Saturday 30 April 2022

Saturday Variety

 Thanks, More Tanks

When a 14 year old fbb entered the world of model railways his first train-set, gratefully received one Christmas, was second hand Triang. The track was Mark 2 grey and the stock was crude and in less than pristine condition. The wagons, much to the lad's disappointment were from the Transcontinental range, i.e. of US design. 

He could have bought a crude Triang model as above; but the better (and more costly) Hornby Dublo versions were no use!
Hey, were three rail and had metal wheels which would short out the Triang two rail electrics. Eventually Hornby went two rail and produced their SD6 range of "super detailed" wagons with plastic bodies. These then formed the basis of the lad's freight stock. But Dublo never made an SD6. version of their "standard" tanker.

Both tanks were crude models with very poor detailing - but they were good for their day. In the early 1970s, Triang, by then rebranded as Hornby, started making a much better tank wagon.
fbb has an example in his collection.

There is a growing trend to persuade modellers (or, perhaps collectors of models) to part with their money by purchasing wagons in liveries that they never ever would have worn in reality. fbb was conned by his own stupidity into buying an old Hornby Dublo tank wagon branded for Coca Cola.
It turned out to be any old tank with a paper cover (badly printed) glued on. Silly fbb.

But the chance arrival on-line of a cheap (relatively so) pre-owned "wrong liveried" 1970s style tank encouraged the old man to shell out £12 post free.
The 1970s model is still available from time to time in the Hornby catalogue, some 50 years after its first appearance! By today's standards it is crude with only a representation of the complex "underfloor" detail.
Whilst fbb does not normally collect different liveries for his tank wagons (Mrs fbb would have to move out to accommodate the huge number of  variations - and take in washing to pay the bills!), but this seemed an appropriate example of a growing trend, oft reported in these blogs.

Oddly the Diet Coke variant is the least common but the cheapest. The full-red Coke tank is often sold at well over £20 including postage.
Could you parsimonious blogger justify an associated collection of Coca Cola tank wagons without alienating the domestic authorities?

Maybe not! Maybe take the idea with a pinch of salt.

But If Salt Loses Its Saltiness ...
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Matthew's Gospel records this sound bite from Jesus to his disciples. It was about perseverance, stickability in troublesome times and reliability in bringing the "flavour" of Jesus to a broken world.
It was way back in June 2018 that fbb enthused about a rare bit of First Bus route branding and promotion.
There was a superb printed leaflet ...
... complete with line of route map ...
... town maps ...
... and tourist information.
And fudge at the launch days!

Oh, yes; and there was a timetable, well laid out, showing a 15 minute headway between Worcester and Catshill (It is a suburb of Bromsgrove!) with two buses an hour continuing to Birmingham.
Recent reductions have led to a 20 minutes service between Worcester and Catshill with a hourly extension to Brum.
Until now, that is. Nigel Eggleton, whose "hands on"(?) management stretches from Doncaster to Malvern, offers this depressing news.

Worcester – Bromsgrove – Catshill – Birmingham
will terminate at Catshill from Sunday, May 1.

This means the service will not run between Catshill and Birmingham.
Nigel Eggleton, managing director at First Worcester said the service has carried few passengers between Catshill and Birmingham in the last 12 months which has led the company to remove the link to Birmingham.

He said: “The upcoming service changes we have planned for 1st May are to re-align our bus network in accordance with how and when people are travelling across the working week and at weekends. As everyone will be aware the covid pandemic has changed many things including, people working from home, flexible working patterns, confidence in being around public places and the use of other modes of travel to get around avoiding congested places, these have all had an impact on bus services in Worcester and throughout the country.

What he hasn't said is that there has been NO PUBLICITY for the service since the Salt Road promotion began to fizzle out well BEFORE the pandemic.

He added: “We are working closely with Worcestershire County Council and Transport for West Midlands to determine if there is any funding available to support the planned withdrawal of service between Catshill and Birmingham and we will update everyone with progress on these conversations”
There are, of course, plenty of National Express West Midlands buses between Birmingham, Longbridge and Rubery ...
... but the gap south to Bromsgrove via Catshill will be unserved.
There are rumours of some tendered journeys to fill the gap, but, as of blog writing time yesterday, fbb could find nothing on line. In the meantime, Diamond Bus route 202 will get you from Rubery/Rednal to Bromsgrove ...
... but not via Catshill.

End Of A Vectensian Era?
News is breaking that the long-standing Isle of Wight coach operator, Seaview Services, has been sold!
The buyer is Xelabus of Eastleigh which has its own Xelacoach subsidiary.
Apparently current Seaview boss Phil Robinson is to stay on as manager and the brand will be retained.

