Monday, 29 February 2016

You See Folks, We are Doing a Great Job

Compared With the Disgraceful Effort
of November 2015
"Next week" is today, 29th February

fbb's mole within South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive has sent him a transcript of a meeting between Executive Director Stephen Edwards ...
... and one of his deputies who, for legal reasons, we will call "Gerald". They are discussion a press release under the label of the "Sheffiield Bus (not very) Partnership"


Now then Gerald, we've a bit of a problem coming up. There's this public meting on Monday 29th and everybody's going to be gunning for this Partnership Idea. We need to up the PR game. How do you think this will go down?

Sheffield bus changes have driven big improvements to journeys, with up to 90% of services running on time.

Is it true, Stephen?

It is if you compare it with the weeks just after the November debacle. Or we could try this for a statistic:-

Reports show punctuality increased by up to 15% since timetables were revised earlier this year in response to passenger feedback, and average weekly performance has returned to 86%.

Well it could hardly get much worse, Stephen. 15% better than a complete disaster isn't all that good.

There's the new fares as well, Gerald.

Around 60,000 passengers are benefitting from cheaper tickets, and bigger buses on busy routes have increased capacity.

What percentage is that of our total number of passengers, Stephen?

O.K. Not a lot. In fact next to nothing. But it will sound good.

Sheffield Bus Partnership will report on the new figures at a public meeting at Sheffield Town Hall on 29 February, after passenger comments ...

Comments, Stephen. A near riot and a PR disaster.

... and journey data were used to make service improvements in January and February.

Well we tried to get it right, Gerald.

Three times in fact. So far!

But we are trying, Gerald.

Indeed, very trying; but, Stephen, that doesn't redress the shambles that the new network caused. I told you we shouldn't have used consultants.

All right, but how about the congestion angle?

We have cut congestion on busy city roads through better co-ordinated services.

But, Stephen, buses don't cause congestion. Shouldn't we have been honest and said we were cutting services to make a profit.

Honesty, Gerald? Never the best policy.

Service issues were experienced due to the scale of bus changes at the network review in November. Over the past months we have listened to passengers and analysed on-board data to make journey adjustments to address this.

But didn't we simply get it wrong, Stephen?

Of course we did, Gerald. But we can't say that at the meeting. We must be positive, Gerald.

Through working in Partnership, we have firmly steered Sheffield's buses back on route ...

But not on the routes people want, Stephen. The buses don't take them where they want to go.

Better to say we have given the people of Sheffield a wider range of journey opportunities, Gerald.

Mostly ones they didn't want, Stephen!

... and we are pleased with these latest improved results. We will continue to monitor customer feedback about services to ensure they are meeting community needs.

How can we be positive, Stephen, if we are still trying to get it right?

Look, Gerald, we must be positive.

Will the partners say that they are now more profitable, Stephen?

Profit - nasty word, Gerald. We could use words like "sustainable network"; "investing in cheaper fares", "introducing environmentally friendly buses". Remember the changes last November were to bring improved services to the people of Sheffield.

But they didn't, Stephen, did they?

If you want to keep your job, Gerald, you will keep those disruptive ideas to yourself. We'll put out the press release as agreed.

Gerald leaves the meeting at this point, informing Stephen that he needs to go to his music lesson.

I am off to practice my string instrument known for its use in Greek classical antiquity and later periods. It is similar in appearance to a small harp but with distinct differences.


The items in blue (above) have been extracted from a "joint press release" issued on Thursday 25h February.

fbb is on his travels again - to Sheffield.
The meeting is with bus operators; trying
to get some sense into bus publicity.
Likely success ... ?

Away from base Tuesday thru' Thursday

Blogging will continue throughout but it
may be necessary to be less expansive
depending on the exigencies of the situation

O.K. The blogs may be shorter!
fbb's Birthday Card Bus
This was correctly identified by ta blog reader as a matchbox toy ...
... based loosely (very loosely) on a Sheffield vehicle (note the distinctive double destination panel.) Possibly one of these with body by Park Royal ...
Or even one of these with body by Alexander ...
... photographed on the first day of one man operation to Dinnington, 30th April 1972. Yikes, that's nearly 44 years ago. Here's a better sideways view:-
And Yesterday's Train for Wasps
Six former Anglia coaches with 67006 / 28 top and tail.
Thanks to Northampton correspondent Alan for these pictures.

