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But First ...
fbb is enormously grateful to the Man of Mystery ...
... who popped a particularly pleasant prezzie through the letterbox at fbb mansions. It was a (GoAhead) Brighton and Hove bus timetable book. Some readers may remember when such useful means of communication were generally available.

The Brighton product has, for many years, been a beacon of excellence in an otherwise poor-publicity world.
It is FREE!

The cover illustrates yet another new service, running at weekends and bank between Brighton and Eastbourne via Drusillas Zoo (hence the camels)!
There is, of course, a timetable ...
... and, as is standard in the book, a simple but effective map.
There is one bludner with this service. It does not appear in the on-line version of the timetable book; that's one where you click through the pages on-screen. It goes straight from 9 on page 37 to 12 on page 38.

Whoops.

fbb will look more closely at the book in a future blog, but one thought pops into the old man's mind. Might there be some connection between the excellence of its publicity and the company's seemingly unstoppable expansion?

And Second ...
Thanks for a communication from Stagecoach.

Issues with the Stagecoach Bus App are fixed

Hi there,

We are aware there was an issue with the Stagecoach Bus App which affected Apple iOS users this morning.

This issue has now been fixed.

We're sorry for any problems you may have had. If you've already contacted us we'll respond to you as quickly as possible.

If you've had to purchase an additional ticket as a result of this issue, please send a picture of that ticket to app@stagecoachbus.com and include the email address registered to your Stagecoach Bus account.

Whilst it is true that fbb did, once, download this app, he never used it as it offered no advantages over what is already on-line. Its journey planner only gave Stagecoach services which made it particularly useless unless you knew what you wanted before you started looking for it!

At least First's is a proper all operators JP.

But then, "Isn't technology wonderful?"

And so to Edinburgh ...
... Where First will start competing against the incumbent operator of the various city tours. 

First has put out a minimalist initial press release ...
... and a clever little tease.
For those unfamiliar with the Scottish capital, Arthur's Seat is a geological "lump" (extinct - presumably - volcano) that dominates views of the city from many directions.
It is sometimes said that its name is derived from legends pertaining to King Arthur, such as the reference in Y Gododdin. (It's a mediaeval Welsh poem) There is no traditional Scottish Gaelic name for Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, but William Maitland proposed that the name was a corruption of Àrd-na-Said, implying the "Height of Arrows", which over the years became Arthur's Seat (perhaps via "Archer's Seat"). Alternatively, John Milne's proposed etymology of Àrd-thir Suidhe meaning "place on high ground" seem equally implausible!

Maybe wee Arthur McSporran rested there on a walking tour round the city and penned a note suggesting city tours by stagecoach (as opposed to Stagecoach)?

Meanwhile First's news has reached Trade magazine Passenger Transport.
fbb is not a subscriber (too expensive for a poverty-stricken old age pensioner) but a chum sent a photocopy of the relevant article.

It could hardly be described as "even handed journalism".

It begins with the facts so far known. Lothian has impinged significantly on First's business in West Lothian and First is hitting back at Lothian's most profitable set of services.
(add "topped buses").

The next paragraphs are very one-sided.
An amazingly astute conclusion, sir! The continuation is even more biased.
In theory, if it so decided, First is still strong enough to wipe the floor with Lothian, a council owned company and thus answerable to councillors and, ultimately, the people of Edinburgh. It is these councillors that have not-long recovered from getting their fingers (even their whole hands!) well singed from the Tram fiasco.

If I were Lothian's GM and board I would, to re-use the tag line from the 1986 remake of "The Fly" ...
 ... Be afraid, be very afraid!
Andrew Jarvis, First bus boss in Scotland
at a recent charity event

You do wonder who Passenger Transport's "source" might be. General Manager of Lothian Transport? Perhaps Lothian have shares in Passenger Transport?

And, furthermore, why is it that the incumbent operator is so often cast as the baddie for responding to an newcomer intent on pinching their business. What are First supposed to do?

"Dear Mr Lothian Buses, it is so good to see you competing with our services; we do hope you do well. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help." Signed Giles Fearnley

Mystery Revealed!
Late yesterday afternoon fbb received an email from regular correspondent Richard.
So fbb can now say a proper thanks to Richard.

Mystery Picture
From Northampton correspondent Alan, photographed on the platform of a railway station not far from home.
Alan's suggestion is that it is part of an experiment in the use of electric torture by the Rail Delivery Group aiming to persuade passengers to stop requesting printed timetables and to stop using orange-stripe card tickets in favour of QR codes on a mobile phone.

Apparently the latter are unreliable as gates so equipped often refuse to open.

Mind you, Mrs fbb is the kiss of death to orange stripe tickets and "automatic" gates. In about 50% of usage thay fail and she has to extricate her self from gate and crush of others behind her to find the member of staff with the magic "access all gates" pass card.

fbb will return to his West Lothian route survey tomorrow.

 Next competitive clash blog : Thursday 23rd May 
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There are three main routes that run (sort of) east from Edinburgh. The A9 ran to  Falkirk but was severed to make way for Edinburgh Airport's expansion near the community of Turnhouse.
This road is now demoted and replaced by improved routes to the Forth Bridges and, of course, by the M9.

Next south comes the traditional main road to Glasgow, the A8 - now superseded by the ludicrously busy M8.

Lastly (for the purposes of this blog) comes the A71 which links Edinburgh to Motherwell.

