Saturday, 20 August 2022

Saturday Variety

Exhausting Exhaust Expenditure

Although the lavish fbb limo was booked in for a service at Seaton in a couple of weeks another little niggle developed, namely a "blowing" exhaust. But on Wednesday it became a blow plus a rattle. Fearful of total exhaust extinction, the fbbs decided to do something by way of an emergency.

Fortunately there is a small tyre and exhaust repair shop on a small industrial estate at Millwey Rise in Axminster.
So, after yesterday morning's church prayer meeting, off to Axminster the old folks went. Needless to say "the man" has to order the pipe. But there is a clever local delivery system, so all the fbbs had to do was to wait for about two hours.

Where better than the Co-op car park in Axminster ...
... where a "meal deal" was consumed.  Axminster Co-op car park is not the most entertaining place to enjoy two hours respite from the tensions of the motor trade.

But needs must.

The upshot of this is that the gruesome twosome were not back at fbb mansions until 1430; fortunately with a sweet, near-silent exhaust, with no worrying rattle and with a bank debit of £180.

And there was, perforce, less time than originally scheduled for blog writing.

Bus Business News
fbb is greatly indebted to Roger French for doing his (fbb's) homework.
Rog introduces his lengthy piece by revealing the aboyce shut down from HCT - but a very small one. The group has closed its operations in Manchester, South Yorkshire and West Yorksire - effectively these wholly owned subsidiaries have "gone bust"! (Apologies for a technical accountancy term). To this is now added the withdrawal of the 812 in London.

Thus there remain concerns about the rest of the group and it is these group finances that Roger has helpfully researched.

Year ended March 2018
Surplus of £838,028
on a turnover of £62,349,719

Year ended Match 2019
LOSS of £1,570,192
on a turnover of £74,294,422
Accounts lodged 192 days late

18 months ended September 2020
LOSS of $10,300,000
on a turnover of £123,706,829
Accounts lodged 19 days late

This poor performance is obviously not sustainable and, were HCT a "proper" limited company, the shareholders, the accountants and the senior management would be deeply concerned about the company's future!

But HCT is NOT a "proper" limited company.
So HCT runs buses for a "profit" so that it can use those "profits" to support "community" benefits, one of which is to run bus services that could never make a profit. 

The rule is that any surpluses made MUST be used for these community benefits - not one shiny penny goes to shareholders.

If the company makes unsustainable losses it cannot fulfill its legal objectives and, you have to assume, must close down.

Unless you are an accountant, it is hard to see how HCT is surviving - i.e. who or what is covering these losses.

fbb will take a more detailed look at the soon-to-be-withdrawn route 812 in a later blog.

Puzzle Picture
This swish Irizar coach is unusual because it doesn't have any wing mirrors. Huge wing mirror like giant antlers or the feelers on some ferocious intergalactic humanoid eating monster have been a feature of coach design for many years. As a one-time coach driver, fbb was taught that your mirrors were your life saver; and a life saver for pedestrians and other road users.

But to see along a huge modern coach, thy needed to be big and horribly capable of being smashed to smithereens; and hugely expensive to replace.
So the Irizar doesn't have any!

It does, of course, or the vehicle would be very illegal! But they are in the form of clever TV cameras that see along the length  of the coach. You can spot one in this enlargement.
It is that tiny little black "ear" just above the door's window. Cameras on both sides feed two mirror-sized monitors in the cab. Seemples!

The caption on the Irizar picture says that it is the first coach in the UK to be so equipped. Below is a typical "ear" plus internal "mirror" set up.

Fair Fares in Fairfield** Foretold
Despite a truly deafening silence from H M Government about a national scheme, Andy Burnham, mega-mayor of Manchester, is implementing his own cut price fares deal.
If the poster is to be believed, it is a MAXIMUM fare, not a flat fare.

With the Government's Office For Doing Tricky Sums (Offdots?) now warning the two candidates for PM that there won't be as much money for tax cuts as they thought, and bearing in mind that a national scheme would be hugely complex to fund and probably unmanageably expensive to operate, it could be that the idea fizzles out!

