Sunday, 27 May 2018

Playing Catch-up - Significant Snippets (1)

Cymru to Keolis
Keolis is, effectively, state-owned via French National Railways (SNCF); Amey was once a UK company but is now owned by Ferrovial, a Spanish conglomerate. The consortium also operates the Docklands Light Railway.
Andy Milner, Amey's chief executive, said: "While the proposed changes won't happen overnight, the railway will be unrecognisable in five years thanks to the vision of the Welsh Government."

He added they would focus on working with Transport for Wales to transform the existing infrastructure and introduce new trains to "significantly improve the passenger experience" as well as creating hundreds of new jobs and apprenticeships.
Alistair Gordon, chief executive of Keolis UK, said it would be a transformative new rail service.

Well now, we have heard all this before ...

Don't hold your breath!

Stagecoach Shines in Sheffield?
While a certain other big bus company seems to stagnate, news is breaking of two goodies from Uncle Brian's lads and lasses.
Service 50 etc is part of a coming together of several bits of the Stagecoach Chesterfield operation. The proposal is to equip the route with new buses (goody) and change to run Limited Stop within Sheffield.

Sheffield Transport (actually the Joint Omnibus Committee) ran route 30 to Eckington. Later this became routes 62 and 64 via several wiggles to Chesterfield. With the development of Mosborough new town this got rejigged and by the 1980s it reverted to a 262 to Eckington only, largely at similar frequencies to the 1951 service 30!

Both routes had restrictions (Minimum Fares or/and a Setting Down Restriction) as here for the 262.

MINIMUM FARES apply between Sheffield and Intake
RESTRICTION-On journeys from Sheffield before 1800 hours on Monday to Saturday no passenger will be set down before reaching Birley Lane.

The proposals for today's 50 etc. involve halving the stops served between Sheffield and Birley Lane!

What goes around comes around.

And Even More So?
Currently the X17 runs hourly from Matlock to Sheffield with a half hourly service from Chesterfield to Sheffield.
From July Stagecoach will link the ""short" X17s with the existing X65 from Meadowhall to Barnsley.
On Sundays you will be able to ride through from Matlock to Barnsley every hour.

A longer term scheme may extend further by linking to the relatively recent X10 motorway express from Barnsley to Leeds.
Matlock - Sheffield - Barnsley - Leeds!!

Come on First, how will you respond? How about an hourly Sheffield - Barnsley - Leeds - York coach-type service?

And Now The Bad News
Remember the ever (in)efficient South Yorkshire P T E in its disguise as Travel South Yorkshire?
Remember it published a non-leaflet for services 83 and 83a combing the correct 83 times with the incorrect 83a times?
This was corrected, followed immediately by a similar bludner with services 7/8/8a!

Well this has now been corrected ...

... INCORRECTLY.

The on-line non leaflet has two pages of times of buses from Crystal Peaks ...
... to Ecclesfield (Extracts ONLY shown on this blog).
This is followed by a second copy of the first "page".
The rest of the day's times do not appear.

But, joy of joys, next comes just one arbitrary page of times from Ecclesfield to Crystal Peaks.

Earlier AND later times do not appear.

Bearing in mind that this change starts on Tuesday with a Bank Holiday and the weekend in the way, what chances are there that the Sheffield public will be able to find out the times of their buses?

Answers on a postcard to ...
Stephen Edwards
Director General
SYPTE
11 Broad Street West
S1 2BQ

Stupidly Stagecoach does not even bother to publish its own times, but offers an utterly out of date TSY version of the joint service on its web site ...
... whilst First, in the true spirit of partnership, shows only it's own service 8/8a times; but at least they are correct for the upcoming timetable change.

An utter and inexcusable shambles. Beyond belief.

Wave goodbye to a few more passengers! For ever!

But Best On Weston Fares First!
Odd this; you might expect First to ramp up its fares now Crosville has finally breathed its last. But no; there are very many substantial fares reductions from this coming Sunday.
Single fares have modest increases and returns are withdrawn BUT day tickets are reduced and will be the same price as a return if you pay electronically via the m-Ticket gubbins.

