Saturday 8th October 2022
Hidden London: Shepherd’s Bush
London Transport Museum’s popular programme of Hidden London tours gained a new location this week, offering a look behind the scenes at the Central Line station at Shepherd’s Bush. If you enjoy having a nose behind usually locked doors at a full sized ventilation tunnel …
…. and former lift shafts now used as an emergency stairway for staff …
…. along with the original tunnel where passengers once walked between lifts and platforms …
… then this is the event for you.
But if you’ve been on other well established Hidden London tours where you can see ventilation tunnels and former lift shafts then you might find this all feels a bit familiar.
The tour guides are their usual enthusiastic selves conveying the history of the Central Line as well as Shepherd’s Bush station with the aid of photographs and diagrams from the London Transport Museum’s vast collection. These illustrate how the station has transformed over the years, not least in 2008 when it was closed for eight months for its latest refurbishment as part of the Westfield development.
The tour last’s just over an hour and doesn’t come cheap being priced at £44 for an adult and £39 for students aged 14-17 inclusive and those aged 60 and over. Tours are all fully booked during October but you can be added to a waiting list for further tours in November if ventilation tunnels and former lift shafts are your thing.
Farewell route 126
Today is the last day for residents of Weston-super-Mare and the city of Wells to visit each other on a direct bus route. First Bus are withdrawing its long established hourly bus route between the North Somerset coastal resort and England’s smallest city due to it being unviable to continue.
There’s been something of a furore from people living along the route, not least at the eastern end between Axbridge and Wells where numbers travelling are more numerous.
Local politicians have been all over this, posting their photographs along with support for the campaign to “save the 126”. Tory MP for Wells, James Heappey, said “First Bus claim the route is no longer profitable but I’ll be pushing them hard on their numbers”, adding “the 126 is a vital lifeline to many of the most vulnerable people in communities along the Cheddar Valley. It links communities to doctors surgeries in Wells, Cheddar and Axbridge; the hospital in Weston; schools and colleges along the route; as well as shopping and socialising”.
Meanwhile Wells Liberal Democrats who run Somerset County Council encouraged residents to sign their petition claiming “the 126 is the only available way of getting to school, doctors, dentists, hospitals, shopping, work and leisure. Scrapping the 126 would be seriously damaging for these communities leaving many of their residents completely cut off”.
I took a ride on the 126 on Friday last week and there was evidence along the route of the campaign to stop the axe falling on the route including on litter bins.
I was on the 09:05 from Weston-super-Mare along with three other passengers, so not a very inspiring start, and one of those had soon alighted making only a short local journey where there are plenty of alternatives. One of the other two on board travelled to Banwell which will continue to be served by another First Bus route – the two-hourly 51 – and the other went as far as Cheddar, who won’t have any alternative next week. Neither will the fourth passenger who boarded in Locking and travelled on to Axbridge – two places which will also be disconnected.
Two passengers boarded in Banwell one of whom went to Sandford who’ll be catered for by the 51 and the other to Cheddar who won’t, as neither will two who boarded in Sandford and travelled all the way to Wells but I got the impression they were just on board for a day out in Wells while they still could.
Once we reached Axbridge – which really looks a delightful village …
…. and one I made a note to return to for an explore around ….
…. we began picking up more serious numbers with everyone journeying into Wells – a total of 15 – they were all safe as the publicity campaign to save the 126 including its own petition (!) has stirred Somerset County Council into action which announced “family-run bus and coach company Libra Travel will operate the route between Wells and Axbridge subsidised by Somerset County Council”.
But the sting in the tale is the observation in the press report that “funds coming from the Bus Recovery Grant from the Government have only been extended to March 2023”.
Let’s hope numbers travelling through the upcoming winter help persuade the County Council its initial financial support needs continuing even without Bus Recovery Grant. At least there seems to be a lot of passion for the service locally and some good communications letting everyone know what’s happening.
