Seen around

Saturday 19th November 2022

Welcome to November’s pot pourri of observational miscellany from recent travels around the country.

Keighley leaflet heaven

How lovely to visit Keighley bus station and find a great selection of colourful timetable booklets all designed to encourage travel around the bus network.

The cleaning trolley could usefully find another home though, and the upside down Bronte leaflets are just asking to be put the right way up, but they all look very enticing and just what other bus companies should be doing.

Many of the bus bays in the bus station have a display showing a map of the route as well as departure times all in the brand colours of the route concerned which all makes for an informative and helpful environment to wait and catch a bus.

Wolves makeover

Wolverhampton rail station has been substantially rebuilt and refurbished and is looking very smart …

… with much more room in the entrance area and ticket hall…

… as well as a greatly extended gateline ….

.,. however it’s a shame the £35 million extension of the West Midlands Metro tram continues to be delayed from its original 2020 planned date due to “unforeseen supply chain constraints” as well as “complexities of installing the systems needed to run the trams down Pipers Roe” but will surely open next year – Spring 2023 is the latest date given.

A ride from Ryde

Work is underway to rebuild Ryde’s bus station on the Isle of Wight and the good news is the Southern Vectis travel office will still be part of it.

With, I’m sure, one of the company’s timetable booklet containers which are so popular with passengers – as seen here at the Hovertravel departure point in Southsea.

Meanwhile at the Hovertravel terminal point in Ryde there are screens giving information about both trains from Portsmouth & Southsea rail station and bus departures from Southsea seafront. Very good to see.

Reusing tyres

Another nice touch on the Island I spotted was to see used tyres being put to a good use by holding a temporary bus stop.

Slough bus station fire

It’s very sad to see the sorry state of Slough bus station…

… following the devastating fire at the end of last month.

There’s a continuing investigation into the cause of the fire and arson hasn’t been ruled out. A handful of Reading Buses/Thames Valley Buses vehicles parked overnight in the bus station were also damaged, although thankfully not seriously. It looks like the bus station will be out of action for some time.

Sheffield Connect

While in Sheffield recently I took a ride on the new Sheffield Connect circular shoppers type bus around the city centre introduced in August. It’s operated by South Pennine Community Transport but there weren’t many passengers on board.

These types of route seldom do carry many.

The bus stops were clearly identified, but I doubt it’ll make much difference.

Hull Trains Anniversary

Can it really be 21 years since Hull Trains began?

Mixed messaging

Shame on Arriva for taking revenue through their advertising contractor for promoting a website that encourages car ownership.

And more mixed messaging from Network Rail promoting electric car ownership on the concourse of Kings Cross station – yes, why not drive to Leeds in a brand new electric car rather than take the LNER train?!

But well done to LNER managing director David Horne for pursuing this apparent inconsistency of promoting a competitor to public transport and taking it up with Network Rail, not least as it cut right across a campaign the train company has been promoting this month suggesting motorists give up using their cars for a journey.

Having seen my tweet about this, David got in touch to advise “I raised the issue of the EV promotion on the concourse at King’s Cross with Network Rail (NR) and this is the information they gave me: ‘The event space is let by ‘Space and People’, we have a commercial contract with this agency to let this space. We have the option in certain situations to refuse promotions, in this case it was promoting electric vehicles so we allowed the space to be used as it is promoting a sustainable transport future, with electric battery production planned for the North East, which will create jobs and support the UK’s car economy. In agreeing promotional activity events for the station we try to be as flexible as possible, as Space and People lose revenue when we hold certain station organised events i.e. the music festival, welcome back to rail events, they do not charge. In this case the promotion was targeting existing car owners to convert from fossil fuel to electric vehicle, so it was viewed as not really directly competing with the Rail Industry’.”

Interesting that NR seem to think using electric cars is not competing with rail. David further advised: “I have explained to NR colleagues that EVs present a significant long-term challenge to the passenger rail sector due to their lower marginal costs compared to internal combustion vehicles.” Good for you David.

TfL doesn’t bother with buses

Shame on TfL for leaving up out of date spider maps at the bus stops immediately outside the refurbished and extended (at great expense) Abbey Wood rail station now served by the newly constructed (at great expense) Elizabeth Line.

Still at least they’re all faded to the point you can’t read them…

…. and local graffiti artists have done their best …

…. to obscure the incorrect information …

… so passengers aren’t misled.

It’s not as if TfL didn’t actually update the spider map which is displayed within the boundary of the station, but not bothered to do so just outside at the bus stops – presumably a different contractor does that.

