Saturday 31 July 2021

Saturday Variety

 Building Back Better Worse (2)

Exeter's first bus station was on Paul Street, reasonably close to Central station.
But it was cramped and very soon became far too small for the number of buses that wanted to use it.

The second bus station (opened in 1964) was a much bigger affair with plenty of room for buses to load an unload (16 stands) and have a snooze between a bout of activity. BUT it was further from the main shops and not well suited for Central station and well away from St David's station.

It soon gained a grand and very obvious sign ...

... although most people approached from the opposite direction and rarely gimpsed its grandness. Technically the sign and a cantilever roof were on the Coach Station side, little used in recent years. The bus station was "round the back" up a staircase at each end of the building.

But more passengers would arrive and depart via Paris Street and a rather uninspiring walkway.

The problem with the ageing "new" bus station was that it had never been properly looked afer by its owners, Exeter City Council. It was tatty, tired and well past its sell by date. It need not have been so; the fabric of the building was sound and some judicious fettling could have upgraded the whole caboodle.

But Exeter City Council wanted to build a brand new shiny bus station. Well, actually, they wanted to make a stronking profit by selling the site for development and somewhat grudgingly accepted that a new bus station would be necessary - in particular necessary to keep the voters happy.

Then the developers pulled out.

With a cerain amoput of financial jiggery pokery, the Council made itself kingpin of the development.

The new bus station fills a little gap (with the emphasis on "little") between the far end of the "old" bus station and Cheeke Street.

Stagecoach's bus depot (on Cheeke Street itself) ...
... had already been sold and replaced by a block of student flats.
Opposite the flats is where the new bus station is situated.
The site was barracaded off ...
... and work eventually commenced, late, of course, with an opening of the not-quite-finished wonder taking place on Sunday last.

The new bus station is, of course, smaller than it should be and even further from the main shopping centre. Built at the far-end of the recently closed buildings, the new facilitiy is obviously even further away from the main shops. This picture from Stagecoach's social media illustrates the location well.

Zoom in and we can identify the location a little more clearly. The roof of the vacated and now abandoned terminal is seen lower left.
Note the twin towers of Exeter Cathedral and behind the hotch-pitch of 1960s buildings (top right) you would find the John Lewis store.
Turn left at this junction and you are at the end of the High Street.
The main shops are thataway!

So, rather than fbb's words, how does the brand new bus station compare with its immediate predecessor.

We will take a look in tomorrow's blog.

Electric Park & Ride - And Green
A sample of Leicester's new park and ride buses. Green - possibly for Leicester, but maybe not necesssarily for the planet!

Nasty Diesel; But Green?
Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) is a biofuel made by the hydrocracking or hydrogenation of vegetable oil. Hydrocracking breaks big molecules into smaller ones using hydrogen while hydrogenation adds hydrogen to molecules. These methods can be used to create substitutes for gasoline, diesel, propane, kerosene and other chemical feedstock. Diesel fuel produced from these sources is known as green diesel or renewable diesel.

And how "green" is the process that produces the hydrogen?

A Red Bus That's Blue? ...
... or even yellow?
Or maybe a darker blue!
That's the problem with branding - it needs to be consistenly applied to be effective.

The present l;ivery is, indeed the red and yellow.

There was another Red Express - in London!
The X43 started in 1992 and ran for six years. It was meants to be part of a developing network of limited stop services designed to speed up journeys into central London ...
... something of a thankless task with today's traffic conditions!

It was withdrawn and extra journeys were added to the "normal" 43 by way of compensation.

The withdrawal of the "X" journeys was not well received, as reported back in 1998!

More stuff tomorrow.

 Next "Variety" blog : Sunday 1st August 

Friday 30 July 2021

Building Back Better (1) ...

... In South Yorkshire

In some parts of GB, operators have come round to the idea that "It's All On Line" is an inadequate way of encouraging passengers back to the buses after they have been terrified into staying at home by Boris and his chums. fbb has reviewed stuff from the North East, from the Isle of Wight and from Cornwall in recent blogs. In these places printed timetable booklets and individual promotional leaflets have been provided and are well used by potential passengers.

fbb was somewhat discumbobulated by the above picture. South Yorkshire PTE, which has stated vehemently that printed material is "no longer necessary" because (readers, fill in the rest of the sentence) ... has speny money on adverts glued to telephone boxes.

Does the statistical knowledge that 750 buses and trams are ever at your service when you are stuggling to find when the next bus to Acron Drive might run. (Try looking up a bus from Sheffield Centre to Acorn Drive, either on line or on downloadable print!)

How about spending money on a few leaflets?

But now, something more positive appears ...

