Tuesday 28 February 2023

It's All On Line ...

Roger French, A P.S.

Last week, Uncle Rog was extolling the virtues of five new bus routes from around our nation. On 22nd inst his eager eye hit on two linked services operated under the auspices of Oxfordshire County Council. Of course they are not NEW new services, but a rejig of something that was running as recently as last year.
The 250 ran hourly between Bicester and Oxford via a selection of villages west of the A43 (as it was before it was renumbered and rerouted). These included Heyford Park ...
... a new 'village" on land beside RAF Upper Heyford. As its name suggests it was a base for the United States Air Force where they operated very noisy fighters and bombers used in many recent conflicts or near conflicts.
Roger's enthusiasm seems to be based on the joyous fact that Oxfordshire's transport boss decided not to go down the route of "uber-style" demand responsive and offer a replacement real bus.
So Roger's blog offers a very thorough and well reasoned review of the TWO "new" services to the area.
The 24 is the nearly direct replacement for the 250 (but not quite) and the 25 goes unimpeded to Heyford Park, now eschewed by the new 24. Simple isn't it?

fbb was wondering whether to augment Roger's wisdom and write about these services; when he received an e-mail from a chum, Woodford Lynn. Now, as an evangelical Christian, fbb would not countenance Woddy's actions, but he is sort-of happy to pass on his chum's findings.

Woodford has relatives in the area, viz an elderly Aunt Aggie who lives at Heyford. actually a cottage about half way between Upper and Lower of that ilk.

It so happened that Woodford was enjoying a visit with his kiddies, to the peripatetic fairground that was operating near his outer suburban village. So he decided to "experiment" with the surprisingly modern services of Gypsy Queen and her crystal ball. Instead of a mysterious tent shrouded in thick curtains and flickering LED candle light, she uses a "consulting room" in her well appointed mobile home.
Gypsy Queen was initially edgy about answering bus timetable questions, indeed so uncertain was she of the ley lines' fluence on public transport that she offered to have a go for the bargain price of a fiver.

Some cynics, on reading this report, may suspect that the Gypsy royalty had an i-pad screen secreted below her "output device" ...
... but Woodford was all too ready to be utterly convinced of her potential powers.

"Ooooooh," quoth her Romany majesty, in ominous plangent tones [look it up], "the mists are dark and doom-ridden today. The messages from beyond this world are cloudy and indistinct." 

There was a long pause during which the queen's hands were fiddling with something under the table.

"I see a coat of arms, resplendent in glorious heraldic colourways!" She knew all the latest tech jargon!
Eager for a reply from "the beyond", Woodford cried out, "And where are the Bicester bus timetables?

"Alas," hissed Gypsy Queen menacingly, "nothing materialises and the signal is fading fast. I will refresh my receptory nexus." And she nipped out of the emergency door for the lavvy, a bevvy in and a faggy.

A few minutes later she returned, accompanied by a slight whiff of some smokable "substance" and an additional tinge of supermarket brandy, then gazed into the globus once again.

I see a river, maybe the Styx, the route to the Underworld." She rubbed her eyes. "Ah, no; as the miasma clears it is the Cherwell," she croaked as only a crone could croak. " It is the Cherwell, river of death."

Woodford shuddered.
"Well it's a bit polluted in places, but it is near Bicester, so the spirits may be guiding us thither." After caressing the ball with her wart encrusted hands (she uses rice crispies, PVA glue and lipstick!) she continued quickly ...

"But there are no timetables there." After a bit more fiddling below the table, she announced truculently, "The image has changed again, we are now entering a world of gleaming spires and ivy covered professors of academe."

Woodford looked perplexed.

"It's Oxford innit," she announced thoughtlessly reverting to her natural Hackney patois.
'And the timetables?" muttered Woodford Lynn, voice barely perceptible in his near tearful disappointment.

"Yer'll 'ave to 'ave a butchers f'y'self, mate. I ain't seein' none!"

Could it possibly be, thought our determined dabbler into "the dark side", that none of the local authorities involved in the Bicester area actually tells you about the buses?

"But wait!" Gypsy Queen regained her composure. "I have found a map of destiny showing buses in Bicester on-line. I mean in the crystal ball. It has appeared from ..."
"... times past, happier times, joyous times, times when you could see clearly through the aura." She was well into her "art" by now and added, "it's dated 2012!"

Our depressed enquirer opined that a map over ten years old was unlikely to satisfy his thirst for public transport information in 2023.

By now the Hackney Gypsy was becoming desperate. "There's another map from the town of dreaming academic spires ..."
Woodford was almost delirious with excitement. Was he on the verge of accepting supernatural help to find a map showing the bus that passed close by Aunt Aggie's cosy cott?

No he wasn't. The Unclairvoyant reported that it was dated 2013.

So, it would have to be an act of utter desperation and self sacrifice for Woodford if he were to have any hope of finding the new bus services to take him Aggie-wards. 

He would have to try Traveline!