Shoch Horror : Printed Leaflets?
Recently, fbb reviewed the big changes in Basildon, Chelmsford and Colchester. He is pleased to have spotted a twitterer with examples of timetable booklets.
But surely ...
... it's all on line - so totally unnecessary says First in other locations - frenetically protecting the environment (a k a saving money!).

A Puzzle Picture
What is this "Convoi Exceptionnel" convoi-ing?
More odds and ends tomorrow.

 Next Variety blog : Sunday 1st May 

Friday 29 April 2022

219 - It Is Fine! (5)

Sprotting Stops In Spotborough

Historically, the village of Sprotborough existed to support the posh folk of Sprotborough Hall.
The Hall has long gone, its driveway replaced by a road called Park Drive, still with an extended estate lodge on the Melton Road ...
... and ribboned with posh housing ...
... until you get to the original village itself, where, presumably, some of the Hall's staff would be domiciled. The buses don't go that way. From Doncaster they continue along Melton Road to the Ivanhoe (restaurant and B & B) ...
... where be stops, and a shelter for Doncaster bound passengers. 
If you were a service 49, you would turn left here and trundle down Thorpe Lane to the church ...
... where you would hang a right and find stops on both sides of Main Street.
There are stops again further along Main Street ...
... where the 49 turn right onto New Lane. There are stops at the end, just before you are back on Melton Road.
The 49 turns right, having completed the "loop" and hies its way happily back to Doncaster. The Travel South Yorkshire bus map shows the 49 clearly but lacks a directional arrow.
If you are a daytime 219 (or even a 219A) you would eschew the village and keep straight on via the Melton Road. 

BUT, if you were an early morning, evening or Sunday 219 (etc.) you would follow the 49 route via the church and Main Street to the top of New Lane but turn left and press on westwards to Barnsley. Here is a street map which may help.
We have seen stops on both sides of the road, so you would expect buses TO Doncaster to use the same route, but in the opposite direction.

Don't be foolish dear innocent reader; this is UK Public Transport, where logic never fully extends its influence to what actually happens.

Early morning, evening and Sunday 219s continue along Melton Road past New Lane, turn RIGHT into Thorpe Lane, then via Main Street and New Lane in the path of the 49, before turning RIGHT and traversing a bit of Melton Road a second time on its way to Doncaster.

There is an historic logic in this as it ensures hat buses TO Doncaster always leave from the same stops in Sprotborough village. Kevin Tennent doesn't quite understand that this does not happen all the time.

So here is my view of what a better, more direct, easier-to-follow route might look like. It cuts off the round-the-houses in Thurnscoe off, and the doubling back in Great Houghton, as well as the needless Sprotbrough loop, where the bus goes down the same road twice!

Maybe when the 49 ran half hourly and the 219 also ran half hourly there was a competitive desire to snaffle as many of the few Sprotborough village passengers as possible; hence the cunning plan of running buses round in circles. 

Now the 49 is reduced to almost nothingness and the 219 is just hourly, you do wonder whether this is the most helpful way. At no time will both routes be operating together and a few sticky labels on the bus stop flags would sort it all out.

Then there is the one bus a day via Cadeby.
Logic dictates that it, too, should loop the loop at Sprotborough on the way TO Doncaster.

But it doesn't.

It runs straight along Main Street, turns left up Thorpe Lane and tight into Melton Road calling at stops opposite those used for every other journey of the 219 going to Doncaster.!

Which Leaves The 219A, Eh?
Here are the 219 stops as shown on the fully detailed Traveline timetable.
And here are the 219A stops for the same stretch of the route.
They are 99.9% identical - please feel free to look at Traveling and double check.

The only difference is that an extra stop is shown on Houghton Road for the 0628 from Darfield. The additional stop is called Houghton Road Thornley Crescent.
Its is one of two stops used by buses that do NOT serve the estate at Merrill Road.
You might jump to the erroneous conclusion that 219A label is used to designate buses that don't go via Merrill Road.
But, sadly, only the 0610 from Barnsley doesn't and the 0750 and 0850 do - but are still numbered 219A.

And there is NO Thornley Crescent in Thurnscoe.


 Next Variety Blog : Saturday 30th April 

Thursday 28 April 2022

219 - It Is Fine! (4)

 Who Needs Passengers?

Gone are the halcyon days when bus stations were thronged with queues of passengers from dawn to dusk; gone are the days when  bus services could automatically be profitable and, if not, the much maligned cross-subsidy would ensure that the operator ran a comprehensive network. Rightly or wrongly the concept of a bus service has been replaced with a bus business.

