Monday, 19 March 2018

Silliness in Sevenoaks? Part 1

Banished from Bromley.
fbb has only a superficial knowledge of London's bus network, so relies on others' on-line offerings to educate him. But bus route 402 (Bromley, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells) has been around in one form or another since the formation of London Transport in the 1930s.

It briefly disappeared to be replaced by a version of Green Line 706 ...
... which originally ran through from Aylesbury ...
... serving various Kent destinations.
Again, after London Country South East became Kentish Bus, the upstart management renumbered it as 22. Sacrilege!
Public opinion brought back the 402 (now owned by Arriva) and, despite these short-lived infarctions, the 402 has plodded into Bromley for well over 80 years.

Its recent status is slightly odd. At the London end it runs under  London Buses legislation, so behaves as a "normal" red bus route, whereas once across the somewhat arbitrary "border" it becomes a bog-standard commercial service duly registered with the Traffic Commissioners.

It is NOT listed in Ian Armstrong's excellent catalogue of "London Bus Routes" ...
... despite, for a while, carrying a red bus type of livery.
It carried "402" branding despite this although such commecial niceties were a no-no for London's buses until recently. Arriva publicity also provided a red route map rather than their usual blue. (click on the map to enlarge it)
This version was published in September 2011 - Sevenoaks itself is just off the map at the bottom right. The village of Pratts Bottom currently features as a road name in Admiral insurance adverts.
Fame at last!

Other brandings have featured a 402 blob ...
... and, more recently, a red stripe on the Versas.
In recent years an hourly service was normality Monday to Saturday daytimes; this from a London Transport "panel" timetable from 2004 ...
... and this from Robert Muster's London Bus timetable site, an archved version.
A fairly stable service!

Then in spring of last year rumours were rife that "something" was happening. So much so that the local MP Jo Johnson ...
... (yes, him - bro of Boris) wrote to Arriva expressing his concerns. We do not have a copy of Jo's prose, but we do have a reply from Arriva.
This was sent on 6th March 2017 from Simon Loh ...
... Arriva's cheery area Managing Director. Here is the relevant paragraph.

In regards to the 402 service, the through service from Tunbridge Wells to Bromley will continue to run hourly on Mondays to Saturdays but to revised times and buses will run via Weald village instead of via River Hill. In addition, there will be buses every twenty minutes during the main part of the day on Mondays to Saturdays between Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Riverhead and Ryewood, giving a more frequent service between Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks and for Riverhead. Lastly, a new Sunday service will run hourly between Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks Bus Station.
The 402 to Ryewood replaces half of the crosstown 452.
We will meet the other half in a later blog.

So passengers between Dunton Green and Bromley plus Jo the MP (who uses the bus regularly - NOT) can heave a sigh of relief as the rumours of withdrawal are obviously unfounded.

Despite these assurances, 402 buses to Bromley were withdrawn completely four months later in July 2017!
The usual message emanated from Arriva HQ; decline in passenger numbers, harsh economic times, increased costs, sadness of life in general etc. etc. It must have been a dramatic decline/increase between April and July!

Or was the few month's reprieve to keep MP Jo happy?

There appears to be no replacement as such, but alternative routes do run part way from Bromley, notably the 358 (MID BLUE) to Orpington. 
On the out-of-date "spider" map for Bromley the 402 is listed as an "other bus" but is not shown on the map itself.
Also serving the former 402 villages are the "R" services from Orpington. (click on the map below to enlarge)
We will move into March 2018 in tomorrow's blog.

There is also a 431 operated by Go Coach which runs between Sevenoaks and Orpington.

Seaton Snow Snippet
Only Every 30 Years 16 Days
Snow fell again on Saturday evening 17th, then overnight and continuing (on and off) throughout Sunday (yesterday). The road past fbb mansions was easily passable as the old codgers returned (on foot!) from Church ...
... but side roads less so.
Peterville station and environs were obliterated AGAIN.
But the good news is that Jacko the cat, racked with embarrassment during the previous precipitation, would appear to have "been" outside!!

