000 last night, as this journalistic wonder was being composed, there was absolutely no mention ANYWHERE in PTE-land of the huge timetable changes that explode, largely unannounced, on Monday.

And Stagecoach have snook (snuck, snooked, snooken?) in a few non-virus but controversial service changes; following the standard political principal of "a good day to bury bad news". More on this in tomorrow's "Stuff".

But the prize for creating a regime of terror must go to First Bus with a wide selection of posters and notices ...

... and the most shouty seat embellishments of any operator seen by fbb.

Yikes. fbb reckons good "salt of the earth" Sheffield tykes will soon get fed up with this aggressive stuff and decide to "sit where us wants" and "not get me wearin' one of they poncy masks".

Transdev are doing it "very nicely" with a "we are all in this rogether, so lets help one another" style ...
Yep - much better.

And, even worse, you can't sit on the front seats of the tram and look over the driver's shoulder to view the ride!
If it is to protect the driver, it seems a bit pointless as you can still sit one row back and the driver still has to pass you.

Hey ho! Stay Safe; Stay Sane and, above all, Stay Sensible!

 Next Monday Stuff blog : Monday 1st June 

Saturday 30 May 2020

It's Saturday Stuff ...

Why The Rush?

Maybe this is why.
fbb received this picture from Roy in Sheffield of a bus actually showing the Bus Full sign - but no route number, so a waiting passenger cannot be sure that his/her chosen bus is full. Neither Roy nor fbb knows whether the bus was actually "full" under the social distancing "advice".

As fbb has mentioned before it is all a bit "chicken and egg". If things are to start unlockdowning, public transport will be needed; but it will be a minority sport until the locks are undone a bit more. It's all a big hunk of guesswork.

As usual James Freeman. First Bristol boss, is keen to explain it all to his staff.

After a few false starts we were given the go-ahead last night to start our ramp-up of services across the West of England from this week-end. The main effect will be felt Mondays to Fridays across the day from 0630 to 1930.

"Last night" was Wednesday night. Not much notice for a June 1st increase in frequency.

During this time we are bringing many of our routes back to 80% of their normal operation, with greatly enhanced frequencies (practically back to normal, in fact) especially in our cities and towns. 

This means that our requirement for staff is considerably increased from next week, so people who were expecting to be furloughed next week for a further three-week session most likely won’t be (everyone concerned is being contacted individually).

Our engineers have already stepped up their operations with many people already returned off furlough.

For those of you who are on longer-term furlough, for social distancing reasons of one kind or another there is no change at this stage. We do expect a further increase in services from a few weeks’ time, probably at the start of July when we will be inviting anybody who wants to and is able to come off furlough to come back to work. I know that some of you are ready to get back behind the driving wheel! Anyway, for now, we welcome this next stage in increasing our operations and getting back closer to normal - with social distancing, of course!!

fbb thinks the "false starts" in bus company thinking boil down to the need to ensure that someone will pay the bill! That, of course is HMG, but ultimately will be you and me as we happily agree to let the chancellor have a bit more of our income/pension - maybe a lot more!

In Sheffield, for example, Stagecoach service 1 running north-south between Jordanthorpe and High Green was recently enhanced from every 30 minutes to every 15 over part of the route (Mondays to Fridays only) ...
... a relatively generous provision even with the 2 metre rule. On Saturdays the headway remained every half hour.
From 1st June the Monday to Friday service goes to every 15 minutes all the way ...
... as does Saturday!
That is an awful lot of empty buses to pay for.

Happy chappie Shappie only announced the agreed funding at the press conference on Wednesday last; hence a huge outbreak of last minute-itis.

But it is happening - almost everywhere.
Generally speaking the norm seems to be something like the pre-virus Saturday service.

fbb has even had a message from Arriva!

Dear Lynford

At Arriva, our key focus continues to be the safety of our customers and employees during this uncertain time and we are proud to support all the key workers and customers needing to travel as lockdown eases.

We will be increasing our current service levels across England in the next few days to ensure that we can serve the rise in customers needing to travel, whilst also adhering to the latest government guidance to make sure social distancing is possible on our buses.

Please note: services in Cheshire, Wales and Southend will be revised at a later date so there are currently no changes. Please keep checking back on the link below to stay up to date.

We will continue to monitor our service levels in line with current demand and ongoing advice from the government and public health bodies.

The love letter from Arriva came with a very scary graphic that was so big it barely fitted on fbb's laptop screen.
The text for the message, as quoted above, can just about be seen. It is below the tiny not at all scary screen display!

fbb rarely uses Arriva buses but supposes somehow they have found "Lynford" on some list somewhere.

Many thanks to those who have sent fbb uplift updates and links to web sites. He hopes to look at some of these in detail in dues course - that is when (and if) he gets the GoTimetable stuff finished in time.