These three roads define what is usually known a the "Central Belt" a one-time mix of heavy industry interspersed with patches of comparative remoteness.

Between the A89 and the A71,  about 15 miles from Edinburgh, is the new town of Livingston.
If you look closely, you will see "Livingston Village" on the map, and, like Milton Keynes, the new town name giver is almost lost in the massive development.

But it is still there with its main street (called originally "Main Street") ...
... popular but much extended village pub ...
... typical Presbyterian church ...
... and ancient bridge over the River Almond.
It was a very small community!
You would be hard-pressed to find it, even if you drove to where Livingston Village appears on the map.
Livingston is perforce the focus of First Bus' West Lothian network and it is this block of routes that has been in receipt of aggressive competition from the former Edinburgh Corporation company, branded Lothian Country.

It is most certainly this depletion of First's revenue that has prompted the responsive attack on the Edinburgh tours business. Lothian's competitive routes have changed slightly over the period of the battle, but fbb will be content if he can successfully explain the current networks and how they impinge.

As there is no longer a West Lothian (county) bus map or timetable these days, we need to flit from one company to the other - so hold on to your hats and pay close attention at the back!

A8 First Bus
The A8 has become the A89/A899.

Route 24 becomes a Livingston town service whilst the 25 continues to Bathgate, and Armadale, each every 30 minutes.
There is a further half hourly 25 between Livingston and Blackridge. Google Streetview hasn't visited Blackridge recently!

A8 Lothian
(click on the map for an enlargement)
X18 runs direct via A89 to Bathgate (NOT via Livingston) every 30 minutes even on Sundays. It then runs south ti Whitburn.
The terminus at Whitburn is at the far western end of the town's main street, again named Main Street.
The equivalent of First's 25 from Livingston westbound, but to Bathgate only, is route 287 - again every 30 minutes seven days a week.
First's 21 provides a similar function between Bathgate and Whitburn, but via a different route from Livingston.

Also via the A8/A89 is a new (from 13th May 2019) X17 running via Livingston and continuing via West Calder to Fauldhouse.
Thus also runs every 30 minutes seven days a week ...
Between Livingston and Loganlea/Fauldhouse this competes with First's 26 ...
... which doubles back from beautiful Fauldhouse Station ...
... to Bathgate.
Still with us? Well done.

So, here endeth the first part of this review. We can see that, on every part of First's Livingston-centred network (so far), Lothian Country is "having a go" and must be hurting First's bottom line.

Whether Lothian Country is making a profit is very doubtful but you would guess that both operators are losing money by the bucketful.

Potty!

One oddment. Although Lothian started their X17 earlier this month  and added it to the map ...
... it doesn't appear in their list of timetable.

Whoops!

 Next Competitive Clash blog : Wednesday 22nd May 
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Reliable sources have confirmed that First Bus has registered an Edinburgh Sightseeing Tour and is currently recruiting staff. Apparently the vehicles are hidden away in the Caledonia depot at Glasgow, although quite how you can "hide" a dozen or more branded buses is unclear.

One question immediately arises, of course. Aren't there hoardes of sightseeing buses in Edinburgh already?

Answer yes! They queue up for customers on Waverley Bridge all day and all year ...
... and there is nearly always a queue at both windows of the ticket office.
It is big business at a big price.
There are FOUR tours as follows:-
The one with the international brand offers a city centre tour, passing all the obvious highlights of Auld Reekie. (click on the map for an enlargement).
The "Edinburgh Tour" ...
... is similar but not quite the same! (again click for enlargement)
It tours a little more of the New Town (upper left) and a little less of Waverley Gardens (lower left). The square wiggle centre right takes both tours to "Dynamic Earth", a part of Edinburgh's heritage with which many Sassenachs may be unfamiliar.

Dynamic Earth (originally known as Our Dynamic Earth) is a visitor attraction in Edinburgh, and also functions as a conference venue. It is in the Holyrood area, beside the Scottish Parliament building and at the foot of Salisbury Crags.
The principal focus of Dynamic Earth is to facilitate a better public understanding of the processes that have shaped the Earth (known as earth science). This includes the Big Bang, abiogenesis, plate tectonics and glaciation.

The centre opened in 1999 as one of the first major projects supported by the Millennium Commission. The project was part of an urban regeneration plan for former industrial land at the lower end of Holyrood Road.
Quite why there are two very similar tours is not clear; the reason may be historical as Lothian Transport has assiduously bought out any operator who attempts to compete - the council's arm's length bus company has, effectively, a monopoly.

Next comes the Majestic Tour.
This covers just a mini bit of the city centre then runs via the Botanic Gardens ...
... but the main USP is, obviously, the Royal Yacht Britannia.
The fourth tour does what it says on the label.
It links with a boat trip to view the bridges up close (at extra cost) but you can just do the ride for the standard prices.
The boat trip looks great, but the bus ride itself is a simple out and back.

All four tours have their own dedicated livery and the open toppers have a covered section to which to retreat in the event of precipitation, a rare event in Edinburgh! (?).
fbb had better add a Three Bridges bus for completeness.
So what exactly will First Bus do? Word on the bus staircase is that it will be one "simple" tour with no variations - fbb guesses some mixture of the two "inner" tours from Lothian - taking just under the hour for the round trip.

A formal announcement is expected soon from First and fbb will include it in a blog as soon as it is received. He is also hoping for a picture of one (or all) of the buses.