 Next Sevenoaks blog : Tuesday 20th March 

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Weekend Mixture (Part 2)

Another Stagecoach Trim ...
... but not quite as large as Fort William! Stagecoach route 7 from Aldershot to Reading was once run by Countywide as part of their Fleet Buzz network, It was then numbered 72.
Stagecoach took over but retained the route number for a while.
It is now their route 7.
Aldershot is off the map, lower right and the 7 continues northwards to Hartley Wintney and Reading, but un-mapped by Uncle Brian.
The route runs hourly Monday to Saturday with a collection of variants at school times.
Reading Buses web site tells us that they will soon be taking over the section from Hartley Wintney to their home town, but offering connections and through ticketing with Stagecoach. The Reading service will continue direct to Fleet Station for rail connections.

Reading already runs its own morsel of route 7, tendered by Wokingham Council.
The three evening buses also run on Saturday.

Where next for the Stagecoach chop? Where next for the expansionist Reading Buses?

A Morecambe Muddle
Held over to avoid making Friday's blog unbearably long is a niggling little problem in Morecambe. Here is the map far service 6 to Westgate as supplied by Lancashire Council's web site.
It ends in a loop. But the inbound timetable is short ...
... just showing the two "time points" shown on the map above. But the outbound table shown many more stops ...
... before "terminating" at Bartholomew Road (adj). And then there's the frequency, just like Island line trains, two buses an hour at 20 and 40 minutes past!

Should there be a bus at 00 past the hour.

Eventually fbb found it. It is a route 6A all the way through to Lancaster ...
... running on the hour from 1000 onwards - BUT with radically different point times. Does the map help? Possibly at Westgate (or is it West Gate)?
So it DOES serve Bartholomew Road (the small loop)? Or does it?

But then after the Westgate estate is appears to go two ways at once between there and Lancaster.
And what, pray, happens at Salt Ayre?


This is why you need a good map or a "site visit" to experience what actually happens. One thing is absolutely certain; fbb's first attempt at the West Gate area was, to put it mildly, utter trash!
It looks pretty; it looks pretty simple, with 6As ignoring the estate in the outward direction, but following a "normal" 6 via Bartholomew Road on its return to Morecambe.

Hooray for Stagecoach. Their map is right.
It is nearly impossible to read, but it is right. 

The 6A does PART of the loop at Westgate but in both directions, NOT a one way loop.

On Sundays the 6A does the whole Westgate loop via "Bartholomew Road" a thoroughfare which isn't shown on the Stagecoach map.

On Sundays and Monday to Saturday evenings the 6A doesn't go via Northgate and but runs via Morecambe Road. But does it still go via ASDA?

What happens at Scale Farm Road (bottom right), which Lancashire County calls Salt Ayre, is jolly near unfathomable. 

But here is the Stagecoach timetable from Morecambe, Monday to Saturday daytimes  ...
... and Monday to Saturday evenings ...
... (note the brown shading to SOME evening journeys but not all) and Sundays!
Got it? Good.
Now all fbb has to do is to match Stagecoach's "point times" to those provided my Lancashire and those included on the County computer generated maps and he can proceed with his version of the route diagram.

Pass the tranquilisers - AGAIN!

Tomorrow we go to the comparative sanity of Kent. Well, the routes are almost sane, the service provided isn't!

Stagecoach Northampton Illiteracy ...
Write out 100 times




No doubt a picky "anonymous" will be able to point out several hundred of fbb's tripeing mistooks. Defensively, fbb claims there is a world of difference between a Public Notice (which should be double checked) and a transitory blog often written in haste.

But, yes, he is the kett calling the pottle black.

Melton Constable Bus Information
After fbb visited Melton Constable (Norfolk), lured there by consideration of First Bus' new X29 service replacing part of the Stagecoach (formerly Norfolk Green) route, a correspondent sent this picture, both heartening and depressing.

Norfolk Council, which used to be to the forefront of  new technology now says this about bus timetables etc.
It goes on to decline any responsibility at all for information at bus stops except in "busy places".
Which explains this timetable frame display at Melton Constable.
What a sad comment on bus operators, the County Council and the local Parish Council.

 Next Sevenoaks blog : Monday 19th March 

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Weekend Mixture (Part 1)

Northampton on the Naughty Step
fbb's former home town hit the national news headlines on Thursday, albeit briefly.
The County Council has been inspected ...
... and found wanting! Quite how a change from 2020 will help the finances for the next two years is unclear. Likewise, it is not clear how replacing two big councils with, erm, three big councils will ensure that Libraries do not close and bus services do not disappear.

And if the Secretary of State for Communities sends commissioners to run the existing councils, how will these improve things if the money has run out?