... a cut price fares offer for August and September!
So let's contrast and compare, using as out basis the one-day "rovers" advertised at their normal prices. This is just a sample; day ticket on left, weekly ticket on right.

Day ticket Sheffield, all operators but NOT tram

Day ticket Sheffield, all operators INCLUDES tram
Note you have to pay 40p more to use the tram - so much for a fully integrated network. Then in Doncaster, a much smaller network ...
... you bay 30p per day MORE for less buses!

But here are the bargains ...

... with Sheffield cheaper for more buses than any of the other "Zones". Why poor Doncaster (D for Doncaster - gettit?) doesn't have a weekly ticket is not explained!

But there's more. Now in column two is a new five day ticket, using a smart card, which does not require the five days to be consecutive.

Of course, five days is more expensive per day than 7 days - which makes good sense.

Doesn't it?

But now comes the good bit. These all-operator tickets are now CHEAPER than the equivalent deals for one operator ONLY versions. Here is First ...

... Sheffield on top, Doncaster below.

And from Stagecoach; bus only ...
... bus and tram ...
... and tram only.

So the PTE offer is a bargain. Why buy Stagecoach or First Bus company-only day tickets (or weekly etc) when you could by an all-operator ticket for less money.

Now fbb has a suggestion for South Yorkshire PTE and the operators. Stop issuing company specific tickets, charge £3.80 for each "zone" and thus get rid of the illogical price structure (cheaper bus in Sheffield, extra for the privilege of using the tram.)

fbb thinks that this would be a step towards ...

... what was promised and never delivered a while back. Yet another abortive integration scheme that has foundered on the altar of commercial operation:-

One city. One service : Buses for Sheffield have co-ordinated Sheffield’s bus services to provide a unified service that works for everyone. By working together, we can offer more frequent bus services (up to every 10 minutes in some cases) on key routes in the city, and provide more efficient services to make life a little easier for our customers. 

Buses for Sheffield, and the Sheffield Bus Partnership before that, have proved totally ineffective at bringing the two main operators together.

Remember Optio Red and Optio Orange? Optio Red was revealed nearly ten years ago!
It offered fully interavailable tickets for just one route, later joined by a second, branded orange. It was allowed to fade away before being quietly withdrawn.

Since the brief bonanza of Buses for Sheffield, First Bus has changed its livery and the "One City, One Service" promotion shows to sign of re-appearing.

But one interavailable ticket (one cheaper ticket) for ALL Sheffield (or all Rotherham, or all Barnsley or all Doncaster could be the start of something really big.
It is such a pity that Stagecoach have given up branding ...
Sheffield could have fully interavailable fares, the same livery and really present a unified network without political involvement.

Do people in Sheffield really care what operator runs their bus home of an evening?

The Truth Is Out ; He Has Got Gout
fbb could include a picture of his left foot, swollen, bright red, yellow, purple and flashing on and off. But it is really too revolting for public consumption! Anyway the GP has prescribed a short course of pills (prescribed by telephone call!).

The sudden twinges are quite debilitating, so blogs might well be a bit shorter for a while to provide time for fbb to say "ouch" very loudly!

He also needs time to take in two pages of A4, closely printed with warnings of possible side effects and consequences of the minuscule pills.
Note mega pill and pillpot on the left!

Just to make the point; fbb only imbibes alcoholic beverage occasionally; maybe five or six units a year! But, even so, please don't tread on the left toe!
It does mean that the trip to Exeter's new bus station is further postponed. So, tomorrow, fbb will cheat!

Expansion Into Europe?
Surely "Beste Indruken", Ray?

dedrukte kleding = printed clothing, e.g. T-shirt!

 Next Variety blog : Saturday 31st July 

Thursday 29 July 2021

Peeved In Peterborough (2) ...

 Where Have All The Buses Gone?

Yesterday, we explored the somewhat tortuous route from railway station to bus station; not an easy route in Peterbourough and certainly not well signposted. But when we got to the bus station, we discovered that half of it was closed.
As you can see from this Google Earth view, the whole eastern side is cloed off. Why?

In passing, note the red brick building at the northern exit from the bus station. We will meet that distinctive edifice again!

It turns out that the Queensgate shopping centre (above view far right) is being extended. When fbb first read this he feared the worst. It would not be the first time (nor the last) that a good public transport facility has been sacrificed to enhance the profits of the retail sector.

But fear not, fbb; Queensgate is not going to swallow the eastern platforms of the bus station. It is being extended UPWARDS! This is what it used to look like ...
... this is what it will look like ...
... and this is with the cranage in situ!
So the eastern platforms are needed for access, for storing things and to (hopefully) avoid dropping other things on top of Stagecoach buses! So the buses gotta go, temporarily until September 2021. Whoops, that now looks like December 2021 but might be ...

