Thursday, 19 April 2018

Brizzle Metro Bloomin' Maddening (2)

Hold on to your hats! First Bristol, contracted to operate the MetroBus "network" will be starting route M3 on Tuesday 29th May (Monday 28th is the Spring Bank Holiday).

What is "Bloomin' Maddening" for fbb is that the MetroBus "network" is shown on a stylised diagram whilst First Bus have a nice geographical network map. Putting the two together is tricky in the extreme and fbb can only apologise to Bristolians if he hasn't quite grasped the ideal.**

M3 runs from Emersons Green (GREEN) to the city centre.
fbb thinks it starts at the terminus of the existing routes 48 and 49 at Sainsburys.
There are three 48s and three 49s each hour ...
... which operate via Fishponds where No 1 son used to live before moving to Wantage. The 48/9 is supplemented by three 48As which nip off to the University of the West of England (UWE) where No 1 son was further educated!
Also there is the relatively new X48 continuing from Sainsburys to Lyde Green Park and Ride and the Bristol and Bath Science Park.
The M3 also runs via the Park and Ride (seen under construction in Streetview) ...
... and the developing Science Park.
Will the X48 disappear when the M3 starts?

The M3 then uses the fast and busy A4174, which becomes Filton Road, before peeling off left to call at the UWE campus.
Here it will join the M1 (MAGENTA) of which more in due course.
The stop names are beautiful - who wouldn't want to catch a bus to Willy Wicket? - but Buses magazine ** points out their limitations.

The northern fringe of the city has sprung up since the 1980s, and has road layouts typical of the era. The partnership explains that the routes have been designed with an eye to the future, so what is currently green field may become more housing in due course. What this means in practice is that lot of stops are on dual carriageways, with poor pedestrian access.

At one location where each stop is either side of a roundabout, there are four separate traffic signal controlled crossings separating the two stops. In other places, houses turn their back to the road, and there is a distinct absence of footpaths to reach the stops.

This is the Hambrook stop, under construction ...
... also showing part of the extensive bus lane along the A4174.

South of the UWE campus the bus uses Stoke Lane which has had to widened to accommodate an in-bound bus lane. Google maps shows the work in progress.
A bit of substantial cvil engineering has been necessary to pinch enough room for the extra lane ...
... and as we descent to cross the M32, we meet a 48A on its way to the campus.
Looking back up the motorway we see the biggie! A whole new buses only junction ...
... ha been built to get the M1 and M3 quickly on the the fast (? except at morning peak?) road into the centre. After crossing the Stoke Lane bridge, buses turn left along a new chunk of road built through Stapleton allotments ...
... seen here also under construction, courtesy of Google Streetview.
The new junction is roughly where the M32 blob is.

Land in Bristol that was occupied by tree protesters for six weeks has now been cleared for work on preparations for the city's Metrobus route.
The activists were evicted from Stapleton allotments last week. They say the scheme will destroy wildlife habitat and agricultural land but Mayor George Ferguson says he's looking at ways of minimising its impact.
Last updated Fri 20 Mar 2015

From here the M3 has oodles of bus lane to take it to then end of the M32, then via its continuation, the A4032 to the inner ring road at Cabot Circus.
The M3 will run anti clockwise to terminate at "The Centre" which isn't the centre of Bristol but was known as "The Tramway Centre" because all the trams terminated there.
** Notes to this blog:-

ideal - Bristol folk are wont to add an extra letter l (for love) to words ending in "a". Hence "The MetroBus is a very good ideal."

Buses - the May 2018 edition ...
...contains loads of good stuff, including an excellent overview of the whole MetroBus project. Worth £4.70 of any blog reader's money!!

 Next MetroBus blog : Friday 20th April 

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Brizzle Metro Bloomin' Maddening (1)

Don't Get Confused ...
There is a grand plan to develop rail services based on Temple Meads Station; that is called MetroWest ...
... but used to be known as Greater Bristol Metro. Phase 1 (opening the line to Portishead) is still grinding its weary snail-like way through the slough of despond; and seems no nearer that it was when it was first mooted.

