Sunday, 25 January 2015

Exciting Expedition to Exmouth

A Robust Riposte to Recent Remonstrations
fbb came in for a bit of stick last week. Following his (usual?) rant about poor information from Traveline, one comment writer suggested ...
... gainful employment. Open to all offers Mr. Anonymous, but within a few precious days of a 70th birthday, not much hope! More thoughtful from RC169, a regular writer of considered opinion, who proffered ...
... a challenge to fbb's arrogance about bus stop timetables. Point taken in part, kind sir; but ...

By pure co-incidence, your chubby blogger (maybe less so after a few weeks on the 5/2 diet craze) set off with Mrs in motor to visit Exmouth. Activity is a good antidote to hunger pangs and Friday was a 600 calorie day!
Breakfast : nothing more till a light evening meal!

Exmouth is mostly Stagecoach-land but bus stop publicity seems to be in the purview of Devon County Council. Good information is important in central Exmouth because, although most routes stop on The Parade, some cunning little buses, e.g. service 357 to Budleigh Salterton,  start from the "bus station" turn right and call at Rolle Street round the corner. Potentially baffling?
Bus Station? Is this the least used bus station in the country?
It is used only by Stagecoach routes that terminate in the town. East Devon District Council is aiming to replace it with a supertore.

But, to help the potential passenger, Devon County Council has provided a bus stop map at every central stop ...
... and letter stop poles to match the map.
Additionally there are proper timetables showing the whole route from the stop in question.
This example, of course, only shows evening and summer Sunday 357 journeys which do leave from stop A; it is the Monday to Saturday daytime service that starts from the bus station. It would be better if that confusion were unravelled by a note, but at least the information for that stop is complete and correct.

The only thing missing from stops at the Parade is a network map in each shelter. 

fbb observed happenings omnibological for 30 minutes from 1230 to 1300 and can report that all buses including Stagecoach inter-urban routes ...
... and assorted local links (Dartline 7, Country Bus 97 and Stagecoach 98) were all pleasantly loaded, in and out.
As fbb observed, he spotted a bicycle with decidedly flat tyres.
fbb could not refuse such an invitation.
This delighful little shop has been trading for five years.
It did not carry the vast range of stock that you might expect in a larger town but the owner/salesman was friendly and helpful. "We've just has a big delivery of second-hand stuff," he enthused. "Just ask and I'll check the price for you."
fbb was sorely tempted by a J94 saddle tank in LNER all-black livery for £40 (top row, left of the green tender) but resisted temptation this time! fbb will be back.
A full sized J94

Back to the buses. So there are places which make a better attempt to inform the public; but sadly the Devon County bus stop service is not consistent and not always available. In Seaton, for example, there is good, full information at the sea front terminus stops but on Underfleet (still a "busy" town centre stop) only Stagecoach route 52A is advertised (by Stagecoach!).

No First X53, no Axe Valley, no Seaton locals and even no Stagecoach 20.
But there are two flags, telling you nothing.

But it can be done. And it should be done!

 Next bus blog : Monday 26th January 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Stagecoach : Do We Run Buses in Seaton?

And which way do they go?
Underfleet in Seaton is usually a popular stop, especially for the 1000 service 52A to Sidmouth and Exeter, the first departure on which old crusties' passes are valid. But at 1000 last Thursday not a single passenger was waiting. At 0955 this gent was peering at the pole, then disconsolately toddled off into the town.
He must have read the notice.
But what is this that roareth thus?
Can it be a Motor Bus?
Yes, the smell and hideous hum
Indicat Motorem Bum!
Implet in the Corn and High
Terror me Motoris Bi: **

Four minutes after sad man wandered away, along came the scheduled 52A, passing the uncharacteristically empty shelter ...
... not surprising as "buses will be unable to serve this stop". But the picture above does look like a bus, it was a 52A and it did appear to be capable of serving the stop, sadly bereft of eager passengers.

What is going on?

First and foremost, the notice is palpable tosh and drivel! Well done Stagecoach management!

But the closure of Manor Road is not good news for bus operators. With the exception of the 391, all Seaton's buses use this little chunk of highway ...
... either to or from The Underfleet stops at the tramway (or both!). And coming from the west it is very much closed ...
... as it is equally closed if approaching from the east.
WF60 DLJ might have exercised his Magna Carta enshrined right to access one of the properties, OR, like many Seatonians, he may have simply operated on the basis of "you can get through, so I did!".

Devon Council has done us all proud with a diversion ...
... all the way via Colyford and Axmouth, a four mile trip to avoid 150 yards of closed road. Well done folks, it is always good to waste fossil fuels, increase frustration and, possibly, set up a few extra road accidents. Sensible motorists will use the "green route", shown above, which is just a little shorter.