12 hours yesterday (including refreshment brakes and the usual high number of PNBs)  - a little elongated by some annoying technical blips with the process.

No one has yet found any printed material for Monday's changes.

X5 Goes Begging
A while back, fbb reported that Stagecoach were abandoning their Severn Express route between Bristol and Newport ...
... having enthusiastically taken it over from First who some time previously took it over totally instead of operating it jointly with Stagecoach.

What fbb had forgotten is the Stagecoach also absorbed First's Excel X5 from Weston-super-Mud to Cribbs Causeway.
Stagecoach has jacked that route in as well.
But the X5 will continue after Stagecoach's demise.

As explained by none other than James Freeman of, erm, First Bus.

As you will remember, Stagecoach took over the operation of the X5 service from us last autumn. They have now announced that they are ceasing to operate the service altogether from mid-June. We have decided to register a modest partial replacement—operating between Weston-s-Mare and Portishead, starting on 14th June.

So Excel is back on the X5! The replacement Service X5 will run every 2 hours.

This replacement allows North Somerset Council time to explore a more permanent solution in time for when passenger levels start to increase, as more workers begin to return in line with the recent changes to Government guidance. The section to Cribbs Causeway is not covered by this proposal.

And A Puzzle Picture
It has a tenuous connection with transport and a slightly less tenuous connection with fbb.
The 10p coin, added for scale, might help - or it might be a giant chocolate 10p covered in silver foil!

 More Stuff tomorrow : Sunday 31st May 

Friday 29 May 2020

Compass Bus Calling Point Conundrum

Mega Panic
O, this is the challenge of updates; it springs
All from Monday 1st June. O GoTimetable,
When pressures come, they come not single spies
But in battalions. First, from Stagecoachbus:
Second, from First; and both with violent changes
To improve the service: passengers muddied,
Thick and unwholesome in their thoughts and whispers!

Lovers of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" may well remember King Claudius' anguished speech in Act 4 Scene 5, where he was overcome with sadness at the tragedies the surrounded him. 

On Wednesday last, fbb received details of Stagecoach's timetable uplift from Monday (1st June). There is a huge amount of stuff to wodge into GoTimetable. Then yesterday another heap arrived from First. There are over 40 services to update which means 80 sets of timetables, one for each direction. Ideally they should all be in place over the weekend.

Two working days, and the weekend? fbb will try, but will almost certainly fail. 

Every month the fbb's distribute an A4 (folded to A5) leaflet to maintain contact with the 30 or so "seniors" that join them every month for Sunday's Best, a Christian get together with a yummy tea.

About 2 days work - to be ready for distribution in the middle of next week, recognising that the monthly meeting would have been on Sunday 7th June.

To assist this "batallion" of pressured process, fbb may well have to curtail his blogging activities for a few days.

Work on the model railway will have to stop.

Compass Bus Bus Stop
No 3 Son has photographed an "interesting" bus stop in Paddockhall Road Haywards Heath ...
... apparently served by Compass Bus.
According to Google Maps only their service 39 calls.
The stop is near Muster Green ...
... and is on one side of the road only - so it might be assumed that the 39 is on some sort of one way section. Compass have a local map of their services in the town ...
... which suggests that there are far more buses along Paddockhall Road than just the 39. Compass' key routes in Haywards Heath are 31, 33 and 39. 

Fortunately No 3 Son was more diligent in his happy snapping and photographed the frame, almost engulfed in greenery.
There is the 39 (Monday to Friday) at the bottom ...
... above which is the 31 (Monday to Friday) ...
... and above that is another 31 - possibly Saturday.
The picture is taken through less than pristine glass (plastic?) so is not too clear. Checking on Compass' own web site, there should be a Saturday 39 with a bright red header ...
... but nothing matches that inside the frame at Paddockhall Road. Maybe the Saturday 31 ...
... has just faded.

But there is another problem with the photographed stop. It is not mentioned anywhere on the Compass timetable. Checking Traveline's all-stops offering we find the buses travelling northbound that might use the Paddockhall stop ...
... don't. They use Perrymount Road, calling at the Jireh Court bus stop where No 3 Son omitted to get a picture of the Compass Bus frame (remember?) ...
... then stopping at the main Perrymount Road shelter ...
... opp Budgens before continuing to Sainsburys.
Check the map again.
In the opposite direction buses call at Perrymount Road (outside Budgens), Jireh Court and off to the Hospital along the full length of Perrymount Road.

fbb is pretty sure that NOTHING now stops at Paddockhall Road, certainly nothing operated by Compass.

Unless anyone out there known anything different.

In the meantime, fbb recommends that you don't try waiting at the stop! You could have an even longer wait than for a "full" virus "social distancing" bus!