Keen bus watchers will know what has provoked this Dun Edin expansion decision; but, for those that are less keen Scotland bus watchers, the old codger will set the scene in tomorrow's posting.

But fbb cannot really get the week going without reference to the weekend's Railway Highlight. New timetables? Azuma to Leeds? 6 days a week to Gainsborough Central?

These all pale into insignificance when compared to First Great Western's farewell to the HST.
Although "main line" use has ended ...
... short-formation HSTs are available in Scotland ...
... and branded as "Castles", similarly for extra trains to Plymouth and Penzance.
There is no doubt that these original trains were the best ever operated by British Railways.
Sadly, in modernity they have been spoiled by high backed seats, crammed in so the views are poor, ...
... but the as-built coaches made a truly great train.

And, when there are still capacity problems on parts of the national network why are these trains now rotting in sidings?

Shameful!

FGW's new trains have not been as reliable as they company had hoped - better now - but might the odd HST do an Arnie Schwarzenegger?

 Next West Lothian blog : Tuesday 21st May 
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Tanks For The Memory - Continued
At about 0345 on Saturday morning fbb had a sudden revelation!
He clearly remembered buying a Hornby green BP Monobloc tank wagon ...
... and he wondered if IT came with ladders. Sadly, the purchase was actually of a silver Fina tank wagon ...
... by Bachmann which, as we already know, DOES have ladders. A comparison of the two models shows finer Fina detail but most non-picky modellers wouldn't notice too much difference.
Here is a close up of the finer Fina lattering.
Maybe, following the trend of other real sized heritage railways, Peterville might start operating a petrochemicals freight train to amuse and entertain its 4mm to the foot visitors. The original plan for the Texaco wagon was to cut windows and a door in the tank and add it to the "fun train".
Maybe fbb will do that with the green one he hasn't bought!

On-Line Oddment
This twit appeared recently from c2c Railway (Fenchurch Street to Southend).
This begs loads of questions.

Since when did freight trains run between Fenchurch Street and Barking?

Why was the train allowed to run early?

How did it manage to disrupt services in and out of the terminus for a nearly 40 minutes at evening peak?

Arriva Northern Trains Improvements
At last! After a very sorry time, things are beginning to happen. Some of the highlights from the timetable change in a week's time.

A new six days a week service from Sheffield to Gainsborough Central.
This allows the Sheffield Lincoln service to be speeded up.

A third Monday to Saturday train each hour between Leeds and Harrogate, running limited stop.

The extension of existing "part way" trains to give two trains an hour between Newcastle and Carlisle.
There are many more detailed changes.

Also London North Western is doing its stuff between Euston, Northampton and Birmingham and beyond. Details coming up this week.

Let's hope they've got enough trains, enough staff, enough trained staff, and enough tracks to make it all work.

A Zoomer Or Azuma to Leeds
Friend and First Bus boss Fearnley emailed to report that he was ensconced to the 1103 from Kings Cross to Leeds on Friday and it was (slightly unexpectedly) a shiny new Azuma from London North Eastern Railway ...
... (Virgin i.e. Stagecoach as was) ...
... now a state-run nationalised railway. Unusually for the UK, it is a British nationalised railway company; not Dutch, French, Italian, German, Chinese or Japanese.

fbb assume that he got there!

And from the Good Old Days
A nostalgic picture from Glasgow Central station, taken (co-incidentally) on fbb's 13th Birthday.
Clearly there were problems with trains up to 10½ hours late. Perhaps it was due to horrid weather. Never mind eh? If this were the modern railway, management would simply close the line!

All Scots Love Irn Bru ...
... which used to be "made in Scotland frae girders!". But in those really good old days ...
... it was Iron Brew and a "Tonic Beverage". Nanny state advertising rules have robbed us all of many delights; and we are the worse for it. Bring back "Dragon Sausages"!

And, Talking of Detail
Here is one of Hornby's "Dublo Dinkies", a Ford Consul for OO gauge, 1/76 scale.
To get some sense of its size, it was a little under 5cm long - that's two inches in real money. It has no interior, no "glass" in the windows and nasty axle stubs in the wheels.

And here is one of the latest 1/76 models from Oxford Diecast. It is an Austin 1800, just a little longer than the Consul.
In addition to the items missing from the Consul, it has windscreen wipers ...
... a legible number plate and coloured direction indicators ...
... silvered door handles and boot lock, plus a representation of the "Austin 1800" plate on the boot lid. And fbb has just spotted the tank filler cover!

At £5.95 somewhat more expensive then even an "inflated" Dublo Dinky (1/11d?) but an excellent model.

No Doors at Dore - But a Shelter
The remaining station building at Sheffield's Dore and Totley is no longer in railway use.
It used to be a much more substantial facility ...
... but now is nothing more than an "open access" platform on the Hope Valley line.
But along comes loveable First Transpennine to add a passenger shelter to the building.
It is not clear whether this is a replacement for, or in addition to the existing lavish waiting facilities.
Transpennine text says it will provide shelter for people AND the ticket machine.

What ticket machine?

And whatever happened to this project?
Running a little late?

fbb is awaiting some dramatic bus news (?) which has not yet arrived, so tomorrows blog contents  are, at the time this posting was composed, uncertain. In essence the rumour is that First Bus will soon start competing in Edinburgh City in response to Lothian Transport's incursion into First's West Lothain business.

