Friday 31 December 2021

Just the Ticket Part 1

Delivered By Mr Gibson (1)

A blog or two back, fbb referred to the Bell Punch ticket issuing system. With the formation of London Transport in 1933 Bell Punch was the majority system and remained so right through WW2.
It had many advantages. It could cope with a wide range of fares, i.e. for short journey in the central areas and longer trips in the suburbs and by Green Line. If fares were to be "revised" there was nothing technical to do, just print new value tickets. Overall, ticket issuing was reasonably fast, important in central London where buses were busy with short-hop journeys!

Cashing up was relatively easy and coloured tickets made the work of Inspectors fairly straightforward.
The long ticket (right) was for a Green Line service.

The problem with Bell Punch was with the "back office". Print costs were high. In 1947 London Transport spent £136,000 in printing tickets, the equivalent of £6 million today! The cost of operating the system (audit, cash handling, machine preparation and repair etc.) for Central buses alone was £176,00 per annum - about £5 million in todays money.

What was needed was a machine that could print the ticket on a plain roll, and keep totals for audit and cashing up within the machine. Three were available (or became available) immediately post war). All three became very familiar all over UK. 

There was the mechanised version of the Bell Punch tray of tickets - called "Ultimate" ...
... which was really fast for issuing, but retained the disadvantages of needing printed tickets and being costly for the back office!

Ultimate Ticket

TIM printed on a paper roll but was limited in the range of fare values that could be accommodated. The telephone dial choice of value was quick ...
... and there were lots of counters to help with "the reckoning" at the end of a shift. 

TIM Ticket

Likewise, Setright Speed.
The machine was much more fiddly to use but could manage a wider range of fares which is why it became near universal for the Tilling and BET companies, later National Bus.

Setright Ticket

All three "modern" systems were in use or well known in parts of London, but the bosses were seeking standardisation, and, for a whole range of reasons, none of the above readily available systems satisfied the "Ticket Machine Committee" by fulfilling all its requirements.

And those requirements were challenging. (click on the pic to enlarge)

General Usability

Information Shown

 Back Office and Audit

All of this is covered in great detail in Anthony Cross's magnificent book; and we are only in the first chapter which carries the heading "Conception".

In very simple terms; as none of the available machines were completely compliant with the Committees "challenging" list, Mr Gibson decided to design and build one that was.

It is this incredible story of one man's skill and fortitude that forms the bulk of the book; skills which needed on-going development even after the Great Man had retired.

fbb will pick out a few snippets in tomorrow's blog - but for the best results BUY THE BOOK.

Mr Gibson's Ticket Machine is published by Capital Transport at £16.95.

It is currently unavailable from the South American River site, although supplies may reach the Greek Mythological Female Warrior site in due course.

Just for the Record

For fbb's daily grind from Little Billing to Northampton Grammar School, York Bros used the Bellgraphic "low-tech" system The conductor simply wrote the fare on a ticket blank in the window of the machine.

The lever issued the top copy to the passenger ...

... and a simple carbon copy was held in the machine.
Of course, the "back office" then had to add up all the individual ticket values and reconcile them with money in the bag. For a small bus company with utterly reliable staff it was an excellent system.

 Next Mr Gibson blog : Saturday 1st January 

Thursday 30 December 2021

Seasonal Snippets 30/12

Adieu Amazing X57 : Welcome Amazing 257 (2)

Sheffield Transport route 44 has a fascinating and complex history, far too involved to cover in a seasonally abbreviated blog. It was always known as "The Bakewell Bamford". It ran due west from the City to the Ladybower dam, then turned left to reach Bamford.
It then took a wiggle via Hathersage ...
... where a tight bridge near the station meant single decks were always rostered.
The route continued south to Bakewell through pleasant countryside with very little housing. Indeed the route was rarely busy which is why it had the accolade of providing Sheffield Transport's first ever one man bus trip - a lunchtime departure which carried more STD staff than passengers.
It became the 244 with the PTE renumbering, and occasionally provided its meagre load of passengers with a ride on a coach! (Technically a DP! - they were never "luxury".)
By year 2000 reorganisation meant the buses turned right at Bamford Station and proceeded to Castleton.
In this guise it was renumbered 273 and 274 and by now was operated by Stagecoach. The run from Hathersage to Bakewell was a 175 operated by Hulleys.
Umpteen reorganisations later it became 273, 274 and 275, operated by Hulleys with T M Travel running the Sunday service.

