Wednesday 31 March 2021

Tinkering Via Tinkers Bridge (3) ... Or

 Much More Than Tinkering

From tomorrow (appropriately 1st April, but it is no joke!) there is a major upheaval in bus services in Milton Keynes. Once renowned for excellent publicity, including a superb printed timetable book, the official web site now refers users to Traveline and the operators on-line offerings. But the above notice presages the total withdrawal of a raft of tendered services and their replacement by "Demand Responsive" operations.

In parallel with this, Arriva are making some significant changes to their network, so fbb will start there. It would become mind crushingly tedious to list every little revision (but utterly fascinating for fbb, saddo that he is!) but a general overview will suffice to show what horrors the Milton Keynsian residents will face from this coming weekend onwards.

We will start with what were once Bletchley local routes, then circle round the city in a clockwise direction. Services continuing across Central Milton Keynes (CMK) will be dealt with as two separate sections.

Lakes Estate
Today : services 1, 4 and 5
Service 1 (MID BLUE) is withdrawn completely. Newton Leys is a new development filling in one of the few undeveloped gaps, mostly within the city boundary. It will be served by a diversion of rural routes F70 and F77 (LILAC) plus a rerouting of service 5 (ORANGE) out of Windermere Drive (the loop around the "Lakes Estate" label) and running instead to the recently opened ASDA.
Fortunately Arriva has graciously given us a map of their new network, so we can see the whole picture.
But it is not quite as simple as that. Whilst 5 and 6 are largely unchanged south of CMK, the whole of this section of route 1 is withdrawn. That removes "proper" buses completely from Coffee Hall (Jonathans, remember?) ...
... and Oldbrook.
More than just a tinker!

West Bletchley
Service 4 (RED) is largely unchanged but Arriva's route 7 (GREEN) disappears in a puff of exhaust smoke. Readers will doubtless remember that route 7 was the future of public transport in the new city, being operated by induction charged electric buses.
With suitable funding all bus routes would be so served. Wonder what happened to them? Hey ho, it seemed a good idea at the time.

Observant readers will also have noticed that tendered routes 24 and 25 (GREY) are also withdrawn. That represents a rather large gap in bus service and, potentially a lot of Demand to be Responsive to!
But, never mind eh, Furzton has oodles of car parking space!

Services 8/8A (PURPLE) are being "simplified", which is a delightful euphemism for "being withdrawn from Tattenhoe Park and Oxley Park", and we already know that 24 and 25 (GREY) are withdrawn as well. But Hoo jolly Ray, 68 (GREY) remains serving the innards of Westcroft.
Perhaps not quite so  Hoo jolly Ray ...
... as 'tis but a shopping trip from Winslow to the District Centre ...
... where there is, surprise surprise (NOT) plenty of free car parking; but a nice ride round the estate for Winslow folk and locals who don't want to walk to the shops - if they can find out when it runs!
The simplified 8 is joined by a brand new route 3 (PALE GREEN).
The 3 runs every 20 minutes and its main "sitz im leben" is to serve employment areas at Snelshall West and East where be a batch of the inevitable warehouse distribution mega-sheds.
Does fbb get a whiff of bags of shiny pennies from XPO Logistics and the like this supporting a 20 minute frequency?

Grange Farm and Whitehouse
We already know that the 31 (BROWN) is withdrawn; but this time it has a replacement at a better frequency on service 1 (BLUE) which, until the end of today, serves Lakes Estate and Newton Leys. (Ah, you remembered!).

Service 2 (LIGHT BLUE) is unchanged.

Service 14 (MAROON) has become service 4 (RED) by dint of being linked to our good friend between Bletchley, West Bletchley and CMK.
But the new service 4 has been withdrawn from Hodge Lea estate ...

... thus depriving another residential area of an easily accessible bus service.
Hodge |Lea was one of the early developments but fbb will refrain from mentioning the ample car parking!
For those of our readers who have not yet lost the will to live, the good news is that the rest of the changes are less momentous as we complete as circuit of the city; that is less momentous if you don't mind losing your evening services, your tendered in-fill routes and a bus close to your front door.

Neve mind again, because Demand Responsive minibuses are at your service.

Deep joy all round!!

Or not, as the case may be!

 Next Tinkering blog : Thursday 1st April 

Weird and Worrying
There is some weird stuff in the Bible, even more weirderer than Game of Thrones.

It was evening, just a day or so before his "purpose" would be fulfilled, that Jesus was on the Mount of Olives looking back over the Kidron Valley towards the Temple. You can see the same view today in amongst Jerusalem's urban sprawl but with the Temple much changed from Jesus day.

Jesus warned, “You see these great buildings? Not a single stone here will be left in its place; every one of them will be thrown down.”
And it was. The Temple, Jerusalem and the Jewish nation ceased to exist at the hands of the Romans about 35 years after Jesus died. It was cruel ethnic cleansing at its worst and Jesus saw it coming and warned his followers.

But then he went on to envision an eternal future. Jesus continued:-

“In the days after that time of trouble the sun will grow dark, the moon will no longer shine, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers in space will be driven from their courses. Then the Son of Man will appear, coming in the clouds with great power and glory. He will send the angels out to the four corners of the earth to gather God's chosen people from one end of the world to the other."

Weird, or what?

There is no doubt that, scientifically, the Universe we are part of will end in some way, either (poetically speaking) in Fire or Ice. Even the clever cosmologists are not sure which!  Maybe human activity will hasten that end?

But the victorious King of Palm Sunday is not offering a military or political victory - he is offering an eternal victory of Peace and Joy in God's presence.

