Monday 28 February 2022

First Fares Fair - Or Fares Farce (2)

But First, The 200 Club!

Not those who score badly at the TV game Pointless (low is good, high is bad) but folk who have been told that their bus is being withdrawn, apparently without replacement from April. 

For some time now, Stagecoach have produced no printed publicity and nowhere (in print or on line) do they bother to provide a map for route 200.

So fbb has made one.
If no replacement is provided, all the communities on the map above will lose their bus service - completely and utterly. Local routes exist to serve the areas north of the A45 and west of the M40, but otherwise, zilcho.

Aren't we supposed to be having "Enhanced Partnerships"; which look like "Reduction Partnerships"?

Aren't we supposed to be Building Back Better; which looks like Building Back Much Worse.

And So Back To First's fares booklet.
It would be interesting, but hardly worth while, to count up how many different fares products are listed in this 40 page booklet.

Answer - a lot!

Some of them are something of a mystery to fbb. To make matters worse, there are NINE different ways of paying for your ride. with little icons next to each class of ticket. Needless to say, NONE of these methods is available for all fares types.

Noting that the flat fare in Bristol is £2.20 ...
... we might be interested in a "bundle" of five singles. Surely there will be a bit of discount for a bulk buy?
No deal, Bristolians! Each of your five "bundled" singles will cost you exactly £2.20. So don't bother lending First Bus the £8.80! Just pay for your single journeys when you take them. Just so you know what a good deal it is, they even tell you that it works out at £2.20 a go!

The discounts do kick in, however, if you stray from boring old single tickets. A return is ...
... and may be used for ANY two journeys, not just a "there and back". But a day's unlimited travel costs only £1 more than a return.
But you can also buy a three day "Rover" ...
... or a five day Rover ...
... or a three day Rover but for non consecutive days OR a five day Rover ditto, but at the same price.
But remember (how could you ever forget?) the 3 day and 5 days consecutive Rovers are ONLY available on the bus - whereas the 3 in 10 or the 5 in 10 are ONLY available on the App.

There will be an exam at the end of this lesson!

Of course, there is a weekly ticket ...
... at just two quid more than the five days version.

These deals do offer discounts, but the options are so numerous and the calculations so varied that it takes a huge amount of brain power to work out which is best.

Then seven days is £21.50 but eight days (5 days + 3 days) is £34 or (7 days plus 1 day) £27. 

A weekly Rover provides travel for £3.07 per day if you use it every day or, more likely, £3.25 a day for six day's use. The permutations are huge and must be beyond the decision making abilities of most passengers.

Even better if you buy a monthly.
£78.40 divided by 31 is just £2.53 a day but only if you use it every day.

But, to help you (?) there is Tap and Cap.
But, of course, (you wouldn't expect it to be simple, would you?) the various caps are more expensive than the 3, 5 and 7 day Rovers.

And you have to use the App, so you are sucked in!


Why can't you Tap and Cap on your debit card? Or can you?

fbb is now so befuddled that he cannot be sure.

But then it all goes belly-up once to get outside the Bristol OR Bath OR Weston super Mud zones. Then you are back to graded fares "from" - remember when we had fare tables.

But worry not, confused passenger, First explains it all ...
... with a helpful example ...
... and another helpful example ...
... and a stunningly helpful diagram.
So it is easy to see that the fare from City Centre The Centre (remembering that "The Centre" was "The Tramway Centre" where all the tram routes met and not necessarily the centre of Bristol) to Thornbury is ...

... what?

And an exclusive fbb video of a harassed Bristol bus passenger (Miss O'Hara from Fishponds) seeking advice from a Mr Butler (First Bus local official) after a "meet the manager" session in the Colston Hall.
And, ludicrously, if you have the App (for which treatment is now available on the NHS) an over 12 mile journey will not cost you "from" £6.50 ...
... but £3.70.

Good, innit?

 Next book review blog : Tuesday 1st March 

Sunday 27 February 2022

Sunday Variety

 Back To School(s)?

A poster from he late 1930s, so dated because of the locomotive. But first note that this was the "green" train when green meant "green" and not "environmentally acceptable"! 926 was Class V otherwise better known as the "Schools" class. "Repton" is seen below at work on the North York Moors Railway.
The class was the most powerful 4-4-0 ever built in the UK and, when displaced from lines that were electrified, these beats were at home hauling "crack" expresses to e.g. Bournemouth; not in only TWO hours. Today's fastest trains take two hours and two minutes - so great progress has been made in about 85 years!

Here is another poster with a stylised train hauled by a stylised "Schools".
In this case it is 932 Blundells. Under British Railways, the class had 30000 added to its number.

