Thursday, 30 June 2011

Journeys, How to Prepare 'em ...

... for Travel in Sarum.
Follow up to yesterday's blog;
Peace in our Time (read again).

More has emerged about the cosy deal between First and Stagecoach in Sheffield; a deal which, not long ago, would have been illegal under competition law! Political convenience rules OK. A chum has sent the real, genuine printed paper copy of Tuesday's "Star" which reveals:-

120 : [First] Fulwood-City-Crystal Peaks, replacing 40 & 41
120 : [Stagecoach] Hallamshire Hospital-City-Halfway
thus significantly reducing frequency at both extremities of the service. So much for various spokesmen!
123 : [Stagecoach] Endcliffe-City-Crystal Peaks
removing nominal competition from Walkley and replacing First's 44 to Endcliffe. Clever of First to dump the Endcliffe Student Village bit of their 44. Buses usually ran empty-ish.
ALL services via Frecheville to the Mosborough area will be part of the scheme; other than the above, these routes are largely unchanged. Maps and more explanation  to follow in due course.

Back to today's blog

Old Sarum, Sorbiodunum in Latin, probably looked like this ...

Whereas New Sarum, Salisbury in English, looks like this ...
... started in 1219, the cathedral became the focus of a new town on the banks of the Avon, visited by fbb, not in 1219, but a week or so ago.

So,  how goes it with public transport?  Let us assume that fbb arrives by train.  Needless to say, there is no bus information in the station entrance area; with the exception of leaflets for the Stonehenge Tour which leaves from just outside the door.
Once outside, the eagle eyed observer might, only might, spot a small poster, the central one of the three pictured above. This gives meagre information about buses using the stops on Fisherton Street at the foot of the station approach road.  It says nothing about routes that do not pass those rather uninviting stops:-
The best that can be said for Station information is that it could get you into the City Centre IF the poster told you that services were frequent.  In fact fbb did not arrive by train, but by car and stayed overnight here ...
... at The Spire B & B on Exeter Street, one of the main routes into the centre.  fbb and Mrs fbb occupied the room with the bay window, thus with an excellent view of every bus on southbound routes. Deep joy! The front door is now painted olive green.

Salisbury is the domain of Wilts and Dorset, a company that fbb has applauded on at least two previous occasions. In March 2010 the City routes were rebranded as ...
... with appropriate labels and publicity on all central stops. Big versions of the "Red" network map, a clear and helpful City Centre stops diagram plus departure lists (no timetables, poor) are fixed firmly and reasonably vandalproof-ly on all the shelters which are clearly labelled with big letters on a bright red backgound.  This is a map extract ...
... and the full map can be downloaded from W&D's website here. Local buses use on-street stops, whereas country services leave from a well-equipped bus station just round the corner from the Market Square.
There is an enquiry office, a 1970s style formica equipped "caff", but no toilets, and no direction signs to these essential features of long bus journeys.  [They're underground in the aforementioned Market Square.]

The disappointment here was the confused state of  timetable information.  If you were a W&D route, your stand only provided a list of departures. Very UNhelpful, giving no real clue as to how long your journey might take.

But if you were a Stagecoach route, even "Activ8", joint with W&D, you were given a full enlarged print-out of the timetable page.  You also get a full timetable from Damory Coaches, effectively a low cost unit of, you guessed it, Wilts & Dorset.  Some rural routes had their timetables displayed nearby but not actually at the stand.

Overall, confusing and disappointing.  How difficult is it to enlarge a timetable page, stick it on a piece of backing card and paste it into a timetable frame? Apparently far too difficult for W&D. It looked as if it were no-one's responsibility, as if no-one cared. 

So, next, fbb went for a ride. More about that and timetable information to follow in due course.

P.S. Both the B & B and the Tourist Information Office had copies of the "Reds" booklet, but neither could muster much in the way of longer distance service information. The  bus station office had everything, including photocopied pages where printed leaflets were out of stock. Now there's a good idea for Travel South Yorkshire!

Next blog : due Friday July 1st  

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Peace in Our Time

 Hugs and Kisses in Sheffield? 

Yesterday's Sheffield daily, "The Star", carried news of co-operation rather than competition between First Bus and Stagecoach. But fbb is able to "scoop" a picture of the announcement actually being made.
 Giles Fearnley, Director of First's UK bus operations
breaking the news to a group of his staff.

First, some quotes from the newspaper and comments from fbb.  
BUS wars between rival operators in Sheffield are over; meaning passengers will soon be able to use any service with the same ticket. First and Stagecoach have agreed to scrap their head-to-head policy by which each company tries to out-do the other with cheaper fares and extra frequency; while less profitable routes have seen services cut.  

