Saturday, 31 December 2016

People Don't Like Change(ing) - Part 3

But First, Some Post Scriptums (Scripta?)
Oxford Bus 500
A comment writer suggested that there was no "nastiness" in GoAhead's extension of the 500 to Woodstock ...
... whereas our man in Northampton prophesied a possible punch up with a pugilistic response from Stagecoach. So guess what the Oxford Mail reports!
Partnership - what partnership?
And this is from Stagecoach - explaining why.
Let battle commence.

Supertram Link 2
In his haste to publish today's blog, fbb forgot to report on the Link service on the Stagecoach App cum web site. This time (unlike for Supertram Link 1) the journey planner did offer a sensible connection.
But please make sure you leave enough time fro the 1 minutes walk from tram to bus stop!

But the on-line experience is marred by daft locations - AGAIN!

Stagecoach thinks that Acorn Drive is in Bradfield.
Only 4½ miles out. In case you wondered, there is NO Acorn Drive in Bradfield.

But there is one in Stannington ...
... and here it is on Google Maps (upper left), very close to the appurtenances of the village centre.
Sadly First Bus' journey planner is equally potty. Mr Fearnley's lads don't know that their route 81 goes to Acorn Drive so they make you walk. Acorn Drive is long and winding, so the 3 minute walk is wildly optimistic.
Apparently they also don't know that their own service 81 runs from the city centre.

But First does recommend Supertram and Link 2 ...
... and some hours after fbb's original enquiry, First appears to have found through buses from Sheffield. But don't be deceived - they may be through from Sheffield, but they don't ever get to Acorn Drive.
Those that heap praise on Traveline might amuse themselves by trying to explain all these anomalies.

 The blog about Supertram Link 3 is postponed 

Up-to-Date with Notwork Rail?
There was considerable concern when Notwork Rail (possibly then called Snailtrack?) announced an extra platform at Kings Cross. Despite the existence of Platform 9¾ (?) ...
... the feeling was that it would completed noddleificate regular passengers if they renumbered everything to make the new one fit. So it was Platform 0.
And here is Notwork Rail's picture of Platform 0.
There is now another one which opened with the timetable change earlier this month.
Where is it? Like Kings Cross it is one beyond Platform 1, hence the same problem. It would have required everything to be renumbered - a fearful task which would spread confusion. But there it is, just tacked on to the Frenchgate Shopping Centre.
But go to the Notwork Rail station site and there it ...
... isn't!

The labelling of the diagram above is unhelpful "Platform 1" belongs to the lowest track, "Platform 2" should adjoin the bay and, wowee, "Platform 3a" is correct. Here is a picture thereof.
But there is no Platform 0 on the diagram, and no picture.

Maybe the lads at Notwork Rail have forgotten that they have built a new platform? But the National Rail journey planner confirms that trains are using it.

Didn't Leeds once have a Platform "W"?
Christmas Calendar
Useless gifts? A comment writer (this blog, yesterday) though this was a misprunt. It wasn't. Two year old lads would have little interest in frankincense and myrrh - too smelly; and gold would be a long term investment of use to the parents, maybe. Toddlers might like a box of bricks, a football, sweets or  new mobile phone, but not gold.

But the wise men were recognising something amazing about the lad. It was not who he was that led these bookish blokes to make the long, long journey "following yonder star".
But who he would become!

Gold symbolised King-ship; the magi initially searched for a King via Herod. But the vision is of an eternal King "reigning in heaven". That's an idea which take us "out of this world" - literally. There are no words in any language which could even begin to describe God, so we have to use crude and unsatisfactory "pictures". Here, Gold is a picture of eternity, majesty and total authority.

Jesus, God on Earth!

An aromatic resin used in two ways. It was, literally, an air freshener when people were much more pongy that they are now. But it went further; it was a symbol of holiness and thus the Priest. In more formal branches of the Christian religion, the priest is the "go-between" through whom ordinary people can reach out to God and through whom God can bless and respond the people.

Jesus, the Way to God!

Another pongy stuff. But this time used for embalming dead bodies. No wonder Mary "pondered all these things in her heart"!

Jesus, born to Die as a Sacrifice for us!

Those wise men had done a great job putting it all together. But the world in general would have to wait for about 30 year before the whole story played out.

And we, too, have to wait until Easter ...

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.

Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshipping God on high.

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice;
Alleluia!, Alleluia!,
Rings through the earth and skies.