Details/confirmation are eagerly awaited!

 Next "exciting development" blog : Monday 20th May 
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An Unexpected Gift
A small packet was delivered to fbb mansions on Thursday and, although small enough to poke through the slot, kind Mr Postman, cognisant of the dire warning on the exterior, rang the door knocker and handed the goody bag to its nominated recipient.
Who was it from? (Sorry. From whom did it emanate?) and what did it contain? After careful examination, fbb concluded it had come from chum Richard, who with his spouse, Peggy, dwells at Bont Dolgadfan near Llanbrynmair. You can guess their general geographical locale!

And the contents were intriguing.
The wagon is a Hornby Dublo tanker, labelled for "Royal Daylight" and, way back in its history, it cost two shillings and six pence.
The above picture is of a pre-war model as indicated by the original Hornby couplings and you could own one of these today for a modest £85! 2/6 immediately prewar would inflate to £4.25 today.
Reasonably good models as per fbb's post WW2 gift sell at about £10 but only IF they are in good condition. 

Later versions had Esso added.
Royal Daylight was a brand of the American Oil Company used for heating oil (paraffin) and other domestic products.
The brand name for "Ethyl Oil" (Petrol) was Pratts ...
... "the one with the orange pump", well remembered for its enamel signs beloved of collectors.
It all became Esso in due course.

The model is "play worn" and "age worn" - i.e. bashed to bits and rusty - with paintwork that is probably irrecoverable. But it takes fbb back to a long lost age of pre- and post-war pioneering three rail OO gauge trains that continued in production almost unaltered until the Hornby's change to two rail in the early 1960s.

Here is the tanker alongside a cheap plastic model, also labelled Hornby but Triang in reality and produced from 1975 to 1989.
The Texaco "Monobloc" tank needs its ladder replacing ...
... and is almost 100% plastic whilst the Dublo model is 100% metal.

But maybe do not replace the ladder as most (all?) models were sold without one - possibly removed from the real thing for operation under the electric string - or maybe added to the model above by an over-keen modeller.

Ladders were fitted to some, for sure.
Or is the Texaco livery a Hornby invention? fbb could find no pictures on-line of this standard real-size wagon in Texaco livery.

Another tantalising puzzle to tempt the grey cells of blog readers. Bachmann's Monobloc tank does have ladders.

You could have a Texaco branded tanker for your Dublo 3-rail layout.
The more recent Hornby version of the Royal Daylight vehicle has better detail ...
... but is possibly based on a later design of the real thing. The older ones are more like the fbb arrival in reality.
This one lives at the Didcot Railway Museum.

If you model in N gauge, there is a version for you available from Peco.
There is also an vintage tinplate wagon of similar livery for O gauge collectors.
Richard's gift model will never run on fbb's layout because it has metal wheels on uninsulated metal axles so would short out the two-rail electrics. But it will stand happily on a "dead" siding to store fuel for Peterville's diesels.

Put there is a moral dilemma. Should fbb repaint it or leave it as a rusty hulk?

fbb has yet to discover the source of the GWR notice board!

First Falters or Forges Forwards?
Readers of the business pages will have gathered that the Board of First Group faces renewed pressure caused by its under performance. In very simple terms, a major shareholder wants its people on the Board with a possible view to re-opening the previously abandoned take-over bid from Apollo.

The best response comes via James Freeman at Bristol, published in this week's staff newsletter. fbb has distilled the essence.
Last weekend Coast Capital, a large shareholder, wrote to the FirstGroup plc Board to advise that, as is their right as a large shareholder, they will be requisitioning a General Meeting of the Company. The purpose of the meeting is to consider their proposals, which are an attempt to take control of the Board by removing six of the current eleven Board Directors and appointing seven of their nominees.

Matthew Gregory, FirstGroup’s Chief Executive said: “We consider the views of all shareholders and continue to engage with Coast Capital, having attempted to do so constructively for more than a year."

This is not the first "approach".

Gregory continues “Above all, I understand this type of activity can be distracting. The Board has reiterated its focus on delivering shareholder value and we must keep focused on delivering our objectives and providing the best service for our customers. Please be assured that any events or decisions of significance will be relayed through the usual channels as appropriate. We will be releasing our full year results, and updating on progress and strategy, on 30 May 2019.”

Worth watching out for the figures and the statement?

So, the message is it’s Business As Usual and we just have to get on with running the buses.

Meanwhile in Glasgow ...
... the news is spectacular and multicoloured!
fbb's personal observation on his brief but hobbling foray into Glasgow recently revealed a brighter and newer fleet looking much better.
... and in Guildford.

Here a snippet in Guildford was confirmed by a "usually reliable source" a few days ago.
More details in due course.

Problems in Preston?
Hmm? It has disappeared already from the company web site!
There was nothing there. Lancashire helps out.
It runs Monday to Saturday; hourly Preston to Clitheroe continuing every two hours to Skipton. It will be missed, of course, bit bits of it are covered by other services.
Enthusiasts are ready with their "Farewell Tour".

And a Texaco Tailpiece
With ladders, or not with ladders: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous accuracy,
Or to take arms against a sea of experts,
And by opposing silence them? To add: to omit?
No more; and when we add we say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To add, 'tis good;
To glue: perchance to fail: ay, there’s the rub;
For in a search for truth, what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this model coil?
Very few modellers realise that Will Shakespeare was building tank wagons many years before the railways were invented!

