Tuesday, 5 May 2015

A Big Circular ...

More a Massive Mash-up - Easy as A B C
Within the City of Paris (the green blob in the middle) ...
... there is a flat fare of €1.80 (£1.33) for which you get an hour's ride time on the Metro OR bus and tram but not both together. Because of this flat fare, the technology only has to bother with entry gates. At Metro exits, for example, there are just one-way barriers which open as you approach; no ticket slot. The hour lasts until the START of your last valid journey so you have a lot longer before you run out of steam.

After much debate and calculation, fbb decided to buy a 5 day 5 zone "Paris Visite" pass.
So a straight walk off Eurstar on Sunday evening (arrival 5 minutes early) with no formalities; and down to the Métro. A request for "un ticket" (for journey to hotel) and "Paris Visite cinq jours, cinq zones" did not faze the jeune fille at the guichet so fbb's accent must have been assez bien!

This would give access to all public transport for Monday "thru" Friday morning from Centre to way out to neighbouring towns. But don't lose the (very small) ticket!

Monday's cunning plan was for a taster of all available modes (except tram). So hold on to your virtual hats and ... here goes ...

 Métro 6 (dull green) : Dupleix to Bercy 
After some difficulty finding the stop (sense of direction poor; getting used to driving on the right!) and help from a very kind madame ...

 Bus 24 (dull purple) : Bercy to St Lazare 
This runs along the banks of the Seine with magnificent views of many of Paris' well- known buildings.
Then a quick look round Gare St Lazare.
 Bus 24 (dull purple) : St Lazare to Gare de Lyon 
And, after a coffee break, back along the other bank. Lest our patient readers think all of Paris' transport is superb, our bus sat for 15 minute before departing. According to the departure list at the stop (no times just an "every X minutes" list) ...
... buses run every 8 minutes! Perturbation de Service, alors!

After a baguette and a citronade on the Station (Hall 1, mainly TGV) ...
... it was back into the bowels of Parisian earth for:-

 Métro 14 (purple) : Gare de Lyon to Olympiades 
 Métro 14 (purple) : Olympiades to Châtelet 
The apparently unnecessary double run was to ensure that we had front seats in this, Paris' first driverless train; although the phone camera simply couldn't cope with the shutter setting for a proper picture.
 RER line A (red) Châtelet to Grande Arche 
These are real trains, big and long and double deck. Again, more later; but fbb liked the route indicator. As well as audio announcements the next station light flashed on the line diagram, then was extinguished once we set off.
A quick stagger to look at the Grande Arche itself (it's not falling over; fbb had difficulty in viewing the viewfinder picture in bright light) ...
... and to peer back towards the city for the Arc de Triomphe ...
... oh look, there it is!
 Métro 1 (yellow) : Grande Arche to Nation 
This, Paris' busiest line, (click to enlarge line digram) ...
... was converted to automatic; hence a front seat with no driver was again essential. This time there's a bit in the open air which the phone could cope with!
Really exciting isn't it. But the trip was exciting because "summat were up" and fbb was able to see how well the automatic stuff worked. More later.

 Métro 2 (dark blue) : Nation to Etoile 
This is the line which circles to the north of the city centre (click on the map to enlarge) ...
... mostly on viaduct as in this short video.

And so a final short ride on Metro 6 with excellent views of La Tour Eiffel ...
... and back to the gaff for tea and biccies before a short stagger round the corner for an evening meal.
And those guards?
And the answer is:- Guarding a synagogue in the wake if the appalling."Charlie Hebdo" attacks etc. But they were nowhere near the Synagogue which might be closed down anyway! They were absent all day yesterday but back again in the evening. Still Scary!
 Next Paris tram blog : Wednesday 6th May             

Monday, 4 May 2015

Axminster By Chunnel to Dupleix

As Simple as A B C D?

 Amended service to and from London Waterloo 
 via Wimbledon on Sunday 3 and Monday 4 May  
 Buses replace trains between Surbiton       
 and Effingham Junction via                  
 Cobham & Stoke D'Abernon on Sunday 3 May    
 Buses replace trains between Basingstoke,   
 Winchester and Eastleigh                    
 from Saturday 2 to Monday 4 May             

According to Notwork Rail, it didn't look good for fbb's journey to Paris yesterday.

A further look at SouthWest Train web site revealed a marked difference between it and London Midland. There is a great deal of weekend disruption ...

