Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Tuesday Topics

Harrogate Upgrade Again - Or Is It?
Service 36 from Ripon via Harrogate to Leeds was one of the great successes of privatisation. In the hands of West Yorkshire and United, fbb seems to remember buses ran every hour from Ripon to Harrogate and every half hour from Harrogate to Leeds.
Enter Fearnley and we get branding ...
... and rebranding.
Frequency is increased to every 20 minutes and latterly every 15 all the way.
And, oh yes, under Trnsdev ownership there is rebranding ...
... and some more rebranding!
The latest development comes at the end of this month. Here is what the company's web site says about it.
Wowsers. From a historical every 30 to every 10 in 2017. Some growth. Some super service.

But read the small print.

From 29 October, there'll be a bus every 10 minutes between Harrogate and Leeds. You'll be able to turn up and go with 6 buses an hour right through the daytime. 

This will mean an overall timetable change to further aid timekeeping. There will be more buses to and from Ripon at morning and evening rush hour, where we see some overcrowding, with double the amount of buses to Ripon during the afternoon rush hour.

During the quieter time in the middle of the day, buses between Ripon and Harrogate will run every 20 mins.

Strangely the company's headlines do not mention the REDUCTION in the service north of Harrogate, although the detailed text does "come clean".

Could be a bit more honest, perhaps?

But Here's Something Really New
Remember CityZap?
This was a development and a significant rebranding of part of the Yorkshire Coastliner service between Leeds and York.
Between York and Leeds, we work together with Coastliner to bring you departures every 15 mins during the day, Mon-Sat, and every 30 mins on Sundays. You can also use your return or season ticket on Coastliner, and vice versa. Find a combined Cityzap and Coastliner timetable showing all departures from York and Leeds here.
Whoops! In fact fbb could not find the joint timetable.
But what's new is announced on the CityZap site.

Get ready to zap between Leeds and Manchester

Remember, remember 5 November - it's the start date of our new Cityzap route between Leeds and Manchester running every hour, every day.

We'll be zapping as we do now - with top spec buses fitted with zap-nav so your driver can pick the quickest route and dodge any congestion. We'll be stopping in Leeds City Bus Station, right next to John Lewis and Victoria Gate and opposite the BBC and Playhouse Theatre. In Manchester, we'll serve Chorlton Street and Piccadilly Gardens in the heart of things. Additionally, we'll make a quick stop for Halifax and Huddersfield zappers with a call at Ainley Top at J23/24 on the M62.

Just for comparison, Transpennine runs a train every 15 minutes taking between 50 minutes and an hour.
Zap takes one hour and 15 minutes.

York Zap fares are as below ...
... with Manchester fares presumably at a similar level.

 Rail fares are higher ...
... and utterly bonkers.

National Express?
The PDF timetable leaflet does not appear to match the journey planning info fbb incompetence again?), but prices range from about £5 to about £10 for s single journey depending on date and time. Although it might be possible to travel cheaper by NEx, the need to pre-book and travel when they want you to means that CityZap is likely to be a winner.

It will be interesting to see how good the Zap loadings are on the bus. Comment writers please oblige; fbb is unlikely to wish to travel "oop noorth" to try it out!

 Next North Devon blog : Wednesday 25th October 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Monday Miscellany

Please Note
The fbbs are spending a few half-term days with family at Instow in North Devon. The neighbours and Jacko the cat (in disguise) are mounting guard on the extensive property at fbb mansions.
Please excuse any potential failing in publication. (Ab)normal home-based service will resume on Friday.
Marvellous Matrimonial Motor
Taken by lorry driving Dave outside Sheffield town hall on Saturday.
It is a Leyland PD2 with Weymann bodywork, beautifully preserved. Now that IS a bus! (Pause for assorted anonymi to add comments about fbb living in the past, a dinosaur who should have suffered the fate of the real things and other general denigration.)

An Offer You Can Refuse ...
... from Westminster, complete with Houses of Parliament portcullis look-alike.
So it must be "official".
And it is mint - or from the mint? Is it a coin of the realm?
It is a "Numisproof". You will not find this word in any serious coin collector's vocabulary

The dies for making modern proof coins are often treated with chemicals to make certain parts of the design take on a frosted appearance, with the polished fields taking on a mirror finish. Several other methods have been used in the past to achieve this effect, including sand blasting the dies, and matte proofs. The term "proof" refers to the process by which the coins are made and not to the condition of the coin. Certification agencies can grade and assign numerical ratings for proof coins.

But do not be deceived. These are NOT coins; they are simply souvenirs of no particular value. Fair enough, if you want a collection of shiny expensive metallic discs to commemorate something, you are welcome to send your money.  But of course the bargain price is not the whole story.
Better buy one of these.

