Seen around

Saturday 10th September 2022

Another pot pourri of observational miscellany from recent travels.

Models

Firstly a shout out to Brian Jackson for his well earned retirement as proprietor of Morris Models, the fabulous model shop he’s run in Lancing, West Sussex since taking over the business in 2004. Brian has decided it’s time to retire and sadly hasn’t been able to find a buyer for the business so another much valued independently owned model shop has closed its doors for the last time. However it was a fabulous last day at the end of last month and a great privilege to attend a little farewell ceremony and wish Brian well in his retirement.

Hubs

Over in Petersfield station I was impressed to see the station’s former ‘parcels office’ has been repurposed as a ‘Hub’ for community use as well as a Tourism Information Centre in the summer. This is an excellent and valued resource for the local community being also used for distributing food, groceries and toiletries (obtained from supermarkets, farms and community gardens) on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays as well as school uniform on a recent Thursday. Also, “knowledgeable and helpful volunteers staff the Hub every Thursday to Sunday between 1000 and 1200 with information available on train and bus services, local walks, cycle rides and attractions so that once visitors arrive in Petersfield, they will have many diverse opportunities to explore the area”. Fantastic. Sadly it was closed on the recent public holiday so I was unable to see inside.

Signs

It was good to see a prominent real time sign showing bus departures immediately outside Winchester railway station on my recent visit, including displaying the South Downs Ramblerbus – with the code SDR instead of a route number. Often you can find special routes like this one are left off such displays.

Floors

I’d heard about the amazing flooring First Potteries installed earlier this year on a refurbished fleet of 25 Streetlite buses for routes 3/4 in Stoke.

The design (inevitably another Best Impressions masterpiece) is based on Minton tiles which were very much associated with the Potteries area.

The buses are now branded ‘Mainline’ for these busy routes which link Crewe and Wereton with Stoke and absolutely splendid they look too – even more so in real life than can be conveyed in photographs.

Coffee

People in the bus world have associated the word Rosso with buses in Rossendale for some years now so I did a double take when passing through Potters Bar recently finding a company using that name is the franchisee for providing refreshments at the Great Northern run station both in the ticket office and up on the London bound platform. Even the logo looked vaguely similar.

Maps

It’s good to see Mike Harris continues to update his repertoire of old London Transport bus maps. The two latest ones to hit the map shelf are now in their second editions for 1940 and 1964. They incorporate new information that has come to light since publication of the first editions nearly 20 years ago. I’m particularly intrigued by the 1964 map as it brings back many childhood memories of how buses used to be in the capital – so much simpler to understand, but on the other hand reminding me of vast areas of London were unserved by buses resulting in long walks to the nearest bus stop.

The maps are now available (£4 each – or £2 for a digital version) from Mike’s online shop as is a complete set of all ten historical maps he’s produced (1934-1976) for a special price of £35 (normally £41). These latest maps can also be purchased from the London Transport Museum.

Ticket offices

My local station is Hassocks which has a fabulous team of staff who are always so friendly and helpful not least Craig and Codrina in the ticket office. But sometimes they have a well deserved day off and bosses are unable to cover their shift so the shutter remains down.

When this occurs you get a taste of what will happen if the threat to close ticket offices is pursued. Extreme passenger frustration as those not familiar with the complexities of Ticket Vending Machines (TVM) get stressed out trying to buy a ticket as they feel the pressure from anxious people in the queue behind them, worried they’ll miss their train.

The last time this happened the staff member on the gateline kindly repositioned himself to help those who were floundering not having been trained in the science of ticket buying and not in receipt of their TVM competency certificate.

We only have one serviceable TVM at Hassocks – there is another one by the southbound platform but someone thought it a good idea to position it facing due east so the morning sun renders the screen unreadable.

Let’s hope the new Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan bins the Shapps plan for closing ticket offices, but I’m not hopeful.

Bus stop panels

I often chastise TfL for not marketing their bus services preferring instead to keep the extent of its network a complete secret.

Following my recent feature of a promotional poster for route 17 in a case on the back of a shelter at London Bridge bus station….

… noting its positioning meant it couldn’t be read without the risk of being mown down by a bus on route 521, although at least an electric bus …..

…. comes news from a recent visit to Waltham Cross…

…. of finding a similar mini poster in a timetable case on the bus stop for bus routes heading down the A10 promoting the tourist delights of “Classic London” available from a ride on route 139 between Waterloo and Abbey Road 15 miles away.

Meanwhile down in Cornwall two very out of date timetables have been left in a case attached to the main bus stop in the centre of Bodmin….

…. while the timetable and fares expert Barry Doe told me he’d spotted this 11 year old timetable showing well out of date National Express express coach departures in Parkstone.

Up in Runcorn I found this confusing departure display can be found in timetable cases…..

It demonstrates the problems of displaying information churned out by a computer progamme without any sensible review of what it’s actually showing. Route 62 is operated by Warrington’s Own Buses on Mondays to Fridays and Arriva on Saturdays. The former states there’s “No Saturday, Sunday or Public Holiday Service” whereas the latter displayed above it contradicts this by displaying hourly Saturday derpartures.