Its most recently manifestation has been as shown in the map below.
Bamford to Castleton has gone and the route is more-or-less back to the old 244. Whilst the 244 was one bus scheduled when necessary and nothing much else, the 257 (renumbered from 275) has made a noble attempt at being a useful service.
Thew journey labelled "Brad" runs via Hope Valley College and Bradwell and sensibly maintains this route on Saturdays and non schooldays.

Until Saturday, the 257 provides a remarkable hourly frequency with the X57 between Sheffield and Ladybower.

With the demise of the X57 after service on Saturday 8th prox, you would think that a bus every two hours (more frequent than the old STD 44!!!) was more than adequate for this far from populous route.

But Hulley's "courageous" management are at it again!

From Monday 9th January the 257 becomes HOURLY all the way between Sheffield, Bamford and Bakewell.
The above is the Saturday timetable; on Monday to Friday there are a few oddities to cope with school requirements. (click on the timetable for an enlargement).

It is two hourly on Sunday's increasing to hourly for the summer season.

The question for Alf, boss of Hulleys, is the samer asked when he started the X57 across the Snake.

"Where are your extra passengers coming from?"

Courageous - or what?

Isn't Technology Wonderful?
Foxglove 18 is operated by UNO for the University of Northampton, but is available to the public. It calls at Northampton Rail Station where there is a big electronic display.
You must wonder why each journey is duplicated.

You might also wonder where the other Northampton might be, the one not in Nhants.

But, most of all you maybe confused as the display was pictured by Alan on 27th December.

Despite full timetable's being shown on the web site, reference to the "small print" shows that this Monday to Friday only route 18 DOES NOT OPERATE despite the display. It is suspended until the eager denizens of Academe return to their studies in January 2022.

Monday 20 - Friday 24 December
Saturday times on routes 19/19A and 21
    (early finish on Christmas Eve)
No service on route 18 
Monday to Friday times on routes 17, 59 and 60

Christmas Day & Boxing Day - no buses

Monday 27 & Tuesday 28 December
Sunday times on routes 19/19A and 21
No service on route 18 

Wednesday 29 - Friday 31 December
Saturday times on routes 19/19A and 21 
      (early finish on New Year's Eve)
No service on route 18 
Monday to Friday times on routes 17, 59 and 60

New Year's Day - no buses

Sunday 2 & Monday 3 January 2022
Sunday times on routes 19/19A and 21
No service on route 18 

From Tuesday 4 January, a normal service resumes on all routes. 

Well done UNO, and a happy and utterly confused new year!

 Next book review blog : Friday 31st December 

Wednesday 29 December 2021

Seasonal Snippets 29/12

Adieu Amazing X57 : Welcome Amazing 257 (1)

Much has been written about Hulleys X57 (and its assocated but short-lived X56 short working to/from Glossop) ...
... but, although most supporters of "the bus" as a means of travel were willing it to be a success, most knowledgeable industry insiders and many outsiders would have used use the word "courageous".
Despite the best efforts of Hulley's staff there were simply not enough passengers to make it financially viable. With HMG's Covid underpinning on the way out (perhaps???) there was no real alternative to giving the X57 the chop.

But was it just lack of passengers?

No 3 son's chum Tim lives in Glossop where the X57 stops at the end of his road. When Tim started a course at Manchester University, the X57 offered him almost a door to door service, especially after it was extended from Chorlton Street to the Airport.
Indeed, it stopped on Oxford Road, just ideal to nip into his lectures!
Tim does clever Sports Physiotherapy stuff and has a blog called "testedtodestruction", although fbb cannot be certain whether it is the clients or the equipment that is so destroyed!

In a break from his usual, Tim wrote a blog about his experiences with the X57.

