Monday, 23 May 2022

Go Ahead Goes Backwards (1)

The Monks At Jarrow

As the Monks at the Abbey/Monastery at Jarrow sang their Benedictine routine of daily services in plainsong ...
... so Go Ahead North East intones a repeated sombre incantation as part of its recently-published "consultation".

That word has a very different meaning in the bus industry than its use by ordinary folk. Usually, in bus-speak, it means "We are asking for your views but have no real intention of taking any notice of them. But if we "consult" the Local Authority may be more inclined to slip us the odd thou."
Work continues to rebuild passenger numbers across our network, but we’re now at the point where it’s clear some services won’t recover to the point of being viable without changes or external support.

Given the huge changes in the way many people are working and living, including things like home working and online shopping, it is only right that services are adapted to efficiently meet new patterns of demand.

We are now in a position where we need to look at making changes to ensure that our bus network is sustainable. We are working closely with local authorities on any possible replacement options where there are reductions in services, although noting their budget challenges.

We have analysed our services in great detail, and developed a set of proposals as outlined below. Please carefully read the information for your area, and help us shape the future of our bus network by completing our consultation survey. Your feedback is very important, as it will help us determine the final proposals which are introduced.

The survey is open until 31 May 2022. All feedback will then be collated, analysed and proposals amended where necessary with a view to implementing any changes from 24 July 2022.

Hmm? Maybe?

There the follows a list of 58 services (or groups thereof) which are going to change including the mysterious 734 which does not appear on the company web site!

It will not be practicable to review ALL of these changes because rapidly the process will assume the excitements of watching paint dry. 

So what follows is a summary. Keen students of the Go Ahead network can do their owen research.

But first, some plain-song ecclesiastical incantations which appear with doom-laden frequency in the description of the changes.

X-lines X5 & X15
There are some journeys, particularly early morning, in the evening and on Sundays which do not carry enough customers to cover the costs of operating them. We are working closely with local authorities on any possible replacement options, noting budget challenges.

This text is repeated dozens of times throughout the "consultation". The "usual suspects" are for the prune unless Durham County finds some money down the sofa - which is very unlikely. Both the evening and the Sunday service on the X5/X15 are already reduced in scope.
Two hourly, anyone? Or nothing at all?

Then comes the actual change/
Here is a chunk of the existing timetable ...
... and what is "proposed".

Our proposal is that this service would now operate to Castleside, replacing service 78, instead of running to Shotley Bridge. This provides a more reliable service for Castleside, as well as a faster, direct link into Durham from this area. The service to Bridgehill and Shotley Bridge Hospital would be replaced by Red Kite Ranger 47.

Map, please!

After going via Bridgehill to Consett bus station, the 47 service will extend to Shotley Bridge Hospital, maintaining local connections and access to the hospital site.

Not quite! Delves and Iveston would lose their link to the Hospital.

And the 78?

We propose the 78 service goes back to terminating at Consett instead of Castleside. Castleside would now be served by X-lines X5/X15, improving reliability of the service to Castleside and offering a direct service to Durham.

Currently the 78 provides a link between Castleside, Stanley and Chester-le-Street which will be lost.

But there is no doubt that this "simple change" is more complicated than just tinkering with the X5/X15.

Another example:-

Metrocentre Express X22
We propose that this service does not return at the present time due to reduced demand. Customers still have the alternative option to travel to Metrocentre by travelling on the Angel 21 or X-lines X21 to Gateshead and then the Metrocentre Shuttle X66 from there.
The X22 linked Durham with the MetroCentre shopping paradise (a k a shopping hell). It zapped straight down the A1 dual carriageway avoiding the grunge in the Gateshead area. It will not return having been suspended recently.

X-lines X30 & X31
The service would be revised to operate every 30 minutes on Monday to Saturday daytimes, once per hour as service X30 and once per hour as service X31. Extra journeys would operate at peak times on Monday to Friday, maintaining a 20-minute service at the busiest times of day.
Reduced by one third. This is the main "direct" link between Newcastle and Stanley.