Meanwhile there is "trouble at 't'mill" over the too-small cloggage-creating North Gate Bus Station ...
... which has been a disaster since before it opened.

The local paper carried a lengthy report a day or so ago in which several Councillors (of all colours and loyalties) suggested that the whole idea was all wrong. Here are a few extracts.

On Monday night (12th March), opposition members on the borough council labelled North Gate Bus Station “an accident waiting to happen” in a joint-party call to improve safety around the station. Their motion at full council came after a bus parked in the station reportedly rolled into a barrier after its handbrake had been left off.

The motion was defeated, with all but one Conservative member on the borough, Councillor Sam Kilby-Shaw (Con, Obelisk), voting against the motion.
But a Conservative colleague on the county council took a different view during a debate at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting (13th March), the first time anyone on the North Gate project team has broken ranks to admit they got the location wrong.
Councillor Andre Gonzalez De Savage admitted: “It is in entirely the wrong place, which wasn’t of [the County Council’s] choosing. There is a serious problem with its location, I agree.”

The remark by Councillor Gonzalez De Savage, the cabinet member for economic growth, puts an end to the united front between the county and borough over North Gate.

In an interview with the paper yesterday, the councillor claimed the borough council was “fixated” on using the former Fish Market land on Sheep Street. He also maintains the facility should have been built on council land next to the town’s railway station.

“I did think it was going to be a bit of a squeeze. When I planted the time capsule [at North Gate] I remember saying to [then council leader] David Mackintosh, ‘this won’t stay as a bus station for too long’. I still think it could be a coach station. The congestion in Greyfriars is a mess.”

Councillor Gonzo (as he is sometimes known) ...
...obviously doesn't travel by bus. If he did, he would know that a bus station near the railway station is a potty idea; it is too far from the town centre shops.

But there is an ideal site for an excellent bus station just along the road from North Gate between Greyfriars and Lady's Lane.
If only fbb could remember what was there before the site was cleared.

But, with a change from multiple councils to two councils in the offing, it is good to see how well the present big guys work together.
Open mouth - insert foot : Correction and P.S..
The two proposed councils will be unitary authorities which does, of course, mean that Corby, Daventry, East Northants, South Northants, Kettering and Wellingborough district councils will also be abolished. In terms of cash savings, however, the district councils are not big spenders. Northampton Borough Council will still exist.

Megabus M16 - a P.S.
Thanks to comment writers who pointed out that, when the Norwich service terminates at Stratford, it will move from just outside the (not)International Station ...
... to Stratford City bus station. This is not what many of us know as Stratford Bus Station (without "City") ...
... as the map makes clear.
Stands A, B, C, D (and AP?) are the "traditional" bus station as pictured above. Stands S, T, U, W and stop X (which is opposite) ...
... combine to form the "City" bus station on the opposite side of the railway.
Additionally, the M16 is not actually operated by Stagecoach ...
... but under contract by Freestone's Coaches of Dereham.
The company has a substantial collection of posh motors.

And a Dubious Stratford Diagram
The dangers of diagrams is ably illustrated by the London Buses "spider" map at Stratford.
For people who know where they want to go and are broadly familiar with the "shape" of London, these plans can be of use. But for a stranger or a bemused visitor things are no so good.

Consider this little bit of the diagram.
Tottenham Court Road just west of Cambridge Heath?

Chancery Lane just west of Bethnal Green?

Holborn Circus just west of Shoreditch High Street?

Even Harry Beck's iconic Underground map didn't stretch credibility as far as this.

We'll Go For a P, Bob!
Last weekend fbb was enthusing about a new model railway locomotive, the South Eastern and Chatham Railway "P" class, of which only eight were ever built. The model features on the cover of the April edition of Railway Modeller.
Inside there is a full and very complimentary review of this delightful model, together with a further selection of pictures. To see this one in a larger size ...
... just click!

"Dashed clever these Chinese," is not a racially stereotype, but fact. the models are made in China from design work done by Hattons of Widnes.

Compare it with a Triang "Jinty" from the early 1960s and you will see that railway models have moved on just a tad.
The "P" does cost four times as much as the Jinty, taking inflation into account.

Morecambe Mistakes
Held over to tomorrow because of breaking news from Northampton.

 Next weekend Mixture : Sunday 18th March