Friday, 27 May 2016

Odds and Ends

Buses of Somerset On-Line
First the good news ...
The gnomes that look after the web site have now added all the Webberbus "cover" services. Belatedly, Traveline have caught up. On Wednesday evening the timetable section was still showing, for example, Webberbus 101 in Minehead. but by yesterday the near-identical Buses of Somerset version had appeared.
fbb must spend an hour or two trying to understand the Minehead town service. It is particularly mysterious.
But Wednesday (last) was a bad day for the onmibological apples.
Every service appeared twice but with different start and finish dates.
Fortunately this has been corrected, but still no mention of route 20 as shown on the map.
Meanwhile the First Buses app is still showing all of the Cornwall services as operating in Somerset ...
... and wrong (also wrongly presented) information on the North Cornwall services recently taken over from Stagecoach,

Rebranding in Southampton
The City Link service which linked Station and City centre with the Red Funnel terminals ...
... has been rebranded.

Again! It is now called "Quay Cinnect" and the bus is painted in Ref Funnel coloirs. It has a big picture of the new Red Jet 6 which is under construction at East Cowes.
Yes, it's the same bus as the blue one above; which used to look like this:-
It is not only the bus which has been fettled up; the publicity has also got the new look ...
... and the evening peak frequency has reverted to every 15 minutes Mondays to Fridays.
Of course, fbb is old enough to remember when the bus on the Isle of Wight, the bus at Southampton and the fast train to London were ALL numbered 91.

A Bit of Guidance
Alan, Northampton correspondent, was able to snap this lovely beast ...
Fourteen MCW Metrobus Mark II buses were acquired and fitted with guide wheels, which ran along the guideway's concrete edges. The vehicles were painted in a distinct livery, unique to Tracline 65, being silver with black and red (orange? - fbb) detailing. Operation began in 1984 and ended in 1987. One of them, fleet number 8110, is preserved at Aston Manor Road Transport Museum.
It was probably killed off by privatisation but the principle of guide wheels on concrete beams is still in use thirty years later - and counting!

Midland Metro Makes it on Monday!
It's been a long time coming. Birmingham's tramway exyenstion to New Street Station has been a bit like Billy Binter's postal order. It was finally announced that it would open on Sunday 22nd May.
But it didn't, despite trams running part way last December.
But trot into Brum on Monday 30th and you will be able to ride from New Street.
But there is no sign of a revised timetable on-line.
To add to the good news (?) the BBC, yesterday, revealed that the line has lost oodles of money; indeed it has never made a profit since it opened.
62.5 percent of prediction. Whoops!

And talking of fun; fbb reckons it will be very much NOT fun on the trains in the Bristol area this weekend.

Read more tomorrow.

 Next engineering blog : Saturday 28th May 

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Caledonian Cut-backs Continue

And the Borders Too?
Whilst First Bus themselves were issuing a press release about closing depots and withdrawing from operation on East Lothian, The Borders press was adding to the gloom.
How much of this "proposal out for consultation" (a euphemism for "we're doing it anyway") is due to intrinsic poor financial performance in a rural area and how much due to the impact of the highly successful Borders railway line is not clear.
But the "proposals" are Draconian.
The current X95 is half hourly between Edinburgh and Galashiels, continuing hourly to Carlisle.
fbb is grateful to regular correspondent for forwarding this news.

Incidentally, the pull-out from East Lothian press release (yesterday's blog) invited readers to follow a web link to "see which services are affected".
fbb obediently did (yesterday afternoon) and it doesn't.

It still doesn't today.
All together now ...

"It's all available on-line!"

Except when it isn't.

But the full (or nearly full?) list has now appeared on line. fbb received a copy from First Bus and a second version from ever-helpful Gordon. in the list below, fbb has ignored occasional oddmens, school trips and college journeys. The chop is far wider that at first appeared; with changes listed by depot. ALL THE FOLLOWING ARE CANCELLED COMPLETELY 

 Bannockburn (Stirling) 

24   Stirling - Kilsyth  (hourly)
60   Alloa - Stirling - Stenhousemuir (every 30 min)
 Balfron 

32   Stirling - Balfron (infrequent)
B8  Balfron - Glasgow (infrequent) 

 Larbert 

X86 Falkirk - Glasgow (hourly)

 Musselburgh 

18    Edinburgh Gyle (hourly)
108  Fort Kinnaird (Edinburgh) - Haddington (hourly)
X24 Edinburgh - North Berwick (every 30 min)
X6   Edinburgh - Dunbar (hourly)
X8   Edinburgh - Haddington (every 30 min)

 Galashiels 

73   Galashiel;s - Bannerfield (hourly)
75   with 76 & 77 : Hawick Town Service (every 20 min)
90A Peebles Town service (hourly)

In addition, some services have revised timetables, i.e. reduced. The 62/63 headlined in the pretty panel shown above is reduced to every 15 minutes and, and the X95 is covered above.
Nowhere in any newspaper article is the X62 mentiones, so we must presume that its half hourley service to Edinburgh remains.