It all started in March 2020 - so maybe March 2022??

It will be a cinema, a few more shops (surprise, surprise) and a food court. 
fbb quite likes food courts as you can usually find somewhere to sit, often near the less popular "outlets".

So Queensgate'a web site tells all.

Our new £60m extension fronted by Empire Cinemas
Empire Cinemas are coming to Queensgate in 2021, as part of the new £60 million development currently underway. Alongside the 10 screen cinema there will be a number of new restaurants and stores opening, with the leading entertainment centre acting as the anchor of the development.

The kind people who are a-building also explains about the buses. (Which is a pleasant change for PR proponents; actually acknowledging that people might come a-shopping by bus - shock horror!)

Temporary closure of Queensgate Bus Station
In order to create a safe space to construct the cinema and new restaurants, which will be built on top of the existing shopping centre, bays 10a to 20 of the bus station will be temporarily closed in early 2020, and substitute bays will open 150 metres away on Acland Street. This change will affect some Stagecoach and National Express services, but the vast majority of the current bus station will remain unaffected. The temporary bus station on Acland Street will have clear signs to direct people to and from the current bus station, a safe crossing route on Westgate Road, additional CCTV and lighting as well as a weatherproof bus shelter. The disruption will last for approximately 18 months.

Still going for September 2021, then? And there is a map.
The walk route in red is shown as exiting the Royce Red car park whilst the Cavell Blue car park is marked Royce Red. The temporary bus station is shown where it isn't! Acland Street isn't marked.

Nevertheless, it all sounds relatively hunky and almost dory and may be the best that can be made of a necessarty but disruptive temporary eviction. But has it happened like that?

Alan passed through on Suinday having ridden from Northampton on a luxurious modern vehicle ...
... descibed as "very comfy" by Alan. It was an enthusiast's trip.

At the bus station, he reported that there was no information about the enforced removal until you had descended the escalators ...
... when you were told that your buses had gone! Alan suspects that there was no infromation at the railway station. 

Buses? What are they? Oh, Yes. We use them when our trains can't run!

Stagecoach also explained the happenings with an incorrect map of the walk route ...
... and (hopefully) a correct plan of the replacement stands and list of which service leaves from where.
Bay 1 looks like it may get clogged up now and then!

And, much to fbb's surprise, on-line timetables have been changed to show "Acland Street".
Of course, all of this is ONLY on-line; Alan found nothing as helpful as a printed leaflet, but, equipped with two differing and inaccurate maps, off he set to explore the facilities listed in bold in the blurb from Queensgate.

First, Crossing Westgate Street
Note the traffic light controlled crossing and the plethora of direction signs to help you find the way. NONE

So where is it? There is a sign for Acland Street but it points away from the bus station. It was partly hidden by refuse bins when Google Streetview was viewing.
By the time you can see it, you might just spot the buses!
There are
no other direction signs. When Alan began his search, the best he could come up with, as he waited for the non-existant help crossing the road, was this.
And then there are the facilities at the new temporary bus station itself.

Note the extra lighting? Note the CCTV? NONE
Correct - there isn't any. Note the shelter to protect you from the weather. BUT NOT MUCH
Dear God, please ensure the rain only falls vertically and stops falling while I am queueing to pay my fare.

Not the timetable infromation. NONE
You guessed it - the timetable frames were empty!

In fact, the only piece of information was one sticky bus stop flag applied to one end of the highly luxurious shelter.
And remember, dear reader, the ousting of a huge block of Stagecoach routes strated in March 2020.


But, all together now ...

It's All On-Line

It's called "Building Back Better!.

A More Jolly Day Out
As well as being peeved at Peterborough, Alan was at a Fenland BusFest event at Whittlesea (Whittlesey, surely?) and he sent a few pictures to show that his day was not entirely full of depression.
There was former United Counties 654 which had brought him all the way from home ...
... one of Delaine's heritage vehicles ...
... and an intersting comparison. A Leyland National ...
... versus something bigger (and better?) from today's Stagecoach.

Whittlesey does not have a bus station (SHAME), but it does have ...
... Grosvenor Road Bus Interchange. So there!

Whittlesey is a tad to the east of Peterborough ...
... and still has a railway station.

It also has a rather lovely Market Square.
Stagecoach 33 will also take you there every 30 minutes Monday to Saturday and every hour on Sundays.
But it runs to the bus station, not the bus interchange (Hmmm?) and leaves from Acland Street in Peterborough. Just follow the signs!

  Next Building Back Better blog : Friday 30th July