Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Navette Autonome (1)

Fond Memories of KITT?
KITT is the short name of two fictional characters from the adventure TV series Knight Rider.

While having the same acronym, the KITTs are two different entities: one known as the Knight Industries Two Thousand, which appeared in the original TV series Knight Rider, and the other as the Knight Industries Three Thousand, which appeared first in the two-hour 2008 pilot film for a new Knight Rider TV series and then the new series itself. In both instances, KITT is an artificially intelligent electronic computer module in the body of a highly advanced, very mobile, robotic automobile: the original KITT as a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am ...
... and the second KITT as a 2008/2009 Ford Shelby GT500KR.
KITT was voiced by William Daniels in the original series ...
... and by Val Kilmer in the 2008 series.
fbb was a secret fan of the first KITT, but his enthusiasm was closeted until three sons discovered the repeats; then the chubby one "had to watch to keep the boys company".
We used to call it Google and it still is, but became a wholly owned subsidiary developing a driverless car.
Uber has a Ford Fusion Hybrid in prototype form as a car that looks frighteningly Kitt-like.
Where KITT had that ominous pulsating red scanner on the front (very scary!), the Uber car has a mound of clutter on the roof. The Google version makes do with a small upside down yoghurt pot on the top and something else black and technological between its headlights.

Short run driverless trains at airports are now as common as mud ...
... and metro systems without a visible means of support are spreading world-wide. Here is a list of systems in Europe.
By far the most spectacular are the two Paris Metro lines (1 and 14).
fbb has ridden both and lived to tell the tale.

But, of course, all these modes are constrained by rails and a simple end to end route with no other vehicles or pedestrians to impede their automatic progress.

Enter Leon Daniels, VIP of Transport for London ...
... speaking at the posh Confederation of Passenger Transport dinner back in January and quoted in Buses magazine.
Uber might be described as a tsunami but driverless cars are only a very feeble dribble at the moment. But we keep being told that it will all be happening "just round the corner". The Buses magazine quote was part of an article on the first appearance of a driverless bus.

It was at Heathrow.

As a taster, Heathrow already has a driverless vehicle system which has been operating for some time. Here is where it runs ...
... linking Terminal 5 to some car parks.
And here is what runs on the elevated track.
Definitely driverless (autonomous), possibly can be considered as public transport and equally certainly running along a road. But, again, there is no other traffic, no wandering pedestrians and no badly parked white vans to get in the way.

All we have to do is to transfer Heathrow's "Pods" onto a real road with all the obstructions and dangers that such an environment might offer and, bingo, we have driverless buses; but small and "perfectly formed".

Tomorrow we take a short nip around the perimeter road from Terminal 5 to the Compass Centre.

 Next Navette Autonome blog : Thursday 23rd February 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

The Fate Of The Late 28 (P.S.)

Shock Text From Groby!
David is fbb's good friend, acts as an unpaid Leicester area correspondent for this blog and lives at Groby, literally a wheelnut's throw from the bus stops used by former services 26, 28, 29A and 29X.

On Saturday (18th January) these were changed. The 28 was withdrawn, the 26 slightly diverted to compensate and the 29X replaced, leaving 26, 29 and 29A running between Groby and Leicester.

Printed publicity for the change was excellent with leaflets delivered door-to-door and available in several shops in the village. David collected one from the greengrocers!
Additionally, if you could excavate down to the hidden depths of the Arriva web site, you could download a full Coalville area timetable ...
... containing an excellent map.
So, publicity-wise, it's looking good for Arriva (First in Sheffield and Stagecoach Yorkshire please note!).

Don't worry, it won't last!

On Sunday came this, more ominous, text from David.
The message continues:-
The previous timetable provided five buses an hour from Groby, Mondays to Saturdays. The new schedule reduces this to four (26 and three 29s) but only on Mondays to Fridays. On Saturdays the "short working" between Leicester and Coalville does not run, leaving just two 29s through Groby every hour plus the hourly 26

So from five buses an hour on Saturdays, Groby (village centre) now only has three. Kathryn's experience suggests this might be a trim too far!

But David's text continues, accompanied by a couple of photos. Here is the stop labelled Pymm Ley Lane, a k a Groby Post Office, for journeys towards Leicester.
The actual stop is cunningly hidden in the trees where the "yellow top" passenger is waiting.

Here are the times for Sunday, posted at the stop.
And here are the times, similarly listed for comparison purposes, on the new Groby leaflet.
Contrast and compare!! Who knows which is right? Beyond belief!

And at the "from Leicester" stop? Again here are the times in the frame ...
... and, again, the times on the leaflet.
As chum David writes, "How can this possibly happen? How, indeed.

Here is his final paragraph:-
More news as it happens, or doesn't happen, or happens at the wrong times!

