Friday, 29 July 2016

And, Talking of Airports (2)

But First : It's All On Line No 234
Dateline, Thursday 28th July (i.e. yesterday.) Query ...
... a journey from Brackley to Bicester for today, after 0900. The answer ...
complete with map ...
... tells us to use service 88, run, incidentally by Stagecoach. But there is a snag. Stagecoach (they of the web site you are looking at) withdrew the service 88 between Brackley and Bicester after business on Saturday 16th July; almost one week ago.

You can find that out easily ...
... by downloading the timetable from the self-same Stagecoach site.

There are now no buses between Brackley and Bicester. There are hardly any between Silverstone and Bicester. You can make the journey, if you are brave and wealthy. But it takes a little more than 38 minutes of the withdrawn 88.
Question 1 : what is the point of Stagecoach's web site? Question 2 : who authorised the vast sums of expenditures on making something so utterly useless?

But Now : Off to Glasgow Airport.
It should have a rail link; when the airport moved from Renfrew ...
... in 1966, long term planning should have included a rail line. But the huge growth of domestic and cheaper international flights was not foreseen. So no rail link when it could have been built simply and, if not cheaply, certainly less expensively. Eventually, and with the usual argy-bargy, a link line was planned as a short spur of the line to Gourock.
It would have travelled on viaduct from the existing embankment just short of Paisley St James and terminated in a rather splendid-looking station that would form part of an extension to the terminal building.
But in 2008, the project was cancelled.
The idea is now, seven years later, back on the agenda with a proposed opening date of 2027! The current favoured option is tram-train along railway alignment as before, but (presumably) then following street running instead of a costly viaduct.
Unofficial suggestions have included a monorail, surely the most expensive option of all!
So, sadly, until 2027 we are left with a coack link from central Glasgow.

Back in the good old days of the Great Britain Bus Timetable, this was a Citylink service 500.
Fairline Coaches (of Glasgow) entered the fray with a competitive service but eventually succumbed and joined forces with the incumbent, even adopting the same brand, for a joint service.

In a restructuring move, the route was contracted to First Bus who are the incumbent operator today.
But go on-line to the Travel Scotland site and they still think Citylink is running! Isn't the internet such a wonderful service?
But what promulgated this blog was the news that First have just upgraded their rolling stock and (of course) their image. Clearly, more passengers will use the service now the buses are painted purple; the old pale blue and grey is so passé, darling.
The press release shows a little man waving large table tennis bats at the line of new vehicles.
That's a bit passé in itself because real airport folk don't use tennis bats any more, certainly not at huge civil airports. But the publicity is impressive and eye catching as are the buses.
One might just quibble with the "new" blob (top left) as the service is very similar indeed to that provided 15 years ago. Unfortunately First Glasgow's Monday to Friday PDF timetable declined to materialise so we will have to make do with a chunk of Traveline's version.
What about going from Glasgow to the Airport by train to Paisley and changing to bus? You would change to McGills route 757.
It sounds grand but, effectively, it is a local bus between Paisley and Clydebank that happens to run via the airport.
Whilst the link is useful for Paisley locals and for passengers arriving from the Clyde Coast, the direct coach, service 500, is the ideal way to get from the City centre. There's even a good, clear map to show you where to get on.
A good service now upgraded for the delectation of the flyer and airport worker; or, if you are fbb, just for a quick ride and an explore of the Terminal facilities. It is on the list for the fbb's Scottish holiday in August.

 Next numbers blog : Saturday 30th July 

Thursday, 28 July 2016

And, Talking of Airports [1]

A New Service Missed by fbb
He knew it was coming; but failed to spot its arrival and it has been running since 2nd July.
The Oxford Bus Company (part of the GoAhead group) has operated buses to Gatport Airwick and Heathrow for many a long year. Heathrow runs "up to every 20 minutes" on peak flight dates.
The service to Gatwick is just every hour.
The company regularly updates style and branding, and this is the latest.
Standing at Oxford's one-time vast Gloucester Green bus station (now but a shadow of its former self!) watching coaches arrive and leave from the airports and from London is a heartening sight. They always seem busy, day or night. There is ferocious competition between Oxford Bus and Stagecoach (The Oxford Tube)  on the London run with both companies providing coaches every 10 to 15 minutes.
But the newcomer is a little more prosaic; but nevertheless adventurous from the business point of view.
So your better-late-than-never blogger decided to take an on-line look at the new service.

It runs approximately every two hours.(click to enlarge the timetable panel)
There is a feeling that such a low frequency is not attractive to air travellers who already have too much hanging around before and after their flights. But it is a start, and the service offers much more than a link to the airport.

Let's look more closely at the route and stopping places.
First call is at Oxford Parkway station, followed by a whizz up the M40 to Banbuty. Except it isn't the real Banbury where you might ride a cock hoss to the cross; the coach just hops off the motorway at Junction 11 ...
... and deposits you at an uninviting and unsheltered stop on an industrial estate type place. At least you can pop into Frankie and Benny's while you wait for your onward transport!
Next into Warwick, attractive for the tourist market with stops on Castle Hill ...
... with equally lavish passenger facilities; and on to the town's bus station.
This is best described as basic, but, at least, it has shelters and easy interchange with local buses.
PR Picture: Does it really go there?

