Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Appalling : Building : Coal-Drops : Decisions (2)

The Truth, The Whole Truth ...?

Whichever way you look at it, the changes to joint service 83/83a as outlined in yesterday's blog are highly unhelpful to the travelling public. But, we all have to accept that there is a serious problem currently with staff shortages.

The cynical will lay the blame on "furlough" schemes that have made folk realise that not working can be viable, or, at least, working fixed sociable hours if batter than the disruption of varied shift patters. The aura of fear about the viral dangers of public transport was both created and exaggerated by Government publicity, so who can blame a driver for looking elsewhere?

Then, of course, there are the reported delays in obtaining PCV tests.

The bus companies are at the nasty end of a perfect storm.

So here is Stagecoach Yorkshire:-

We pride ourselves in running great, reliable, bus services and we’re sorry that we haven’t been able to run services to our normal standard recently.  

Along with many other industries, bus operators across the country are experiencing a shortage of staff, leaving the company with not enough drivers to run all journeys each day and though our teams have worked incredibly hard, sadly we’ve had to cancel some journeys, sometimes at short notice.  

The situation has worsened recently and has been compounded by issues at the DVLA, where delays issuing licences to bus drivers means that the company has had to wait weeks, or even months, before newly recruited drivers can start their training. 

From Saturday 30 October, we’re making temporary changes to some timetables to help us run more reliable services while we recruit more bus drivers and we’re hoping to return to normal timetables as soon as we can.

And First Bus Sheffield:-
We’re making changes to our services in Sheffield from 31 October.

There’s a current national shortage of skilled drivers which is affecting our industry so we need to make these changes to ensure we can operate the service we advertise.

We realise the reliability of our services has not been at the level you expect – as more traffic has returned to the road, our running times haven’t kept up with increased congestion. We would prefer to increase the number of buses – and drivers – we’re running, but that isn’t possible at the moment. So we’re reducing the timetable of some services but keeping the number of drivers/buses the same, which means that journeys have more time and our timetables are more reliable.

Seems fair enough ... but is it the whole truth?

Does a bus company introduce a significant route change because of driver shortages when a frequency reduction on the existing services could ber achieves just a simply?

fbb will expound a little more in due course.

Coal Drops Continued
When you are next passing through Kings Cross or St Pancras stations, and if you have half an hour to spare, take a walk.
Stroll along the road that runs between the two termini.
You will pass the "new bits" of St Pancras International, the wonderful new entrance to Kings Cross and Camden Council offices.
At the junction, keep straight on into Camley Street and the eponymous "Natural Park" will be on your right.
Just past the big iron gates is a footpath which will take you across the Regents Park Canal ...
... noting that people actually live in the Kings Cross gas holders.
Just after the canal bridge you will find yourselves in Coal Drops Yard!
There is no longer a yard, no longer any coal drops and, fortunately, no longer any coal dust!
The two sets of warehouses have been substantially fettled up by the Heatherwick Design company (they of Borismaster fame!), so much so that it is hard to recognise their grimy heritage.
But why, we hear you cry, has fbb rambled off piste to a rejuvenate coal yard?

Apart from the obvious fact that it is interesting in itself, the 3D model of London that used to be in the Builder Centre, has moved to a new home in Coal Drops Yard.
So tomorrow we will look more closely at the model.

fbb is considering adapting some venerable Hornby "old time" carriages to serve as a lighted train to trundle around his lighted layout. They are hopelessly inaccurate but cheaper than chips and they look quite sweet!

But there is a snag.

The construction of these models is delightfully simple. There is a standard Hornby chassis, as used on some brake vans.
The coach body is a one piece moulding ...
... but with no interior. If fbb is to fit lighting, he will also need to fabricate a representation of compartments and seats.

The third element is a clever roof and glazing unit combined. It is in clear plastic with the white roof painted on. It simply clips in place.
But on one of the three recently purchased second hand models the roof and glazing were made of grey plastic, not clear!
fbb does not know when or why this modification occurred to the model, but it doesn't look right!

What to do?