It does not make for happy reading. Here are extracts, expurgated as usual by fbb,

The sad demise of the X57 bus service

The X57 bus. A brilliant idea, but not really carried out with the best attention to detail. For those of you who are unaware, the X57 is a bus service (soon to be kyboshed in Jan 2022) run by Hulleys of Baslow. It is a truly heroic route, running from the centre of Sheffield, along the A57, over the Snake Pass to Glossop, and then onward to the centre of Manchester- and beyond(!) to Manchester Airport. 

What a route. (and reviewed a long time ago by the father of a friend who knows stuff about public transport... or at least - has opinions)

"At least has opinions" - a major and soul destroying slur on fbb's perspicacity!

It provides the only direct public transport route from Glossop Eastwards toward Sheffield, and is unique in it's East/West reach across the Dark Peak.

Unfortunately it has been plagued with issues. Not least, starting the service up during the second Covid lockdown last year, when pretty much NO-ONE was travelling - that was a bit of a bummer. As much as we wanted to catch a bus, it just didn't seem like a good idea. 

The second is that there are very few passengers, in part due to the ongoing concern about Covid on public transport etc. 

The third is reliability issues. Not entirely surprising when you consider the length of the route on public roads where there are bound to be some hold ups, but the reliability (or lack of) became a bit legendary. 

(Not sure about the following comment - fbb)

Initially there were reports of buses sailing merrily through Glossop 20 or 25 mins *before* scheduled time. You'd see bewildered passengers standing at bus stops at the right time- or even from 10 mins early who had missed the bus. Which seems a bit odd. 

Looking at the timetable, it is well nigh impossible for an X57 to run EARLY!
Unless Hulleys were using rocket powered single deckers?
Tim continues:-

In September I started University in Manchester. The X57 seemed like the perfect answer. It goes from the bottom of my road and drops me right outside university. 


I caught it there and back 6 times. 

4 times it was late (twice it was more than an hour late - and this in BOTH directions) ...

... and twice it simply failed to turn up. Ever. 

Somewhat reluctantly I now take the train. I know they have had their reliability issues, but thus far, it's been fine

It is disappointing, but equally unsurprising that this ambitious and exciting bus route is being cancelled. I can't imagine it was ever making money, or hugely popular - but when you have something that is a good idea AND unreliable, the unreliable thing tends to be in the forefront of peoples minds.

The Green alternative?

The majority of people I have seen on the bus (bearing in mind I live pretty much at the bottom of Snake in Glossop) have been walkers and runners. It has been a boon to people who don't want to leave cars in crowded car parks at Snake Summit etc. along the Snake. It has been marvellous for access into the Peak District National Park for those without cars, and those wanting a "greener" alternative and it is a real shame that it is being axed.

There have been various shoutings across the media about "too many cars in the national parks". Sarah Fowler- Chief Exec of Peak Park is on record as saying that bus services would be a good idea (see here) though of course it probably only applies to the Hope valley and Hathersage areas...

Tim muses as to whether a bus from Glossop to Ladybower might be a good idea.

(IF - word added by fbb) the main flaws of the X57 - started in a pandemic, crazy long route with many places for being delayed and erratic schedule maintainence by the actual buses  - could be rectified to make it a useful and efficient service into and out of the Dark Peak ... 

I realise that would mean that the Peak Park would probably have to subsidise the buses.

They used to, Tim. There were buses in fair numbers from all over the place.

Yes it would need a fair amount of publicity. Yes it would need a fair amount of "political" willpower from the Peak Park, but Yes - it would be an excellent addition to creating equality of access to one of Britains most popular National Parks. 

The crunch question for Tim and those like him, is this, how much more Council Tax would YOU be prepared to pay to get a shuttle bus across the Snake?
The X57 breathes its last on Saturday 8th January.

Sad, but inevitable.

But from Monday 10th January something very courageous happens.

A Reminder From Your Author

Personal Message from fbb

Mrs fbb has been diagnosed with severe arthritis and in the queue for a hip replacement. She is struggling with both pain and mobility so fbb, like the splendid husband that he is (modest as ever!) has taken over all driving and all significant catering. Whilst time can be made for writing blogs, even for research, the fbb performance needle ...