An interesting (and possibly commercially courageous) development.

Tomorrow, some more snippets for the Bank Holiday including what may well prove to be an fbb scoop - it it's right!

 Next Catch-up blog : Monday 28th May 

Saturday, 26 May 2018

The M3 Is Almost Here (2) ...

... And It's Very Easy/Difficult To Use!
Every stop on Bristol's new Metrobus network will be equipped with a huge and expensive black monolith. Each is about ten feet high!
It is hard to gauge the size of these monsters but set against average people their immenseness is clear.
Of course the ticket issuing bit is very low so that wheelchair users can ackle it ...
... and so that normal bipedal creatures will get a sore back reaching down. To extend the discomfort, the top bit is high because ...

... dunno really ...

... to look trendy and to ensure that average height folk get a crick in the neck? Has anyone considered sunlight?

But the bad news, certainly for the occasional user or untrained Bristol visitor, is that these towers, not filled with stars, will not accept cash!
Of course we must all get used to new technology - BUT - frankly, off-bus ticketing does not have a good track record in the UK. And what about the expense of these huge thingeys. Surely "wave and pay", smart card and the occasional cash customer would not slow the service down that much. And who cares if their trip take 3 minutes longer - and time savings may well be negated by traffic conditions despite super bits of bus lane.

What happens when the machines break down? There is only one at each stop.

What happens when  the Bristol youff, searching for a little alcohol infused excitement, seek to put the boot in at the lower level?

An Informed Source tells fbb that this is the first such installation for real from a hitherto untried company.

Ooo-er, missus!

Reversion to conventional fares system before Christmas?

The "Hello Metrobus" card ...
... extols the benefits of the cash-less society but fbb suspects that Mrs Miggins of Wick Wick will be less then convinced.
No reflection intended on little old ladies in general. fbb is married to one!
Fares are straightforward, but fbb could find no explanation of what "one zone/two zones" etc. meant on the printed material.
IF, as might be apparent from the zone diagram, the Park and Ride (Lyde Green) and the Bristol and Bath Science Park stops are outside the inner zone, there will be complaints!

Which brings us to the timetable leaflet, a style of publicity now almost unknown in Sheffield.
Are hot drinks allowed on Metrobus? 

The route map is excellent, covering the main part of the service in a geographically accurate piece of top-notch cartography showing all stops.
If the two stops outside the ring road are in a different zone, a delightful anomaly is revealed. Fare from Emersons Green to Lyde Green or Science Park £2.50 (OUCH), fare from Emersons Green to Emerald Park or anywhere else on the route of the M3 £1.50.
From Begbrooke, the bus joins the M32 via the Metrobus only link road and zips into the city centre.
What is obvious is that stops are mostly widely spaced like tram stops. Oh yes, and the stop called "Broadmead" is not at Broadmead! The Cabot Circus stop is actually easier for the Broadmead shopping area than the outbound Broadmead stop on Lewins Mead.

The actual timetable suffers from a common failing. If you are using "repeat patterns" then the pattern of the last journey before the repeat and the first journey after it should match the "and then at these minutes" panel. Most of them on the M3 don't!
Is there a 1900 from The Centre? You might guess that the journey before the 1905 is at 1840 but you shouldn't need to make that assumption. Sometimes this wooliness is done to save space, but on this leaflet there is plenty of room to do it proper like!

Disappointing on a leaflet that is otherwise so good!

Now for an fbb confession. He had planned to be in Bristol on the first day of operation of the M3 (Tuesday 29th May, very exciting) ...
... until he was reminded by a comment writer that the service is free for the first few days.

The interests of blogging observation, when the service is carrying real fare paying passengers, outweigh your author's desire to be there on the first day.

So the visit is planned for Tuesday June 12th.

By then it should all be working wonderfully well ...

... or not!

 Next news snippets blog : Sunday 27th May 

Friday, 25 May 2018

The M3 Is Almost Here (1) ...