Of course we don't have a clue what Heaven might be like - it is super-human, beyond our grasp - but it sounds a lot better than the alternative! Maybe sometime over the coming weekend you will hear or sing these words ...
... from "When I survey the wondrous cross".

That's Easter!

The Bible quotes are from Mark's Gospel Chapter 13


Tuesday 30 March 2021

Tinkering Via Tinkers Bridge (2) ... Or

Much More Than Concrete Cows!

fbb guesses that his readers would not be over-excited by a detailed history of the Milton Keynes road network, fascinating though it be. Needless to say this massive project was not designed for public transport. fbb remembers reading an early guide to the development in which was written, "Public Transport is not like it is in London so if you do not have a car, you should think of buying one."

United Counties "MK" bus services were all kick start funded by the Development Corporation because in the early days they served a whole load of open fields.

Three "top to bottom" main roads (DARK BLUE in the overlay and numbered in a V series for "vertical" and named as "Street") were the first to take shape linking new development as it spread from Wolverton in the North and Bletchley in the South. Reading from left to right they were named Grafton, Saxon and Marlborough Street.

Marlborough Street was the very first. fbb remembers catching a bus from Stony Stratford to Bletchley which, after passing a few cardboard houses at Stantonbury (above map top centre) ...
... did not meet another soul until stopping at Tinkers Bridge (circled) for the Netherfield development. Two boarded. Total loading Stantonbbury to Bletchley, 4!
Central Milton Keynes (pink block on map above) ran from station, through a "business district" to the shopping centre which opened in 1979.
The above image has been rotated to fit into the Blogger template. The station is at the bottom and the shopping "mall" at the top as we face roughly east.

In 1978 the use of MK route numbers ceased and with the progressive opening of the central area the main north south services were developed into a stretched out X-shaped network with the centre of the X being the central area. Services were numbered in a 400 series.

1980 : Final Framework
Thus it was that the 420 began its southbound trajectory on Marlborough Street, then "crossed over" at the Centre to continue via Saxon Street.
The 420 and its variants were the main services to Bletchley's Lakes Estate. Variants of the core routes were usually services to the industrial areas as in 421 above. 

Meanwhile, the 400 did the opposite.
It began on Saxon Street, crossed over at the centre and continued south on Marlborough Street. The 400 was the main service to West Bletchley offering a large loop out via Buckingham Road and Waddon Way and back via Bletchley Station .

The 410 was a bit more wiggly at both ends but served the West Bletchley loop in the opposire direction.
Note that the 410 actually penetrates the estates, most of which had narrow access roads. Here, for example, is the route through Coffee Hall.
There's plenty of room for car parking but barely enough space for two big buses to pass. This is typical of infrastructure within the blocks. The road is called "Jonathans", by the way ...
... exemplar of a Milton Keynes quirk whereby estate roads were not "Roads", "Streets", "Avenues" or "Glades" - just e,g, Jonathans.

Generally each "main line" route ran every 30 minutes often with two routes "doubling up" on busy sections to provide four buses an hour. Lakes Estate, however, only managed three buses an hour, the half hourly 420 plus a once an hour extra via Fenny Stratford and Water Eaton. 
Of course, many will remember that Milton Keynes tried a Dial-a-Bus delving deep into the estates at the Bletchley end of things.
This started in 1975, but by 1980 had been replaced by a "proper" bus running a timetabled "shuttle" round much the same area ...
... although whether anyone understood the route and timetable is debatable.
There was also a City Centre service every 30 minutes, providing "mobility" for inner city terraced housing, e.g. at Conniburrow.
Again, no shortage of car parking, but poor access for buses!
In a sense the picture above summarises the problems of public transport in Milton Keynes. The main road grid is fine and gives good access to all parts of the city - but for those who need to use the bus, or who might be encouraged to use the bus, getting the buses close enough to their front doors has always been a physical challenge and a often a commercial failure.

Whilst the network in the early 1980s was the best MK had ever had (or would ever have???) the demon of privatisations and deregulation was lurking on the calendric horizon. The bit of United Countries that had been branded Milton Keynes Citybus ultimately became MK Metro ...
... competition arrived from various sources but fairly soon evaporated e.g. "On a Mission".
MK Metro was sold to Arriva and we gently but inexorably move into the modern "commercial" age where the unity of United Counties total network ownership has become "main line" Arriva ...
... and a wide selection of other tendered bits.
It is not a pretty sight!

 Next Tinkering blog : Wednesday 31st March 

No Holding Back
You would expect the early followers of Jesus to want to remember what he did and what he said. So it should come as no surprise to know that new testament scholars (the clever people!) are very sure that a collection of Jesus' actual words was assembled soon after his death. That collection was used by the four Gospel writers which is why many of the events of Jesus' life are accompanied by similar quotes.

What is very clear is that, as the human Jesus faced up to his very human death and subsequent very un-human resurrection, he had plenty to say. He even told a timely parable about his "purpose".

In summary, a man built a vineyard (God created the world) and let it out to tenants (the people, us). He sent his servants (prophets) to keep his tenants on the right road of sticking with the owner and giving him a share of the takings (worship). But the tenants ...
... rejected God's help.

The only one left to send was the man's own dear son. Last of all, then, he sent his son to the tenants. "I am sure they will respect my son," he said. But those tenants said to one another, "This is the owner's son. Come on, let's kill him, and his property will be ours!" So they grabbed the son and killed him and threw his body out of the vineyard.

“What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do?” asked Jesus.

Jesus ended his little illustration by quoting from the Bible, which for him was our Old Testament.

The stone which the builders rejected as worthless
turned out to be the most important of all.
This was done by the Lord;
what a wonderful sight it is!

That's Easter!

Quotes from Mark's Gospel chapter 12 and Psalm 118