... is wont to drop into the red zone much earlier in the day - usually after de-coking the kitchen from last night's evening meal.
Blogging will continue on a daily basis - it does represent a relief from the rigours of domesticity, BUT quality may be low, quantity may be reduced and something beginning with q may cause delays in posting.

Bus Picture

The Rubber Band Broke!
Yes, really it did!

Solent Flyer happily flying across the Solent

You don't suppose the passengers could be asked to get out and push!

 Next Hulleys blog : Thuirsday 30th December 

Tuesday 28 December 2021

Seasonal Snippets 28/12

Bethlehem, a P.S.

Between Llandeilo and Llangadog runs the Towy Valley a k a Dyffryn Tywi, the A40 (GREEN), an unclassified road via Bethlehem (YELLOW on larger scale maps), the Heart of Wales railway (thin BLACK line) and, of course, the River (BLUE).

fbb wondered whether there were any roads or tracks which linked Manordeilo with Bethlehem. But none seemed obvious. But turn up the scale and a possibility emerges, but at 1 inch to the mile (or whatever that is in the new money) there was nothing obvious.
The river always gets in the way!

Maybe turn it up one more notch - and wowsers!
So those green dashes appear to run across the railway? There used to be a ford by the looks of the tracks which end on the riverside, opposite each other.
So Mary and Joe could get off the bus in Manordeilo but it would not be recommended in winter, late in the day when it is becoming dark!
Then we could  take a wander down the road to the right, unsuitable for heavy vehicles.
There are a few properties along the way ...
... but, in typical Welsh fashion, the way becomes narrow!
Then comes the railway ...
... and, astoundingly, a station as was.
It even has a tiny platform.

Opened in 1858 on the Vale of Towy Railway's line from Llandeilo to Llandovery, later part of the Central Wales Line, this station closed in 1955. It was known as Glan Rhyd in the handbook of stations. It closed on 20 July 1931 but reopened as Glanrhyd Halt on 19 December 1938. It always remained open for milk traffic! In some timetables it was shown as "Glan Rhyd".

And there, on an old map, is the station, the level crossing and, at the river, the ford as guessed by fbb.
Certainly Mary and Joe would not be advised to wade across a ford to get to Bethlehem. But IF the path does cross the railway bridge ... ?

On 19 October 1987, a train on the Heart of Wales line derailed and fell into the River Towy due to the partial collapse of the Glanrhyd Bridge near Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire. Four people died as a result of the tragedy; the driver and three of the passengers drowned.
fbb does no usually refer to accidents, especially if they involve tragic loss of life; but in this case it gives us some pictures of the bridge. And those pictures do show the remains of the footpath that was provided as a replacement for the ford.
But the bridge was rebuilt after the diaster, giving the railway and local authorities every opportunity to dispense with the walkway.
But the signs are still there ...
... as is - TaDa! ...
... the trackside footpath, with ...
 fine views of the river.

From the far side, there are two walking routes.
One follows a farm track and part of the Heart of Wales Line trail (a k a Beacons Way) whilst the other runs mostly along the river bank then wiggles back to join the main route. You would appear on the Bethlehem Road here ...
... turn right, take a short toddle along the road and you are in the village.
Maybe Mary, Joe and young Joshua will return for a summer break and to reminisce on that night of wonder many years previously?

Meanwhile, once again thanks to Roy, a few pictures of festive destinations on show in Sheffield.

From First Bus:-
And again:-
An interestring travel opportunity:-
With an appropriare dtiver!
And from T M Travel:-
But the merriment is actually subdued in reality.
"Some changes" is a euphemism for reducing many eveningh services to HOURLY! Who is going to use an evening bus when they are so infrequent.  Here is a sample from the prestigious X78.
The "excuse" is staff shortages but fbb suspects a cost saving ploy. Whatever thr reson, passenhger numbers in thre evening will plummet and services will be even less viable financially.

When will they ever learn?

 Next X57 blog - plus : Wednesday 29th December