London Waterloo to Southampton, Bournemouth and Weymouth.
London Waterloo to Portsmouth via Eastleigh
London Waterloo to Haslemere and Portsmouth
London Waterloo to Alton and Basingstoke
Stopping service to Woking and Guildford
London Waterloo to Hampton Court
London Waterloo to Chessington
London Waterloo to Dorking and to Guildford via Effingham Junction
Clapham Junction - Earlsfield - Wimbledon bus shuttle service
London Waterloo to Windsor

... but a few clicks further and we find ...
... TIMETABLES!!! Hoo-jolly-ray!!
Which, incidentally, shows that correspondent Alan coulg get to the King Alfred Bus Running Day at Winchester by bus from Basingstoke. See yesterdays blog (read again). What about Axminster to Waterloo?

London Waterloo to Salisbury and Exeter. A near normal train service will run on this route today, but trains towards London Waterloo will be delayed up to 10 minutes. Where possible, these trains will run with 9 coaches between London Waterloo and Salisbury as they will be providing connections to and from other routes.

And, indeed, the journey planner revealed a (painfully) slow schedule for fbb's first leg ...

 0909 Axminster       
 1222 London Waterloo 

But. prudence planned plenty of provision for problems with a Eurostar departure at 1531. The journey planners also offered something a little different for getting to St Piecrust.
fbb did intend to run into Waterloo and catch a 59 bus; ironically the bus is less hassle than the underground provided that luggage is not excessive. You hop on (free for fbb) at Tennison Way ...
... having subwayed from the Waterloo concourse; then alight here ...
... right outside the International entrance. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. But, with plenty of time to spare, fbb tried the "via Victoria" option

 0909 Axminster        
 1157 Clapham Junction 
 1207 Clapham Junction 
 1215 London Victoria  
 1225 London Victoria  
 1240 St Pancras       

On balance not much harder luggage-wise than bus 59 and a lot quicker. Lunch was taken at Searceys (chum David was paying!) ...
... with posh and tasty morsels (3 courses, set menu £18) served in a luxurious ambiance.
But by no stretch of the imagination was it a meal! Thankfully we had sarnies, crisps and peanuts to chomp on the Eurostar as a space filler! Redefining Dining indeed - as a quick, tasty and VERY expensive snack.
Then to queue. First you queue along the concourse ...
... to join the queue for ticket and security checks.
Then you join the queue to have your passport checked by a very bored looking official who allows you to leave the UK. Then you join the queue for un officiel ennuyé to check you into France - which starts, apparently, at St Pancras.

This process took nearly one hour; so tough bananas if you obeyed the Eurostar instructions to check in 30 minutes before the train's departure. Something needs to be done!

It was dead easy to find coach 16 ...
... and not by peering at the near-illegible display on the vehicle; but by following the clues at your feet.
Oh, the joys of fixed formation trains!

The ride was uneventful, enhanced by the glorious views of the countryside from our window seats.

 1531 St Pancras         
 1853 Paris Gare du Nord 

The uneventful journey takes 2 hours and 22 minutes with an extra hour added to bring you into line with l'heure française.

One final thought. fbb was enchanted by the decoration in the convenient convenience on the Eurostar train.
Although the trains are looking a bit tired, the loos were spotless and attractive. Compare this with SouthWest Trains' offering between Axminster and Waterloo.
Paper all over the floor, no water, WC pan filled with paper to hide the unflushed nasties and an overall mega pong. When challlenged the guard said that the train had been at Exeter all night and


What unadulterated tosh and five eighths! If course there are facilites at Exeter. But they are owned and manage by First Great Western and meanie Staecoach won't pay them to clean "foreign" trains.

Something needs to be done!

But fbb has arrived in Paris. One question, however ...
... why were there three armed soldiers outside fbb's hotel?


 Next Paris-trip blog : Tuesday 5th May             

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Another Bank Holiday Weekend

Another Stay at Home Weekend?
...or something more adventurous? While fbb Eurostars off to Paris, Alan, our Northampton correspondent, considers one or two possibilities for a Bank Holiday excursion.

There's the Llandudno Transport and Victorian Weekend.
Or the Friends of King Alfred (the bus company, not the monarch) running day in Winchester.
Enjoy approx 7 minutes of old buses filmed in 2013 when the event was traditionally held on new year's day. 2015 marks the earth shattering move to the May-Day weekend!

A not very quick check on the National Rail web site ...
... reveals a list of 42 sites where engineering work will be taking place over this weekend. Two refer to London Bridge and the Oxford to Bicester Line which are long term.

Amended service between Wolverhampton and Stoke-on-Trent/Runcorn/Warrington Bank Quay from Saturday 2 to Monday 4 May

But it looks a bit worrying for Northampton to Llandudno.