And so it is onward to Warwick University (which, as its name suggests, is in Coventry) where three stops are made. Gibbet Hill Road serves some of the Medical Department ...
... where Streetview caught a Stagecoach Unibus. There's Kirby Corner Road with more chunks of academe hidden in the afforestation. 
But the main Uni stop is "The Interchange", where it all happens!
But not much was happening when the noddy car paid its photographic visit.

And so on to International Station and the Airport, which Oxford Bus, perhaps rather naughtily, calls "Birmingham". The web site does, however, stress that connections are available from here to the real Birmingham, some distance and some time away.
One other "Birmingham" stop intrigued your inquisitive author.
Somehow the hectic exhaust fumes atmosphere  of the Airport and the National Exhibition Centre don't quite exude an attraction that might be defined as a "Resorts World". Whatever it is, it's big.
Located on the NEC site, Resorts World Birmingham is one of the most exciting retail & leisure developments to arrive here in the UK. It joins a family of Resorts World destinations located across Asia and the USA.

That puts fbb off already!

From socialising with family & friends during a visit to a show to networking with colleagues & clients after an exhibition or event, Resorts World Birmingham offers something for everyone - all under one roof:

Outlet Shopping
Ooh look. It's a plastic shopping street with a tin roof.

Bars & Restaurants - from the buzzing diversity of the World Bar to the gourmet delights of the Sky Bar.
No. fbb has no idea what it is.

11 Screen Cinema

International Casino - a world of entertainment showcasing live international gaming from poker to baccarat, open to all players.
Boutique Hotel - Stay at the luxury 4 star Genting Hotel, with 5 star rooms and suites.
Medispa - Revitalise your mind, body and spirit.
Yep. Pile on the Poyfilla!

Nightlife - As the sun sets, our nightlife awakens.

fbb simply can't wait ...

... to get back on the bus and escape as far away as possible. Must be getting old?

Thanks to our Northampton correspondent, Alan, for reminding fbb of the new Airline route. Did he e-mail before or after the awakening nightlife?

P.S. At Seaton we have awakening nightlife EVERY night

 Next airports blog : Friday 29th July 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Ten : Twentytwo : Thirty : Forty (3)

First Bus Tries Again.
The X30 has been around for some time, running hourly between Southend, Chelmsford and Stanstead Airport. Over the years it has had a variety of rolling stock. An "ordinary" bus ...
... and a coach in the original "aircoach" style that we have met before on the X22.
The most recent manifestation is in a style compatible with First's "national" image.
There is a leaflet, also decorated with the latest image.
It contains a timetable ...
... with fares. The on-line version is dated February 2015 so these may have been "revised".

But from Monday last a new "X" to Stansted has been introduced.

Hail the X10!
There is a stylised map ...
... and a logo and tag line that most definitely isn't corporate First.
"From HERE to AIR" - weak sympathetic smile! The new timetable is in standard style.
And what about the vehicles, you may ask?

You may ask indeed. First's recent press release does not show a full frontal image of the bus.
The logo is there and what looks suspiciously like a standard bus advert in a standard bus advert frame. The other pic that came with the press release is equally unrevealing
The same trendy holiday-attired young things; the same logo and the same advert panel. (Odd that these promotions never seem to include non-trendy old things like fbb - he will even put on a pair of baggy khaki shorts for a small fee. Hmmm. Perhaps not, eh?)

And, further good news for customers from September, the new route will see 5 brand new buses introduced with shiny modern interiors, extra comfy real leather seats, free WiFi, USB charging points and large luggage racks fitted as standard. The service will also benefit from a brand new creative identity with sleek, eye-catching exteriors.

Ah, there it is from the minutiae of the Press Release. New buses arrive in September. Until then, fbb reckons that the pictures were of a sticker-bedecked one of these:-
Perhaps one of our correspondents may be able to send a piccy of what actually turned up on the first few days?

Not "X" to Stansted
Back-tracking a little and returning to the X30. This long-standing route is fast between Chelmsford and the airport with one nominal stop in the middle of nowhere. Unfair, perhaps, the stop is in Barnston Village, near the schjool.
fbb is not sure whether the fellah, seen here on Streetview, is a passenger or just having a chat with the driver.

First also runs an hourly "stopping" bus, the 42A. It also runs to Barnston ...
... before turning left to Stansted.
Service 42A is an hourly extension of a cross town ten minute frequency service. (click on the timetable to enlarge).
An hour's journey instead of 35 minutes would not be attractive to a through passenger, but a steady progress through attractive villages might be more entertaining.

Which leaves us with one critical question. Will the new X40 be sufficiently attractive to the residents of Basildon, Eastmayne, Wickford and Runwell (plus extras from Chelmsford) to akea go of the service where the X40 and the X22 have both failed.

Time, as we often say in this blog, alone will tell.

But there just one small problem with Traveline. Here are First's two "X" route from Stansted ...
... both of which only run as far as Chelmsford. Obviously Traveline has something against Southend or Basildon; or maybe their people really don't know where the buses run.

Typical Traveline.

 Next bus blog : Thursday 28th July