Not quite! Just one corridor from July. More to follow? We shall see; this one needs to work first! Local papers are not renowned for letting the facts get in the way of a good story. The on-line article was illustrated by competing service 40 and 120 buses "on High Street" in Sheffield.
 Nope; they are at the Church Street stop, just opposite the cathedral. 

The arrangement will start on services between Halfway and Fulwood, but is set to be expanded across the city.

And, what is the response of the travelling public?

Bus passengers have welcomed the changes. Student Michaela Petrosjamova, 16, of Lodge Moor, added: “It’s a good idea because you won’t have to wait for the right company’s bus to turn up for your ticket.”

In a similar scheme for Liverpool's service 14 group ...
... inter-availability of tickets only applies to common sections of route. Once past Croxteth it's every operator for himself (itself?)
So it might not be so easy, Michaela, to swap to another operator to other parts of the city.

And Tegann Richardson, 16, also a student, of Crosspool, said: “It’ll save people having to hang around at the bus stop and will be an improvement.”

The new services don't go via Crosspool, so thanks and no thanks, Tegann! "The Star" doesn't seem to understand where the buses actually go.

The new arrangement, called "Optio Orange" and initially involving only the routes between Halfway and Fulwood, starts from Sunday, July 24.

Optio? Or do you say it "op-show"? Will the buses be orange? fbb waits with bated breath to see how Travel South Yorkshire explains and publicises this. Should be really fun! Blogging in profusion would seem likely.

The change is being trialled as an alternative to proposals for a Bus Quality Contracts scheme in Sheffield, under which SYPTE would take control of routes, timetables and fares, and invite private firms to bid to run them.

This is the politics bit. South Yorkshire wants to rule the buses like Boris the Blue does in London.
Oh, golly gosh, I do run the buses, don't I? 

But the operators want to keep control for themselves. Presumably this is a political move by First and Stagecoach to stave off "Quality Contract" legislation?

Dave Alexander, regional managing director for First, said: “We are delighted to have worked with SYPTE to develop this new and innovative arrangement.” Paul Lynch, managing director of Stagecoach Yorkshire, added: “This new partnership will deliver improvements for customers including increased frequencies, more choice and better co-ordination of timetables.”

Well, they would say that, wouldn't they?
a Stagecoach service 120 before extension via Redmires Road,
at Barncliffe Road : will the 120 be back here? See below

Increased frequencies? The Stagecoach 120 and the First 40 to Fulwood already run about every 4 minutes (each service with 8 buses an hour, so slightly less than every 3.8 minutes: clever maths, eh?), and they are already, well, empty, for most of the day at the extremities of the route.
a Stagecoach 120-branded bus at the Halfway terminus, Streetfields

Three e-mailed comments by Joe Public on "The Star" web site were less enthusiastic!   

Isn't this called a cartel? SYPTE trying to justify its existence again. Director of Customer Experience [who released the news], I ask you!! 

Yes a cartel by another name, get ready for fare hikes, less frequent buses, and loads of confusion over what tickets are valid and what are not. Staff training WILL be poor, that is a given, and the public (who still think Sheffield Transport exists) will struggle to come to terms with the new scheme. 

So the fares will be going up again then? 

News of what is actually happening has not yet been released but at least one possible change has met with public protest.
Someone's got wind of the withdrawal of the bit of the old 120 route via Redmires Road and the top bit of Crimicar Lane. This extra loop was introduced a couple of years ago by Stagecoach to offer a better service between this area and the hospital, and, presumably, to pinch a bit of Firsts' business.
The "Westminster" Estate : to lose a valuable link
under the proposed service "improvements"? 

This suspected withdrawal was reported in a recent edition of Sheffield's "Weekend Telepgraph".
So how did South Yorkshire PTE respond?
Their spokesman, the aforementioned Director of Customer Experience says "Nothing has been confirmed".

Porky Pies. The revised services have been registered with the Traffic Commissioners, details are due on the website any day now, and, presumably, publicity is being printed "as we speak". fbb is eagerly awaiting a huge public launch with scantily clad dancing girls, brass bands and the release of 120 doves of peace; followed by jingoistic speeches by Fearnley and Sir Brian of Busworld.

"Nothing has been confirmed!" Pull the other one, SYT.

Undoubtedly more to follow.