X-lines X45 & X46
We propose that service X45 would continue to operate every 30 minutes between Consett and Newcastle, coordinating with Red Kite Ranger 47 between Rowlands Gill and Newcastle to provide a bus every 15 minutes on this section of route.
We propose that service X46 would no longer operate ...
...due to the lower numbers of customers using this service. Customers travelling from Bridgehill will still be able to travel to Consett and Newcastle on Red Kite Ranger 47, which would now see all journeys running via Bridgehill, providing a service up to every 30 minutes.
Reduced by one third. This is the "direct" service between Newcastle and Consett.
There is a pattern emerging. Where practicable we are looking at a reduction of one third in the X Lines network. 

X-lines X70, X71 and X72
We propose that services X71 and X72 continue to operate on the same route as now, with service X70 withdrawn due to low passenger numbers.
Alternative travel options are available on other services such as Durham Diamond 16 and X-lines X71 and X72.
The Durham Diamond 16, referred to as an "alternative" is only an alternative locally; because it runs to Durham and not Newcastle.

Looks like another one third chop!

And, just a reminder, almost all of these have the early morning, evening and Sunday plainsong incantation in addition to the changes reviewed above.

There are some journeys, particularly early morning, in the evening and on Sundays which do not carry enough customers to cover the costs of operating them. We are working closely with local authorities on any possible replacement options, noting budget challenges.

This blog has been an incomplete look at what is proposed for the high profile X Lines routes. Interestingly, the doom mongers have been predicting about a 30% reduction in services as part of Building Back Better (don't laugh, you really need to cry.) and Go North East seems well on the way to fulfilling that prophecy.

But we have been here before, haven't we? In the early days of privatisation, operators pulled out of evening and Sunday services. One man and his bus start-ups jumped in to won the tenders, but they did not make enough money so they started competing with the incumbent

Is the competitive chaos likely again?

Probably not. It is both harder and more risky to "get into" running buses and there is less appetite for "having a go". But, this time, IF the gaps are to be filled, more Local Authority and or Government money will be needed (that's fbb's money and his readers') and, sadly, there is not going to be enough.
Perhaps not quite so many passengers after these forthcoming changes.

But there are routes proposed for complete withdrawal, not just a 30% short back and sides.

More tomorrow.

Meanwhile ...

 Next GoAhead Going Backwards : Tue 24 May 

Sunday, 22 May 2022

Sunday Variety

They Added The Windows Later?

So said Timmy to Siddy as they explored a carriage from the very first "tube" railway that ran, initially from the City at King Edward Street (not far from today's Bank station) to South London. There is a clue in the company name!: 
But fbb can only find pictures of these unattractive vehicles with their tiny little windows in place.
Was Timmy wrong?
fbb does not know for certain, but, elsewhere in Timmy's twittering oeuvre, the maestro reveals that there exists a padded cell "clone" without windows.

"But where?" we hear our readers cry.

For this we must go to the Great Northern Hotel, seen below over the roof of St Pancras, courtesy of Google Earth.
The new Kings Cross concourse was cleverly designed to fit the curved shape of the hotel. As part of the general up-fettling of the area, the hotel has been substantially upgraded - in luxury as well as price.
Hmm. Just a smidgen too much for fbb's budget.

But perhaps you could go down to the basement without spending a fortune. Here you would find a corridor that artistically re-creates a window-less "padded cells" carriage ...
... and the fenestrated original (or not the original original as the case may be) is shown for comparison.

New Trains For Nexus Transport
Pictured at the Stadler factory in Switzerland. But fbb is disappointed. On the current trains the driver's cab is only half width ...
... which means, if you are lucky, you can get a front view all the way!

The new trains, it would appear, have a full frontal cab. Shame!

Here is approx 3 minutes of video telling you how truly wonderful Stadler are.

Wagons Roll
Rails of Sheffield are offering all savvy railway modellers a real bargain, their EXCLUSIVE Iron Mink.
In many ways it is a rarity; as it is designed and manufactured in the UK. Mostly everything is made in China.

Offered originally at £37 (OUCH), the knock-down price is now £29 (LESS OUCH). Were the finances even more agreeable (remember there's £4 postage to be added), fbb quite fancies the GWR wartime special livery.
Did Rails order too many, hence the "bargain"?

And then there's the Accurascale CDA hopper wagon - a superbly detailed model.
But why should fbb have to buy three? At £25 for one, and with a rush of blood to the head, he might have bough just the ONE; but three ... ?  