It was noticeable how many passengers on board last Friday were talking about the new service from next week and looking forward to it.
It really is a lovely route too taking in the Somerset countryside with some interesting narrow stretches of road through the villages…
… as well as in the country…
… where you never know what you’re going to meet.
Wells is also a great city to visit.
Good luck Libra Travel and farewell First Mendips from Weston-super-Mare.
Two Chiltern Hundreds rides
Following one of my recent visits to High Wycombe I headed home via Slough and Amersham (as you do) to try out a couple more of Carousel’s routes under its Chiltern Hundreds branding which as I explained in the 25th August blog have been amended in recent months.
Route 103 gained its third eastern terminus in two months on 4th September when it was diverted at Beaconsfield to head down to Slough instead of up to Chesham; it had only changed to Chesham as recently as 24th July, before which it had continued to Watford. You kind of get the idea the Carousel team are trying to find somewhere about a half an hour’s ride on from Beaconsfield which might generate a few passengers to justify running the hourly extension.
On the strength of my journey experience last month it probably would have made sense not to bother and just turn the bus at Beaconsfield.
My early afternoon journey on a ‘one’ branded bus took nine passengers out of High Wycombe’s bus station, seven of whom travelled locally and the other two went to Beaconsfield. Heading out of High Wycombe we picked up four more; three going to Beaconsfield. In Beaconsfield we picked up three more, two travelling locally. After Beaconsfield on the new section of route we had just two on board as we continued through Farnham Common on to Slough only picking up a few as we entered Slough who all had alternative routes. Much of the route is also covered by First Bus’s hourly route X74 which also links High Wycombe and Slough albeit using a short stretch of the M40 for a quicker end to end journey time.
My next journey was to try out routes 106/107 which were introduced between Slough and Amersham just over a year ago in August 2021 so plenty of time to bed in. It turned out to be the same bus and driver who’d just arrived from route 103, perhaps explaining why the 103 now goes to Slough. A handy bit of interworking.
Routes 106 and 107 each run two-hourly making for a combined end to end hourly frequency.
We took six on board from Slough from where the route treads on the toes of First Bus’s hourly local route 6 to the Wexham area of the town.
Perhaps not surprisingly there were more passengers on the First Bus just in front than ours, which is timetabled to run ten minutes before us. We dropped one passenger off in Wexham and picked another up before continuing to the large Wexham Park Hospital where another boarded.
Route 106 continues northwards via Stoke Poges while route 107 goes via Stoke Green and Fulmer with both routes meeting up again at Gerrards Cross then on through Chalfont St Giles, a loop round Chalfont Common and then via Little Chalfont to Amersham.
After we’d left Stoke Poges we’d dropped off all but three passengers, two of whom actually travelled all the way from Slough to Amersham. We picked up two in Chalfont St Peter one of whom alighted as we took the seven minute ’round the houses’ detour of Chalfont Common and then no-one until we came into Amersham where we picked up three making a local journey.
I should think that lot just about paid for the diesel.
As we travelled between Stoke Poges and the Chalfonts I couldn’t help but think just how large the properties were as we passed by, all without exception were gated with high security arrangements in place. You couldn’t see the houses in many cases as they were so far back from the road.
It didn’t surprise me we couldn’t find much custom.
It’s great that Carousel are keeping faith with these routes as they do provide some useful connections between the well-to-do towns in the Chilterns. Long may that continue.
But I have my doubts.
Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS with occasional Su Specials including tomorrow … Reflections on Serco’s Sleeper
Local MP lives in Axbridge. Has a track record of bus “success”. Managed to get the 174 diverted through Finder. Rarely used by passengers and the school bus picked up kids a minute before the service bus! Both went to Wells
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Did you run into Geoff Marshall at Shepherds Bush?