What a surprise!

** Fairfield IS in Manchester!

What You Have All Been Waiting For ...
Just over 9 minutes of gorgeous nostalgia.
If you don't have time to watch now, look it up on YouTube. And watch out for the "Stainmore Summit" sign and the Belah Viaduct!

 Next Variety blog : Sunday 21st August 

Friday, 19 August 2022

Notable Nostalgia Near Newbiggin

East Is East And West Is West - Sort Of!

There were two stations, both named Kirkby Stephen but later (under British Railways) given an East and west addition, West (above map, bottom left) is on the Settle and Carlisle line and still very much extant. 

Easily spotted, as you drive (or ride by bus!) between Newbiggin and Kirkby, with its rail overbridge.
There is some hefty ironwork there, so, presumably he bridge suffers from big lorry strikes, vehicles going from the A66 to the M6 at Tebay and vice versa.
Local opinion suggests that it is the worst site in the UK for bridge strikes!

Road access to the station is on the Kirkby side of the bridge. The station is atop an embankment ...
... where, as well as the footbridge, there is a ramped footpath to the opposite platform.
Unfortunately, you are about two miles from the town centre with only sporadic bus services passing by. In common with all of the stops on the S & C, the station is in excellent condition ...
... but is, effectively, an unstaffed halt! The station building can be rented in the form of two separate "cottages". A little closer to the town but still very much on the outskirts, was "East" station. This was on the line from Darlington to Tebay that offered passenger calls at Newbiggin on Lune (but called Ravensonedale). A later link ran from Kirkby to Penrith and this became the major passenger artery.
As was so often the case with rural lines, the main reason for this route was to carry heavy freight (coal, steel, iron ore, quarried stone) between Cumbria and County Durham. Passengers contributed very little to the line's finances.

Kirkby Stephen East was a much more splendid station that West.
It had a loco shed ...
... a sizeable goods yard and an island platform with two big overall-roof station canopies. 
Continuing today's drive towards the town, you will begin to spot "industrial" activity on your left, the western side of the road.
And there, soon visible, are the remnants of the station.
One side of the platform structure still stands.

Despite the economies of dieselisation ...
... the line closed in 1962, just over 100 years after it opened.

The site was used for a manufacturing business for a while, but when this folded, dereliction set in.

But better times are here with the arrival of a preservation group called "The Stainmore Railway",
Its badge may be a tad on the optimistic side (as we shall see!) but it has accumulated a few locos, a few coaches and can even give you rides along the track.
Potential visitors should not expect a steam hauled extravaganza along the line! Green Riggs Farm is about half a mile from Kirkby Stephen East.
Well, its a start!

They have installed a lovely shiny station nameboard on their re-fettled platform.
For the record, Stainmore Summit is a good few miles to the east of the station high up and close to the A66.
The iconic sign is in the middle of nowhere ...
... but getting a train to there from Kirkby would be just a bit expensive. You see, there is this valley through which flows the Belah Beck.
Crossing the gulch was the Belah Viaduct ...
... which has long gone!
While we are up in "them thar hills", we might espy and unnamed turn off a local road that runs a wiggly parallel to the A66.
The track leads to a farm called ...
... Bleathgill.

But railway enthusiasts may know it as the two words, Bleath Gill.

And what a glorious bit of nostalgia this ten minute film is. It is on YouTube and, technology permitting, it will be part of a Saturday Variety blog!

It is by far fbb's favourite transport film! Many moons ago it was so popular at a Crusader Christian Holiday that it was shown every day before lunch. 

On the last day it was shown backwards to much hilarity! 

P Q R S T (3)
It will be a two man job to move the rock face without further damage (hopefully) ...
... but a more serious problem has now been revealed.

The main picnic table, which has been in place sice 2014, is still solid (so it must have been treated with something) ...
... but the extra bit of shelf that No 1 son installed soon afterwards ...
... is rotted away. So a new piece of "shelf" will be needed.

The job will be tougher than expected.

