Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Better, Bit By Bit (2)

A Good Look at a Good Book
fbb was delighted to find a box of First's area timetable book on his open-top 501 on Saturday, and he eagerly collected a couple, one for "filing" (in a heap in the loft!) and one to take on a planned return to the town later in the Summer season.
There was no sign of any of these booklets at the railway station; there is no enquiry office as such, just two ticket windows ...
... and there is a shop.
This is small and serves as newsagent and snack bar. Maybe when First take over the Southwest Trains franchise the buses management and the trains management will talk to one another (shock horror!!) and provide onward bus travel information and literature.

The only display is a repeater screen for departures from central stops ...
... with a map added since the Streetview camera did its clever thing. But it needs a BIG sign and, ideally, a more prominent position. It is good that it exists, but it is easy to miss.

If space and/or complex legislation make better information "all too difficult", then there is First's bolted and barred shop in the town. Oh, yes, it is opposite the station!
Welcome to Weymouth - but don't expect to be able to talk to a real person!

First's bus timetable book does contain some helpful rail information, showing connections with SouthWest Trains at Weymouth ...
... and Axminster.
But there is no mention of the direct rail service from Bristol etc.
Now which group operates those trains to Weymouth?

If you can find one, the timetable booklet is a superb example of a production that can attract passengers, holiday makers, day visitors, local residents and overweight elderly bloggers to make (extra) bus journeys for the pure fun of it.

So what thrills (?) does the book offer?

Network maps of Weymouth and Dorchester urban areas are excellent as this extract shows,
Each service has its own line of route map, again excellent ...
... although there might be an argument for annotating, say, the route 4 map with just the existence of other services in the area.

There is a welcome page which highlights changes and new services p...
... plus a frequency list.
fbb is not sure what the point of this list is if you have got the timetables; but how about saving some space and combining it with the index in service number order. Only service 8 and service 15 (the latter schooldays only and disappearing from 20th May) ...
... have a different schedule on Saturdays compared with Monday to Fridays, so it is easy to save a column.

The timetables are, well, just timetables; but they are clear and tidy and consistently coloured to match the maps. This does help a visitor have confidence that he is in the right place.
Now, wouldn't it be jolly good to see these timetable printed out double size and posted in frames at the Kings Statue terminal? Correspondent Ken Traveline Dorset says that more information will appear there after the changes due later in May.

fbb bets a stick of Weymouth Rock ...
... that it will be in the form of computer generated departure lists and not the more useful full timetables and line of route maps.

Note also that the producers of Weymouth Rock are somewhat backward in their publicity!

But that's enough drooling for today over EXCELLENT publicity. Tomorrow we look at what is new for 2017 in the area and, in true "Top Gear" manner, have a poke at a ghastly howler. Where might that be, you ask.

Perhaps Simon Newport (Weymouth boss) should send a copy of this booklet to First South Yorkshire?
Pretty Picture from Twitter
fbb is not a Twitterer, but some deep throat confuser somewhere keeps sending the old man odd extracts from peoples' Twits. This one caught the old fellah's eye for sheer picturesque quality.
Talyllyn Railway; and all together, say "Aaah!"
 Next Weymouth blog : Wednesday 26th April 

Monday, 24 April 2017

Better, Bit By Bit (1)

Perceptions Perplex
A letter in the current Buses magazine bewails, amongst other things, the lack of consideration to and consultation with "the passenger".
And we all know that "consultation", in business-speak, means we're telling you what we are going to do; please feel free to comment; but we'll be doing it anyway.

The main drift of the letter is that buses are too slow because they wiggle round estates to squeeze the last drop of revenue from their customers.
But surely, the big groups have progressively withdrawn from "wiggles" and thrown their resources at "services which offer an opportunity for business development." (Translation : to make more profit for our shareholders.)
Likewise the big groups are now dumping whole networks which don't make enough money.
As one (anonymous) executive confided to fbb "Bad for the passenger, but good for the business." Very true.

Then, on Saturday, one of the pray-ers and studiers got into conversation with Mrs fbb and fbb (the latter invited to join the "monstrous regiment of women" - John Knox - for tea an cake after study day had ended.)

Her granddaughters, although earning good money, couldn't get on the property ladder because the wealthy Londoners were buying up everything in sight as second homes; so the government should ban second homes! fbb mentioned that economies in lifestyle can help, like getting rid of the car and using public transport.

This provoked another outburst. "Well, you would lose your job if you had to use public transport where we live", she railed.

"And which rural backwater of the UK might that be?" thought fbb.

Answer:- Bath!

Back to Buses mag and the "Inside Track" comment column, this month by Roger French ex. big chief of Brighton and Hove buses.
His theme, in general, is that MPs do not have a clue abut buses. He has been listening to the debate on the forthcoming Buses Act.
But no MP was willing to explain how the new world of the Buses Act provisions would be funded.
His conclusion is what you would expect from the former Brighton supremo; the residents of Sheffield might not agree!
Most people, passengers and managers alike would agree with the last sentence.

So how were fbb's perceptions in Weymouth on Saturday?