This represents a major retreat by First. It reminds fbb of the early days of privatisation and competition. Some of the larger companies pulled back to their "successful" routes, leaving the oddments to be tendered by the local authority or to be covered by companies with lower costs.

Then smaller companies started looking for more business opportunities and began competing on the big boys' big-money routes.

Where operators were able to hold on to their complete network, the competitors tended to fizzle out. The failed attempt of Southern Vectis and Badgerline (as Badger Vectis) ...
... to dent to supremacy of Wilts and Dorset in Poole is well documented. The Wilts and Dorset strength was its network.

Is First risking its trunk routes by leaving the bits to others.

Time will tell.

 Next Crewkerne bus blog : Friday 27th May 

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Timetable Near-Secrecy at Haymarket

But Plenty of Space ...
There are racks of leaflets and an information point.
(sorry about the fuzz, but it was a fleeting shot from a video.) It is not clear from advance publicity whether these two are always available. On the preview day, the bus operators had set up tables with leaflets covering the re-arrangements.
Fearnley the Frog was also on hand to add gravitas to the suspicious day!
Arriva seemed more keen on recruiting staff!
But, as always, fbb gander was upped by the displays on the stands. Here, for example is the route map/diagram/line for route 74.
You might be forgiven for thinking buses travel due south. But they actually run north west via Beaumont Leys to Anstey, as shown on the excellent First Bus route map. (click to enlarge the image)
Why nopt paste in a larger version of the better map?

Alongside the map, and in print that is too high up for many and too small to read, is the (snigger snigger) timetable.
It is sad that, after over 50 years of 24 hour clock usage on public transport, we have to be reminded that 1710 has something to do with 5pm! Presumably folk who need that link are incapable to setting their video recorder or coping with "time" on their "device".

You do wonder, however, where the 74 goes.

But the First bus PDF timetable is hardly huge (click to enlarge) although it too has to tell you which journeys are numbered 74!
If you really MUST have a departure list as well as a timetable, there is more than enough room to display both.

But Leicester City have bought the software, so it must be the right thing to do.

Most definitely a missed opportunity to do a "proper job".

On the YouTube video, fbb could not spot a copy of the Leicester and district route map ...
... unless it was part of the rather small display near the toilets.
Two versions of the "Opening" leaflet were sent to fbb by a correspondent. Both contained the city centre map (click to enlarge) ...
... which is helpful but doesn't go as far as the station. Integrate transport wins again, NOT! One version had information in Stand Letter order.
"Which stand does the 74 leave from?" "Just look up that stand number and you can work it out." "But how do I know the stand number?"

QED

Fortunately details on the other version is in route number order.
Now that is much better, isn't it?

But, overall, the new bus station looks very good indeed, and so much better than that old (1994 - not that old) facility. IF the leaflet racks are kept full and up to date, IF the information point is properly staffed and IF (PLEASE!) some bright spark provides better stand timetables and maps; then it could so easily be one of the best.

A message from a Leicester chum is worrying, though.
Surely that cannot be true?
-------------------------------------------------------------------
BREAKING NEWS

SERVICES IN THE EAST OF SCOTLAND 
  
Local bus operator First Scotland East today [May 24] confirmed it is proposing to cease bus operations in East Lothian from 14 August 2016 and close its depots in North Berwick and Musselburgh.
First Scotland East's operations in these areas have not been viable for a number of years, despite working hard to turn the business around and attract sufficient customers in what has become an increasingly competitive market.

However, the company had also been compelled to maintain the substantial part of its network through undertakings agreed some 14 years ago following an investigation by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.  

First Scotland East was recently released from these undertakings by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and, in order to put the business on a sound footing for the future, it has now decided, following a review, to propose this action and allow the company to focus resources in areas where customer demand and satisfaction is growing.
-------------------------------------------------------------------
 Next as yet unplanned blog : Thursday 26th May