He handed over his fiver to the Gypsy Queen and drove, a sadder mortal, back to the Bunyanian Slough of Despond, a k a Milton Keynes.

The search for omnibological truth continues tomorrow in the similarly unreal world of 21st century public transport information.

 Next Bicester Bus blog : Wednesday 1st March 

Monday 27 February 2023

Potsdamer Platz Persistence (6)

Today's Busy Station (Or Not?)

A reminder is appropriate. The "main" lines at Posdamer Platz run north-south and carry four S-Bahn routes ....
... which are full sized trains with a remit similar to London's Overground. The trains are painted red and cream ...
... and operated by the Berlin s-Bahn company. Also using these tunnels are four R-Bahn services.
These are part of the Deutsche Bahn network and are the equivalent of the longer distance former Network SouthEast services in London.
Although shown as east-west on the route diagram, the one Underground (sometimes called "Metro") is U2 which crosses from south west to north eat.
"U" lines are operated by BVG, the Berlin Ciy Transport company which also runs buses and trams. Trains are more metro-like and yellow. The tunnels are more tunnel-like rather thn the obvious cut-and-cover of the S-Bahn.
The whole thing has much more of an "Underground£ ambience, rather than "buried" ordinary trains.
We saw the surface entrances in a previous blog, but once down below you are in a vast circulating area with assorted shops and assorted escalators and stairs.
It is bright and spacious ...
... but seemed unusually quiet when No 3 son explored, admittedly after work one evening. But the S-Bahn wad virtually deserted. Even the platforms ...
... were largely bereft of customers. Indeed one entrance to an S-Bahn platform was blocked off completely ...
... with a sign written in a language unfamiliar to No 3 son! The station was deserted because there were NO S-BAHN TRAINS. The sign on the fence said so ...
... and gave details of the closure for each station concerned.
Note that many closures were from 6th jan at 22.00 to 17 Feb at 2200. Such is Teutonic efficiency that the engineering team knows the work will be finished no later that 2200 - overruns would not be tolerated! And they aren't so they don't.

Why was only one platform physically blocked. This baffled No 3 son and almost baffled fbb. But Potsdamer Platz (S- and R- Bahn station) has FOUR platforms as shown in the photo above; used (reading from left to right) by R-Bahn, R-Bahn, S-Bahn and S-Bahn. So the central island platform served both operators and thus the platform could not be blocked.

The closure is all over the Berlin Media.
The S-Bahn web site explains all (posted here in English).
Because the work is routinely done in the new year, people are generally prepared and do not wander around in a confused miasma of misinformation as they do in UK.
But for the few who might be just a  bit baffled, there were plenty of notices guiding passengers to alternative transport.
They were directed to replacement buses ...
... or the long way round via the Ringbahn. 
This option would not be much use for those arriving "on spec" at Potsdamer Platz as they would need a bus to get to the Ringbahn (and from it) but it would help the partially aware to plan their rides well away from the closure.

Outside on the street, there was plenty of information for the service buses; including departure lists ...
... local maps ...
... and network maps.
My goodness me, you might think that all the public transport in Berlin was fully coordinated. How is such luxury possible - shock horror?

No 3 son was impressed with the displays advertising the DB museum at Nurnburg.
... and its outstations at Koblenz and Halle.
Could it be that DB (German State Railways - nationalised) are proud of their system? How is such luxury poissible - shock horror?

Of course, there were helpful electronic displays at every bus stop not just the busy ones!
But German efficiency was not always perfect. On one occasion, No 3 son was observing when he saw that ...
... the electronics were NOT WORKING - Shock Horror!

How is such inefficiency possible - shock horror (again!)? But at least they apologised in English as well as German.

It's quite like being at Seaton Marine Place or Axminster station!
Danke shon - Fritz!! Gee Thanks!

There is not much by way of comparison between Berlin and Bicester (except their initial letter) but we move to Oxfordshire for tomorrow's blog.

 Next Bicester Bountiful Bus blog : Tuesday 28th Feb 

Sunday 26 February 2023

Sunday Variety

Partying From Dawn Till Dusk?

fbb did, however, enjoy a smattering of cards. The above was a delight. The very fat cat sits with an aggressive expression on the keyboard and speaks as quoted below the picture, "food first, then Facebook!." Friend Joan has expunged Facebook and replaced it with "Blog". As yet Mr Tubbles has not taken such a stand, but it is only  matter of time!

But the "card prize" goes to chum Fran.

Well, there is not much else to do at 78 thn discuss ailments and be grumpy. fbb is becoming something of an expert at both. But blogging continues ...

And that Moonpig Box?
It contained a mug, a gift from No 3 son - and an appropriate gift as fbb will explain in due course.
The pink item peeping out from the muggie depths is ...
... a Moonpig tea bag. Such lavishness is much appreciated.

But, let the partying continue. There was coffee with the "old people" as usual on Saturday and a chance to review exciting progress on he conversion of a dowdy co-op into a go-getting Aldi store.
The old building is being stripped right back to its frame whilst (apparently) retaining the roof. 
A banner has appeared on the hitherto blank timber poster board.
It took one of the coffee gang to point out to fbb that "Yippea" was not another German deliberate mis-spelling. It was a play on words as the picture on the poster was peas in and out of pod.