Next blog : due Thursday June 30th  

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Not so Handy Anderston

Puzzle Picture Presentation.
see "Fathers Day Felicitations" (read again)
Thomas Lipton (1848 to 1931), owner of a nationwide chain of grocery shops and celebrated tea importer, was born in Anderston; as was Billy Connolly and Michael Martin, former Speaker of the House of Commons. By Victorian times the former village to the west of Glasgow had grown into a significant suburb of the City.
This is a late 1800s picture of Anderston Cross showing trams on Argyle Street proceeding eastwards towards the City Centre.  A near equivalent view today looks a bit different ...
... but we are, nevertheless, looking roughly where those trams were standing. In the 60s it was decided that two things needed to happen in Glasgow. Firstly, drastic action needed to be taken to deal with a horrendous slum problem and, secondly, a new motorway network was needed. So ...
... the M8 approaches to Kingston Bridge were literally bulldozed through Anderston Cross, obliterating the former major road junction and razing most of Anderston to the ground.   
This picture, looking south east and taken from UNDER the motorway, shows a former bonded whisky store and a closed school still standing on Washington Street.
Historic incidental : Southern Vectis' pre-traveline national telephone enquiry service (TBC Hotline) was sold off and subsequently operated from a call centre in this very warehouse.

Part of the new Anderston development included a trendy concrete shopping centre and a bus station, situated on Argyle Street at its junctions with Blythswood Street and Douglas Street.
This complex was opened in 1971 but was never a success. Shops moved out, prostitution moved in and in 2003 the buses transferred en masse to the Buchanan bus station. It was at Anderston in the early 70s that fbb photographed a line of Western Scottish double deckers awaiting their next call to duty.
The main buildings are still there but, of course, now bereft of both buses and shops ...
Much of the area is now being re-re-developed, with new businesses and modern hotels, but the Anderston Centre "block" still stands as a telling reminder of past planning mistakes.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the middle of the spaghetti of viaducts and proliferation of traffic lights can be found the profoundly uninviting and potentially frightening modern version of Anderston Station.
The original tunnelled line via Glasgow Central Low Level had opened in 1886 and closed in 1964. It re-opened in 1979 as part of a major improvement to Glasgow's suburban electrified railway network.
Perhaps, in hindsight, it was a mistake to destroy so much heritage for a bit of motorway that has become inadequate and is now being "relieved" by an extension of the M74 via Rutherglen's denuded industrial areas.  

The "M74 completion" opened today, Tuesday June 28th.

A more enlightened vision might have found a way of refurbishing and upgrading, rather and total slash and burn. A cleaned and modernised version of the original Anderston Cross station (shown here) would have been much more attractive than the sub-motorway unwelcoming blockhouse as seen above.
But, then, the superbly preserved old Underground Station and HQ building (and excellent enquiry office!) in St Enoch Square is now a coffee shop. Hmmm ...

Next blog : due Wednesday June 29th  

Monday, 27 June 2011

Look, Smart Trams! Kool! [3]

From Northampton to Eastbourne
From St Leonards to Eastbourne via Rhyl

In 1967 the electrification of the so-called West Coast main line (which barely goes NEAR the West Coast!) was complete.  This brought shiny new AM10 [later class 310] units to Northampton which rapidly developed into a commuter town.
To promote the new services BR had some stunning off-peak travel offers. From memory (not always reliable in detail) the day return fare to London was then 20 shillings and 6 pence (£1.02½).  These offers were to seaside resorts via London.  Brighton was, fbb thinks, 21 shillings (£1.05).  That meant that the London to Brighton leg was just a tanner, i.e. 6d (2½p) return. And, exceptionally in those days, the underground fare was included in the ticket price.  fbb travelled to Brighton, Margate, Saarfend and Eastbourne for similarly silly prices.
Claude Lane was well-pleased with the success of his little tram at fetes and festivals.  He decided to try for something more ambitious, so in 1951 established a track along the sea front at St Leonards. It ran from the huge outdoor pool, opened in 1933, along Sea Road towards Hastings.
The track was installed where car parking is now, on the left; the buildings in the background are unchanged.
His two trams were popular with the public ...
.. but not with a small proportion of the residents of somewhat "superior" St Leonards and the contract was not renewed. One picture, however, gives some idea of the diminutive size of the first tram; suitable for children only.  A few adults could, however,  squeeze into the open-topper.
So, it was off to Rhyl where the trams performed sterling service at the Voryd Hall park.
Here "toastrack" tram (numbered 6) joined the fleet, bigger and better and offering more space for adults.
This tram will re-appear in our story later.  1957 was the last year at Rhyl and the whole project moved to a new site at Eastbourne which is where fbb enjoyed a ride in 1967.  Voryd Hall Pleasure Park closed in 1959 and, after some years of decay, the site is now awaiting trendy development as an ASDA supermarket and posh flats.
The Crumbles, at Eastbourne, was a stretch of shingle and scrub stretching west from Prince's Park.