... and the empty tomb.
 Next odd job blog : Sunday 1st January 2017 

Friday, 30 December 2016

People Don't Like Change(ing) - Part 2

Supertram Link 2
Stannington was once  self-contained village up on the moors, above the smoke of the industrial valleys of Sheffield. Over the years it has grown a bit!
Traditionally served by Sheffield Transport routes 7 and 88 ...
... plus a relatively short-lived 87, formerly the 888!
These ultimately morphed into First Bus 81 and 82 with a brief excursion as 11 and 12.
But a competitive Stagecoach wanted a piece of the action and started Supertram Link 2.
Here it is all put together on a PTE map extract.
For the record, the old 87 became part of a much expanded service to Bradfield, formerly 16, now 61 and 62 circulars.

In the grand scheme of things as outlined in the gestation period of the tram plan, the route was due to go to Stannington; but the folk from the village on the hill were vociferous in their rejection of nasty clanging things in their quiet environment. So the tram terminated at an odd little one-stop stub at Malin Bridge.
The previous stop (Hillborough Interchange) is top right.

When the Link first started its connection with the tram was less than ideal. Here is the tram stop ...
... and well back there by the trees was where the "connecting" bus stood.
When fbb travelled on the route a few months after it started, he was one of two outbound passengers and the only returnee. The driver confessed that it was "very quiet" off-peak but busier at peak times Monday to Friday.

Nobody transferred from tram to bus or vice versa.

Later a new layby and bit of bus only road was constructed right next to the tram.
Then came the big Sheffield Bus Partnership improvement plan a k a significant service reductions. As originally announced, the SL2 was to be withdrawn completely, replaced by an unspecified set of "extra buses" on the 81/82.

In the great horse-trading exercise which went on behind closed doors but "brokered by the PTE" (to keep it legal) the SL2 survived. 

The 81/82 stayed where it was with a joint ten minute frequency and the new SL2 was reduced from every 10 to every 20.
Most journey have been extended to the Hillsborough interchange, making the route look more like a local Stanningon shoppers shuttle than an extension of the tramway.

But people do not like to change and it is easier to join an 81 or 82 all the way to or from town than it is to cope with the hassle of the change.

Will the SL2 survive another year? There are constant rumours of further cut-backs in Sheffield; neither of the two biggie groups is making a huge profit and footfall in the City centre seems to be in constant decline.

fbb predicts that the SL2 will not see the new year out.

Supertram Link 3 and its successor finally disappears at the end of January; of which more in due course.

Odd Oxford Outreach
Until a few days ago your Chiltern train from Marylebone to Oxford would have only taken you to Oxford Parkway station. From here you could catch the Oxford Bus Park and Ride service 500 into town.
But from 12th of this month ...
... trains run into Oxford Station - although some would doubt the adjective "central"! No more need, then, to use the 500 ...
... which reverts to its lonely life as Water Eaton Park and Ride Bus. All trains that terminated at Parkway now run though. Here is the former Bicester "shuttle" at Platform 3.
The day before the train change, GoAhead Oxford Bus extended the 500 from Water Eaton to Woodstock, home of Blenheim Palace.
This is in competition with Stagecoach S3 ...
... which runs every 20 minutes Monday to Friday, every 30 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays.
The 500 is every 30 minutes seven days a week.

Our Northampton correspondent, who sent in the details, wonders whether this will be the start of a bus war in Oxford. Up to present a pally partnership has operated - presumably now being a little less pally.
 Christmas Calendar 
Those "wise men" are, by far, the most misquoted and misplaced potentates in the Christmas story. Here is Gospel writer Matthew:-

Soon afterwards, some men who studied the stars came from the East to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star when it came up in the east, and we have come to worship him.”
No mention of three - no mention of kings - no mention of assorted racial characteristics. And no camels; this particular ship of the desert was not domesticated at that time. And their names are a later "invention" with no Biblical support whatsoever.

They first went to Herod who was not a happy bunny ...

And so they left, and on their way they saw the same star they had seen in the East. When they saw it, how happy they were, what joy was theirs! It went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. They went into the house, and when they saw the child with his mother Mary, they knelt down and worshipped him.

"And they went to the house and saw the child". So no cattle shed and no baby. Because Herod ordered the slaughter of the children aged two years and below (based on the information given him by the savants), the inference is that the toddler Jesus was aged about 2.
Importantly, and doubtless remembered by those who have followed these snippets, these "magi" had researched the scriptures and pieced together the prophecies of God's Messiah.

One thing for sure; they weren't Jews. They were probably from Persia and may have been senior "wise men" from the Zoroastrian faith.

But they had not the slightest doubt that they were looking for a world-changing "Messiah".

But the full meaning of Christmas is centred on those three useless gifts.
 Next "Link" blog : Saturday 31st December 

Thursday, 29 December 2016

People Don't Like Change(ing) - Part 1

fbb well remembers the hype generated by the opening of the Tyne and Wear Metro in 1980.
With the opening came a dramatic re-think of the area's bus services.