Where To Buy A Large Site Pump?
Seems just what the fbbs are looking for. AND they can go by train.
Milton Keynes to Long Marston (see para 1 above)? Long Marston is not too far from Stratford upon Avon.
Seems a long way round! But you can get a bacon roll!
There is also a link from Great Western territory.
Maybe leave the site pump for a while, then?

IT Fails - Get Out The Felt Tip Pen

Izy Come, Easy Go!
So now you know!

Cheap and slow is not always a successful product.
As all our readers know (?), Thalys has recently been merged with Eurostar and the Brand Awareness consultants have, apparently, been earning their ludicrously fat fees. This article reveals how:-

Will it be sticky-backed plastic or a complete repaint?

 Next GoAhead Go Backwards blog : Mon 23 May 

Saturday, 21 May 2022

Saturday Variety

Intergalactic Public Transport Experience?

Always at the forefront of mind-blowing technology stories, the BBC has revealed this:-

In a weird twist of fate, the general manager of Lucasfilm, progenitor of the Star Wars "franchise" comes from Pembrokeshie!
Sadly, the vessel itself will not be flying in!... 

Transport for Wales will soon be introducing "TramTrains" on certain of the Valley Lines serving the Welsh Capital. They are scheduled to operate on the Rhondda, Merthyr, City and Cardiff Bay lines.
They are "British Railways" class 398.
... and that ugly-looking front "buffer" isn't. It folds down to give the front end (and the back end of a 3 car unit!) a sensible appearance.
TfW will be playing trains with them for a while but they may appear later this year - or maybe early next.

Timmy And Siddy Sample The Travolator
In episode 2 of the current series, Timmy and Siddy were exploring the Waterloo and City Line. This took them to Bank and a ride on the famous Trav-o-Lator from platforms to Booking Hall. 

The new platform for the Northern Line is now open.
Timmy and Siddy returned to Bank briefly in Episode 3 which explored the former terminus of what became the Northern Line. The terminus (King Edward Street) has been repurposed as an access shaft for the Bank rebuild work.
With excitement verging on delirium, the exploratory expositors found some london clay (wowsers) ...
... where the old iron-ring tunnel was being joined to the new diversionary tunnel lined in sprayed concrete. They even met a concrete sprayer!
But they could see the join!
On they bravely trod along a bit of the new tunnel ...
... until they reached the new southbound platform.

But in an unexplained shot, as they continued to explore the new station, they did walk quickly past some extra building work. Briefly we spotted the second Trav-o-Lator being installed at Bank.
Below is an artist's impression looking from the other direction.
It will provide a faster and less exhausting link The Northern Line with the Central line platforms and, at the opposite end, with Monument Station on the Circle and District line. Yes it is unbelievably complicated!

The new Trav-o-Lator is not yet open.

Episode 3 also included a Siddy solo piece about Knightsbridge station where lifts are being installed in the long-closed original lift shafts to provide step-free access. The old lifts were driven by a real human.
The new lifts, installed in the same holes ...
... will, of course, be fully automatic. The tunnels leading to the lifts have also been closed for many a long year.

Siddy was very excited about the original coloured tiles ...
... understandably so as they are about 90 years old. Some are being preserved and incorporated in the refurbished and reopened bits.

The full episode can be watched on UKTVplay. This coming week's 45 minutes of uncontrolled excitement from the ebullient presenters (plus 15 min of adverts!) is on Thursday, on the Yesterday Channel, at 2000.

It is entitled, "Brompton Road". fbb is intrigued.

Platinum Purple
fbb was somewhat underwhelmed at First Berkshire's Platinum Jubilee bus. Whilst there is an element of "design", from a distance it looks like a fairly standard First Bus with the official logo plonked on.

Maybe there has been a headquarters diktat, because in Sheffield ...
... First have exactly the same. Maybe the ambient light is different, but the same livery looks a bit better in Sheffield.
The rear end in noticeably purple!
Thanks to Roy for the pictures.

P.S. Lots Of Smiles For Lovely Tiles
Specially for Siddy!

If the next station to be visited were Barons Court, Siddy could be ecstatic about the very green glazed tiles that adorn the booking hall.
It's a bit like booking your ticket in a Victorian public convenience!

 Next Variety blog : Sunday 22nd May