Meanwhile route 62A has two departures at 07:45 – one on schooldays and one on school holidays, the only difference being the former terminates at Murdishaw Centre. Why doesn’t it just state that in a simple statement? Because the software doesn’t allow such niceties, of course.

Obscured windows

D&G Bus run some very colourful branded bus routes in the Potteries including “Yellow 9”

…. which includes a high profile vinyl over one of the rear windows….

…. but at least you can see through, I suppose…..

….. which is more than you can do on Stagecoach’s buses using Cheshire East and Chester Council’s specified livery for that city’s Park & Ride bus route.

The city has some wonderful architecture to admire as you travel in, if you can see it.

PlusBus

While in Chester I took a ride on Aintree’s shuttle bus between the railway station, bus station and city centre which must be the biggest ticket anomaly in the country in that PlusBus isn’t valid on it. Crazy.

Contradictory notices

I’m noticing notices all over the place – stations, bus stations, buses and trains – still showing contradictory and out of date notices regarding Covid, particularly regarding face coverings. These out of date messages undermine any other notices displayed and just add to the ‘visual noise’ that’s blasted at passengers.

Seat back trays

Following an outcry from passengers when Thameslink’s Class 700 trains were first introduced in 2015, the DfT approved the retro-fitting of seat back trays – a process which began in 2016. Six years later you’d think the programme could have been completed.

But it isn’t.

Oyster readers still missing

Also still waiting is the need for Oyster readers to be fitted as passengers transfer between Thameslink and the Elizabeth Line at Farringdon. The need was overlooked during the construction of Crossrail including the four year delay to its opening and requires passengers needing to touch in or out having to exit the station and re-enter through the gateline again. Over three months after its opening the situation continues.

More “Seen Around” in a few weeks.

Roger French

Please note it’s not just Avanti and TransPennine Express introducing revised timetables. A revised blogging timetable applies from this weekend with the Sunday service withdrawn for the winter season. New timetable: 06:00 TThS

28 thoughts on “Seen around

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  1. It amazes me with things blocking windows how one operator I observed recently can place adverts for their Explorer Tickets on windows . They block out the view as they are not contra vision , yet advert some of the sights on offer .

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  2. There appears to be in most cases no real ownership of bus stops and bus shelters. Reading a few BSIPs it seems to be a real mess

    One vaguely stated the timetable panel’s(if they exist) are the Councils responsibility but the timetables the bus companies
    That in my view is not workable

    The sensible approach would be for the LTA’s to maintain the bus stops and timetables

    The LTA is notified of any service being withdrawn and or timetable changes so is in a position to ensure the roadside data is kept up to date as well as ensuring bus stops show the routes served by that stop (Most do not currently)

    Ideally timetable changes should be limited to say no more than 4 a year and all the bus companies should change at the same time. That makes updated the stops easier and keeps cost down

    The cost of updating roadside stops should be charged back to the bus companies

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    1. This does seem to be an issue where no-one is willing to take responsibility, or does not have the resources to do so. Two options occur to me:
      1. Voluntary community groups could take on the role ;
      2. Could this be a ‘Community Service’ for those sentenced in the Courts?

      Both of these do require for someone to know where the bus stops are and what timetables are appropriate for each stop. Maybe that’s the problem – maybe neither Councils nor bus management know where all the stops are.

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  3. Chester’s bus link between the railway station and city centre used to be free of charge to anyone holding a rail ticket, and very often the driver did not check but simply waived you on. Now, not even being free to those holding a Plusbus ticket is crazy. What is Plusbus for?

    I too, love your footnote, and it is indeed well deserved. Are you exercising your right not to work overtime?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How about this to inspire the grey suits at TOC HQs when dealing with staffing of ticket offices? If the ticket office is closed (or there isn’t one) passengers obtain a simple dated Permit to Travel voucher from a simple £1 slot machine which entitles them to the cheapest published fare for their return journey with all time restrictions removed. Issued by a Ticket Inspector.

    Management would have to tell their staff which offices were closed. Maybe an illuminated sign on the platform showing “TOC”!

    There’s nothing like a financial loss to sharpen the minds of management.

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    1. Most stations already have such machines

      The reality now is station ticket offices are little used

      I think they are looking at making rail tickets available in Post Offices and some shops. The main problem I suspect is the crazy complexity of the current rail ticket system

      Great British Railways are looking at that but given the speed at which governments move that could be years away

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      1. I keep hearing (from politicians and those who want to close them) that ticket offices are little used, and yet they always seem to have people wanting to use them whenever I wander past one.

        The “crazy complexity” of the current rail system is what happens when you have an airline-based pricing system but are open about all levels of it, rather than hiding 90% of it the way airlines do. If you want to go back to mileage-based pricing with only one single and one return (which, in fact, is something which never actually existed on Britain’s railways), then be prepared for massive fares increases which will make Virgin/Avanti’s high fares look cheap.
        Be careful what you wish for.

        Oh, and whatever you read in Rail or wherever, don’t expect GBR to be any help. It’s becoming evident within the industry that GBR will be nothing but another layer of bureaucracy between the government (in the form of the DfT) and the actual operators. Someone will have to pay for that layer of bureaucracy, and it won’t be the taxpayer.