Then there is Metrobus, a GoAhead company operating in West Sussex amongst other places.
There are other Metrobus companies world wide. This one is in Islamabad and is reputed to be something of a basket case.
Do they supply step ladders?
Panic not, they run from high level platfoms, like trains in the UK.

No this is MetroBus (spot the subtle name difference!) in Bristol.

Wikipedia explains all (?):-

MetroBus is part of a package of transport infrastructure improvements in the West of England which have been designed to help unlock economic growth, tackle poor public transport links in South Bristol, long bus journey times and high car use in the North Fringe of the city and M32 motorway corridor.

MetroBus vehicles will have priority over other traffic at junctions and use a combination of segregated busways and bus lanes. They will be hybrid buses with two doors, one for boarding and one for exiting, to shorten stop times.

Five routes will be offered by MetroBus:-
Click on the map above for an enlargement.

Cribbs Causeway to Hengrove Park
Emersons Green to Bristol city centre
Emersons Green to Bristol Parkway railway station
Hengrove Park to the city centre
Long Ashton park & ride to the city centre

The project started in 2006 and is, erm, running a little late.

Early publicity showed super continental-style articulated buses.
The Bristol MetroBus service is likely to use single-decker hybrid vehicles, with two sets of doors in an effort to minimise stop dwell time, The Bristol Post reported.

After research from transport experts, single-decker vehicles emerged as the favourable choice, providing the quickest and bestquality service for passengers, although it is up to the contract winning operator to decide which twin door hybrid vehicles to use.

Bendy buses are unlikely because of their reliance on standing room at peak times, while ‘more modern’ StreetCars ...
... are unlikely because they cost about £320,000 each.

Well, we know what has happened to that idea!

Cllr Brian Allinson, Chairman of the West of England Partnership’s Joint Transport Committee, said: “We are determined that the MetroBus vehicle delivers a visibly high level of passenger quality and comfort, but we have to be realistic and balance our wishes with practicality.

Some of he buses have been delivered. They are being used on "normal" Bristol routes, so local folk can enjoys the radically different MetroBus experience before it happens.
One dramatic novelty is they they have two sets of doors to speed up boarding and alighting.
Wow!

And the grey livery is so attractive - who would not be rushing to travel?

But progress has not been without a few snags. The first Bristol Mayor, George Ferguson (complete with red trousers), ...
... changed one of the routes, thus making all the original projections for usage invalid. Doom mongers reckon less people will use George's route!

But, at last, it was announced that the first MetroBus service would start in 2017.

It didn't and hasn't.

But when pressed on whether the route – which is delayed because of problems with the ‘guided busway’ element of the route – would be ready in time for the start of the next football season in August, or even be ready by the end of 2018, Metrobus said they could not guarantee either, although they ‘expect’ buses to start running on the route at some point in 2018.

M2?

The latest map shows just THREE routes.
Missing from the map are routes from Emersons Green to Cribbs Causeway and from Long Ashton to Hengrove. The latter omission has upset the MP.
It's the missing route wot riled him.
The MetroBus "authorities" claim that the "South Bristol Link" was always "aspirational".

Sounds like a euphemism for a right mess!

But there's more ...

 Next Bristol blog : Thursday 19th April 

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The Grand Tour (conclusion)

Way, way back on Thursday 5th April, fbb announced his "wish list" for a Grand Tour visiting two long-term friends and taking in some bits of the nation's public transport that the old man had not, so far, visited. Read that original blog again (here).

Everything was achieved as intended and almost all by public transport, not counting the essential kiss-and-ride from home to Axminster. Yesterday's blog revealed a lift from hotel to Leicester station in compensation for late breakfast availability on a Saturday. The other short-haul lift helped fbb get back to the comfort of the Seaton mansion one hour ahead of schedule.

A message received on the Saturday requested fbb's services at Church the following day to cover an unwell preacher. One hour longer to recover, pray and prepare was VERY helpful!

 DAY 1 THURSDAY 5th APRIL 
0803 Axminster to London Waterloo

Bus RV1 to London Bridge

1230 London Bridge to St Pancras Thameslink

The "via London" ticket is valid from London Bridge to St Pancras despite it not being the "normal" way to get from Waterloo to Euston

Bus 59 St Pancras to Euston

1346 London Euston to Nuneaton

A four car suburban train, very full, on the relatively new service between Euston and Crewe NOT via Northampton; journey time, a very creditable 67 minutes. EXCELLENT.