But Not The Congested Motorway!
On Tuesday next, 29th May, the first phase of Bristol's much delayed and highly controversial Metro bus network opens its platform doors for real live paying passengers; as long as they don't try to pay the driver.

The project has had a long and tortuous history but the good folk at Bradley Stoke have documented the ups and downs (mostly the latter) for many an long year.
The current edition of this on-line "rag" headlines the exciting development for this coming weekend.
Unfortunately it is not the MetroBus route M1, but First's re-jig of the services to Thornbury giving Bradley Stoke a half hourly zip via the M32, using some of the Metro Bus infrastructure to speed Thornburians on their merry way.
On Tuesday 29th we are launching what can only be described as a revolution in bus travel for people who live in Thornbury and travel to and from Bristol. Marlborough Street is replacing exiting routes 78 & 79 with two new ones, T1 and T2. The flagship service becomes the T1, providing a half-hourly link from Thornbury using a new route via Aztec West roundabout onto Bradley Stoke Way, the new link road and the M32 - this will be much faster than the current service.

Our latest Scanias, built to almost Metrobus specification, will be used on this service, which is the (albeit low key) start of the SouthGlos Lynx brand.
Local feedback so far is enthusiastic, so good luck next week to all in Team Marlborough Street! (From First West of Englnd staff newsletter)

The Metrobus M1, it has been announced, will start in January 2019.

The "Journal" archives something of the history of the project, this from the very early days.
Then there was a revised plan including Park and Ride sites (plural).
At one stage there was to be a third at the bus only junction on the M32.

Bristol Parkway station, possibly one of the most important "traffic objectives", has disappeared from the grand plan and only one (existing) Park and Ride remains at Emersons Green, now renamed Lyde Green.
Thus it is that from Tuesday 29th, service M3 replaces X48 to the Park and Ride and thus begins the stunning MetroBus project, just a few years late. 

On Tuesday last a bag of goodies popped through the fbb mansions' letterbox.

There were vouchers for FREE day tickets ...
... obtained in only (!) SIX easy stages from First's m-ticket system.
Students and switched-on youff will, of course, find this process trivial in the extreme - but whether the likes of Elsie Miggins of Wick Wick** will cope is doubtful. But, with no "on-bus" transactions, there is no other way of collecting your Brucie Bonus.

Hmmm?

Then there is a leaflet inviting fbb to say hello.
"Hello Metrobus!"

Your "exists back in the 50s" (according to one anonymous blogger) will examine the contents in a little more detail tomorrow. But there is much to marvel at!
My God - it's full of stars!

But the fun and jollity is not yet over. There is an excellent timetable and map, again to be reviewed in detail tomorrow ...
... plus a rather luxurious notebook and pen, ideal for keeping records of your metrobus rides.
A week ago today there was a pre-public-launch "maiden voyage".
How long will it be before the buses are that full for real?

Metrobus factoid No 37. Although ALL buses can use the Metrobus bus lanes (on the M32, for example) the new buses-only junction with the M32 is restricted to Metrobus vehicles ONLY - a quote again from the staff newsletter.
P.S. It isn't the bridge on Stoke Lane - which is a public road!
Stapleton Allotments Bridge? Begbrooke Bridge?

Also in fbb's goody bag, although not associated with Metrobus ("Hello!"), was a card flyer for the MY FIRST MILE service reviewed yesterday. 
On the obverse, the fare price is confirmed as cheap as chips and including a First Bristol "inner zone" day ticket (electronic, of course, not paper!).
A one-off journey would then be £6 return.

The challenge still is to see whether this price will tempt people to adapt to the timetabled inward taxi journey and leave their cars at home.
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**Wick Wick
This is not a figment of fbb's imagination. A roundabout and some side roads exist at the binomial oddity that is Wick Wick.
Here the M3 stop is named after the pub, that is the Willy Wicket on Wick Wick Close at Wick Wick; tricky to remember!!
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 Next M3 blog : Saturday 26th May