Thursday, 22 June 2017

Querying Queensferry

Playing Pass The (Bus) Parcel?
The ferry has been there a long, long time; as hinted in a brief on-line history of the town.

By the early 14th century the town had become a Burgh of Regality along with Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy and Musselburgh, owing duties to the convent of Dunfermline, which also controlled the ferry passage. A charter issued by David II, King Robert Bruce’s son, in 1364, which confirmed the Burgh’s rights and liberties, is held in Queensferry museum. With the privilege of a weekly market and an annual Fair, the town’s trading activities increased.

But it is older than that.

The queen referred to is Saint Margaret of Scotland who is believed to have established a ferry at this point for pilgrims on their way north to St Andrews. She died in 1093 and made her final journey by ferry to Dunfermline Abbey. Her son, David I of Scotland, awarded the ferry rights to the abbey.

But indirect international fame came with the opening of the Forth Rail ridge in 1888.
Car and passenger ferries remained until the new Forth Road Bridge arrived in 1964.
fbb still have examples of stamps in his possession in one of the many unopened boxes that came with the move to Seaton four years ago!

Your author guesses that buses to the town were largely in the hands of Easter Scottish for many years, but waits to be corrected by more knowledgeable readers.
Successors to Easter Scottish were First Bus whose service 43 ran every 20 minutes towards their demise.
Latterly, double deck buses were used ...
... with some journeys continuing to Bo'ness.
In common with many Edinburgh services, X43s ran at peak.
Then in early 2014, news broke that First Bus had given up on Queensferry and Stagecoach would take over with routes 40 and 40A. Basically these ran alternate ways round a lollipop version of the former 43.
The combined frequency was upped to every 30 minutes each way round, effectively a bus every 15 minutes to the town.
There was a launch, complete with a piper, which fbb mentioned in a blog a couple of years ago. It all seemed to be going jolly well.

Until:-
Why? Stagecoach said that the route was "not sustainable"; but what does that mean? Was it not making enough money? Or was it just a pain in the neck to operate. Uncle Brian's presence in Edinburgh is the highly successful network of services across the Forth Bridge to the Kingdom of Fife.
The 747 runs from the Dunfermline Park and Ride sites to Edinburgh Airport and the X51 exits the map bottom left on its way to Livingstone. Stagecoach has no "ordinary" buses running out of Edinburgh, just posh branded semi coaches.
The express vehicle are specific to these services ...
... which would make operating one "normal" bus service based in Edinburgh something of a pain in some tender part of the Stagecoach corporate anatomy.

But here's the thing; a statement from Lothian within days of the Stagecoach announcement.

A statement from Lothian Buses
We are unable to comment on other operators business decisions with regard to the operation of their bus services either current or future, however it has been highlighted to us today by concerned customers of Stagecoach’s decision to consult on the withdrawal of services from South Queensferry. We will,  as always,  listen to our customers comments and will in due course investigate any potential opportunities that may arise.

So along comes the ever expanding Lothian Buses (corporation transport as was) and sets up a new company specifically to take over this service.
"Country" buses are green, double deck and numbered 43 and X43.
Thought. Is this the same picture used to promote Lothian's recent take-over of First's services to the east, but doctored just a little bit?

At first glance, fares look cheaper than those offered by the withdrawing lot.
Route 43 looks like a direct copy of First's "hook shape" route.
And back comes the X43.

Lothian's frequency is back to First's as well, at every 20 minutes ...
... with the X43s running limited stop in Edinburgh itself at peak.
The timetable leaflet even explains the limited stop-ness very clearly.
There was good local publicity for the launch ...
... combined with some intriguing and thought provoking press-bites.

In a statement, Lothian said: “Historically two major transport providers First and Stagecoach have been unable to operate commercially viable services within this area with low patronage and increasing levels of traffic congestion contributing to their withdrawal. The successful continuation of bus services is wholly dependent on customer usage levels – it’s important that the community embrace our new venture to ensure its ongoing success."

So, use it or lose it - AGAIN? But, suddenly, now that the Council's company is on the job, this comment appears:-

Some of the measures whchh have now been agreed for implementation include traffic signal prioritisation at Princes Street/Queensferry Street junction ...
... and Queensferry Street/Melville Street ...
... a commitment that the existing citybound bus lane is not compromised on approach to Dean Bridge and a review of parking restrictions on key arterial city routes to allow for passing places for buses.

You have to wonder why these measures were not implements for Stagecoach. Such are the benefits of being a Council owned company negotiating, effectively, with itself!

Final question. How long will it be until the 43 is taken over by Horsburgh's of Livingston?

 Next Dorset blog (possibly!) : Friday 23rd June 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Whys and Wherefores of Whiteley (3)

Contrast and Compare
Mr Hammond says there has been no publicity for the W2 between Warsash and Whiteley.
Clive, who has visited Whiteley, says there is absolutely nothing at the shopping areas to show even the existence of buses.
If you can be bothered, there is an entry for the W1 in First's "news" section ...
... dating from June 2016. Hot news from First!

The best that can be found on the Whiteley community pages is this ...
... again wildly out of date.

Searching on line reveals the launch of a "Whiteley Shuttle" ...
... but that dates from 2014.

A lunchtime Shuttle service costing £25,000 has begun a one-year pilot trial providing residents with a vital lifeline into the centre of a Hampshire village. Whiteley Shopping has fully funded the service for a one-year trial period run by bus operator First. Eight services will run between 11.50am and 2.30pm on weekdays via the Solent Business Park and Yew Tree Drive using 15 existing bus stops. The service starts and ends at Whiteley Tesco.