So fbb looked in his box of ladders (as you do), found a couple of lengths of the right size and glued them to his Texaco tank wagon. A little matt black paint to take away the shininess of the raw plastic and his cheap Texaco Monobloc looks much better.
Well, fbb thinks so!
 More Ments on the Morrow : Sunday 19th May 
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The big change for the Sheffield Barnsley service (265, then 2, now X2) is its diversion via Hoyland Village. For countless generations the route served the main road (now A6135) with its time point at Allotts Corner Hoyland Common.
fbb presumes that Mr Allott owned the corner shop but, apart from change of ownership and the addition of traffic lights, he would have no trouble recognising his former domain. But here, travelling towards Sheffield, the new X2/2 turn left to run via the village (or is it a town?)
Barnsley route maps have yet to catch up with the diversion and X-ing of the former 2 which passes by in SALMON PINK along the Sheffield Road. The RED 66 is the main and frequent service from Barnsley, recently reduced from every ten to every twelve minutes. It and the PURPLE 67 have their origins in the much loved Jump Circular of old.

"Conductor, is this bus going to Jump?" "Nay lass, but it might wobble a bit!" (Chortle chortle). 

The GREEN 7 is a back way less frequent service but all these three will take you to Barnsley now with the 2/X2 added.

The DARK BLUE 72 links new industry north east of Hoyland and the Wentworth Technology Park to the west with Chapeltown on the northern border of greater Sheffield. The MID BLUE 136 runs to Rotherham. Until recently it was the 227, the remnant of the traditional 27, Rotherham Hoyland Barnsley service.
The above map (The Barnsley Partnership map - 2nd March 2019) is current but not fully up to date whereas the Barnsley Network Map (3rd March 2019) still shows the 227!
Nobody seems to know why the PTE spends its money on two near identical maps!

Two bits of trivia: fbb has it on good authority (former Music teacher and fbb colleague Phil Carr) that the "Barnsley Chop" ...
... (a "double" lamb chop) originated in a roadside nosh house at Birdwell, near Hoyland Common; AND, the comedian Harry Worth ...
... was born at nearby Pilley, served by Stagecoach 67a.
But we digress - as usual!

Clearly, diverting the 2/X2 via Hoyland is unlikely to generate much extra business from Barnsley but fbb thinks (subject to ignorance during the post-privatistion competitive lunacy) this will be the first time Hoyland (village) has had a link to Sheffield.

But is it "fast"?
Here is the X2's predecessor timetable extract for Saturday ...
... and the through journey takes one minute over the hour from Flat Street to Barnsley. We might expect the new X2 to be slower as it diverts via Hoyland ...
... and indeed it takes an hour and five; not much but not "fast". Sheffield to Chapeltown (limited stop section) is 28 minutes on the new X2 but 31 minutes on the old 2. Faster but hardly FAST! Birdwell to Barnsley (limited stop section)  is 17 minutes new but 18 minutes on the old 2. Hmmm.

fbb is not convinced that speed will sell the revised service! The map makes this all a little clearer (click on the graphic for an enlarged view)
Sorry, but a little bit of Sheffield centre has been snipped off to clip the best JPG version.

The buses offer the now usual Wifi but do not, as yet, appear to be branded for X2.
There is one notable niggle with the leaflet, however. It does contain a detailed list of which stops are served on the Limited Stop section. Unfortunately very few of the stop names match the timing points.
For example, fbb is not familiar with "Commerce Street" in Chapeltown - any "normal" passenger would, however, understand Station Road.

Whilst the outbound stop is a fair step past any visible station ...
... Commerce Street ...
... is even further forward of the stop and a tiny unnoticeable cul-de-sac. fbb wonders what piece of Commerce was enacted up there, perhaps even before the railway was built.

Yet again, a lack of consistency; giving the opportunity for customer confusion.

The stop names may be a digest of the dreaded NaPTAN database but no Sheffield person would EVER tell an enquirer that the X2 ran "via Firth Park". Using technical geography it might, but using common sense it simply does not.
And one final silliness. The X2 and the evenings and Sundays 2 are treated as separate tables by the PTE's Deep Throat computer. So this poster, for example, at Sheffield High Street ...
... has separate tables for each, when, in fact, they are the same service. What is worse, although the poster IS at High Street, the 2 is shown as running from Flat Street ...
... a completely different location. It doe call at flat street with the X2, but BOTH l3eave from the High Street stop as pictured below.
The public finds its public transport hard enough to follow without a concerted effort by operators and local authorities to confuse them!

Despite these niggles, the X2 is an interesting and useful development of a traditional service. With a little tweaking it could be a lot better, publicity wise - and, as ever, time will tell if it attracts more passengers. After all that's why Stagecoach have changed it!


 Next Collection of Ments, some Odd : Saturday 18th May 
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In times long gone, there were three buses an hour between Sheffield and Barnsley of which one took a slightly different route through Sheffield's northern suburbs. 65 ran to Barnsley only, 66 continued to Bradford an 67 to Leeds As well as Sheffield Transport, Yorkshire Traction, Yorkshire Woollen and West Riding were all involved in the joint operation.
They were part of a clutch of out-of-town routes that left from Exchange Street and Castlegate, later moving to the Central Bus Station (Pond Street).
Until recently the successor to the 65/6/7 complex, by now numbered 265 and operated exclusively by Stagecoach (purchasers of Yorkshire Traction) ran half hourly on the traditional route.
Stagecoach renumbered it as service 2 and removed from terminating at the bus station (now Sheffield Interchange) and extended it to Moorfoot; but it was still very much the old 265.