Whilst waiting for the next train fbb was able to photograph a flock of rare creatures as they settled on the platform at Nuneaton.
They were all a lot older than the lads who collected numbers when fbb was briefly a loco spotter - come to think of it they probably were the lads fbb met on his teenage travels!

1523 Nuneaton to Leicester
No period returns for this journey!
The three-car Cross Country unit was the only train on the Grand Tour that was poorly loaded. There were just six passengers in fbb's carriage on a train terminating at Leicester.

Of course, fbb could have travelled from Nuneaton to Leicester for zilch, and competitively, on service 48 (Stagecoach) or 158 (Arriva) ...
... but timing would have been too tight.

First Bus 22 Leicester Station
   to Haymarket Bus Station

Arriva Bus 27 from St Margarets Bus Station
   to Heathley Park

Evening meal 1930 in the hotel noshery.

 DAY 2 FRIDAY 6th APRIL 
Arriva Bus 28 Heathley Park
    to St Margarets bus station

Arriva Bus 31 St Margarets bus station
    to Leicester Station

1030 Leicester to Sheffield

First Bus X1 Sheffield to Rotherham

First Bus 74 Rotherham via Waverley
    to Sheffield
Wishful thinking - the Grand Tour vehucle was decidedly ungrand - the above is from Leicester.

1437 Sheffield to Nottingham

NET Tram Nottingham Station to Clifton South
NET Tram Clifton South to Nottingham Station

1630 Nottingham to Leicester

First Bus 54 Leicester Station
    to Haymarket bus station

Arriva Bus 27 St Margarets bus station
    to Heathley Park

Short breather at hotel.

Arriva Bus 29 Heathley Park to Groby

Dinner with chum David. The bus stop at Heathley Park made interesting reading and will feature in a future blog.

Arriva Bus 29 Groby to Heathley Park

 DAY 3 SATURDAY 7th APRIL 
It was cheaper to get a day return to Butlers Lane than any other manipulation of the Railways' crazy fares structure.

0918 Leicester to Birmingham New Street

Midland Metro Grand Central to Jewellery Quarter
Midland Metro Jewellery Quarter to Grand Central

Grand Central is the unhelpful name of the stop right outside New Street station.

1105 Birmingham New Street to Butlers Lane

Now comes the clever bit.

1250 Butlers Lane to Lichfield Trent Valley

Excellent interchange from the Cross City line, down the steps for the connection.
The day return from Leicester to Butlers Lane is valid that way as well as via New Street and, of course, the ticket will take fbb back to Nuneaton where, seamlessly, his return ticket to Axminster takes over.

1313 Lichfield Trent Valley to London Euston
And, Virgin Trains please note, the class 350s offer a much nicer ride than a Pendolino ...
... they are light and airy and you can see out of the windows.
OK they are slower than a Pendolino, but not much over short-ish journys!

But the next bit shows why you cannot rely on Journey Planners.

1313 Lichfield Trent Valley to London Euston

This train arrives in Euston at 1450. Now, regular travellers know that the Underground journey between Euston and Waterloo takes about 15 minutes; even the creaky fbb can always do it in just less than 20. Back in the days of the bad old Northern Line, you might not always make it, but nowadays, no probs.

1520 London Waterloo to Axminster

The National Rail JP offers you a train one hour later from Waterloo at 1650.

Mrs fbb was awaiting her chubby hubby with the family limo and they were back supping a much needed cuppa at 1820. Plenty of time to gibber (a k a "prepare") for the task of "supply" preacher at 1030 on the day after the trip before!

And the total travel cost?
£104.05 with OAP railcard!

Cracking good value, Gromit.

And EVERYTHING was on time except First Bus 74 from Rotherham to Sheffield - ten minutes late.

 Next "back to abnormal" blog : Wednesday 18th April 

Monday, 16 April 2018

The Grand Tour (ten)

Another Nightmare!