And you are right - it didn't last!

Both W1 and W2 are "supported" by funding from the Shopping Centre, so you might expect significant publicity from them. Immediately obvious on line is this uninspiring panel ...
... printed in contrasting shades of grey on grey. Grey is currently trendy in advertising.

There is a more enterprising page ...
... which popped up as fbb was searching for "W2"; but he could not find it on the current Whiteley web site.

Recently, this blog took its loyal and avidly excited readers (?) to Rushden Lakes shopping centre. This is not yet "officially" open but some of the shops are already trading. 

Local bus operator Stagecoach has announced its service revision from 23rd July. The details are on-line (of course - everything is except when it isn't) but something wonderful is already available. Here is how it arrived at fbb mansions last week - please note OVER ONE MONTH before services start.
Hmm. Northampton correspondent Alan is such a hoot! But here is the booklet ...
... 31 pages of the 36 carry useful bus information, the remaining five are designed to make Rushden Lakes look fantastic. (yawn!) There is an excellent route diagram, explaining what runs where with great clarity.
Each locality served by buses diverted to the "Lakes" has a double page spread. Verso shows a departure list, a map of the stops and, wowsers, fares ...
... recto has the return departures all nicely colour coded to match the colours on the map. This does mean that the highly detailed map of the wide selection of bus stops within Rushden Lakes is repeated twelve times.
This cartographic overkill ensures, however, that travel options for any particular community are all there on a double spread of open pages.

It is hardly worth asking how this compares with Whiteley.

It doesn't.

Why the difference? One possible answer is that it was relatively easy to divert the Stagecoach routes into the Shopping Centre. Through journeys were not delayed significantly and the extra cost is probably limited to the new service 14 covering the bits of X46/X47 lost be the diversion.

Diverting, say, the through buses between Southampton and Portsmouth and Fareham via Whiteley would have an obviously detrimental effect on costs and running time.
The X5 already wanders round Warsash and the X4 via Titchfied. Whiteley is the grey lump between the A3051 and M27 labels and, realistically, there is nothing else to go that way.

The Saturday only W1 and W2 are, fbb guesses, fairly cheap to provide but, as our correspondents and letter writers aver, poorly promoted. Sadly for the environment and the bus industry, the easiest way to get to Whiteley will always be by car.

A brave bus company might add half hourly buses to the X4 and X5 complex creating a bus every ten minutes between Southampton and Fareham ...
... continuing alternately via Whiteley to Portsmouth and Gosport.

But First Bus has rarely been brave!

Meanwhile, back at Rushden lakes, time alone will tell if the bus business is there. It will be interesting to see how it all goes when the novelty wears off.
--------------------------------------------------------------
Killer Cat Returns to Terrorise Peterville
"Please don't be cross," says Jacko, "it is the coolest place to snooze on the hottest day of the year so far!"
--------------------------------------------------------------
 Next Queensferry blog : Thursday 22nd June 

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Whys and Wherefores of Whiteley (2)

Today's Whiteley is Whiteley Version Two
Wikipedia explains all.
The wooded areas in Whiteley were used to provide shelter to troops in the build-up of forces for transportation to northern France in preparation for D-Day during the second world war. This is evidenced by the remains of a War Department water tank on the edge of the Bere Forest.
Apart from the residential areas, which house around 6,000 residents, the main focus was the Whiteley Village outlet centre.

In September 2007, British Land announced plans to spend upwards of £100m redeveloping Whiteley Village and reconstructing it as a district centre, while also adding housing and a hotel to the area.
The outlet centre was entirely demolished in Autumn 2011.

The new development was officially opened on Thursday 23 May 2013
Bus services to the area have been poor from day 1 but this letter in the current Buses magazine intrigued your author.
Mr Hammond's residence is at Locks Heath and he refers to a route linking two shopping centres. Here is Locks Heath Centre with its Waitrose supermarket ...
... and served by various First routes including the longer distance services between Southampton and Portsmouth or Gosport.
A cursory glance at First's web site to see if something new now runs between Locks Heath and Whiteley ("the other supermarket") was unhelpful, maybe even negative.

The Fareham route diagram does not go as far as Locks Heath, but only the 28/28A to Whiteley appears.
The current (?) Fareham timetable booklet (usually excellent) ...
... only offers the 28/28A again, but it is over a year old. Things may have changed.
Maybe Hampshire's network map might help?
Eureka! The 28/28A are joined by a W1 and a W2, and the W2 runs via Locks Heath. Now we know the route number we can look more closely. there is a timetable on First's web site ...
... and a map on Traveline.
Needless to say, Traveline's timetable is slightly different from First's; two minutes later at Warsash Village!
Complicated, isn't it? Note that the Hampshire map has less wiggles than Traveline's. The W2 runs every hour until late at night BUT ONLY ON SATURDAYS.

And there is also a W1 from Fareham. By typing "Whiteley" in First's timetable search ...
... you can find these two. But, as usual with on-line stuff, it is easier if you know what to look for in the first place. Likewise, Traveline reveals all if a "Location" search is chosen.
This list implies that the W2 is either "new" as per Mr Hammond's letter; or has recently changed, whilst First thinks it has been running since April 2016.
So, is Mr Hammond right? Has there been any publicity outside of the complex and oft unfathomable depths of the various web sites?

We will conclude tomorrow and contrast with publicity for another out-of-town shopping centre that we have "visited" recently.

 Next Whiteley blog : Wednesday 21st June