It is fair to assume that this renumbering, "promotion" and re-routeing did not generate lashings of extra lolly; because earlier this year the folk at Barnsley had a consultation.

We all know that "consultation" can mean a series of "woolly" questions leading to unclear answers which together allow the company to do what it wants anyway.

In this case the "result" of the consultation was the X2.
The leaflet is full of good things and a full exploration will continue in tomorrow's blog and fbb has already alluded changes incorporated in the X2 in a previous blog. In essence the route is diverted to serve Hoyland ...
... removed from Moorfoot in Sheffield and diverted to serve the Hallamshire Hospital and pass close to the University.
The passenger is offered "faster journeys" ...
... with sections of the route between Barnsley and Birdwell and Sheffield and Chapeltown being "Limited Stop".

Evening and all day Sunday journeys are still numbered 2, are not limited stop and nip into the Northern General Hospital grounds ...
... to U turn at the original hospital main building with its attractive clock tower. The stop here is actually nowhere near the majority of the wards!
Hopefully it will also stop here at the end of the access road and slightly nearer where many visitors will want to be.
But the best of British luck in finding you way about - the signage is unfathomable as fbb found some months back when he came to visit his long-term chum lorry driving Dave. But if you choose to visit on Monday to Saturday daytimes, you will need to walk, as is long standing tradition, from thee main Barnsley Road and the X2.

By far the "best bit" of the through rise in the X2 (and all its immediate predecessor) is the diversion off the main road to serve Worsbrough village.

The best approach is from the Barnsley direction, whence, after passing Worsbrough Bridge, you take a sharp fork left off the A61 ...
... then a very rural wiggle left then right ...
... and up a width restricted hill into the village of itself.
Amazingly, you then find yourself in a bit of truly rural England.
The village is narrow and now protected by traffic lights near the church ...
... and the pub!
Of course the village was once owned (literally) by the "Lord of the Manor" who sold a great swathe of his estate to the Barrow Haematite Steel Company (that's Barrow as in Barrow in Furness) so they could mine their own coal.
It's all gone now, but we passed the entrances just after the X2 left the A61.
What a contrast!
But we digress!

Tomorrow, we take a closer look at the Stagecoach leaflet and try to understand what "fast" means!
 Next Publicity blog : Friday 17th May 
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Knowing no fear and without the help of safety net, fbb decided to try to unravel the deep and intractable mysteries of Dartmouth Park and Ride.
Note that the daytime service terminates at the "bus depot" ...
... the patch of fenced yard pictured in previous blogs and where a natty turning circle is provided.
That fact (?) is confirmed by the blue bus blob on Google Maps.
... and further confirmed by the Traveline timetable for Monday to Saturday daytimes.
There is "Cotton Bus Depot" towards the bottom of the upper panel.
In the evenings there is still a 30 minute service on the 90 - which seems unusual - until you realise that the "normal" 90 doubles up as the evening version of Park and Ride.
Thus the terminus is now NOT the Cotton bus depot but "Dartmouth Park & Ride".

Without a map, it has taken fbb some considerable time and mental effort to work out which way the 90 goes. But here goes ...

It leaves town via the "main" Victoria Road ...
... which makes a sort of hairpin bend to become Townstal Road where the solid orange meets the dashed orange upper left. Readers who are familiar with Dartmouth will spot a serious omission.
The red A379 is a new-ish road, leaving the old yellow Townstal Road and ploughing across the front of the Naval college - a Stagecoach 3 is seen running that way.
The 90 follows the Post Office Van into and out of town. After a short dalliance with Townstal Road the 90 (to the bus depot, remember) dives off into the estates north of the B3207 (then), the A3122 (now). A promoted road - exciting, isn't it?
fbb thinks (?) that buses follow a different outbound and inbound route through this maze  ...
... IN via Collingwood Road and Mayflower Close but OUT via Britannia Avenue (unmarked on the map above). Both routes re-merge just a short distance from the Park and Ride roundabout as they re-emerge onto Townstal Road.

But much of the above is rubbish; its rubbishness revealed by the on-the-spot knowledge from correspondent Keith.

The daytime 90 no longer serves the turning circle!

To get to the depot, buses now run VIA the Park and Ride site and through a gap in the hedge, a purpose-built gap, not one made by using an old Solo as a battering ram. The gap is near the white car in the picture below.

Which is why there was a 90 "waiting time" at the P and R site but refusing to accept P and R tickets as per Keith's original email.
Of course, there was no information at the stop by way of explanation. Except, you may recall, a 2017 P and R  timetable. People were, understandably a tad confused and a lot annoyed.

Daftness is too mild a word.

Do the Stagecoach management realise what a shambles this is? Do they realise what a poor impression all this befuddlement gives of ALL their services in Dartmouth? Do the local authorities (town and county) that look after (ha ha!) Dartmouth realise what an appalling example of incompetence is in operation?

Do these people (presumably paid quite a lot of money) even know or care where Dartmouth is?
Here is what the town web site tell you about P and R.
Don't bother to click on the South Hams link as it tells you nothing more. And a timetable? 

Of course not!