Comet Lands At Queensbury
But it "takes off" from Hatfield!
Buses magazine for November has plopped through the letterbox at fbb mansions. The over introduces another company venturing into route branding.
Uno (formerly University of Hertforshire's outreach into bus operations) runs service 614/644 from Hatfield to Queensbury in North London.
644 is the number used for peak hour trips on this 30 minute frequency service.
The vehicle illustrated on the mag's front cover has a gorgeous picture of the plane on its stairway "banister".
But it does not end there. Northamptonian Alan has sent another branded Uno decker.
It is on a Uno service that runs from Northampton Uni to town centre and railway station. The brand had a launch in the town's Market Square ...
... but Alan is uncertain what the purpose of the be might bee.
The Violet (with bee) runs every 12 minutes (Monday to Friday) from the Uni to Sixfields with one journey an hour staring back from Weston Favell centre.
The main service reduces to every 15 minutes during Uni holidays and offers only a bus every half hour with one extended on Saturdays. Sundays every 30 from Uni to station only.

Roger Gets It Right
Roger French, once the Main Man at Brighton and Hove buses ...
... pens an occasional column or three in Buses Magazine. This month he ends with a vehement criticism of Transport for London's bus map policy.

They no longer provide them.
There are plenty of non-bus maps available ...
The loss of the Central London map must be a particular blow for tourists as well as residents as the network is complex and unfathomable without it. Surprisingly Transport for London has just reduced frequencies on several central area routes, offering some feeble and unlikely reasons.
Apparently there is "no demand" for the maps. Might that be because they have not been promoted in any way in recent years AND finding any outlet that offers them has been a huge challenge.

Hey ho! No timetables (on line or printed) in London, no geographical maps (on line or printed) in London.

How frequent is my bus? Guess

How long will the journey take? Guess

Where do I find possible journey options? Guess

Whoops, fbb forgot; all together now ...

 "It's all on line!"

But it isn't!

 Next Tuesday Topics blog : 24th October 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

A Tortuous Trundle To Towcester (3)

Notes On The Cotes
We have been enjoying a bus ride between Northampton and Towcester, not using the traditional main road route (89) or the newer service via Swan Valley Industry and the later super-duper A34 (route 88); but on tendered service 87 operated by Country Lion.
We have already looped via Pattishall (last Friday) and Fosters Booth, but just before this wiggle, the map shows Eastcote; but just before that Cote is Dalscote ...
... a blink and you'll miss it community.
Wikipedia has very little to say ...

There is a car-body repair workshop there but no other amenities.

... so we move on to Eastcote.
In this part of the county, Northamptonshire's well-known golden sandstone gives way to a lighter limestone, equally pleasant to the eye. Just beyond Fosters Booth and across the A5 is Grimscote, but we turn left to Astcote, a mixture of old, renovated and (usually) tastefully designed modern property.
Our service 87 then wiggles out on to the A5. It is hard o countenance that this was once the main Roman Road to the north west and subsequently the main route for all vehicles to places as far away a Holyhead.
It was Thomas Telford ...
... who adapted most of the Roman route from London to Wroxeter (near Shrewsbury) and continued it via his Menai bridge and on to Holyhead. But, near Towcester, it is now relatively quiet, having been superseded by the dreaded M1.
We turn tight off the A5 to Duncote, just missing Caldecote between the A5 and Tiffield. Duncote is another "blink and you'll miss it" community with a gorgeous higgledy-piggledy collection of properties with different styles and ages from pre planning permission days.
And so to Greens Norton where much loved independent Basford had their depot. The shed is still there ...
... but the yard is now occupied by two "bijou" cottages.
And so, on to Towcester ...
... where the 87 loops via the outer "layer" of newer housing (Springfields and Highfields) ...
... before coming to rest back on our old friend the A5 in the centre of the town.
We have just missed Heathencote and Wood Burcote; but the stop shown above is not quite the end. Onward and Upward to Tesco!
Our 87 runs via the "old" A43 Northampton Road serving a newish chunk of housing between there and the new A43, where ...
... all the roads are named after racing car drivers! To add to the fun, if Streetview is to be believed, the bus stop is on the wrong side of the road.
At the top of the hill our "virtual" bus turns sharp left to find its way back to Tesco, also on the old A5 ...
... entrance seen here looking back to the A43 junction.

If we can persuade Country Lion to stop, we could walk a short way up the old Northampton Road ...
... and just before it comes to a sticky end, we have no choice but to turn right to Hulcote.
The "cote" ending to the village names is from "cott" as in cottage, but fbb has no idea why Towcester should have accumulated so many localities with names derived from just one such hereditament.

Perhaps they were the far flung residences of some snivelling minions in service to a Lord of the Manor, somewhere.
Whoops, fbb forgot Field Burcote. It is up a no through road from Duncote (see above) and its main claim to fame is a stud of Alpacas.
A joyous ride with plenty to experience, BUT, with Northamptonshire's decision to cut its remaining funding for bus services,
The budget savings due to be discussed by cabinet this week include a review of Northamptonshire libraries, changes to the highways maintenance programme, a reduction in funding for Trading Standards and Corby children’s centres, and the removal of bus subsidies.

County council leader Councillor Heather Smith (Con, Oundle) said: “There is no denying that there are difficult decisions to be made, and the proposals we have before us will undoubtedly have an impact on local communities.

Not so much Frayed Ends as a complete scalping! Northampton Correspondent Alan is on the case on behalf of the local us Users' Group but so far he has only received a clutch of "holding" e-mails. Presumably the Council has not even started to consider the detail.

Will the 87 survive the chop?

 Next Monday miscellany blog : Monday 23rd October