Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Easier To Get Across The City? (1)

But First - A Question For Stagecoach 

Your promotion of the new X3/X4 in Kent is hardly effusive on-line; with a small panel, one of 30.
Oh, there it is, mixed in with University bus passes and school buses in East Sussex.

Despite this high spending "It's All On Line" lavishness, was now a good time to launch a new route costing your company extra resources?

Until the world shows common sense and expunges the NHS Ping diagnostic nonsense ...
... might it not have been better to concentrate on your existing customers? And even the lovely open top ride at Hastings?
Maybe wait for staff stability until dishing out the doughnuts!

And So To Leeds ...

... where nothing is happening!

In early 2019, First Bus celebrated the first anniversary of their "Leeds City" brand - a truly original name for a bus operation.

This presaged the arrival of loadsa new buses in two tone green with brightly coloured wedges front, and slashes rear.

Route branding had arrived! Probably the most distinctive was the red appendage for route 1 from Beeston (south of city centre) to Holt Park (in the north).
Hold fast, quoth fbb's keen and observant reader, did your picture (blog, yesterday) with the SYPTE bus stop ...
... not show a service 10 (red wedge) at Beeston?

Indeed it did, and take a house point for observation. The cutting of cross-city route 1 did not go down a bundle with the locals ...
... and the through service was soon re-instated. Red wedged buses trundled once again from Beeston via "City" station, University, Headingley and on to Holt Park.
Power to The People!
Well done, the Wolfie Smiths of Beeston.

Hold on to that phrase "through service was soon re-instated" - it will come in useful later.

So, how come correspondent Colin espied (but sadly did not photograph) a bus travelling happily towards Beeston (red wedge) showing the destination "Headingley Line"?
As per the EastEnders catch-phrase, "Woss goin' on?"

And what is a dark blue wedge doing en route to Holt Park?
And wasn't route 1 once "coloured" brown?
Even brown to Beeston ...
... all the way to Holt Park.
But when we look at First's web site (remember, "It's All On Line") we find some very different colours on their recently published network map. Beeston is now a weak and pallid MUD colour (not red) ...
... and service 1 doesn't get to Holt Park any more ...
... and it is YELLOW (not red)!
The "old" 1 to Holt Park has become route 8 ...
... also (with 6), in yellow.


Indeed, "Woss goin' on?"

Events, Dear Boy, Events
It was Harold Macmillan, who, when asked what his problems were as PM, uttered affably the above epithet! A similar thought might flutter through the mind of the management at WIGHTLINK.
Vikky has not long returned to service after over a month's "outage" due to its engines blowing up (or getting ready to blow up?). fbb likes the phrase "heavy berthing", a gentle euphemism for clouting the terminal with an almighty thump!

Spot the damage.
Try again!
Not a huge dent!

Because of this, the company's prestigious hot-shot state-of-the-art (what art?) ferry was out of service for THREE DAYS!

And from SHEFFIELD SUPERTRAM. On-line generally, "good service":-
Web site (as in "It's all On line") - everything fine and dandy.
Or you could link to Twitter - proud to serve with live service ...
In reality, if you look carefully ...
... things are well and truly awry!
There is something very wrong with the electric string! It is, to use a technical term beloved of electrical engineers, busted!

You are advised by Stagecoach to use alternative buses; which is a fat lot of good for the Norfolk Park Estate which only has trams! It's a hefty climb up the hill.

Events, dear boy, events!

 Next Leodensian blog : Thursday 5th August 

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

New Route And Doughnuts (2)

How New Is New?

We are exploring the new Stagecoach Kent X3 and X4 services which started yesterday. They run from Canterbury to Faversham, on to Sittingbourne and then Maidstone. From yesterday's blog readers will have gathered that from Faversham to Sittingbourne the obvious direct link is by train.

But at the back of fbb's slightly less agile brain was the belief that something was missing. That something was an hourly Arriva service on route 333.
It was withdrawn way back in January amidst a vehement protest from the local press.

The Arriva 333, which runs between Faversham and Sittingbourne, was axed as of Monday, due to a “lack of customer demand”.

Arriva’s head of operations for the south, Chris Berry, said: “Our routes reflect customer needs and the 333 service is particularly underused.

“The discontinuation of the 333 service will improve efficiency on the remaining bus routes, which will continue to provide a reliable service for customers.”

The hourly service stops at numerous villages en route, including Teynham, Norton, Bapchild and Ospringe.

The announcement has been met with disappointment by some, who think the bus company has made a rash decision.

“Arriva should make this a temporary discontinuation,” passenger Lynne Reynolds said. "This service was well used before the pandemic and it is a very short-sighted move."

“The only reason the service is not being used at the moment is due to the Covid restrictions and the government’s request that public transport is only used as an absolute necessity."

“There are many people who used this service, myself included, who cannot drive and are longing to use the service again as soon as we are able to.”