Nowadays (except in London) the provision of a service is entirely dependent on whether that bus route is a profitable part of the business.

Mr Tennent, our "guest" academic twitterer, is very keen to compare the 219 bus with equivalent car journeys.

The route takes about 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes end to end, for a journey doable in about 40 minutes by car.

Hmmm? At 0950 yesterday the interwebnet was recommending an apparently "long way round" route by car ...
... in preference to the direct road via Goldthorpe.
The system (for want of a better word) offers a ludicrously quick drive via High Melton, using the latter half of the 219 ...
... Until you realise that the 28 minutes only takes you to Doncaster Road, on the outskirts of the town.

But the comparison is both unreliable and silly. You would have to ber insane or a bus enthusiast (some would say they are the same thing!) to use the 219 for a journey between the two towns. Through passengers would tend to use the X19 ...
... and intermediate passengers who live close to the X19 would also take the direct route.

The diversion up to Thurnscoe takes 30 minutes on its own; to go by car from Goldthorpe to Darfield only takes 5-10 minutes! No one with their own transport is going to take this bus.

Again you would have to be potty to take the 219. The X19 takes just ten minutes (same as by car?) but it all depends on where in Darfield you want to go. Saltersbrook Road is very much a "northern by pass". 
But how many people would want to get from Goldthorpe to Darfield? Enough to run a bus route along the main road but via the estates? Unlikely!
Percentage-wise, there will be more bums on seats (not many more, admittedly) travelling from Thurnscoe and its estates to Darfield to socialise Granny or Aunt Aggie!

There again, if you lived at Goldthorpe and were visiting old pal Muriel on Upperwood Road, you would be very likely to be more than happy with a ride round on the 219. Again playing the percentages game, the chances are that you would be "mature" and not have access to a car. So it is 219 or taxi!

And the 219 is FREE!

Either way, Mr Tennent's twittered plan to chop off all the Thurnscoe appendages ...
... could easily be a commercial and PR disaster for Stagecoach. And please, Mr T, do not compare the Dearne Valley with London.

TfL do this already - main London bus routes do not go round the houses, because they know that people will walk to reach a frequent, direct bus route. This will also have the positive effect of boosting active travel thus improving fitness and mental health locally.  So better transport is not just about getting from A to B.

Outside of the central area, London has some of the most convolutes bus services in the galaxy. They can be convoluted to serve everyone possible, simply because they are NOT commercial but buoyed up by massive (and fbb means massively massive) taxpayer subsidy.

fbb is equally sure that the denizens of Merrill Road Thurnscoe would be absolutely thrilled to hear that they had to walk from a town centre stop, laden with multiple shopping bags,.  just to boost their fitness and mental health!

fbb would expect a typical well thought out Yorkshire polite response something like "Not  bloody  likely!"

My revised route could probably be completed in 50 minutes to 1 hour with contactless fares and a shorter journey time would mean frequencies could be increased with the same buses. It currently runs hourly, which is not really enough for people to use it consistently.

Again NO, Mr T. 
The current daytime round trip is just under three hours, so with layover and interworking on another route you would allow 3.5 buses to run an hourly service. Cutting the running time to an unlikely 1 hour exactly would need 2.5 buses for an hourly service which would imply FIVE buses to run a half hourly service. Doubling the service would then imply double the number of passengers PLUS replacing those that you lose by not going where they want to go.

It doesn't add up.

Neither Stagecoach nor the PTE tell us which bus journeys are operated on tender so we can only speculate. But the early(ish) morning oddities are confusing.
Despite the unhelpful time point names, the 0610 from Barnsley does not run via the Merrill Road housing area ...
... whilst the 0645 doesn't serve Hanover Street and it's approaches. But both go via Park Spring Road Houghton Colliery; and we already know that Houghton Colliery has been razed to the ground.
A huge warehouse has been built on the old colliery site complete with a new road network.
The office block is big enough ...
... but the warehouse itself is hugely huge!
It gets morning and evening calls on the 219.

The final oddment is one shopping journeys to and from Doncaster that diverts via Cadeby at 0959.
The return journey leaves Doncaster at 1330. Cadeby is a sweet little village with no facilities ...
... and fbb guesses that there will be few passengers each day for Donny. Most will have cars! In happier times, Cadeby had a "proper" service.

Which leaves Sprotborough and, wait for it ...

The undecipherable 219A - both to be tackled tomorrow.

Deep joy!!

 Next 219 Is Fine blog : Friday 29th April