 Next scheduled bus blog : Tuesday 1st March 

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Wasps Bring Joy to Coventry

But No Blue Sky Thinking from Sky Blues!

Hampstead Football Club was founded in 1866. A split in the membership resulted in the formation of two different clubs: Harlequin F.C. and Wasps. Wasps Football Club was itself formed in 1867 at the now defunct Eton and Middlesex Tavern in North London; names of insects, birds and other animals were considered fashionable in the Victorian period.
And today, no less, Wasps are playing Harlequins at their new wasps' nest, the Ricoh Arena, Coventry.
Blog readers may remember way back in late December 2015 fbb related the utterly daft whereby the new station at the arena would soon open; but, on match days, trains would not stop there.

See "To Boldly Go ... (1)" (read again) and " To Boldly Go ... (2) " (read again)

If you prefer an expurgate version, the problem is that London Midland can only spare a one-car class 153 unit to trundle between Coventry Nuneaton ...
... and such luxurious vehicles are too small to deal with match crowds. So no trains and close the station. What an excellent idea all round. Of course, a charter train would be possible but the lads at London Midland reckoned they would have to charge £17 return to cover the cost.

But something has happened.

Wasps fans can use
new Ricoh Arena station

Wasps supporters will be able to use the brand new £3.4million Ricoh Arena railway station for two of the team’s upcoming matches. Train operators London Midland and Wasps have agreed to jointly finance six-carriage charter trains to ferry fans between the Ricoh Arena, Coventry and Nuneaton for the fixtures with Harlequins and Leicester Tigers.

Because it is a charter, no evidence for these times can be found on London Midland or ther Nastional Rail web sites ...
... but the Wasps literature explains all.
So, reading between the lines, it appears that Wasps management are using some of the money they pay for Shuttle Buses to fund the charters and London Midland have reduced their fees!

There is even a timetable.
The specials (LNCS column head) call at Coventry Arena to set down only and continue to Nuneaton. As shown above there are three pre-match trains from Coventry and two from Nuneaton with a similar depart only pattern after the game.

London Midland say that this service will provide 1000 extra seats (that's 333 on each six-coach trip?) and there is some speculation on-line as to where this stock will come from.
The "Chiltern" set only has five coaches, for example. No doubt all will be revealed today.

But fbb spots a potential snag.

The fare on the charter trains is ...
... quite a lot better than the threatened £17.

But that timetable above shows the "normal" trains as stopping at the Arena. And the fare on therm is, according to the National Rail site ...
... half the price!

If you were thinking of going to the match by train, which one would you aim for? Of course you would. In the words of the song "There may be trouble ahead ..." Or have Wasps got their prices wrong? Their leaflet, despite headlining the new trains and no buses, ...
... goes on to remind us about ...
Our Northampton correspondent has threatened to nip from Northampton to experience the delights of the Rugby specials from Coventry.

fbb awaits his report with interest!

Great news for Wasps fans but for Coventry City "soccer" buffs?

no services yet
for Coventry City FC supporters

But Coventry City FC fans will still not be able to use the station for an hour after games due to safety concerns around large crowds trying to use the regular hourly service which can only transport 75 people.

Presumably the Sky Blues do not have enough pennies in the piggy bank? Or, more likely (?), the LHCS charter set is only available on a Sunday?

And Coventry Councillors are on the job. Yes, that is Coventry Council that approved the idea of keeping the station closed on match days.
The mysterious (and presumably wealthy) "them" could buy some Vivarail London Transport rebuilds to serve the Stadium on match days. Of course it will be economically viable to buy extra trains to use for a few hours once a week. And there aren't any Vivarail trains yet, anyway.

Watch this space.

 Next bus blog : Monday 29th February 

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Threescore Years and Ten ...

... Plus One!

The days of our years are threescore years and ten;
and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years,
yet is their strength labour and sorrow;
for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

Psalm 90, from which these oft-quote words are oft quoted, is not a cheery Psalm. Most of it, to paraphrase, says that God can snuff us out whenever he wills. True; but not cheery at all unless your post-snuffing destination is assured. But after a "we are doomed" beginning it goes on to say ...

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;

... as none of us knows "how long we've got", please God, help us to make the best of every day.

fbb is thrilled to have notched up "one extra" and a few cards plus the odd gift are a much appreciated bonus.

