Tuesday, 9 February 2016

When Will They Ever Learn? [2]

Breaking News : Broken Business
News broke yesterday afternoon that Tates Travel of Barnsley, operators of about 50 buses worth of routes in West and South Yorkshire, would cease trading after the end of service yesterday evening 8th February.
A more detailed report will follow on tomorrow's blog.
It's Sir Brian, the Bearded Bus Baron of Perth!
It is none other than the Stagecoach White Knight who has agreed to take over route 17 in Guildford. Although most would consider Guildford to be Arriva-land, Stagecoach run numerous inter urban services off to points west plus four Park and Ride services ...
... usually in a dedicated (and nearly anonmymous) livery.

So they have some sort of "base".

One thing that the Souter-folk have done is to change the timetable and route. Arriva ran out and back with a Monday to Saturday round trip of 62 minutes.
Note, in passing, that the 0705 from Wood Street Green terminates at Guildford Friary Bus Station whereas the 0758 ditto runs to Guildford Friary Bus Station. Thanks, Arriva, for making that clear.

When will they ever learn?

Stagecoach will run alternate ways round the lollipop ...
... with an off-peak round trip time of 54 minutes. That means the service can run on "one bus in steam" wthout the complication of interworking with other routes or sitting around in Guildford for 58 minutes.

Good News all round, then? Erm, not quite!

As part of their withdrawal from the 17, Arriva announced that very wiggly route 28 (Guildford to Woking) ...
... would gain an extra wiggle and serve the Fairlands Estate.

fbb attempted to prise a route 28 PDF timetable and route map out of Arriva's web site. Here is the map ...
... but it's a bit foggy at Guildford! And here is the PDF timetable extract:-
It must be very confusing having TWO bus stations called "Friary".

The County Council has said that the 28 change is now unnecessary with the revised 17, but Arriva says they will continue with this amendment.

Good news for Fairlands Estate; two buses every hour rather than one.

Bad news for Stagecoach in their attempts to make their version of route 17 viable. The 28's arrival on Fairlands Estate may well split the bus business in half, thus making both the new 17/17A and the revised 28 both unviable.

What will Stagecoach do? Give up on the 17/17A.

What will Arriva do? Put the 28 back where it was?

What will residents of Fairlands, Wood Street Village and Frog Grove Lane do? Scream with insane laughter or weep copiously.

And thus continueth the delights of a privatised deregulated Public Transport system.

When will they ever learn?

Correspondent Ian (who set fbb off on this particular trail of investigateion; thanks) asks a question in his email.
And the answer, Ian is no they don't. The traffic commissioners have no powers whatsoever to intervene in any commercial bus registrations. In this area they are just a filing cabinet. They do get involved (but all too rarely) if an operator fails to run his registered service; but otherwise there is nothing they or the local authority can do.
Cllr Fiona White reminds residents that Stagecoach is introducing this service on an experimental basis in good faith, and it will be monitored during the spring and summer to establish whether revenue income reaches their expectations within the business case, before deciding what form their service should take in the longer term from September 2016 onwards.

She added: “It is important that residents use the service and it really is a case of ‘use it or lose it’. I would appreciate everyone who reads this doing all they can to publicise the new service.”

And, of course, diverting the 28 creates another problem according to one agitator.

They have left the main A322 through Stoughton without buses that serve many elderly people, to divert the bus instead to Fairlands, that will not be wanted now. Please leave route 28 as it is through Stoughton, and serve the community that needs buses.

Tosh. Mos of Stoughton has a bus every 15 minutes on service 27/28.
The road will lose its wiggly link to Woking, however.

When will they ever learn?
Meanwhile, Back in Stagecoach South West ...

We sadly announce the news that Mike Bishop has decided to retire from his position of Engineering Director for Stagecoach South West. Mike joined us here in Exeter in 2009, from his previous position at Stagecoach in Warwickshire where Mike had been the Engineering Director since 2004.

Mike has a long-standing career in the transport industry, specifically in engineering. During the 12 years Mike has been with Stagecoach he has contributed greatly to the growth and expansion of the business. Managing fleets of several hundred buses both here in the South West and during his time in Rugby. Mike has played an integral role in the day to day running of our business both in the high standard of maintenance of our vehicles and in managing the teams of people who make this possible. During his time as director here in the South West we have seen him excel on projects such as the launch of three Gold services ...
... two new Park and Ride fleets in Exeter ...
... and the launch of our new intercity coach service to Bristol.

Mike's last day working at Stagecoach will be the 3rd May 2016, please join us at Stagecoach in wishing Mike all the best for his retirement, and thanking him for all of his hard work.
Sadly the cake was not for Mike, it was for yet another launch, namely new buses on an Exeter City service. Maybe they'll bake him one when he goes in May?

And in case you wondered, Stagecoach's splendid Mike Bishop is definitely not the same one ...
... a made a bit of a picklle of trying to run western greyhound!

