Saturday 19 February 2022

Saturday Variety

Beer & Buses Bonanza Banished!

The eponymous weekend on the Island has been hugely successful with well over 100 heritage buses transporting huge numbers of visitors to well over 100 hostelries, all selling some superb and often "different" booze. The event was cancelled in the extended Viral period and now the announcement comes that it will not re-appear.
Why, you may ask. Officially the problem is that the organising team is getting older and there is no obvious set of successors. One key man, Ben Bartram, no longer lives on the Island and one other top bloke has sadly passed away.

But there is also a hidden reason. A small number of visitors were guilty of over indulging in their alcoholic beverages with consequent unsociable behaviour.

This was difficult to manage and, in a very real way, a small number have spoiled the event for the majority. It had grown too big.
The bus museum, which hosts the event, will run a number of smaller pop up running days this coming summer, but the huge number of fascinating buses will not return as they have in previous years.
Sad, but probably inevitable./

Diamond (Out)Dated Display
If a notice (or set of notices) is too complicated people will not notice it!
This smart Rotala (Diamond) bus was snapped by Roger French in Evesham. But look at the window to the right of the entrance doors. You may see that it is plastered with posters.
Who is going to read them? If the bus us whizzing past, you simply can't, and if you are at a stop and boarding said bus, you simply won't. One tells you that face coverings are compulsory again ...
... but the notice says it is part of Government "guidelines" - i.e. not a law. Never mind, the next poster ...
... tells you that you don't have to - but you are "respectfully requested". Since then the "guidance" has changed twice.

fbb does not know when Roger's picture was taken, but the right hand poster advertises a summer sale of fares in a totally illegible print size.

So what's the point?

The bus, by the way, was briefly with Hallmark Travel ...
... and before that with the ill-fated Wessex Bus in Bristol.
It once carried branding for the equally ill-fated Bristol route 51 ...
... which Wessex took on with tender money from Bristol Council ...
... but still couldn't make a go of it. The route returned to First as a less frequent 2A.

Notice This Notice Episode 2?
Arriva no longer produces any printed leaflets, so passenger numbers are dropping but this can currently be self-delusionally blamed on Covid. 

The 724 was once an important Green Line service running from Harlow round the north and west of London to Heathrow, originally going on to Windsor.
It once had cheery leaflets and, until recently, cheery buses.
But now, the iconic brand has gone, the cheery buses have gone and so, it appears, have most of the passengers!
Of course, printed publicity no longer exists (its All on Line, Remember!) - or does it?

A twitterer twitted this beauty, spotted recently at Harlow.
This effulgent** exposition of an exciting excursion encourages passengers to plan a visit to such tourist delights as Harlow, Welwyn Garden City, Hertford, St Albans, Watford and Rickmansworth - bet you can't wait to buy your (expensive) ticket!

The notice is hard to read, especially behind glass, and is unlikely to "create desire", as the saying goes. It does look like a very desperate but utterly feeble attempt to boost the ailing passenger count.

And the 724 doesn't run every hour on Sundays, despite the stunning Harlow publicity - it is two hourly.

Time, Arrival, to get the bearded beautifier of the Bush ...
...  to make you something truly eye catching and passenger catching.

And Talking Of Eye Catching Etc.

And A Noticeable Notice ...
... from the halcyon days when the railways wanted to encourage you to travel!

fbb though that the building above looked a bit like the offices used by Lu (Luella!) Shakespeare and Frank Hathaway, the privates tecs currently appeared on BBC1 on weekday afternoons. This light-hearted detective series is set in Stratford-upon-Avon with lots of little snippets echoing the works of the Bard himself. 

A copse (not corpse) whereat some incriminating evidence was hidden is called Falstaff Wood and yesterday's corpse (not copse) was named Kit Willow. (Shakespeare scholars will understand!) Luella's sister is called Cordelia.

So here are Mark Benton and Jo Joyner (our hero and heroine!) outside their Stratford HQ.
Here is another view of those steps up to their first floor luxury office premises.
Only it isn't in Stratford. 

It is part of "Lord Leycester's Hospital", a charity of great age (a bit like the Chelsea Pensioners "hospital" in, erm, Chelsea) located IN WARWICK!
Their office interior isn't in either place.
If you want to get from one to the other (Stratford to Warwick), Stagecoach 15 will do the trick, every hour.

More variety tomorrow:-

** Effulgent - one who brings light and joy!

 Next Variety blog : Sunday 20th February 


  1. Stagecoach's X18 is a better bet from Stratford to Warwick - every half-hour in less than an half an hour!

  2. I'm a bit puzzled by the picture of the jovial gents in the Routemaster ... Is there any glass in that window? Doesn't look like it!