In 1959 Kitmaster (a brand of the doll maker Rosebud) introduced a model of Harrow.
fbb thinks it cost four shillings and six pence, something of a bargain. There was much excitement amongst a spotty fbb and his modelling chums, with a general wondering about fitting a Kitmaster model with a motor and getting a cheapo loco.

Of course the skills required were well beyond the lad's pay grade.

In 1981 Hornby (actually Triang with a new name!!) released a working Schools. Named "Stowe" it appeared in Southern's Malachite green. For its day, it was a good model.
A Schools loco remained in the Hornby play-list for many years with its last appearance being in 2011. For a good working R380 (Hornby's model reference) you can expect to pay about £60.
But a more modern re-designed Hornby Schools is now available with four figure R numbers ...
... and three figure prices. Generally speaking, the models in boring black have probably not sold well, hence the discounts widely offered.
Kitmaster kits were taken over by Airfix and in an outbreak of pure unadulterated nostalgia, fbb has bought one to make up - leading to ...
... hours of fun, frustration and possibly failure!

More news as it happens.

Redcar - A P.S. Poster
Redcar used to have a pier, much closer to the town centre than its bus station! Long ago, the pier was destroyed by shipping ...
... and the "ballroom" was demolished.
It was replaced by a brand new "Pavilion" ...
... which morphed into the Regent Cinema ...
... which is currently being completely rebuilt!
The white block on the poster ...
... is the Pavilion/Cinema using a bit of "artistic licence".

Google Streetview shows the work in progress on the new building.
Just to confuse everybody, the non-existent pier is often (and technically correctly) called Coatham Pier.
Again, pedantically, Redcar Central station (on the line between Middlesbrough and Saltburn) is actually in Coatham.

When first opened, Redcar had a single platform in a splendid train shed.
The main entrance was modest in size but of a grand style ...
... with what remains of the whole complex now in use as a Carpet Warehouse.
Meanwhile, the original entrance sits forlornly at the end of Station Road awaiting its future fate!
The present station building is now on the opposite side of the tracks ...
... with the down platform (seen above in the distance) outside the original train shed and linked to the new entrance via a footbridge.
Even the level crossing gates are unusual.
They don't swing, they slide!

Hyperloop Happenings
Remember Hyperloop? Boosted by Branson's billions, the idea is to run a magnetically driven and levitated train running at about 1000mph along a long tube. 
Currently it doesn't go round corners, which might be a bit of a disadvantage for its long term aims!

Two Hyperloop employees have ridden at a massive 107mph and survived.
But the company has recently announced that it will concentrate on freight transport for the immediate future. So no super high sped rides for humans!

They have also just made 100 staff redundant!

Might this mark the end of Hyperloop?

We are all sad and frustrated that we will not be able to whizzed down a cramped narrow tube at 1000mph. fbb was so keen to be the first to buy a ticket - ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!!

More mundane money matters materialise on Monday.

 Next Fares Farce blog : Monday 28th February 

Saturday 26 February 2022

Saturday Variety

Biblical Sell-By Date PLUS!!

But it wasn't like that at all. With Mrs fbb significantly indisposed, the celebrations were very limited - but it was a truly lovely day! There were cards (a few) the best of which was from Fran, a good friend and a regular at our Monday group.
That sort of says it all! There were choccies ...
... which fbb had to buy for himself from the Co-op. There was a fascinating book from Mrs fbb via the South American rain forest ...
... which will be reviewed in due course. 

No 1 son sent (also via the same route) an interesting but anonymous package which consisted of a tub of mini Twiglets ...
... which was "part of a set". You may wonder what the rest of the "set" was. All will be revealed at the foot of this blog.

But the best prezzy was also from Fran. 
Yep! An apple crumble and a tub of cream. It was so thoughtful in view of the old man's significant catering duties, that it brought a lump to his eye and a tear to his throat. The fbb's only do puds on special occasions and, despite the momentous anniversary, none was planned for yesterday; until Fran turned up.

And the partying continued until late into the evening when the fbbs retired exhausted after the last Death in Paradise of the current series.

The Goodness of God in giving both of the old crocks help and support via Prayer and via others is such a real Joy. Praise The Lord! 

AND the NHS have decided that Mrs fbb is a P3 priority for a new hip. The letter did not say what P3 meant or, indeed, whether P2 and P1 were up or down the list; but it sounds encouraging. The delay may be months rather than years.

P.S. After delivering card and gift, Fran had a go on the stair lift!

Another One Gone ...
As the weeks scuttle by, more news is breaking concerning the collapse of parts of the UK's bus and coach industry. Most weeks another coach company goes bust or simply throws in the towel, but here is Stagecoach in Oxford, as reported in Banbury.

