Friday, 24 November 2017

Re-inventing The Wheel Part 2

Bellfields (Mini-)Bus Blunder
This is the unassuming terminus at Bellfields to the north of Guildford.
Once it had a bus every 15 minutes ...
... run by branded or unbranded Arriva Kent and Surrey buses.
It even managed to attract some newer motors.
The timetable had a cut back to every twenty minutes ...
... noting that, as is often the case with Arriva, some buses run to Friary Bus Station at morning peak whereas most of the service terminates at Friary Bus Station. The people of Guildford must be confused to have two bus stations both called "Friary".

Then, in a shock decision, something happened earlier this year.

Reduced-size bus service from Guildford town centre to Bellfields is causing 'increase in isolation of the most vulnerable'. Arriva Buses introduced new minibuses on its service between the town centre and Bellfields in April, but a petition has been launched to bring back the old vehicles.

And the new vehicles?
You've guessed it; minibuses like Stagecoach's "Little and Quite a Bit Less Often" in Ashford. But unlike the Ashford development, there was no increase in frequency. This was a really daft decision and the folk of Bellfields were justifiably miffed.

Meanwhile Arriva started a brand new service to Horsham alongside its existing route 63, but following a different route.
We're launching a brand new coach service between Guildford and Horsham on Tuesday 2 May 2017 and to celebrate the launch we've got a great introductory offer that will let you try the new route for just £3 a day!

These comfortable coaches will complete the journey in under an hour, with departures approximately hourly each way all day, Monday to Friday. They will call at Shalford, Bramley, Alfold, Rowhook and Broadbridge Heath so will be fast and direct.
The 63 takes about 20 minutes longer whilst the X1 only runs on Mondays to Fridays but takes under the hour.

fbb has searched on-line for pictures of the "coaches" on the X1. Nothing. There were, however, pictures of buses.
Did they have coach seats?
Looks like an ordinary bus to fbb.
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STOP PRESS
Roger has sent (0746 today!) some pictures of X1 coaches (real coaches). fbb will publish them tomorrow (Saturday 25th)
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Then comes yet another example of bus industry newspeak.

Newspeak is the language of Oceania, a fictional totalitarian state ruled by the Party, who created the language to meet the ideological requirements of English Socialism (Ingsoc).
In the world of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (published 1949), Newspeak is a controlled language, of restricted grammar and limited vocabulary, a linguistic design meant to limit the freedom of thought - personal identity, self-expression, free will - that ideologically threatens the régime of Big Brother and the Party, who thus criminalized such concepts as thoughtcrime, contradictions of Ingsoc orthodoxy.

But the cunning plan would resolve the problems of Bellfields.

Following a meeting between residents and Arriva Buses on Monday (November 6), the minibuses are now going to be moved to the X1 route and bigger buses will serve the number 3 service.
Andy Isbell, Arriva general manager for Guildford, said: “We have taken the opportunity to review fleet use in Guildford.

“Having listened to customer feedback we have decided that, at present, the best fit is to swap the minibuses onto the X1 route and put bigger buses onto service 3.

"We attended a residents’ meeting on Monday (November 6) to explain the situation to the residents of Bellfields."

So the "coach" passengers between Guildford and Horsham are the poor folk to suffer the agony of the too-small minibus. Seems odd, "coach" downgraded to 13 seat minibus; but where is the newspeak?

“The X1 has shown continuous growth since its introduction in May and we feel that the minibuses will be the perfect fit for this express service between Guildford and Horsham.”

Yes, you read it correctly! The X1 has shown "continuous growth" so Arriva is providing smaller buses - no, silly and inappropriate minibuses. 

Unbelievable. But there it is - photographed by correspondent Roger (thanks Rog!) ...
... and, just to re-inforce the craziness, here is an enlargement of the destination screen.
Hmm?

What odds are we offering on the survival of the "continuous growth" X1?

On Monday we travel to Hemel Hempstead. The disease spreads!
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Hooray - It Fits!
The footbridge to the rear door of fbb's neighbouring Premier Inn (Everything's Premier including the price!) fits very nicely ...
... but there is plenty of "wiggle" room at the hotel end.
The building has lost its scaffolding and is now revealed in all its architectural magnificence.
Come back Bayko, all is forgiven!
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 Next Weekend Wonderful blog : Saturday 25th November 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Re-inventing The Wheel Part 1

Or Re-inventing The Minibus?
It hardly seems a moment since fbb was reporting the return of the Minibus Revolution as instigated by the late Sir Harry Blundred. This version of the revolution was to take place in Ashford Kent where the town service had the old fashioned minibus treatment. It all kicked off back in February 2017.

See Ashford's Astounding Announcement (3) Read again.

From this week "Little and Often" became "Little and Even Less Often" as further frequency reductions were introduced.

Route B runs from northern estates at Kennington, Bockhanger and Bybrook ...
... into Ashford centre; then on, southbound to Park Farm and Bridgefield.
Bidgefield, you may remember, is where the buses were due to use an old farm-track bridge to reach an estate on the far side of the railway. For some reason this was not ready but still adorned with "No Entry except buses" signs.
The Accommodation Bridge Connecting Park Farm South with Bridgefield. The consortium has paid KCC the sum due to upgrade the bridge. Finishing the upgrade works and installing some missing bits of panelling will limit the risk of trespass on the railway. This is a pre-requisite for a bus service entering Bridgefield.