Sehr drollig, Lidl.

But the partying continues ...

... with a lunchtime visit to Axminster.

Back in 2019, the town's department store closed.
Its name comes, not from the lighthouse charity, but from its location on Trinity Square.
The store was typical of a past era, with shoppers always expecting a visit from Young Mr Grace ...
... to encourage the staff with a rousing, "You have all done very well!". 

The fear was that the closure would rip the hear out of Axminster's shopping centre. Fortunately the building has been reborn, accommodating a series of independent traders. 
On of these ventures is ...
... where the fbbs were able to secure a window seat and where one of the fbbs (guess which one) could thus watch the buses go by. 

First run hourly from Weymouth alternately via Dorchester and Abbotsbury.
Stagecoach runs two hourly to Honiton and Exeter, which was hourly until October last.
Unscientific evidence suggests that Stagecoach has, as a result, lost significant numbers of passengers, casting doubt on the service's future.

Then good old faithful Axe Valley. This remains every hour (ish) to Seaton with most journeys continuing to Beer.
The bus stop is right next to the posh lamp standard and the road but has been repainted since Streetview went past ...
... but the shelter, bus stop flag and pole etc are all about 30 yards further on outside the Minster Church. 
And can you make out that white-on--blue sign next to the bus stop.
It directs pedestrians (hence the walking man) to disabled toilets where there are, unsignposted, toilets from the undisabled as well, and to the station and bus stops. 
All buses call at the station about one third of a mile away.  The arrow directs you past the town centre bus stops where, you guessed it, all buses call!

The toilets, by the way, are in a car park, so accessible to all including drivers and their passengers. As is, obviously, the transport "interchange" at the station". The toilets have recently been joined by FOUR (yes FOUR) electric car charge points serving EIGHT car bays.
Does someone know something about a sudden vast increase in the purchase of electric cars at Axminster?

The Waffle caff was packed and service was, how to put it tactfully, snail-like. But fbb could, if he so wished, play with a small train set whilst waiting.
Sadly, the entertainment therefrom was limited to one tank engine whizzing round the oval at a scale 200mph. 
But then perhaps it was not really intended as a birthday treat for the old man!

Oh, yes, the waffles.

fbb was disappointed. His last encounter with a waffle stall was outside Gare du Midi, Brussels, in 1963. Back then he did not purchase, but observation suggested that they were deep fried and crispy.
fbb's, served with goujons of cod (a k a battered fish fingers) and called "The Catchy One" on the menu, were £10, plus £2.40 for the tea. The waffles were rubbery and disappointing. fbb was not a convert. But the place was packed.

So, after a period of all-too-exciting celebrations it was back to fbb mansions for a quiet afternoon, only interspersed by Mrs fbb weeping as Andy Murray lost to Daniil Medvedev in the ATP 250 Final at Quatar, But Medvedev was seeded 3 and the old Scotsman was unseeded.

No 1 son phoned to say that he had "amazonned" fbb a gift, thus creating a possible new coining for the 2024 OED word of the year. (see also "podiumed" c/o Formula 1 racing commentators.)

Fortunately fbb was tead and coffee-caked to complete a splendid celebratory day.

Who need parties?

STOP PRESS : No 1 son's gift amazonned through the fbb's letterbox at 1935 yesterday evening. It is about public transport and a review will follow later.

Bus Station Beautiful
There is much progress with Ryde's new bus station. Landscaping is now in hand and completion is threatened by 1st April, although that date may have unfortunate connotations.
It should be very smart when it is finished.
Also from Isle of Wight Alan, a picture of a selection of OO gauge wagons in a second-hand shop in Ryde. They are a mixture of really old Triang and nearly old Triang Hornby.
Priced at £6 each they are good value and would respond well to a bit of extra detail and a repaint into more appropriate livery. They would also make a cheap-as-chips freight train for a young beginner in the hobby. But you wouldn't really want three brake vans.

If you are seeking cheap models, it can be worth a wander into your local "antiques and collectables" emporium.

The Joys Of Motoring
Yes, you have read it right!
But it would be difficult to do.

And Another Card
This from Peggy and Richard, photographed yesterday evening in poor artificial light. But there is no indication on the card as to its location, assuming that the picture is at least based on reality.

The bus is Eastern National with Chelmsford on the blind.

Searching on line for "The Plough Chelmsford" reveals a similarity ...
... but seemingly much changed since the artist painted the original for the card.

And so to Google Maps. Here we find the pub and its railway bridge on Duke Street ...
... where the Eastern National bus is turning in to the stops outside Chelmsford station.
It is all a bit different today!

So much for fbb's waffle, partly about Waffles.

Tomorrow we will (honest, we will) complete the look at the modern Potsdamer Platz station using No 3 son's pictures and a few more from on-line sources.

 Next Potsdamer Platz blog : Monday 27th. Feb