 Next Tates bus blog : Wednesday 10th February 

Monday, 8 February 2016

When Will They Ever Learn? [1]

fbb is indebted to a renowned trio
The celebrated 1960s LP, surely in every folk song enthusiasts collection, reminds us of these enduring and surprisingly prophetic lyrics, penned at a time when bus subsidies were beginning to grow ...

Where have all the buses gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the buses gone?
No more will go

Where have all the buses gone?
Comp'ny cuts them everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the profits gone?
Income sinking
Where have all the profits gone?
Bus routes will go

Where have operators gone, 
To make a working new bus run?
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the people gone?
Car use growing
Where have all the people gone?
Lot less will go

Where has all the money gone?
Cut from budgets everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

So off we go to Guildford where there is a bit of angst because Arriva has announce the withdrawal of their hourly Service 17.
At first glance the 17 (PALE BLUE on map) apoears to follow the same roads as the 26/27/36/37 circular services. So the difficulty may be what happens on Broad Street off the map top left. The County-wide map shows the full extend of the 17.
The service passes through the quaint village of Wood Street ...
... and along Frog Grove Lane ...
... neither of which is what might be termed "good bus territory". It then turns back towards Guildford before terminating in the Fairlands Estate (just off the Aldershot Road) near a row of "seen better days" local shops.
Surrey's map tells us that route 20 runs past the entrance to Fairlands but such a route does not exist according to Traveline. fbb was initially baffled as the 20 was the main route between Aldershot and Guildford. Surely it hadn't died?

Aha! It has been rebranded as ...
... complete with, erm, kites adorning the vehicles.
This one was still showing "20" however.
Confusing it must be for Aldershotters and Guldfordians. But the Monday to Saturday service passing Fairlands "at the end of the road" is every 15 minutes, courtesy of Stagecoach.
The big problem, then, is with the local traffic on the way to Fairlands. These good people will lose their bus service completely. Needless to say, the pitchforks are being sharpened and brandished with vehemence ...
... and posters.

Why is it that folk seem to think a bus company should run its business at a loss? Would shop owners, car maintenance garages, gardeners etc. put adverts in the local press announcing that they would be providing their services whilst going bust, just to be kind to pensioners, schoolchildren and folk without a car?

When will they ever learn?

Think about Tesco; think about what they would do (have recently done) with loss making outlets. A bus route is no different from a branch of Tesco.

Even the MP has become involved ...
... sort of. (click on the letter to enlarge it). The letter is fatuous; writing to Arriva is pointless as the company has made its decision based on pennies in the piggy bank. What would convince Arriva to relent would be a reasonable hope of more passengers. Unlikely.
What MP Milton doesn't do is to suggest writing to the County Council, the people who might choose to subsidise service 17. Of course Surrey Council will not be keen as their money has been chopped courtesy of Ms Milton and her Conservative Party.

When will they ever learn?

Whilst the people on the street bemoan the tragedy of buslessness, our present system of pseudo-deregulation will inevitably lead to situations such as the sorrow of the 17. Community buses are an option, but they still need subsidy, often more than the withdrawn bus! Shared taxi options are unpopular because people have, for many a year, been used to going when they want.

Of course, even Tesco sells stuff at a low (marginal) profit-making price. A more realistic model would be to encourage bus companies to provide a total network as required by the local authority paymaster. No way, say the bus companies, because we won't be able to make a "good" profit.

So the key question is, "can the 17 be made into a viable business, even if the profit margin does not reach the heights of that required by Arriva's business model?"

And if so by whom?
Safeguard is suggested on the village Facebook page.

Safeguard was established in 1924 by Arthur Newman, when he converted an accident damaged lorry to carry passengers, and by 1927 was running bus services to the newly constructed Aldershot Road housing estate. Shortly afterwards, another service to Onslow Village commenced.

For many years, Safeguard ran Guildford town services 3, 4 and 5 jointly with Arriva, however from 23 May 2010 the two companies agreed that Arriva would wholly run route 3 and Safeguard have complete control over the 4 and 5.

It would appear that Surrey Council Officials have been chatting to various operators to try and persuade them to take on the 17 as a commercial (profitable?) route, despite Arriva's withdrawal on those very "commercial" grounds.

Is there a white knight ready to take the risk?

Surprisingly, yes.
We will see whose bearded visage is hidden behind that visor tomorrow.

 Next chivalrous (?) bus blog : Tuesday 9th Feb 

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Southern Electric Electrified fbb [2]

G T Moody's Inspiring Book ...
... inspires.

In 1930 and as a result of progressive electrification, Mr Moody gives a lst of departures at peak (1700 to 1759) from various termini. Here is the number of trains from Waterloo on what was know as the "Main Line".