You're a regular wreck
With a crick in your neck
And no wonder you snore
For your head's on the floor
And you've needles and pins
From your soles to your shins
And your flesh is a-creep
For your left leg's asleep
And you've cramp in your toes
And a fly on your nose
And some fluff in your lung
And a feverish tongue
And a thirst that's intense
And a general sense
That you haven't been sleeping in clover;
But the Grand Tour has passed
And it's ending at last
And your brain's in a fog
But we're ending this blog
And thank goodness the nightmare is over!

Well nearly!

Saturday 7th April saw fbb eating an excellent Premier Inn breakfast and joining chum David in his car for the short run to Leicester Station. Why not avail himself of Arriva's finest? The problem was that fbb needed an early start and breakfast was not available until 0800. 

Saturday took him to the West Midlands, to Butlers Lane station, to spend some time with his chum John, now sinking deep into Alzheimer's. John would not be available until late morning so there was the opportunity, with the car-assisted start, to travel on the Birmingham tram, a k a The Midland Metro.

It's trams run between Birmingham and Wolverhampton following the former Great Western Railway line, much of which is now closed (yellow dots).
The line does not offer very beautiful views (!) but it has been equipped with new trams. The old ones looked like this ...
... and the new ones look like this:-
In 2016, the line was extended from a side platform at Birmingham Snow Hill station through the city centre to Stephenson Street alongside one of the many entrances to Birmingham New Street Station. fbb had ridden the whole line way back at the end of the 20th Century, but this was the first chance he had had to "cop" the new bit.

It is reputed that New Street Station now employs rescue dogs ...
... to find errant passengers who have become lost in the maze of coloured lounges ...
... which aren't coloured and where you cannot lounge. Finding your way out can best be described by Maurits Cornelis Escher's engraving entitled "Ascending and Descending".
In the same way that Escher's people are doomed to walk continually uphill or continually downhill, ...
... you, the passenger, always seem to end up on Platform 8.

But equipped with Kendal Mint Cake, stout walking boots, compass and suitable protective clothing ...
... it is possible to follow the rather inconspicuous signs to the tram.

fbb was going to travel to Jewellery Quarter and back, mainly to experience the city centre ride. He had researched fares and gathered that it would cost £2 return. So the first task was to seek out the ticket machines.

But there aren't any.
National Express (who runs the tram) ditched the super-smashing machines (seen here in "closed down" mode ...
... in favour of a revolutionary new revenue collecting idea. You pay money to a "conductor" who issues you with a "ticket". Stunning.
Maybe Nottingham should try it - they might collect more fares!

Anyway, off the tram went up Corporation Street. It used to be full of buses and shelters ...
... and, some time before that, full of buses and trams.
Now it carries just one tram route with all the buses banished from this busy shopping street.
You do wonder what effect this policy has had on the city centre footfall! At the top of the hill we lurch left into Bull Street, also once a busy bus terminus ...
... and, once again, now only served by the lonesome tram.
Bull Street is now the stop for Snow Hill station and far less convenient than the original platform alongside the "big trains".
But soon we leave street running ...
... and descend to join the former main line.
There was, however, one mystery to solve. On the departure screens at Jewellery Quarter (and everywhere else) we were told (and scrolled) that Saturday had an eleven tram service.
Maybe locals understand the significance of that information but fbb didn't. It was meaningless. The rest of the message was just plain weird.
There would be a " delay of approx 8 min. " Yet fbb's tram appeared as predicted in the top line. There was no delay!

If they mean "trams run every 8 minutes", then say so!
Something has happened to the "Snow Hill" stop; it has been renamed St Chads.
It WAS named "Snow Hill" but folk were alighting there expecting to nip smartly on to the main line platforms. There is a route from St Chads (up in the air) ...
... down to street level ...
... then by negotiating the gloom under the bridge and turning right somehow ...
... only to find that this new-ish entrance in Livery Street is closed after 1900 and all day Sunday. So a change of name discourages interchange and preserves the secret!

fbb was well impressed with the conductors but seriously underwhelmed by the weird information about frequency. Had he wanted to get from St Chads to Snow Hill station his whelm would have been further under than imaginable!

Nottingham is the place for trams, without a doubt!

 Final Grand Tour blog (hooray) : Tuesday 17th April