A Dartmouth guest house offers something just a little better (a little less useless); but gives contradictory frequency information.
Clicking on the green "Full Timetable" button reveals one of these ...
... for the whole year; but with no explanation as to what the colours might mean. Two half terms, for example, are shown in green (more frequent? less frequent?) as are other periods.
Keith sent a photograph of two buses waiting for their departure at the town terminus. The one at the front was going to Kingsbridge ...
... a secret Stagecoach code for Plymouth! The one in the rear claimed to be a 91 P and R. It had stood forlorn and inactive for 30 minutes before departing on the ten minute (or is it twenty minute) 2017 timetabled frequency, according to the information on the stop.

So, to summarise:-

There is no map showing the correct bus services to Dartmouth
There is no map at all for the 90 Town Service
The Traveline timetable for the 90 is wrong
Stagecoach's OWN timetable for its OWN service 90 is wrong
Daytime 90s now leave from the Park and Ride site ... BUT
Park and Ride tickets are NOT accepted
Evening 90s still leave from the Park and Ride site ... AND
Park and Ride tickets ARE accepted
Service 3 to Plymouth runs only as far as Kingsbridge

You simply could not make it up! And bus companies wonder why they are losing passengers.

Public Transport enthusers just despair, snivel pathetically in the foetal position, grab the tranquilisers and run screaming (and possibly naked) down the road.

It is beyond belief.

And a special thanks to Keith for his assistance in preparing these blogs. Without him fbb would still be in blissful ignorance, believing that Dartmouth had a good and usable Park and Ride service.

Tomorrow we stay with Stagecoach to explore something of the new service X2 between Barnsley and Sheffield.

 Next publicity blog : Thursday 16th May 
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Yesterday, we looked at Dartmouth's Park and Ride service, largely through the eyes of a less-than enthusiastic on-line reviewer from 2017. The research was prompted by a email from correspondent Keith who used the service a week or so ago:-

I had occasion to use Dartmouth P and R last week, which has been established for many years so I had assumed that it would be a slick, well run operation by Stagecoach. Ha ha!

On arrival by car there are clear signs to pay £5 into the car park machines, collect two tickets, put one on the car and show the second one to the driver on the bus. Easy. That was all done OK, and we then walked to the bus stop and Stagecoach timetable case.
There were two timetables displayed, the 90 which is a Dartmouth Town Service and a 91 which is the P and R route. The timetable for the 91 was dated 2017 and showed various frequencies based around Public Holidays which of course were different for 2019!

Hopeless!

So I could not work out from the 2017 dates whether the frequency was every 20 mins or every 10. Then a Solo on the 90 pulled on to the stop.
We all went to board but the driver said P and R tickets were not valid on the 90 so we were not allowed on (why does it call at the Site and confuse all the customers then?). We waited and a Dart pulled in with 91 on the blind on which we were allowed to travel. It's departure time bore no resemblance to either of the every 20 or  every 10 2017 timetable displayed.
Of course, it's not a Dart; but Keith, intent on enjoying a visit to Dartmouth, failed to spend large amounts of time taking pictures for this blog. Some peoples' priorities ... ?

Returning from Dartmouth in the late afternoon we looked for a P and R bus at Dartmouth Pontoon. 
Another 2017 timetable was displayed. There was a 90 on the stop but once again the driver would not accept P and R tickets but he did tell us to wait for a 92 as it was up and running again now (implying that it hadn't been!)! A 91 duly arrived about 10 minutes later and took us back to the P and R site.

How not to run prestigious P and R service. I am in the industry and can find my way around all these shortcomings but other 'normal' customers were lost and confused and had nothing but bad words for the operator. A totally hopeless operation which Stagecoach management have completely failed to address. How not to impress car drivers.

Why can't the PLCs get the basics right? I despair.

Can we, using the wonders of modern technology, help poor disillusioned Keith out of his fully justified misery?

Is it all on-line?

In a word - NO! Here is, according to the sainted Traveline, a list of all (all?) the buses serving Dartmouth.
The 3 is, of course, twaddle. Service 3 runs from Plymouth to Dartmouth and is jolly pleasant ride. In First Bus days (and before it was numbered 3) it used to have jolly branded double deckers ...
... but, under the aegis of Uncle Brian, anything with a wheel at each corner seems to suffice.

Does the Stagecoach map of the Dartmouth area help?

Not at all - because there isn't one. The only on-line offering is the massiveness of the whole (actually the incomplete) Devon network.
No service 90, no Park and Ride 91 and a mysterious X64 which doesn't appear on the Traveline list BUT, consequently, no service 92.

This could be explained by the fact that the 92 ...
... has replaced the X64 from mid April this year. Thanks for keeping the map up-to-date, Stagecoach.

For a while the route was part of Exeter's "Gold" ...
... then it became (or/and reverted to) un-gilded X64.
It ran approximately hourly but still "through" from Exeter.
It has now become a more mundane service 7 between Exeter and Totnes!
And, as we have seen, the link to Dartmouth is an equally mundane route 92.
It does pass the Park and Ride site!

And note, please, that service 3 now gets you as far as Kingsbridge but not, sadly, to Plymouth.
But it does go there, honest, Mondays to Saturdays, even if the Stagecoach web site wants to keep that salient fact a trade secret.

Is it not despair-inducing (see Keith's "envoi" remark above) that a giant public transport PLC is totally unable to provide complete and up-to-date information for its potential and frustrated customers.