It is now open, although Streetview does not acknowledge the existence of Bridgefield itself.
When this route started, the frequency was every 6 minutes, every 15 evenings on Sundays. Changes in September and this week have knocked that back to every 10 (or is it every 9?) and every 20.
Reductions have also applied to the "C" route.
One of fbb's correspondents (Roger by name) has updated the old man; because Stagecoach have "redeployed their resources" on two new "Little and Often" routes.
The old half hourly "E", which had its origins in  service branded "The E Line" ...
... loses its link to the Hospital ...
... and runs cross-town to 
... South Willesborough, most recently served by the "G". The "E" is every 20 minutes; so three 16 eaters every hour ...
... replace two 40+ seats every hour. It doesn't seem a good deal for the passengers or one that will attract much extra business - "Little and Not Very Often".

Godinton Park (the north western bit of the old "G") increases from every 30 minutes to every 15 as a "Little and Not as Often as You might Expect" route.
Again, to follow the Blundred pattern, you might expect a bus every ten minutes
Roger sends a selection of pictures, for which many thanks, one of which is the timetable frame for the northbound E and G.
How unhelpful. Admittedly E and G run together along the Godinton Road, but, mostly, they are VERY different routes; so why show them as a muddled mess.

But Roger saves his opprobrium for the quality of the vehicles themselves. He reports that opening windows have had to be added, as a well loaded bus became incredibly stuffy.
The seats are large, high-backed and posh - BUT ...
... they are narrow and the leg room is ...
... negligible and less than negligible over the (grey) wheel arch.
There are 13 fixed seats with three (or is it four) tip-up extras.
These, of course, are lost if wheelchair, or even a baby buggy or two are part of the consist.

As Roger says (and he ought to know!) these ar simply NOT suitable vehicles for a busy (?) urban route.
There is yet another "timetable" picture, taken at the town centre stop in Bank Street.
Now we have As, Es and Gs on the same list. As and Es travel southbound from Bank Street whereas the new "G" runs north-westbound to Godinton Park - or is it Repton Park?
Poor.
The current edition of Buses magazine reports recent developments in a short article. It ends with, perhaps, he most telling comment on this manifestation of the minibus revolution - re-invented!
Maybe 300% is a bit over the top, but it is clear that passenger growth is not (yet?) matching the increased costs of the "Little and Often" network.

Will it last?

But the disease revolution is spreading.

 Next re-invention blog - Friday 24th November 

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Glitzerball im Deutschen Bahnhof

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Excitement at fbb Mansions!
Yesterday morning the crowds were out in force (well, Mrs fbb spotted it as she set off to the shops!) to see a significant progress point in the building of the Premier Inn next door to your blogger's extensive estates. The scaffolding came down last week and here the bridge from Harbour Road up to the entrance is being craned into place.
Let's hope it fits!
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Strictly Come Dancing Station Part 2
fbb has been straining his brain cells to find out when this posh non-rotatory glitterball was dangled from the roof of the main circulating area at the Basel Badischer Bahnhof, thankfully shortened to Basel Bad Bf.
In fact it (or an equivalent) has been there since the station was built.
Originally it was a rather splendid light fitting. But we race ahead of ourselves.

In March 1838, the Grand Duchy of Baden State Railways started working on a railway line from Mannheim via Heidelberg, Karlsruhe and Freiburg im Breisgau. This line was called Badische Hauptbahn (Baden Main Line) or Rheintalbahn (Rhine Valley Line). A Swiss railway commission desired a continuation of the line into Basel and contacted the Grand Duchy of Baden in 1842.
In January 1851, the Rheintalbahn line reached the village of Haltingen, close to the Swiss border. Since the two governments had not agreed about how to build the station in Basel yet, the passengers were transported across the border with hackney carriages.

Haltingen eventually merged to form Weil am Rhein, terminus of Basel Tram No 8

Finally, on July 27, 1852, a treaty became effective between the government of Baden and the Swiss Confederation. This treaty is still effective today.
The first station in Basel was located on the present site of the Messe (exhibition halls - remember?).
It was not long before it became obvious that it wasn't big enough, so a new, grander station was built on the edge of the town about half a mile away. Constructed between 1906 and 1913, this is the building we have today.

Here is the site showing platforms and linking subway under construction with open country beyond ...
... and the former overall roof before trains began to run.
Particularly nostalgic is this snap of the station restaurant. Yum yum!
Alas such luxuries are no longer part of twentyfirst century rail travel. But the station does have a restaurant, no longer run by DB.
Note the "Snack Menu" click to enlarge the graphic) ...
... and say "ouch!".  £20 for a posh burger. Double ouch. Where is the nearest McDonalds?
 
Ein Big Mac (at the main SBB station) is just £5. Still a bit ouchy but snacks are pricey in Basel.
Nearby, there are loads of trams to observe - and avoid when crossing the road. As No 3 son reports, here you can successfully avoid being squashed by a tram and then be run over by an unexpected bus!
But, remember that treaty with the Grand Duchy of Baden, still in force today? One of the consequences of the 1852 treaty is that Basel Bad station is actually part of Germany ...
... and is run by Deutsche Bahn. It is the only German-owned and run station outside the borders of Germany.

When you arrive by train, you are in Germany. As you walk through the exit subway ...
... you are still in Germany. The subway system was re-fettled in 2014 to provide a new southern entrance/exit.
As you make your way to the main hall, you will find, guess what? There is a customs post.
See "nach Deitschland" and "in die Schweiz" (lower right).
Once again, people pass freely within the Schengen area; but there is a little window where you can pay the tax on imports.
The positive news is that this station, over 110 years old, still retains much of its concrete loveliness.
Even that cloistered walkway still remains largely unspoilt by modernity.
Well worth a visit. fbb is highly jealous of No 3 Son!

 Next Minibus Revolution Mark 2 blog : 23rd November