 Next Variety blog : Saturday 20th August 

Thursday, 18 August 2022

Newbiggin Where? (3)

Buses on Mondays And Thursdays

The Cumbria Council bus map looks encouraging with three services shown as running from ...
..., Tebay to Kirkby Stephen, 570, 571 and S3. But this generosity is not the effulgence of omnibological profusion that it might seem at first glance.
571, according to the company timetable, is run by Cumbria Classic Coaches on Mondays.
It provides a reasonable amount of time to shop at Morrisons (Kendal) ...
... which shares an edge-of-town site with Halfords, B&M and Aldi.
It also allows time at Blackhall Road, which, as we all know (?), is Kendal bus station.
Oddly, on the way back, the 571 doesn't deign to enter the village but will drop you off on the main A685.

Then there is the 570.
Although the 570 is shown running along the A685, it provides no times between Ravenstonedale and Shap. The Classic Coaches depot is near Ravenstonedale and you might have thought a call at Newbiggin on Lune would be natural.

But it isn't. 

There may be a reason for that - as we shall see.

The company is proud of its service for weddings etc. and has a superb fleet of classic vehicles. (There is a clue in the company name).
The fleet has varied over the years, but the company only advertises its Wednesday schedule as being operated by a "classic" vehicle during the Summer.

But their web site does emphasise that ALL their routes are real bus services and your OAP pass is valid throughout. From Newbiggin, you would have to walk to Ravenstonedale School to pick up the classic bus to Barnard Castle, but, if it were a double decker, and IF the weather were fine, you would be sure of glorious views from the top deck over Stainmore.

Indeed, the trips would all be lovely rides, even on a boring old single decker "modern" (?) vehicle.

For the record, Classic now operates what little is left of the former Stagecoach 106 which used to be hourly six days a week. (If fbb's memory is reliable on the frequency).
In recent years it has staggered to survive. Currently Classic ...
... runs on two days a week, Tuesdays and Fridays, with just two round trips Tebay to Penrith with one to Kendal.
The Friday times are slightly different.

Meanwhile, back at Newbiggin on Lune ...

... despite the non appearance (presumed) of the 570 on Thursdays, you have a better service from ...
There are three journeys each way following a similar route to the 571.
... with positioning runs from and to Sedbergh.

The train connections at Kirkby Stephen are NOT well explained and really need more work, especially as some of them look very much like pointless missed connections!

But, as well as Kendal, you can go to Kirkby Stephen for shopping and a leisurely lunch.

And, once you work it our or take advice, there are some good train connections for the fleshpots of Carlisle or Leeds.
And, unlike the 571, the little bus brings you back to where you started, in the village of Newbiggin on Lune.
When the promo pictures were taken, the possible former pub was displaying a significant poster for the footy.
The route is numbered S5, and not S3 as shown on the Cumbria Council map.

There are four more S routes in the Western Dales network.
The S1 runs on Saturdays from Dent (with train connections at Dent station (which is miles from Dent) including early evening links from railway to Sedbergh in the Summer,

There is no S2.

S3 runs (Wednesdays Summer only) from Dent station to Hawes.

S4 (Fridays) links Dent Village with Kirkby Stephen and Brough.

S6 (Tuesdays) links Kirkby Stephen and Penrith.

These volunteer-driven community minibus services are a sensible way to provide buses to a few needy passengers, car-less in a rural area.

IF you can recruit the necessary drivers. IF?

If you are in the area, do remember that these routes also take you through some really glorious scenery.
Bootiful. Grand.

Coaching Confusion Cascades Complaint

COACHING
Setra is now owned by Daimler and the company has recently revealed its latest and, some would say, most stylish coaches.
One will cost you quite a lot of pretty pennies.

CONFUSION
But whilst looking at coaches, what is different about this Irizar?
Answer tomorrow.

CASCADES
And pity "the lads" at Stagecoach's Worksop bus depot as they were obliged ...
... to paddle earlier this week.

COMPLAINT
Valid point!

Tomorrow we add a P.S. to Newbiggin on Lune.

 Next Nostalgia blog : Friday 19th August