Despite the clearly intended unkindness of one comment writer on last Thursday's blog ...

... fbb had a very happy birthday. A sackful of 12 cards now graces the stair banister display area in fbb towers and, oddly, one of two have a transport theme.

Here's one from a fellow church-goer.
A wider version confirms that the train is at Nottingham Victoria station.
The headboard, which fbb did not recognise, was gifted to the Cutlers Hall in Sheffield in 1959.

This is from the boss of a well known international transport group based in Aberdeen ...
... and clearly illustrates the results of that company's First (geddit) attempt at in-house bus design.

There was another bus ...
... from Mrs fbb. Her happy hubby could not identify the model. It has no glazing, body moulding to suit a top deck front curved window, some cab and interior detail. But seven bay bodywork? Can any blog readers help?

fbb should not have a favourite (politically, maritally and domestically dangerous!). But blog readers will be aware of fbb's passion for modern technology, so this card was really appropriate.
Too true, buster.

Again, fbb received a pantechnicon loaded with three gifts. Chocolates from Mrs (very healthy chocs of course) and this delight from our Senior Isle of Wight correspondent. On a recent visit to the Island fbb took out his railcard wallet (also containing bank cards, spare cash, old railway tickets, a toffee, a piece of string and one of those proddy things for getting horses' hooves out of boy scouts) and threw its contents across the floor of the caff.
So Alan has bought fbb a replacement. He generously spent a similar amount on the gift as the honorarium fbb pays him for his regular blog contributions.

But the second bestest was from Number 1 son.
And on the obverse.

But the very best gift was one that fbb did not appreciate at all; simply because he didn't receive it.
fbb's gift was two winter coats at £14 each - but not for the fat bloke; they have gone to children in Syria.

Ace! Thank you Mrs fbb.

And finally, be scared - be VERY scared.

Here is a screenshot for Mrs fbb's device last Thursday:-
And here is the Google "home" screen on fbb's phone ...
...also on THE day - Thursday 25th February. Does Google also know what fbb had for breakfast; when he went to the toilet; can Google probe the very depths of his mind?. If so, what will their probes find there?

 Next rail blog : Sunday 28th February 

Friday, 26 February 2016

Ahh! The Good Old Days

... Were They As Good As We Think?
In this week's series of blogs, our loyal reader may have picked up the idea that the privatised Stagecoach has progressively introduced good, fixed interval, buys services on inter-urban and rural routes out of Northampton. In today's post we look at some of these services and attempt to compare them with the style of service operated in the past.

The 88, paired with the 89, provided a clock-face every 30 minutes schedule between Northampton and Towcester.

Although the new 8 leaflet only reveals its complex self ...
... the half hourly service is shown on the 89 leaflet.
The 89 runs to Milton Keynes which did not exist (except as a tiny village) in the Good Old Days. But note that Towcester's 344/5 (in 1960) was hardly clockface and Silverstone barely managed a bus every 90 minutes - now hourly and seemingly safe from an imminent chop.
Syresham (a soon to be withdrawn every two hours now) was served only occasionally. In 1979 there were five buses a day to Silverstone and Syresdham.

In those fondly remembered days that wer always good (and old) the villages around Greens Norton ...
... were served by independent Basford.
Recently the tender for this route has been lost by Stagecoach ...
... and acquired by long-standing Northampton minibus operator, Country Lion.
fbb reckons that the timetable (click on it for a larger view) was never as "tidy" in Basfords day.
Another loss to Stagecoach's oeuvre has been route 86.
The route isnow operated by Uno ...
... purporting to be a St Albans "Pink" branded local route! The villages around Shutlanger (which fbb, as a child, thought was in Germany) now have five trips, six days a week.
And way back in 1960?
Two round trips on Saturday only. In 1979 fbb could find nothing at all from United Counties; but we were now in loose leaflet territory, so he can't be 100% sure.

But the Good Old Days were not that good. The big worry is that, with policies to cut funding, these "off the main road! routes will vanish.
What will replace them? The pale purple shading denotes the geographically extensive "County Connect" dial-a-bus service.
And that is run from Lincoln; 100 miles away. Great deal for local folk - NOT

 Next bus/rail birthday blog : Saturday 27 February