In a public statement, Stagecoach Bus Oxfordshire said: “Due to low passenger numbers and rising costs we regret to inform our passengers that we will no longer be running service 200 between Banbury and Daventry from the above date with Saturday April 2 as the last date in service.

"For several years the 200 has been operating at a financial loss covering less than 85 percent of its costs during which time Stagecoach has absorbed the losses incurred.

"This has been as a result of low passengers numbers that have only worsened since the pandemic; falling to below 75 percent of pre-Covid levels.

"We have approached local authorities who are unable to provide the long-term financial support required and so our only option is to unfortunately withdraw this service.”

Stagecoach 200 runs between Daventry and Banbury.
It used to be a longer route branded as if it were the Great Central Railway line ...
... with buses so adorned. When Geoff went phutt, Stagecoach took over ...
... later cutting the route back and numbering it 200.
Needless to say there has been a reaction!
And, yet again, the press and those it cajoles into offering an adverse opinion seem to think that Stagecoach should be only too willing to lose money. The usual tear jerking examples are quoted.

Campaigners have called on Daventry' s MP to stop cuts being made to a vital bus service.

Woodford Halse mum Cindy Lingwood suffers with anxiety, depression and chronic migraines. She said: "I struggle to find work as it is; cutting this bus service takes away my chances of getting work tenfold. How can people get to work and how will the vulnerable people get to the doctors or get shopping? Not everyone has access to online shopping."

Cindy also said not enough notice has been given about the cuts.

"It's disgusting," she added. "They've left us with so little notice that we can't make enough fuss to change the decision. I felt isolated and alone during the Covid lockdown, but this is worse. Now I feel trapped."

Users of the service say it will cause hardship among many groups including elderly people and students.

Natalie Louise Laurie, who also lives in Woodford Halse, said her daughter needs the service to continue with her education. "How are we meant to get our sick children to the doctor's now with no surgery in the village? We will have to walk with a poorly child? We have no doctors in the village, so we are completely cut off and isolated now."

She said a lot of elderly people rely on the bus service. "They need the bus service to go shopping," added Natalie. "What about people who rely on the service for work and even Job Centre."

Stacy Brookfield, who also lives in Woodford Halse, said her son uses the service to get to college in Daventry. "He has no other way of getting there," she said. "It would end up costing around £80 a week in taxis. It's disgraceful they can just drop the one and only service here."

Disgraceful it may be, but in the face of losses who is going to pay. More disgraceful is the lack of obvious support from the Local Authorities who are the ones to help with the bills.

But maybe Stagecoach should share some of the blame.

How has Stagecoach publicised the service?

It hasn't.

Here is a route map for the 200 from the Banbury end..
Here is a route map of the 200 from Stagecoach in Rugby.
Oh dear. The Rugby map doesn't go as far as Daventry!

Even better here is the Stagecoach map for Daventry as supplied on line!
So clearly, Stagecoach have been promoting the 200! NOT!!

Needless to say there is no printed timetable.

And passenger numbers have fallen significantly since Covid (and, in passing, since Stagecoach stopped issuing attractive printed publicity.)


Lost And Gone For Ever
The above is Redcar Bus Station in United's day. It is located close by St Peters Church at the very eastern end of the High Street. Here is the location on Google Earth.
It is the bit paved with light grey something, between the two darker grey roads. It was some distance from the town centre, but close to the sea. It is the white gap that runs right through from High Street to Lord Street.
Here is the bus station with an Arriva enquiry office.
Arriva now have an enquiry office, sensibly, in the town centre; looks like it was once a bank. fbb does not know whether it is still open - knowing Arriva's attitude to its customers it would seem unlikely.
But its is nicely placed near the main town centre bus stops. The old bus station is long since closed but one twitterer snapped the old enquiry office in preparation for redevelopment.

The Arriva signs had been removed, and there, hidden behind them, was an interim company name.
Pre-privatisation the mammoth United Automobile Services was split. The Middlesbrough area became Tees and District.

Let's hope someone preserved that sign!

The Second Part Of "The Set"?
'Twas a small pottle of acrylic paint designed for adding "grime" to your precious model railway locomotive. 


Perhaps you are supposed to pour it over the Twiglets as part of "the set"?.

fbb finds that the easiest way to add grime to model railway rolling stock is to leave it outside on his layout in the rain! It works a treat. Shiny new models soon look tatty and weather beaten, not because thay have been painted with "grime" but because their grime is naturally applied!

Saves a fortune in pottles of weathering paints.

 Next Variety blog : Sunday 27th February