Which brings fbb to a key question.
Why does the screen show "Bus" Full? What else might be full? What is wrong with "Sorry Full" - you could make it bigger.

Hey ho! Back to GoTimetable Sheffield.

Now what is the difference between a new 57 and a new 57a?

 Next Variety blog : Saturday 30th May 

Thursday 28 May 2020

Out Of Lockdown - Metrobus (2)

No 3 son, currently trapped in Haywards Heath (not a pleasant fate!?), sent fbb pictures of a bus stop near the station.
The stop is labelled (good!) "Jireh Court" ...
... which is a private road serving a block of flats of which there is a great proliferation in central Haywards Heath.
Two operators are shown, one of which is Metrobus whose "main line" services to East Grinstead (270) and Crawley (271 and 272) call thereat. 

Timetables (presumably pre-virus) are posted in the frame but covered with new notices. One tells you that something has happened.
It is better than many, however, as, in addition to the usual website/app exhortatation, it gives a company phone number. WELL DONE METROBUS.

The bus operators is always the information source the most likely to be accurate and up to date. happily and sensibly, Metrobus does not hide behind Traveline which, in some areas is weak and in others is palpably useless.

The second notice is, potentially, even better as it tells you what is happening in general terms, but clear enough to give a realistic warning to any potential customer.
South Yorkshire PTE please note.

But there is nothing about service improvements from 1st June; the notices were pictured with less than a week to go.

Wisely again. no mention of Traveline.

As of yesterday Traveline had no mention of the 1st June frequency uplift - but we are advised on both notices to use the Metrobus web site - which we will!

The on-line home page doesn't muck about; before any promotional clutter you are hit full in the face with this:-
fbb would prefer that the small print ...

Special timetables are in place across our network. A service increase is taking place on 1st June - full timetables are available.

... were about five times bigger - but it says it how it is. WELL DONE METROBUS.

One click takes you to the heart of the matter ...

... with a simple choice between current and forthcoming tables. No clutter, no waffle, no long train of clicks to follow; and no pre-virus times to confuse us.

Click on the June 1st text and you get a quick summary ...

Service increase from 1st June

From Monday 1st June we will be increasing our services and operating at 80% of our standard service. This is part of our continued effort to support social distancing as more people return to work.

Please note Routes 21, 22, 84, 273, 280, 281 and 318 have been re-instated.

Routes 11 and 300 are still suspended.

Route 400 is not changing.

Routes that have schoolday and non-schoolday variations are running to a non-schoolday service.

Full details below:

... then follows the timetables in route number order delivered as downloadable and printable PDF files.

For some services the uplift is dramatic. Here is the current 270 (full timetable) ...
... and below we have times from 1st June (extract only).
There will be a full hourly service throughout the day Mondays to Fridays.

In passing, here is Traveline's offer for 1st June, downloaded yesterday lunchtime.

How is the County Council web site coping?

Badly - badly to the point of uselessness.

There is a network map ...
... but the detailed town diagrams are not available on-line and the published map is not up to date. The "interactive map" draws its data from Traveline ...
... so will only be of use from 1st June if Traveline is eventually updated. Obviously, there is no facility for looking into future times.

As far as timetables are concerned ...
... it is back to the unreliable Traveline.

When fbb last wrote critically about lack of reliable timetables, he was upbraided (at considerable length) along the lines of concern for hard working, over-stretched local authorities in the approaches of bankruptcy. The "anonymous" went on to suggest that fbb needed to live in the real world.

Frankly, that is not the point. If local authorities cannot maintain their data for whatever reason, they should stop pretending, stop referring people to Traveline and insist that commercial operators update e.g. their own bus timetable frames.

For tendered services, the provision of bus stop and printed information should be part of the tender.

Rather than going for every possible bell and whistle on complex web sites, they should just supply a map, a list of services and a link to each operator's PDF file. A dead cinch to keep up to date.

Who needs a journey planner anyway?

There is simply no point in having a national journey planner service if, for whatever reason, it is not kept in good order.

Does the 271 go to Kemp Town, as suggested by Traveline?
Of course it doesn't. It goes to Brighton and on to Brighton Hospital!

Compass Bus 37 ...
... goes to Kemp Town.

And, talking of Compass Bus, their services 31, 33 and 39 serve the Jireh Court stop and fbb reckons their timetables are on the other frame on the same pole.
Unfortunately, No 3 Son omitted to photograph "the other side" (SLACKER!!) so fbb is not, at the moment, able to contrast and compare.

Will any printed material be available for Metrobus' uplifted services from Monday?

Unlikely but, in Metrobus' case, IT IS ALL ON LINE!

 More uplift, possibly uplifting, blog : Friday 29th May