It gets worse - but maybe NOT Arriva's fault?
To follow this juicy bit of omnibological incompetence we need a map of the centre of Groby with bus stops added.
Travelling towards Leicester the obviously "central" stop for the village is labelled "Stamford Arms" ...
... but for those going to the city, it is better known as "The Co-op". Above is the shelter and the windowless wall of the aforementioned Co-op. Stamford Arms is opposite.

But this is not the most appropriate stop to use. Blame the Groby by-pass for that! Whilst 29s to Coalville and Burton pass through the village quite normally, buses to Leicester have to wiggle off the by pass ...
... turn left on to Leicester Road (bottom left) and stop opposite the post office as pictured above. So, at the Co-op you now get one 26 an hour but at the Post Office stop you get the 29s as well.

Recently the County Council has installed a shiny new (un)real time display for the much confused residents of Groby. Of course, common sense would install it at the busiest stop.

What a really silly idea! No it is outside the Co-op where it used to show the 26 and 28 each toddling by once every hour. The 29s, skulking off the bypass and appearing, as if by unannounced magic at the Post Office stop, don't get a mention.

Memo to all concerned : The display should be at the Post Office.

Here is the screen and David's comment before the changes.
But it gets worse! This is the same sign yesterday.
It shows a 26 at 1427 and 1527 and, sandwiched between them, a 28 at 1457.

In case you, like Leicester County, had forgotten, the 26 times are now 42 minutes past the hour and the 28 was withdrawn after service on the previous Friday.

Useless in every way.

But This Is Arriva's Fault
Stop display, Leicester Road, Groby:-
VIA St Margaret's Bus Station?
It should be Pymm Ley Lane - no "s"!

Next we look at the new technology that will revolutionise public transport.

Yep, another revolution is on its way.

 Next Navette Autonome blog : Wednesday 22nd February 

Monday, 20 February 2017

Back In Place? It's The Chase!

What Goes Around Comes Around - Again?
The Chase, but not the quiz game! It is this Chase ...
... which gave its name to a a small part of  massive bus branding exercise in the late 1970s. Midland Red came up with a crazy series of names for its widely scattered operations. They never really "caught on" as, for the vast majority of passengers, it was always "Midland Red".

Operations based in Cannock and Stafford were called "Chaserider".
Four articulated buses, originally used in Sheffield and later in Redditch ...
... received the branding.
Publicity was crude by today's standards but there was usually plenty of it ...
... in a variety of styles.
But privatisation largely put paid to these area brands. Privatisation also brought competition and one company expanded quite significantly.
In 2007 Chase was acquired by Arriva, ironically the company that had suffered as a result of competition from Chase!

Perhaps because of poor PR ("Giant Eats Former Competitor Shock"), Arriva began a branding exercise for the Cannock area.
The tower on the hill (right on the logo) is Pye Green B T Tower (Hednesford) ...
... a local landmark and part of the chain of towers that radiates from the "original and best" Post Office Tower (now B T Tower) in London. The bright green and yellow Chaselinx colours made for a very striking leaflet design ...
... but really didn't work with Arriva blue on the buses.
The name and green colour scheme were not long-lasting and have now been replaced on routes 1 and 2 between Cannock and Walsall by Sapphire branding.
But the local press ...
... has recently announced what appears to be a resurrection of the Chase name and potential operating area.
Ashley Fellows has purchased the first bus, an ex-Trent Barton Optare Excel, which will form part of his Chase Bus company fleet.

The 22-year-old decided to start the £40-50k project following the axing of several Arriva services.

He told the Newsletter: "I have drivers lined up ready to go, the only thing that was holding us back is the funding and buses."I hope when the new bus is refurbished and re-branded we can attract investors."

Suggested routes include Cannock to Telford, stopping in Penkridge; a local Stafford route still being established and Cannock to Walsall, as the current Arriva route has been scaled back. Arriva closed its Stafford depot on September 3 and withdrew or changed a number of routes serving Stafford, Penkridge and Cannock Chase.

Mr Fellows, who currently works at Rugeley Tesco as a customer assistant, added: "The Stafford route will service a variety of areas, some not serviced by any other company at the moment, but that is all I can say for now."

He said he wants ticket prices to be as low as possible, low enough to be classed as "cheap but competitive".
The accompanying illustration of "Mr Fellows bus" is captioned "what it may look like".

In fact the orange livery and the logos have been applied, "photoshop-style" over a bus on service 12 going to Chantry Cambridge Drive via Rail Station. Clever bus watchers will know immediately  that he vehicle is from the Ipswich Buses fleet and close examination reveals slightly different bits of orange on the side.
Spot the building behind the bus!

But all power to Mr Fellows' elbow for making a good start PR-wise. One worrying quote (above) from the budding transport tycoon, however, "the only thing that is holding us back is the funding and the buses."

Hmmm (?)

 Next : Groby P.S. blog blog : Tuesday 21st February