It proved an ideal and surprisingly spectacular tram ride. Extra vehicles were built or modified, now to a broader gauge and a better size for family entertainment.  The toastrack was rebuilt as a "proper" tram seen here alongside the Pevensey Bay road.  It was this tram that fbb rode on in 1967.   
But ultimately the Crumbles was due for development.
Compare the sketch map above with an aerial view today. New roads (Prince William Parade replacing Wartling Road and Royal Parade extended to the big roundabout), shops, houses, hotel and retail park with no room for a tourist tram route, however delightful.
The tramway ran from bottom left at Princes Park gates, around the funfair, along the bottom edge of the big roundabout and along what is now Prince William Parade. The far terminus was roughly at the top right corner of this recent aerial view.

So, in 1969, Claude Lane moved one last time to what was to become a permanent site on the erstwhile railway line between Colyton, Colyford and Seaton.  Winter 1969 saw 36 lorry trips between Eastbourne and Seaton, driven by Claude and his assistant Allan Gardner.  Sadly Claude Lane died of a heart attack in 1971 before his pride and joy could be completed in the Devon resort.

Our final blog in this series will compete the story with a review of the line today.

Previous blogs in this short series:-
Look, Smart Trams! Kool [1] here
Look, Smart Trams! Kool [2] here

Next blog : due Tuesday June 28th

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Turnaround for Trams and Trolleys

Sadly not a sudden change of governent policy!
But some reminiscences about actually turning a tram round.
Most old-type trams were built to be bi-directional.  At the terminus the conductor would turn the seats so they faced in the opposite direction; then with the help of a long pole, he would reverse the tram's trolley, making sure that it was correctly placed against the overhead wire. Many cities had reversers built into the overhead wiring ...
... as here as Meadowhead, Sheffield.  Indeed all termini in that great tramway city had reversers. A reverser was a "triangle" of overhead wires and spring loaded "frogs" (they would be "points" on a railway track) which automatically turned the trolley pole round. The partial exception was at Millhouses, where in addition to a reverser, a turning loop was installed to provide accommodation for extra vehicles to carry the crowds to and from the popular Millhouses Park.
With the closure of the system in 1960, the loop was surfaced and used by terminating service 24 buses.  This recent view (below) is along Terminus Road with the gabled shops (above, behind the tram pole) still seen on the left. But the turning circle is now obliterated by a block of flats. For the pedantic purists, trams traversed the loop in a clockwise direction, whereas the replacement buses ran anti-clockwise! 
Exceptionally, the system at Blackpool, currently enjoying a massive rebuild and upgrade, has turning loops at both ends of the line, seen here at Fleetwood with the loop provided for on-street running ...
... and in an aerial view of the southern terminus at Starr Gate. Here the track is "reserved", i.e. separated from the public roadway.
But, like so much in transport history, wrestling with trolley poles is a thing of the past.  Modern trams  have pantographs and the driver simply changes ends, as here at New Addington, Croydon.
Trolleybuses were not restricted quite so much by a set of rails, yet many turned in loops, at roundabouts or even by reversing.  In Christchurch (Bournemouth) there was a turntable where beefy conductors pushed the vehicle to complete the turn.
At the Longwood terminus in Huddersfield a platform was built out over a field and supported on stanchions. It carried a turntable for a while but later was used for as simple reverse as here ...
The platform lasted for many years after the trolleybuses were replaced with their less environmentally friendly motor bus. One hapless trolley driver suffered the ignominious horror of reversing off the platform and into the field below. Whoops! The long-disused platform is seen here from the replacement bus turning loop.
Now nothing at all remains of this oddity (except the trees behind it and the electricity substation in front) but motor buses still pass the stop on the 353 / 356 circular service. 
Spot the trees and the substation's flat roof with the modern red bus shelter beyond.
Now Leeds reckons it can replace its cancelled tram with a trendy new continental-style trolleybus network. Best of luck chaps, but, in the current economic and political climate, don't hold your breath!

P.S. One other turntable is recorded on a trolleybus system, here at Solingen in Germany ...
... but, sadly, this last remaining trolley turntable in the whole wide world is only used for "historische fahrten", as per the map below. Video of the "drehsheibe" in action here. Electrically powered; vorsprung durch technik!
Interestingly the 683 route that once used the turntable travels through the centre of town and on, northwards, where it connects with the unique Wuppertal dangly tramway.

Next blog : due Monday June 27th