 Next sort-of Coal Drops blog : Thursday 21st October 

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Appalling : Building : Coal-Drops : Daimler

Building Back Better Appalling In Sheffield (1)

The above is a joint route in Sheffield, 83 is First ...
... 83a is Stagecoach...
... (except on Sundays, but we will leave that anomaly alone for the time being). The two routes run together from Ecclesfield in the north of the city ...
In recent-ish times the two services ran each every 20 minutes giving a ten minute frequency over the common sections. Various "operational measured" have cut that to every 30 on each with some uneven spacing at peak times.

Beyond the city centre, any need to even spacing of buses is largely irrelevant because there have been, again until recently, three ten minute frequency routes until the 83/83a split.
Most recently, the 83/83a have thus provided a roughly (at times very rough!) 15 minute joint service.

But in the forthcoming changes pages of the PTE's web site we read this:

Yay! Stagecoach reduce to every 40 (always a daft frequency to operate - no one can remember when the buses run!) whilst First stay at every 30.

So, if you are awaiting an 83 or 83a into town, here are the departure times from Ecclesfield from the end of this month.
So you can sort of rely on a bus roughly every half hour at 10/15 and 40/45 but that is about all you can say. And remember, dear reader, that it is not many moons ago that the joint route ran every ten minutes!

Will there be any printed timetables? OF COURSE NOT
Will bus stop departure lists be updated in time? HIGHLY UNLIKELY.
Will the passengers know what is happening? NO
Will many of them abandon bus travel? YES

To make matters worse, on-line you have the new 83a ...
... and, if you want times for the 83, you have to consult the old unchanged 83 which is combined with the wrong 83a on the PTE non-leaflet.
Potty and confusing!

It is called (all together now)


Beyond belief.

But fbb suspects there will be a lot more of this as bus companies face the end of "unrestricted" government subsidy.

Builders : Coal Drops : Daimler (1)
This is the former Daimler car showroom in Store Street, London. It is just off Tottenham Court Road and round the corner from the British Museum. Goodge Street is the nearest Underground station.
It was built in 1913 and was one of the first reinforced concrete structures in London.
Being where it is, it was faced with Portland Stone, thus disguising its revolutionary construction. In the 1930s it was taken over by The Building Centre ...
... seen above in the 1950s. The Building Centre still occupies this magnificent building ...
... and the public can visit (free of charge) and there is a caff within! The centre holds a huge range of information on building materials and techniques and includes the brick library shown as a tease on yesterday's blog.
One exhibit that has been on show since 2015 is a fascinating model of London.

Now, we are all getting used to 3D mapping with the likes of Google Earth, seen below in a view of Shepherds Bush Green ...
... but this exhibit is a very real 3D model of a huge chunk of the City!
Before we look more closely, we need to consider Coal Drops ...
Coal Drops are (there's a clue in the name) where you drop coal, usually from a railway wagon into storage dumps or into, say, road vehicles for onward transmission. The railway sidings are on top. the loading areas are below.

Modelling Something Different (1)
fbb has been installing lights in most parts of his outdoor OO gauge layout, and they look quite sweet - or they WILL look quite sweet when it is all finished. But what is the use of having a lit layout but unlit trains?

fbb has hankered after the new Hornby "generic" four wheel coaches delivered fitted with lights controlled by a magnetic switch. But they cost £38 each! Even without lights the cost per coach is nearly £30 and fbb would need at least three for a trainful.

Is there a cheaper way?

For many years Hornby have marketed a four wheel three compartment coach in various liveries, of which the chocolate and cream version is particularly attractive.
So fbb bought three, second hand, to enable him to experiment. Sadly hey are totally unrealistic as you have to go back to the days of Stephenson's Rocket to find accurate models of three compartment coaches.
Or you could try reality from the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway.
Or, slightly;y more recent, something that ran on thry Mid Suffolk Light Railway.
So fbb thought, "Hey, everything doesn't have to be right; this project might be fun!"