 And here are the same lines in 2016; 86 years later.
So, with the benefits of better signalling, faster-accelerating trains and electronic everything, we have three fewer trains. Maybe the comparison is unfair; maybe some of those paths down the busy "Main Line" have gone to longer distance trains as commuters commute from much further than they used to.

But? An improvement it isn't.

How about comparing comfort in the 1930s with today. The mid-Sussex lines has buffet cars WITH TABLES.
The Brighton Line had the Pullman Brighton Belle with luxury even in third class ...
... and sheer opulence in first!
Portsmouth Line first class was a bit special ...
... and Pompey trains offered real dining with waiters and silver service.
Even the lowest of the low on the Maidstone line had sprung seats ...
... and there was room on the luggage racks for luggage!

Have passengers' aspirations changed so much? Maybe, maybe not. But the modern railway is all about moving as many people as possible in the smallest space that avoids complaint and protest.

Have we moved on?

fbb couldn'r resist one or two oddities from the 1968 edition. The double decker trains were weird, didn't carry many more passengers than normal  ...
... and were a wonderful generator of claustrophobia.

There were some stunning station designs as here at Kingston (upon Tames) ...
... which has stood the test of time well; but not the onslaught of Costalot Coffee!
In 1963 we had loco hauled boat trains to Newhaven ...
... and, not long ago, the sparse train service from a dilapidated Newhaven Marine ...
... was a taxi! The 1852 was the only train, by the way. Some sources say that, although no trains call there, the taxi service no longer operates and the station has been removed from the fares lists, it is still "officially" open.

But the book is strongly recommended by fbb. Seek out a second-hand copy and enjoy learning about how the vast Southern network grew and prospered. Then muse about the gurus who are now wanting to convert the whole lot to overhead 25kV power.

It's those Gloucester Old Spots on the wing again!

 Next bus blog : Monday 8th February 

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Southern Electric Electrified fbb [1]

An Inspiring Book
This was the imposing (?) entrance to Northampton County Library, located in the Angel Street basement of some extensive administrative buildings near the town centre. It is where a youthful fbb went every Saturday with parents and where he was encouraged to borrow books.

The Library moved across the road to the former CWS cheese warehouse on Guildhall Road ...
... and later merged with the imposing and awesome Borough library in Abington Street.
But back in the poky basement days, one volume caught fbb's eye; it was Southern Electric by G T Moody. It had a picture of a strange looking train on the front.
But the book wasn't just about how wonderful trains were; it explained, in considerable detail, how the lines south of the Thames had been converted to electric power. He borrowed the book and read it avidly. Thus it was that the spotty child began to develop an interest, not in collecting numbers, but in the whole business of the business of railways. It was early days, but the seeds had been sown.

In 1957, Ian Allan Publishing produced the first edition of G.T. Moody's Southern Electric, which was a detailed history of the development and operation of the Southern's electric network. Over the next 20 years, the book was to appear in a total of five editions, the last appearing in 1979, with each edition chronicling the changes to have affected the network over the period.

Copies of that first edition are still available from Amazon.
It is more 106 years since the pioneering work on the construction of the world's largest suburban electric railway network commenced. Initially developed by the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway with overhead power ...
... and later by the London & South Western Railway with a third rail ...
... and standardised on the latter after the Southern railway was created in 1923.

The book ran to several editions and fbb eventually bought the 1968 version ...
... again still available from the usual sources.
The 1979 edition was the last to carry G T Moody's own name ...
... and you can spend a thumping great wedge on a new copy!
Then in 2001, John Glover, a prolific writer on the London scene ...
... penned an updated version in the spirit of Mr Moody.
It is the blurb from this edition that has supplied the "blue" quotes above. The text continues:-

In the 20 years since the last edition was published, there have been radical changes affecting the erstwhile Southern electric network, and it is appropriate at the start of a new century to re-examine the history of operations of the third-rail network that serves southern England. This new edition, compiled by John Glover, follows the principle established with the successful revamping of London's Underground in adopting a larger format than that used in the previous five editions which allows for better presentation of the many photographs and maps that supplement the authors' erudite and detailed text.

It is gratifying (to fbb at least!) to have the blurb writer recognise that "the start of the 21st century" was on January 1st 2001, and not one year earlier when there were still 365 days of the 20th century to run. Pedants of the World unite!

So what is good about this book?

fbb will pick out some snippets tomorrow, but, in the meantime, G T Moody solved an intriguing problem raised by adverts for Hovis bread.
There were five of those "funny" electric trains lined up, each with a letter of the brand name displayed in the headcode panel; including the lower case "o" with a line on top (a tilde - of sorts).
That little line eventually disappeared ...
... leaving just a lower case "o".
It transpires that the headcodes are all genuine as follows:-
Purists please note that the Hovis headcode "tilde" was a straight line, not a wiggly one.

An odd connection, electric trains and a gritty loaf, but fbb always was well bread. (Groan)

 Next S R blog : Sunday 7th February