When the Metro opened it was claimed to be the hub of the UK's first integrated public transport system. Metro was intended to cover trunk journeys, while buses were reoriented toward shorter local trips, integrated with the Metro schedule, to bring passengers to and from Metro stations, using unified ticketing.

Much was made of Metro's interchange stations such as Four Lane Ends and Regent Centre, which combined a large parking facility with a bus and Metro station
Passengers complained that Metro integration was pursued overzealously, and for example, bus passengers to Newcastle Upon Tyne from the south would be forced to change to Metro in Gateshead ...
... for a short trip, rather than have the bus route continue for a short distance into Newcastle.
Slowly but surely, and rapidly accelerated with privatisation, buses returned to City Centre access. People simply didn't like the hassle of changing.

And so to Sheffield.

Following a parliamentary act in 1985 authorising the scheme, the Supertram line was built by the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) at a cost of £240 million, and opened in stages in 1994/95. It was operated by South Yorkshire Supertram Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary company of SYPTE.

Soon after opening it was obvious that the system was on the verge of being a complete disaster. It was a "political" line, designed to promote urban regeneration; this meant that its services were initially non-commercial. For example, buses from Halfway were quicker than the tram.
The decision to route a "main line" via Norfolk Park came at about the same time as the City Council was deciding to demolish all the tower blocks that would provide its passengers!
The continental-style ticket system with sales from unreliable machines or nearby retailers and tickets which needed validation before boarding, was unpopular from the start. Many Sheffielders enjoyed a free ride!
In December 1997, the operation was transferred to Stagecoach for £1.15 million. Stagecoach gained the concession to maintain and operate the Supertram trams until 2024. Patronage has grown from 7.8 million passenger journeys in 1996/97, to 15.0 million in 2011/12. In 2014/15 it carried 11.5 million passengers.

Stagecoach introduced a "normal" ticket system with conductors and, very soon, added their first Supertram Link bus service. This ran from the Middlewood tram terminus (in the north west of the city) to the town of Stocksbridge ...
... where it looped through the main housing estates. It competed directly with the long-standing Sheffield route 57 ...
... leading eventually to First Bus' capitulation.
Stagecoach's replacement 57 now runs via Worrall before joining the main road at Oughtibridge.
Recently the Stocksbridge Supertram Link service has changes from a ten minute frequency round a one way loop to every 20 minutes alternate ways round.
Some evening journeys have also been extended in Sheffield to run from the tram terminus, alongside the tram route terminating at Hillsborough shopping centre.
The "good thing" about this Super Tram Link, however, is that it does stop right next to the trams at Middlewood.
Interchange could not be easier.

Less helpful, however, is Stagecoach's journey planner. It does not recognise traditional estate names ...
... and makes you wait an unnecessarily extra ten minutes at Middlewood.
The connecting bus is at 1543.

But the easy interchange probably means that you won't bother with a journey planner.

Information on through fares is decidedly unhelpful!
But the hardest thing is to find anything about Supertram Link on the Supertram web site. Unless fbb is being thick (again), you have to go to "Sitemap" and peruse a long list.
Perhaps this difficulty is one reason why people are less than keen to interchange?

Tomorrow we look at Links 2 and 3.

P.S. Embarrassing correction?  In fbb's Stagecoach journey planner example (above) fbb had typed Easy Whitwell. A comment writer (below) thought fbb was being a bit unfair expecting Stagecoach to find a non-existent place.

But it cannot find the corrected Eastt Whitwell either!
 Christmas Calendar 
Gospel writers Mark and John do not have any reference to the Nativity story. They both leap on to the start of Jesus' ministry some 30 years after the first Christmas. Mark begins with the arrival of Jesus cousin, John (The Baptist) and his call for repentance.

So John appeared in the desert, baptising and preaching. “Turn away from your sins and be baptised,” he told the people, “and God will forgive your sins.”
Many people from the province of Judea and the city of Jerusalem went out to hear John. They confessed their sins, and he baptised them in the Jordan River.

Clearly, the "do something" message implied that people needed to "do something" to make things better.

John's Gospel also begins with John (the Baptist) but he writes with a more "theological" message. For John, it is the image of light that is important.

God sent his messenger, a man named John, who came to tell people about the light, so that all should hear the message and believe. John was not the light; he came to tell about the light. This was the real light; the light that comes into the world and shines on all people.
The challenging question, however, is how does this change happen. How can God-on-Earth 2000  (plus) years ago make things better in 2017?

We need some very wise men to help us.
 Next "changing" blog : Friday 30th December