    1. There is. You can see the usual yellow crayon outline round the glass spec text in the lower-right hand corner.

  3. The sad news from the IoW is matched by Country Bus (LT) Running Days- there will be no more of these. Age is factor here too, along with the ludicrous cost of Public Liability Insurance. Regarding the 724, while the lack lof printed publicity is most regrettable, to argue that it amtters more than Covid in declining ridership is surely wide of the mark. Operators like Transdev who have kept producing printed timetables have suffered similarly.

  4. Route 724 has suffered from declining ridership for several years . . . especially south of Watford.
    Bus allocation has been "unusual" at times . . . I saw a 16-seater minibus this week!!
    The route is expensive to schedule . . . drivers normally work Harlow-Heathrow-Watford Watford-Harlow for a duty, with a relief man sent empty from Harlow to Watford to start the relief sequence off, and the last one runs empty from Watford to Harlow at the end.
    I'd not be surprised to see the route withdrawn south of Watford soon . . . cross-Herts passenger traffic is probably worth retaining.

    1. Um . . . there should be a "relief break" between the two consecutive Watford's above . . . that'll make sense then!!

  5. Is that because historically it operated out of Garston (which I thought was reserved to TfL, then closed, though I'm not sure what's the southern 321 base then)?
    So really Harlow was the only option, apart from overcrowded Ware, though there have been regular suggestions of a move of base down the years. The contortions are to keep the pattern of service.
    Nevertheless in my experience the 724 is, exceptionally, a pretty reliable and decent service, and most passengers seem pleasantly surprised to find it exists at all. No one tells them. The county council don't seem to realise it exists either. Their interest in sustainability is pretty narrow. As usual in the Home Counties, residential land values trump everything, even the bus routes.

    1. Hertfordshire are actually pretty good at publicity through the Intalink partnership, though as with many councils they are not always as good with reflecting branding above the company identity. Having done Intalink publicity roadshows (over 10 years ago now when I worked in the area for another operator) the one thing you did notice was that possibly the Greenline branding worked against it as many passengers did not think it was part of the normal bus network and they couldn't use their tickets (OAP passes & multi operator tickets) on it - Greenline was seen as a coach operator - so dropping the Greenline image may help local traffic in Herts & Essex though probably not to Heathrow.

  6. No . . . Route 724 historically operated from Romford and High Wycombe Garages . . . Staines replaced High Wycombe when the route was diverted to Heathrow Airport . . . Harlow replaced Romford when that closed . . . Ware has been involved from time to time.

    Route 724 is awkward to schedule, even with 5.5 hour spells (split registrations are used) . . . breaks at Heathrow were tried for a while, but one rounder per duty is inefficient whichever you try it.

    Running times are excessive for most of the day . . . but to avoid late running, they have to be. Buses frequently wait time every 30 minutes or so along the journey . . . one of the consequences of the -1 <> +5 rule.

    I suspect that passengers have given up using the route for airport journeys now . . . simply too long and slow.
    I can get to Heathrow within 20-30 minutes from home by car . . . if I used 724 it would be over 90 minutes!!

    1. Thanks. I wasn't thinking back that far! Hmm. Don't most journeys by bus, in the South-East (unless exceptionally by urban busway) take three times as long as by car? If there are to be buses at all, operators (and the rest of us) have to be convinced of another argument. Perhaps passengers are ahead of the management thinking?

    2. The bigger problem, in my experience, is that too often it can be three times more time actually waiting for the bus to turn up than on the bus! The passengers I've observed have been quite tolerant of the 724s waiting time (at least when it's along the route!).

  7. Garston was always a "country" Garage (opened in 1953) . . . LRT work was part of the allocation from 1985 to 2020; although towards the end TfL work predominated.

    Route 321 currently runs from Luton . . . a dead run via the M1 to Watford only takes 30 minutes at 5am or midnight!!

    Watford has suffered from being too close to London . . . local passengers expect London-style service, but don't realise that London residents pay for it through their taxes!!

  8. I live in Kent.. my council tax is higher than a friend who lives in an equivalent band house less than a mile from me over the border in the London Borough of Bromley… He has a regular bus service, and on it he will be able to travel free when he is 60, down to the station where he will enjoy free train and tube travel throughout London. I have no bus service, and will have to wait til I’m 67 to get just free bus travel, but no trains or tubes. So I pay MORE but get LESS.