 Next Coal Drop blog : Wednesday 20th October 

Monday, 18 October 2021

Monday Variety

It's All On-Line Number 367

It was a Twitterer who twittered something along the lines of "Farewell for another season!" against a picture of this bus. fbb must be honest (always, of course!) and admit that he had never heard of the Explore Medway tour, operated by Arriva on behalf of the Medway Council. An article from Route One magazine confirmed its limited operation for 2021.
Saturday's and Sundays only until 7th September would imply that there wouldn't be any publicity on-line for the actual service as it has finished. But, of course, there is all sorts of "stuff" still available. There is a facebook advert ...
... offering a daily service! And there is a route map ...
... which calls it a "trial"! Or is it a misprint for "trail"? Then a local Medway web site also provides a simple description of the service.
But it is for 2019 and running 7 days a week!

So, on-line, you  MIGHT find the truth or you might be waiting several days on a street corner. But that is just a passing example of the problems for the "It's All On-line" Brigade. Lots of "It" should have been deleted but is still there to confuse and mislead.

Arriva runs the bus but fbb does not know whether Arriva has provided any publicity for it in 2021.

But, in an article in the November edition of Buses magazine, the boss of Arriva tells us that he wants the company to be the best in the country (stop laughing at the back) and includes this positive paragraph (NOT).
It is significant that the bus companies that do seem to be making "it" work all produce excellent printed material as well as top class on line pages. Arriva does neither.
Seems a good start to your plan, Mr O'Neill?

The Medway bus, by the way, used to look like this ...
...and it began its life with West Midlands Travel's burst of Capital expansion, later handed over to Abellio,  Dutch National Railways in disguise.

And a couple oif extracts from the Letters page of the November edition of Buses magazine. Read and note Arriva, First and Stagecoach. First an attempt top find infromation in Yorkshire ...
... and Blackpool ...
... and in general.

Depressing News Photocall.
Bus shelter quality ...
Bus Station cleanliness ...
Vehicle cleanliness ...
Vehicle livery ...
... (it used to belong to Stagecoach!) ...
... are all superb examples of ...

Building Back Better

Depressing News In Sheffield
Is this the short term future for buses, post pandemic?

From the Travel South Yorkshire web site:-

Changes to bus, tram and train services in South Yorkshire

Driver shortages affecting services
From 23 September there are journey cancellations on some services due to the national bus driver shortage. You can find information on which services are affected on our Disruptions page.

Overview of service changes
From Monday 4 October, Stagecoach services 19/19a in Rotherham, 21/25 and 22 in Doncaster will have revised timetables with a reduction in frequency due to staffing pressures. See the tables below for details.

From Saturday 30 October there will be changes to services in South Yorkshire. See timetables below.

The changes coming at the end of October are not just "changes", they are wholesale cuts in frequency to many busy and important cross city "trunk" routes. Generally they drop one "notch", e.g. from every 12 minutes to every 15, from every 20 minutes to every 30.

One service falls from every 30 minutes to an utterly unmemorable every 40 minutes; one from every 10 to every 15.

It would appear that one cross city service is reduced from every 15 to every 30 by totally withdrawing a major chunk of two linked routes.

fbb will be analysing the details in full and may well report further in due course.

For now, just a sample:-
Maybe they will put the fares up as well!

These examples are from Sheffield, but the reductions are throughout the South Yorkshire county.

Electric Livery Delivery
McGills, as Xplore Dundee, have published pictures of their livery for their new electric buses, due "before Christmas".
Service 28 currently runs every 12 minutes ...
... on a west to east cross city route.

It starts at the ASDA store at Myerkirk in the west ...
... then runs via the rather splendid Albert Square in the centre.
Note the bus in heritage Dundee Corporation livery.
The route then continues eastwards ...
... passing another ASDA on the way ...
... it's in there somewhere. The route terminates at Sainsburys.
Sainsburys is opposite the terminus - lets hope it is not raining as you stagger across to wait for your electrified 28!

Maybe before Christmas?

Who Don't We Have Trolleybuses?
One reason is the cost of complex overhead, as here in London. Batteries with recharging at the terminus are obviously a lot cheaper in infrastructure.
This was from a twitterer who did not say exactly where it was!

Tomorrow, we may well go to the Library.

 Next London blog : Tuesday 19th October