Friday, 1 July 2016

Fern, Flix and Mega (and Post?)

This artificial (?) picture ...
...announced the arrival of Flixbus in the UK coach travel market. Cheap fares are a feature, but the cheapest (€9 to Paris as above) are hard to find. This blog was written on Wednesday evening 29th June.
Fares for immediate travel on Thursday were ...
... but for the more popular journeys on Friday, prices had risen muchly.
The better "near at hand" prices begin on Tuesday 5th July.
If you can stand an eight hour journey, these prices do offer good value.

The other snag with this system is that services rarely serve city centres. The stop in Paris is at Porte Maillot ...
... one of the former gateways to the walled city. It is some distance from the centre and a trip on Metro line 1 would almost always be necessary. The actual stop (on Avenue Pershing) ...
... is not particularly well-placed for the Metro station. And don't get in the wrong queue when you are waiting to return home.

 Ne vous placez pas dans la file d'attente 
 du bus pour l'aĆ©roport! 

So where did Flixbus come from? It emerged after coach services were deregulated in Germany and has only been around since 2013.
Its posh blue and orange motors soon became a familiar sight on the autobahns.
But there was competition in the "open" and deregulated market. The state owned Postbus company arrived ...
... together with green and orange Meinfernbus.
Both businesses (blue and green) do not generally own any coaches! The system is that the marketing and sales company delegates operation under contract to local operators. Here is a Flixbus vehicle betraying its true ownership on the front windscreen.
Erfmann-Reisen runs coaches in its own right.
This aspect of the business is therefore very similar to our own National Express.

Then barely one year after it started its first route, Flixbus merged with its rival.
The joint network is huge! So vast that it cannot be shown in a blog.
At first the coaches carried a joint brand, but adopting the more attractive green livery.
"Wir sind eins" = "We are one."

The Meinfernbus name has all but disappeared. Flixbus reigns supreme.

Then on Wednesday (29th June) came the news of further expansion.
Flixbus have bought the Europe operations of Stagecoach's Megabus, reputedly still a loss making business.
This has gone down well in "The City" with an immediate jump in the group's share price. This was the Flixbus announcement.
Note that by the end of July, Flixbus will serve 20 countries with major branches in France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. But as far as we know, Megabus on the UK will remain as Megabus.

Here's the detail of its explansion:-

In summer 2015 FlixBus launched its Italian subsidiary in Milan and entered the recently liberalized French market with "FlixBus France".
In November 2015 FlixBus announced its new entity FlixBus B.V. in the Netherlands and with this the very first national Dutch intercity bus network. After Germany, France and Italy, this is the company's fourth national market, while the company's international lines also connect cities in Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden and Denmark.

In January 2016 FlixBus announced its entry to the markets of Central and Eastern Europe with the new branch FlixBus CEE.
Blaguss, a coach company based in Vienna.

This includes six countries (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Croatia) with new lines in the making. In March 2016, the company launched first lines to the United Kingdom and Spain.

An amazing story which has now taken yet another step forward.

fbb acknowledges an e-mail from regular Hampshire correspondent Peter which prompted this blog.

 Next "mixed bag" blog : Saturday 2nd July 

Thursday, 30 June 2016

O Deary Me, Try Looking for Three ...

... Where Can it Be?
Once upon a time route 3 in Sheffield looked like this ...
... being the clockwise version of Sheffield's superb Outer Circle service. At the same time it also looked like this ...
... as the trunk route between Sheffield and Mansfield. Now but a shadow of its former self it is route 53 run by Stagecoach.

After Sheffield's 3 was reorganised (non-circling) as routes 2 and 59, the number was re-used for half of service 4 ...
... which initially and confusingly used the same route number for "both ways round" a big loop between Ecclesall and Millhouses via Dobcroft Road (DR) or Springfield Road (SR).
After another period in the route number limbo, 3 reappeared as part of the ill-conceived "new network" (aka service reductions) in November 2015. The former service to Nether Edge (historic number jungle as 61, 63, 97, 98, 22 and 56) were attached to a re-routed 76 (City to Firth Park and Meadowhell) as a brand new 3.

And here it is.

As a passing thought, the provisional GoTimetable Sheffield allows you to ask for service 3. Because computers are stupid you do get other services, for example,  beginning with 3 but the simple independent "3" comes first.
Tap on the "3" and, of course, you get a timetable **.
So off to the the fount of all knowledge timetabular in South Yorkshire and we search for "3".
In fact there are 51 entries in no particular order provided when you search for "3"; including maps and rail timetables which are not numbered "3" and a bus service whose position in the "3" list is beyond belief.
Maybe it is there because of its start date.