CrossCountry to and from Manchester Piccadilly. London Midland between London Euston and Crewe, Birmingham New Street and Crewe. Virgin Trains between London Euston and Glasgow Central / Holyhead / Liverpool Lime Street / Manchester Piccadilly, Birmingham New

Birmingham New? And there's more:-

London Midland until 13:00, Saturday and all day Monday, Birmingham New Street to Liverpool Lime Street service will run between Crewe and Liverpool Lime Street, buses will run (Saturday) between Wolverhampton and Crewe, (Sunday) between Birmingham New Street and Crewe.

From 13:00, Saturday, buses replace trains between Wolverhampton and Liverpool South Parkway, passengers should use alternative services to / from Birmingham New Street / Liverpool South Parkway to complete their journey.

After approximately 13:00 Saturday and all day Sunday an amended service will run between London Euston and Crewe not calling at Stafford and Stone, buses will run between Stafford and Rugeley Trent Valley / Stoke-on-Trent.

On Sunday, trains between Birmingham New Street and Crewe / Liverpool Lime Street will not run. Buses will run between Wolverhampton and Liverpool South Parkway, passengers should use alternative services to / from Liverpool South Parkway to complete their journey.

On Monday, Birmingham New Street to Liverpool Lime Street service will run between Crewe and Liverpool Lime Street, buses replace trains between Birmingham New Street and Crewe calling at Wolverhampton..

Indeed, it doesn't look good for Llandudno. But how bad it looks depends entirely on the looker's knowledge of the rail network. What we need is some kind of map. Best look on London Midland's web site.And yippee, there IS a map!
The letters refer to panels below which, by any stretch of the imagination, are gibberish ...
... without "the amended timetabls". This information page is worrying because of the next bit. Some might think it is out of date.

London services over Easter 2015
Major improvement work will take place between Friday 3 and Monday 6 April on the route into London and the connecting Abbey line into Watford Junction. Get the full details and download the leaflet at londonmidland.com/watford

Very helpful. Try clicking to see if  "Easter 2015" has overflowed into "May 2015".
And what does the smiling London Midland man have to say. Watford is all clear? Enjoy a trip to sunny Watford? Harry Potter is waiting for your call?

Erm, not quite.
To be fair to London Midand, hidden in the impenetrable bowels of their web site (so well hidden that fbb almost ignored it) is a leaflet.
Network Rail will be carrying out improvement works in the Stafford area to replace timeworn signalling equipment and infrastructure. This is to give passengers faster, more frequent and more reliable services.

As a result, on Saturday 2 & Sunday 3 May trains between London Euston and Crewe will take a diversionary route, meaning journeys will be much longer than normal.

Trains will not be calling at Stafford and Stone on Sat 2 & Sun 3 May. Passengers needing to travel to/from Stafford and Stone can use a rail replacement bus service that will be running between Rugeley Trent Valley and Stoke-on-Trent, calling at Stafford and Stone.

And that's it. No map, no timetables ...

  on-line or in print   

... in fact nothing that might help you plan your journey without being sucked into the morass of tedium that develops when trying to be speculative on the journey planners.

Alan concludes his non-infromative email with the following observation.

The options are:-

1) Leave the country by the fastest possible route.
Hmm; fbb is off to Paris today. There may be trouble ahead?

 Amended service to and from London Waterloo 
 via Wimbledon on Sunday 3 and Monday 4 May  
 Buses replace trains between Surbiton       
 and Effingham Junction via                  
 Cobham & Stoke D'Abernon on Sunday 3 May    
 Buses replace trains between Basingstoke,   
 Winchester and Eastleigh                    
 from Saturday 2 to Monday 4 May             

2) The train operating companies' favoured option.
Stay at home.
You are only a leisure traveller with a railcard.
If it weren't for Paris, fbb's approved option.

3) The serendipitous option.
If not taking luggage, go and surmount
any obstacles the railway system throws at you.
Unwise if you live way out west! Climb every mountain etc. The challenge calls for a song:-

Climb every footbridge,
Search for a train,
Lacking information,
There and back again.

Climb every subway,
Board every bus,
If you do not get there,
Please don't make a fuss.

A trip that will need
All the love you can give,
Every day of your life
For as long as you live.

Search for some timings,
They don't exist,
Be forever doubtful,
Connections will be missed

A trip that will need
Job's patience you'll lack,
Press on regardless,
And hope you'll get back.

Climb every footbridge,
Board every bus,
If the driver gets lost,
Please don't make a fuss.

Words from "The Sound of Engineering Work", a musical by Notwork Rail starring Mark Carne (chief executive) as Maria...

... and Paul Plummer (finance director) as Baron Von Trapp-Point.

Members of the "orange army" ...
... play the von Trapp-Point children, chorus of nuns etc.

 First Paris-trip blog : Monday 4th May