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  5. The Warrington 62 is my local bus route, or at least it would be if the journeys I used most hadn’t been withdrawn in 2021. The timetable confusion is now set to be solved though – WOB have de-registered the entire weekday service. Brilliant!
    BTW my son had to stand London to Manchester on a Voyager the other day.
    Keep up the good work; it’ll never end though.

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  6. Re TFL with it’s explore classic London posters, why do i have an image of Del Trotter with his Trotters Ethnic Tours scheme, from A Slow Bus to Chingford episode of Only Fools & Horses. 😂

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  7. I think responsibility for bus stop information should fall to the new Enhanced Partnerships forcing the LTAs and Operators to get a grip and start being competent. Still can’t understand why those responsible for bus services (Operators and LTAs) do not think that people need to know when and where buses go, and then use lack of use to withdraw services. Perhaps we need a powerful regulator who has to grant permission for a service withdrawal. The first question on receipt of an application being “what have you done to advertise your service?”

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    1. There is at least in my view a need for a regulator/ombudsman as at present bus companies can and do get away with anything

      Buses should not not normally be cut due to staff shortages, Thats under the controll of bus companies. If they do not have the staff they change the timetables to the resourse they have available

      Bus should not be axed due to breakdowns or operational reason. THey are under the control of the bus company

      Bus companies shoul not ue roadwork as a generic excuse for late running. If roadworks are long term they should change the timetables to allow for it

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      1. So, to summarise, we should have less buses, particularly on less well used routes, and pay higher fares. The Avanti solution. That was popular wasn’t if?

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    2. Rather than a convoluted DfT tender process, it would be a lot simpler if BSIP money was only awarded to local transport authorities that proved that they maintained stops and shelters, updated maps and timetables both at stops and off-system and properly market bus services to residents and visitors alike. Authorities that don’t do these basics don’t deserve BSIP funding.

      Marketing is dire or non-existent at most companies and councils, so how are motorists ever going to be tempted to try the bus?

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      1. Do we forget that there is a far cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to use the bus more? Travel less. No inconvenience (or roadside publicity) necessary.

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      1. It won’t surprise you that I disagree. LTAs are very interested in bus services. Their only, not unusual, problem is with finding someone else willing (and able) to pay for it.

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      2. I’d use the Essex BSIP as an excellent example. I wanna… Like an infants’ wish list it has everything. Drafted skillfully, it offers no commitment whatsoever. All we need is the sugar daddy to pay for it all…

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  8. A thought about signs on windows, apart from being annoying, is there not something in the depths of C& U regulations about distraction both internaly and externaly to other road users and the public and safety?
    As it ably demonstrated there is plenty of panel space. It used to be covered in adverts which were painted on (sic)- and in the days of fares control, one was expected to prove how much revenue was gained when appyling for a fares increase. Remember the ” Shop ar Binns” bus company?

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  9. Farringdon also lacks Key Card readers within the gated area. This is also true at London Bridge where I can use my Oyster Card on Southeastern services from Greenwich but then have to leave the gated area to tap out with my Oyster and then immediately tap in with my Key Card to continue my journey to Brighton. And it’s more annoying at London Bridge since some trains from Greenwich arrive at Platform 5 whilst trains to Brighton leave from the adjacent Platform 4.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. May I also pass on a vote of thanks to my then Marketing Manager, Martin McGowan of First Midlands, who worked closely with Best Impressions to achieve the flooring project. A true partnership.

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  11. Chester

    The formula for sharing out plus bus revenue is usually pretty simple and participation by operators is voluntary. This can lead to situations where somebody wants more than they will get, so won’t play b

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  12. The Sun shining on screens happens with cash points too and it’s hard to do much about it as at the latitudes of most of the temperate zones it has a wide range across the sky throughout the year.On the Equator,say Singapore, it’d be easy but in England much more challenging.

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  13. Glad to see someone else hasn’t forgotten the Class 700 seatback table retrofit promise. WiFi on the low-numbered units, too, is also overdue.

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  14. The exception, as this blog illustrates so well, is leisure travel where the bus journey is an integral part of the experience. But for commuting and daily chores, with very rare exceptions, bus travel is no pleasure. Put more bluntly, it’s a right pain. It has neither of the advantages of the train, in speed and (even sometimes) convenience. Bus travel may be perceived as a virtue, but rarely outside of the Mets as a convenience. And sadly, that is not an appealing prospect.

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  15. I’m reading an article on Delaine Buses in October’s Buses Magazine. Regarding bus stops ….”Delaine has immaculately presented Buses, but it takes its presentation further than this. It does its own marketing, and takes care of roadside publicity itself. Agreements were made decades ago with Lincolnshire County Council, Peterborough City Council and Rutland, where Delaine installed its own branded bus stop flags and blue timetable cases at stops., except where a stop is shared with Stagecoach in Peterborough. Delaine takes responsibility for keeping them up to date, and sends a cleaner out every spring to clean the cases”.

    My local independent Faresaver also has branded bus stop flags and maintains up to date timetable and key fare information at its stops.

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