AND NO MENTION OF ANY PARK and RIDE

Nor, for that matter, is there any on-line evidence as to which company operates it. fbb assumes Stagecoach, supported by Keith's experience; but there is no definitive documentary support from Stagecoach itself.

Tomorrow we will discover just what is on offer on-line to complement Keith's 2017 times available at the Park and Ride site and again at the Pontoon terminus in the town.

We may also be able to explore the involvement of the mysterious service 90, also a state secret on the Stagecoach map.

Ton-Up for Ribble
fbb has already mentioned the special liveried bus from Transdev to commemorate the 100th anniversary.
The June issue of Buses magazine offers the Stagecoach Cumbria offering on the front cover ...
and a picture of Arriva's pre-privatisation version inside.
The accompanying article is well worth the cover price - so go buy!

 Next Park and Ride blog : Wednesday 15th May 
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Park and Ride : Poor and Puzzling?
Dartmouth has a Royal Naval College ...
... a former railway station that never, ever, saw any trains ...
... lots of visitors with and without boats ...
... and not a lot of parking. What parking there is, is mostly short stay and all very expensive.

So a Park and Ride service for the extended summer season is an absolute must. And there it is, at Townstal, on the main road into the town from Totnes (via Halwell) the A3122.
The site is also accessible from the coast road via Slapton, Stoke Fleming, and not forgetting Blackpool!
Devon's Blackpool lacks the "aura" of its Lancashire namesake - thankfully!

But, as we approach from Halwell, we pass Sainsburys ...
... which, like the Tardis, is bigger on the inside; and a clear sign to the Park and Ride.
There are more signs at the exit from the roundabout ...
... next to the unexplained Townstal lighthouse cum control tower. We also learn that the fee is a fiver for the day and we can see the parking area on our right with natty waiting room (for the "Ride"), toilets and "no entry" signs.
.The entrance (for cars) is a little further on - just follow the signs!
If you can see them. The story is taken up by an on-line report from 2017.

First of all, you need £5 in the correct change. (this MAY have changed since 2017) The £5 covers everyone in your vehicle for the bus ride, but £5 in correct change took us by surprise. We tried to phone the payment through but the voice recognition service (Ringo) was hopeless - other people near us were also trying to use it and drawing a blank.

Dartmouth issues two park and ride tickets per car -the correct ticket must be offered for the bus journey and the other displayed in the vehicle. Some people who were in the car park at the same time as us hadn't realised they need two tickets and had failed to collect both from the machine. No bus ride.

Not having the correct change and with other people around us unable to help, we then drove into Dartmouth found a parking space - there aren't many and they are for one or sometimes two hours only - they are mostly roadside parking spaces on the one way system and getting in and out of spaces with the traffic breathing down your exhaust pipe is not great!
I bought some postcards so I had the correct change, we drove back to the park and ride, got the tickets (plural) displayed the correct one and the bus arrived after about 6 minutes (they seem to come as advertised, every 10 minutes).

However, the bus then had to wait whilst the bus driver kindly went to the ticket machine to help some people who only had the one ticket ... another traveller who had tried to pay for her ticket by credit card over the phone line and was told her credit card had insufficient funds.

Another had tried to use a different ticket machine to us which had a hand written semi legible note stuck on it, "new £1 coins only" (remember this was two years ago) and "out of service." Not sure which message actually applied...bus driver was unable to help unfortunate travellers who had to be left behind because they didn't have the bus part of their tickets.

If anyone from the Town Council in Dartmouth is reading this, I do hope something can be done to assist travellers trying to access Dartmouth. This was a very poor welcome.

To add to the excitement, just before Sainsbury's, Google Streetview shows a couple of buses apparently parked in a field.
The sign reads "Little Cotton" and a map shows that to be the name of a farm along the lane. Streetview has not viewed the area recently because this is, Tada!, First Bus' Dartmouth depot.
Of course, First Bus has gone, replaced by Stagecoach in one of First's many (many many) capitulations; but Google Earth might imply that Uncle Brian's buses now use the same field depot.
Is that a Stagecoach roof seen via Google Earth? fbb is not sure. Perhaps someone can elucidate.

Be that as it may, there is also a very nice turning circle which may become important as we explore Dartmouth's Park and Ride in 2019.
Tomorrow, then, we will begin with an email from blog correspondent Keith.

Has the service improved?

Guess!

And Another Goody from TSY
This really should have been part of yesterdays extended reference to the huge benefits of modern technology but, for reasons to be explained,  the blog's editorial team (Oh, OK, fbb) decided to hold it back.

Service 218 : Monday to Friday : Travel South Yorkshire
Note a Friday only departure from Bakewell at 1953.

Service 218 : Monday to Friday : T M Travel
Aha! a 1933 departure from Bakewell running 20 minutes later (i.e. 1953) on Fridays and Saturdays during the "summer" timetable period - i.e. now.

Service 218 - Monday to Friday : Derbyshire
The dagger note gives the same information as from the operator - thus it is correct.

Sadly, in preparing material for the GoTimetable technical team, fbb foolishly relied on Travel South Yorkshire.; thus missing out the Monday to Thursdays 1933. At least it was a "right side" failure but not spotted by your usually eagle-eyed blogger.

A GoTimetable user pointed out the inconsistency and, by the time you read this blog, the correction will be in place.

Effusive thanks to correspondent Peter for the tip-off!

 Next Park and Ride blog : Tuesday 14th May 
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