And that's the way the buses go ...
... missing out a few stops on Harepath Road. Presumably this "short cut" is frowned upon because it uses residential roads, passes the hospital and the school. The "safer" route via Colyford and Axmouth involves two difficult road junctions, narrow wiggles through both villages and much faster traffic on the main road to and from Exeter.

Here is a 52A approaching Seaton on Valley View ...
... and here is the same 52A leaving Seaton by way of the self-same Valley View.
Here is a Stagecoach service 20 to Honiton (for Taunton) doing likewise.
And here are lots of locals not going via Colyford and Axmouth, sensible folk!
To complete the set, fbb also snapped a 393 (Seaton Town Bus) which always uses Valley View.
The road at the bottom of Valley View is Colyford Road, which does turn into Fore Street which in turn continues into the town centre. But, whichever way you hold the map, however hard you look at the problem, ALL buses still stop at the Underfleet stops.

The Stagecoch notice is really very wrong - and it might just explain poor loadings? Worth thinking about, Stagecoach?

Do Stagecoach managers actually know where their buses run? Well, it's all on the computer so a knowledge of simple local geography is quite unnecessary, as we see.

** Part of a poem in Engish and mock-Latin written in 1914 by Alfred Denis Godley (1856 to 1925). The mixed English-Latin text makes fun (?) of the difficulties of Latin declensions. It takes off from puns on the English words "motor" and "bus", ascribing them to different declensions in Latin, and declining them.

 ad currum sequi sententias : Sunday 25th January 

Friday, 23 January 2015

Daring Doings in Doncaster's Dunscroft [4]

Along the Main Road to Thorne
Thorne Colliery (at Moorends) was opened in stages from 1925; but had operation issues including shaft water, war time crises and maintenance trouble, causing the pit to be non-productive for much of its lifespan.
Production ended in 1958 due to geological problems. Unsuccessful proposals to restart production were made in the 1980s, when weird looking new headgear was built ...
... and 1990s, and in 2004 the pit pumps were turned off and the headgear demolished.

Back in fbb's student or immediately post-student days, he remembers a bus trip to Thorne. On the road through to Moorends, there used to be a chippy at the the end of every side road; and opposite each fried food emporium was a pub. The rides out and back were on one of the independent companies that plied the roads in the area. These independents also conveyed ex Thorne miners to work at nearby collieries.

With the county-wide PTE renumbering series, it needed four route numbers to explain variations via Brickyards ...
... (long since closed and cleared but replaced in part by a golf course) ...
... and via the wobble at Thorne, known as "South Common Estate". 185s which missed South Common Estate and Hatfied Woodhouse were generally positioning journeys from depot to Moorends in the early morning.

Most of the first section of route is Doncaster suburban, passing Wheatley to the west, Wheatley Hills to the east then off into more rural communities. Hatfield is notable because the main road route stops are here ...
... for many years separate from buses via Barnby Dun and Stainforth. In 1985, just prior to the shambles of privatisation and deregulation, the 185 to 188 routes ran every 15 minutes. Time rolls on by and in 2014 its simplified replacement is an 88 (with deleted 100) running only half hourly ...
... and extended every hour to Goole.
88A (and, previously, journeys numbered 186) was used for journeys via Lindholme (dotted on the above map) which will feature later in this series.

The change from Sunday 26th January is thus a lot simpler than First or Travel South Yorkshire make it. The 88 is NOT "withdrawn", for example ...
... and the X8 is NOT "new".
The route is renumbered X8, runs "Limited Stop" between Doncaster and Dunsville and no longer extends to Goole.
Buses still run every 30 minutes ...
... but the limited stoppiness means that the journey is a whole 3 minutes faster. Wow! fbb guesses that scheduling of the route can now be self-contained with ten minutes "layover" in every two-hour round trip.

We will meet the replacement service to Goole in the next blog in this series, due early next week. In the meantime enjoy an Aerofilms picture of "Moorends Colliery Village" soon after it was built by the colliery owners in 1928.
Terminating buses still run in a one-way loop via the "village".
"The Winning Post" is no longer a pub but serves as a Community Centre.
Oddly, when Google viewed the street, there was still a winning post at "The Winning Post".
The pub was very much a local highlight as well as the historic name of the bus terminus! "Round the back" was a magnificent "concert hall" where "turns" would, from time to time, entertain the evening drinkers.
How things have changed ...

Hey ho. Don't get maudlin, fbb. Life moves on.

 Next bus blog : Saturday 24th January