Varied, but mostly good. On arrival by train, he found departure screens and town centre map, plus plenty of blue "pedestrian" signs to the main bus stops.
The lack of a list of departure stands at Kings Statue caused fbb some short term grief and he recommends that this list be displayed in all the shelters.
Crazily, there were no timetables displayed at the Kings Statue terminal, but at least the departure screens were all working.

On the positive side, however, there were posters promoting several key services. The 24 hour service on route 1 ...
... now runs all night on Thursday/Friday in addition to Friday/Saturday and Saturday/Sunday. Can any other medium sized seaside resort claim a 24 hour bus service of any kind?

Service 10 and service 4 also have posters ...
... as do all the Summer Seasonal services that have started earlier than in previous years.
As if to emphasise quality, routes 2 and 10 are operated with vehicles adorned by a coloured "wedge" matching poster and timetable publicity.
Then there's the excellent company timetable book. Sadly, it is a timetable book with a snag. There is no obvious place to obtain one. On Saturday, fbb found his box of delights on the service 501; but it was simply a cardboard box plonked unceremoniously in the luggage rack. It wasn't even labelled "New Timetable; Help Yourself".

Later in the season, when the tourists begin to arrive in droves, how will they discover where they might be tempted to travel?

As Roger French wrote

"There are still many things to be done." Too right buddy!
Four-Track Ferroequinological Fantasy
The historic display of trains past, present a future paraded north of York yesterday was a superb event. Thanks to a correspondent on Twitter, fbb can reprint a superb photo of the four abreast, and in brighter colour than the aerial films shown on most TV news programmes.
The train of the future has been dubbed Azuma by the PR people. Apparently this is a Japanese word; but fbb prefers the anglicised version. "Travel on the East Coast Main Line in A Zoomer - our new train"
 Next Weymouth blog : Tuesday 25th April 

Sunday, 23 April 2017

By Bus to Bill

From Prayer to Portland
Mrs fbb attended a women's prayer and bible teaching day at Crossways, near Dorchester; to be precise at St Aldhelm's Church.
fbb provided a chauffeur service and then sought to entertain himself whilst the wife was doing what it said on the tin. A year ago he set off east to Bournemouth (read again).

This year he journeyed west ...
... to Weymouth. The main reason was to take an open top bus ride to Portland Bill as First in Wessex Dorset and South Somerset (slick and tidy name, eh?) had started some of its seasonal services much earlier than previously.

But when your eager and excited traveller arrived a Moreton Station things were not as they should be. An up train was just leaving at an unscheduled time ...
... and the down train (scheduled every hour) was two trains.
And yes, fbb had checked the timetable but, oh foolish one, not the disruptions page or the journey planner. The result, of course, was no indication that anything was up. The truth was revealed on a poster espied at Weymouth.
It showed a bus service (in RED) between Poole and Wareham and two trains an hour serving all stops between Wareham and Weymouth; double the frequency for insignificant little Moreton!

First have done a pretty good job with the Weymouth network as we shall see in due course. This, combined with some good displays at the station (just outside the building, near the taxi rank) ...
... should make things very easy. Confidently, without checking the station displays, fbb set off the Kings Statue to find his service 501; only to discover that there was no list of departures by stand in any of the shelters. A creaky stagger from K1 to K7 did not reveal any sign of route 501.

If in doubt as a man with "First" on his jacket. "K6, look here comes the bus now."
How had fbb missed the stand? Because the 501 is half-heartedly branded as part of the Jurassic Coaster network and the route number is relegated to small print at the corner of the poster.
Really, it would ave been easier if a map and list of services at each stand were available glued firmly to every shelter.

N528 LHG has had a varied history with a variety of owners ...
... but has been a Weymouth open topper for ten years. Despite its vintage, the bus performed well on the hilly route to Portland Bill. The route lacks some of the beauty of other OT services with a very strange nip off the main road to pass the National Sailing Academy. Sadly the pervading memory is of seedy works yards populated by old containers.
Another wiggle takes us via Portland Castle ...
... which looks a lot more attractive from the other side.
Nearby boarded-up buildings spoil the effect somewhat.
As far as Easton, the 501 almost mirrors the frequent First route 1 to Southwell ...
... both services offering glorious views along Chesil Bank. On its outward run, our 501 does a little wiggle at the top of the hill (The Heights) to allow views back to Weymouth.
A nice touch.
But our route now runs via the east coast of the "island". Portland always was an industrial area, with the detritus of quarries for Portland Stone being evident on both sides of this road.
 But soon, we arrive at the southerly tip, Portland Bill itself.
The lighthouse has a visitor centre but fbb had no time to visit as he needed to return straight away to Weymouth. Six open top riders travelled to Bill plus a smattering of locals making journeys equivalent to service 1. Of those six, four returned immediately to Weymouth.

Not a busy run!

Noting he other two (disused) lighthouses, namely the Old Higher light (in private hands) ...
... and the Old Lower light (restored, but non working) ...
... your author made his chilly top deck way back, as outward route reversed, to collect Mrs fbb from Crosssways.

One definite bonus is that all the Weymouth summer routes numbered in the 500s accept OAP passes. So, at £3.70 return for the train, nowt for the bus and just over a fiver for comestibles, the old man had a cheap and rewarding day.

More about timetables etc. tomorrow.

 Next Weymouth blog : Monday 24th April