Very useful. NOT!

What isn't there, however, is SERVICE 3.

Confused by this omission, a blog comment writer actually contacted the PTE at the beginning of May and received a prompt-ish reply dated 6th May.

Here is the verbatim epistle.
And here is fbb's correspondent's comment:-
To which your frustrated blogger adds:-

The PTE has proved itself super-ineffective time and time again with its management of the detail of publicity via its IT department. Two months have passed since they were alerted to this particular problem. But they still cannot find service 3. Over the past days we have seen profoundly weak management of the route changes in the University area. fbb has attended numerous meetings (at the PTEs instigation but at his own expense) over the last 5 years AND NOTHING EVER CHANGES.

Should these people, spending our money, be trusted with anything to do with public transport?
Four noble souls have contributed massively to these latest Sheffield blogs. Thanks to David and Roy who sent the photographs; thanks to John who helped sort out the routes and thanks to xxx who began the abortive search for service 3.
** and a splendid map, shown here in two bits; north of the city .,,
... followed by city centre and south.
Imagine, all Sheffield timetables (including the 3) available with a few simple prods on your phone or laptop.


 Next Flixbus blog : Friday 1st July 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

An Academic Problem (3) ...

Superior Shelters Sadly Sacrificed
To save our hard-pressed readers the effort of clicking back to yesterday's blog, fbb republishes the two maps of the route changed for TO city buses in the environs of Sheffield University. Here is how it was until June 13th:-
And here is how it is now.
Whilst the map might suggest that the diversion is straightforward, in practice it was not. The right hand turn from Western Bank into Clarkson Street ...
... has been proscribed for many, many years.

Aside : it is weird that the change of one letter from prOscribed meaning "forbidden" to prEscribed meaning "authorised" should be yet another feature of the daftness that is the English language.

A new chunk of bus lane and re-jiggled traffic lights enables buses (ONLY) to turn right.
The building on the right is the celebrated Sheffield Childrens' Hospital which saved the life of the fbb's No 3 baby and has powerful emotional bonds for the old man and his Mrs. Its "to city" bus stop was just out of shot left.
But it isn't any more.
Getting from stop to bus lane would have been tricky, so the stop has been moved back up Western Bank ...
... but not so the shelter. But at least it has a bus stop sign.

The sign on the now-closed shelter is a joy and a delight.
The quality of the presentation is astounding. The very small arrow next to the "p" of "bus stop" points in the wrong direction.

Here is one of the first buses to make that right hand turn.
The single deck 52 is followed by a service 51, the vehicle being one of two painted in heritage liveries three years ago for the centenary of the Lodge Moor service.

Things are less dandy on Durham Road. Here a Stagecoach 52 enjoys the new Durham Road Stop ...
... with plenty of yellow paint on the road ...
... and a shiny no stopping sign.
Is there a bus stop flag?


Is there a pole on which to hang a flag?


Is there a bus timetable?

A what? We don't do timetables at stops in Sheffield.

Is there a bus shelter?

What a silly idea.

Here are the facilities on Western Bank that the Durham Road stop replaces.
And to complete the richness of the new bus facility, the on-liner route map ...
... and list of a stopping places ...

Crookes  Crookes Road  Broomhill  Whitham Road  Western Bank  Sheffield  Gell Street  Glossop Road  West Street 

... have not been updated. Likewise the journey planner remains in its pre 13th June timewarp.

The provisional GoTimetable Sheffield App was, of course updated promptly. The whole update process for the University timetable changes was completed in less than one hour.
And that included all the maps.
Of course the team of which fbb is a member does not have access to sophisticated mapping software; fbb just draws them.

How Quaint!

And a P.S. Yesterday, a comment writer upbraided fbb for daring to criticise the PTE who were unable to update stuff until 17th July because the service changes had not been registered. From the same date a new 52 timetable has now appeared. The magenta line on the map is now correct ...
... but there is no stop shown on Durham Road (with city centre facing arrow). The list of stopping places is still wrong.
And the Traveline journey planner?
Still wrong.


Tomorrow we remain in Sheffield and go on a search for a secret bus service.

 Next Sheffield PTE blog : Thursday 30th June