My feelings about Hidden London: Shepherd’s Bush were similar; its feels like a tour too far and there really isn’t enough history there to justify it, especially since the station building has been redeveloped. Feels to me like if they want to add any more it really has to be one of the big sub-surface stations like Baker Street or Earls Court where they are not retelling the same history as the other tours. Baker Street in particular has so much history that you could virtually fill a tour just in the public areas and skip the usual ventilation shafts and old tunnels.
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The Weston-super-Mare to Wells bus could be saved with good marketing as it should be a good tourist route. As it parallels the lovey Mendip Way in could be a resource for walkers. But publicity is minimal, a scrappy online timetable. A complete own goal by First.
This service looks ideal for the Sunseekers treatment, E200s with open rear sections and marketing aimed at summer tourists. The summer revenue helping the finances for the winter. Where’s the innovation?
The general concern is what happens too, but services come March. They are already cutting services whilst still receiving government money
Whether the £2 fare which apparently now starts in January will attract more passengers who knows
Starting it in January seems somewhat silly Starting it in May would probably be more sensible coupled with a proper publicity campaign
It’s interesting that, even in these days of growing food-banks, etc, there are still plenty of people willing to fork out £44 (£39) to see “ventilation tunnels and former lift shafts”…
Surely, a public sector organisation should not be charging such high prices to enable its public (particularly its poor members) to visit such sites?
…but TfL’s financial straights are well documented here. Anything discretionary that can earn a few extra quid seems reasonable; this is after all not it’s core business so I don’t think anyone can complain about the price.
What I cannot understand is why is is so difficult to find timetables for Carousel buses. I think they are printed but then why not put on buses? Every time I go to High Wycombe Carousel’s office is closed.
A few years ago one could pick up a Bucks CC book at the local library, but now I find Bucks quite confusing. Using the internet where do you start with so many operators?
Weston Super Mare, Cheddar, and Wells are all tourist destinations. Go for the tourist market, but remember the local residents too.
Tie in with the tourist board, local councils (not just the LTA), local chambers of commerce. Target local social media pages.
Wells doesn’t have a railway station. Ideal opportunity to connect with the (First run GWR) trains at Weston and market the connection. None of this is rocket science.
One of the things cut, by Somerset CC in 2011, was all tourism marketing! Visit Somerset is an unfunded association of operators who do what they can to coordinate.
Re the 126. I travelled from Weston-s-M to Wells Tuesday morning last week on the 10.06. By the time the bus reached the Weston suburbs, it was full both decks and standing! Mostly pensioners have a last day-trip to Wells
The 126 has long been the Cinderella service of First’s Wells depot. Despite its seemingly obvious tourist potential, that hasn’t been exploited though, before Covid, it was due to a get a makeover. That it has a passenger base isn’t in doubt – it’s how lucrative it is that is the issue. Patronage is dominated by ENCTS passes. Still, it should just about wash its face.
Unfortunately, First West of England is desperately short of drivers, especially in Bath and Bristol. The new university term in Bath means they are scared witless of not being able to cover those routes. So as well as throwing in a number of supported services and other Bath changes, they have moved the entire Bath to Radstock corridor of routes plus the Bristol to Radstock service to Wells depot. I think that constitutes an additional three vehicles to Wells depot even with a saving of two vehicles from the 126. So faced with a finite number of drivers, the 126 was a cut to a marginal route that soaked up a lot of drivers that can be redeployed in order to, eventually, cover the Bath city and Uni routes.
The sad thing is that the replacement 126 runs only Wells to Axbridge, 6/7 times a day whilst the existing 51 runs Weston to Winscombe 4 times a day, and ne’er the twain shall meet as it crosses the county boundary. Note that whilst Somerset CC has at least provided a replacement, North Somerset unitary has done nothing, content that an hourly bus service with a dozen journeys can disappear without trace as long as four off-peak journeys run on another route.
Thanks for the interesting background information.
About the 126 – I live near Weston-super-Mare in Bridgwater – I was shocked when the Mendip Xplorer 126 was scrapped, although I don’t use the route I was surprised about it.