“It will have a dramatic impact on communities along the A2 like Bapchild, Teynham, Norton and Ospringe, which will all see their bus services reduced or lost and cause school students, parents and others reliant on local buses particular inconvenience."

When will politicians, passengers and pundits ever learn that bus companies are selling a product, no different from a can of beanz. If there aren't enough buyers for the product, they cannot afford to sell it - unless, of course, somedbody else will pay (subsidy) or another company thinks they can do a better job.

It does seem odd to withdraw a bus route when the Government is paying for most of it, but Arriva is struggling nationally and maybe they heard a rumour about the impending arrival of Stagecoach and decided to cut and run early!

There are other buses between Sittingbourne and Teynham but the new X3/X4 fills the gap betwond.
So, back to the X3/X4.

The very competent "Bus Atlas" Map 6 already shows the new route, but, what a surprise, Stagecoach's maps do not!
A dotted line (for occasional journeys) runs beyon Faversham, but otherwise the map, and thus the service before yesterday's change, just links Canterbury and Faversham, either as 3 ...
... or a 3X,
But there are a few wiggles. Helpfully, Stagecoach was showing the old set of times and the new service pattern on the same web page; thus promoting passenger confusion. 

So here is what it was:-
We have an hourly service 3 via "the villages" ...
... which nestle happily on the old A2; e.g. Boughton, Dunkirk** ...
... whilst the 3X whizzes along the A2 Boughton bypass.
Various journeys also provide a local service within Faversham e.g. to Bysing Wood, Kiln Court and Oare.

Bysing Wood ...
... and Kiln Court ...
... are both new-ish developments to the west of Faversham.

Oare was once a quaint and fairly isolated village ...
... with a creek ...
... and lots of ugly industrial buildings encroaching on the edge of town. It looks as if the terminus at Colegates Close ...
... involves one of those now-rare omnibological activites, namely a reverse!

Now we take a look at the revised pattern operating from yesterday.
There are still two fast buses every hour and one via "the villages" with Bysing wood and Oare being served with a similar frequency to the previous scheme,

But look at Kiln Court. It still had a bus every 30 minutes, but has lost its through hourly link to Canterbury. Now a driver has the dubious privilege of trundling up and down between Faversham and the estate every half an hour. Kilm Court now has a one bus shuttle service to connect with X3 and X4.

That will go down a bundle with those who used to travel to Canterbury! It also seems an expensive way to serving Kiln Court.

Unfortunately, but typically, Stagecoach has messed up its web site. Search for service 3 ...
... and you are told it goes to Maidstone - which it doesn't; but you get (as above) the full servuice of everything between Canterbury andf Faversham which is what the header for route 3 should show.

If you search for X3, you do get the new table ...
... which is very much a "summary" aimed at through passengers.

Please, Stagecoach, can we have some good quality up-to-date maps? fbb will draw you one for a small fee!

Traveline, again unhelpfully (but that's "sustainable" computer systemns for you) gives you X3 and X4 as separate tables ...
... and the 3 without the shuttles.
fbb did try (honest) to find a Traveline table for Faversham to Kiln Court, but the closest he could get was ...
... Cribbs Causeway near Bristol! Well done Traveline.

Certainly not as helpful as something designed and input by a real bus user.

One way or another, this is an interesting project which has probably "cost" three extra buses every hour. That is quite an investment in "Building Back Better" even if it is underwritten by HMG.

Surely it will hurt Arriva between Sittingbourne and Maidstone; this is the Arriva who have just closed down their depot at Sheerness ...
... and sold Yorkshire Tiger to Transdev.

How long will it be before Stagecoach takes over more of the blue boys' buses?
It would not surprise fbb to see Uncle Brian's weedy liveried buses trundling around the Isle of Sheppey in a few months!

** Dunkirk : No one seems sure why Dunkirk (Kent) is so named. The usual theory is that there was a house on or near the A2 called Dunkirk owned and/or built by a Flemish bloke who lived in Dunkirk as in WW2 evacuation.

Goodbye to the Plastic Pigs

Clas 442 trains began their life on the LSWR main line out of Waterloo. They offered just a touch of quality on a line over-full with standard BR types of train. In one of those weird happenings of privatisation, they became Gatwick Express ...
... where the doors were too narrow and there wasn't enough luggage space.

Then, in theory, back to the South Western to provide premium services once again.

But they didn't work properly and now these fine units are going for scrap. A twitterer posted a video of the last 442 to leave Bournemouth and sail off into the sunset for spare part recovery and then scapping. At the front, a class 66 and a class 73 ...
... then the stock in South Western railway (First Group) boring livery ...
... and a class 73 at the back.
A good train, hard done by under the daftness of the privatised railway.

What a waste!

NOT April 1st!

fbb Failed to Celebrate ...
... but by way of belated compensation ...
... we're "oop noorth" tomorrow!

 Next Leodensian blog : Wednesday 4th August