Post Covid

It’s annoying to find sanitiser dispensers all over the rail network and on board buses are now mostly empty when you come to use them. At least this one in Havant station didn’t make any pretence at being usable.

And these notices now need taking down as they just look stupid when windows are shut, as they usually are during the winter.

Cambridge totems

That double sided real time departure totem I highlighted last month alongside Cambridge bus station has taken a turn for the worse since my visit last month.

It’s wasn’t working at all this time, and the bird mess was still there (from 21st September).

These vandals need lynching

When I travelled to the Lynch Wood Business Park in Peterborough recently I spotted an interesting juxtaposition of a vandalised glass panel in an otherwise nice looking wooden shelter …

…. with one of the new e-paper departure board installations from Papercast that I highlighted in the recent blog about the Euro Bus EXPO 2022 Bus Show. It rather downgraded the otherwise helpful and clear display, albeit it wasn’t showing the route 23 I was catching.

Peterborough’s Queensgate

Meanwhile back in Peterborough’s Queensgate bus station the former travel shop once manned by Stagecoach in the good old days has long since closed …

… and as highlighted in a recent blog, the up to date timetable displays are all thanks to an enthusiastic local resident who tries his best to keep passengers informed where the Combined Authority doesn’t. Well done Brendan.

It was annoying to see the escalators taking people from the bus station to the Queensgate shopping centre were out of action on my visit…

… and I always feel the contrast between the decor and ambiance of the actual shopping centre and the bus station is quite stark. But at least the latter is nice and light.

Slough tricky ticket buying

Back in Slough it was a shame the long queue of people waiting to buy a ticket at the ticket office – currently being refurbished – couldn’t have been reduced if GWR had got all four ticket machines in working order; with two out of action and the other two freezing every so often including in the middle of my, and the person at the neighbouring machine, attempted ticket purchases. Mine never did unfreeze and became a third machine not working.

Delay Repay and refund updates

And talking of GWR my grateful thanks to Lee who read my last monthly round up about the struggle I was having getting a refund for tickets I’d purchased but unable to use over the rail strike weekend of 1/2 October. Lee, who now works for GWR, kindly sought to escalate the matter and I now understand Simon is dealing with it. I’m pleased to report I received an email yesterday from Phil (GWR’s Executive Correspondence Manager) confirming £86 has been credited back to my credit card. Unfortunately since paying for the trip in the summer that credit card had expired but a call to the bank which issued it confirmed the money has been received and will be transferred to my bank account, so all’s well that ended well. And thanks again Lee for oiling the wheels.

Meanwhile GTR reviewed my appeal against the refusal to pay for a delayed train to London Bridge on my way to Bexleyheath citing it as a Southeastern problem (it wasn’t, it was GTR) and agreed to pay the refund and a Rail Travel Voucher has now been received and Greater Anglia paid the £4.95 compensation for my missing out on first class when I travelled on 12th October. It arrived into my bank account on 28th October so that was a result and all sorted

Vinyl needed

I’m sure First Leeds have got a new vinyl on order for this bus seen in the city recently.

More next month.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: TThS

38 thoughts on “Seen around

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  1. Good luck finding spider-maps anywhere useful on the TfL network these days. Even major interchange points like Wimbledon and Tooting Stations don’t have them anymore.

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  2. “And these notices now need taking down as they just look stupid when windows are shut, as they usually are during the winter”

    Roger may I remind you that Covid-19 is still very present in the community and is a lethal threat to Extremely Clinically Vunruable Persons such as myself receiving cancer treatment. Transport for West Midlands have asked operators to retain the keep windows open stickers on all vehicles for the Winter & most buses I use in the West Midlands County are still operating with the windows open. If I board a single decker with its windows closed I like many others OPEN all the windows while most drivers still open the windows at terminals. There is no excuse for windows to be closed whilst Covid-19 is still ever present especially when many have no alternative than to use buses to hospitals such as our excellent QEHB for treatment.

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    1. I agree completely with Richard. I’d prefer to be a little colder, with fresher air through opened windows, and hence reduce my chances of catching (or spreading ) a cold or COVID to fellow passengers.

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    2. I agree too, windows should be locked open (if possible) with explanatory notices perhaps emphasising how we all need to do our bit to minimise Covid spread, and suggestion that warmer clothing should be worn.

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    3. I am afraid I am of the opposite view. I am more likely to get ill through travelling in a howling draught when my bus is going 50mph on a main road, so I close the windows when I get on. It wouldn’t be so bad if bus manufacturers could construct buses on which the heating works, or maybe fit draught excluders to windows to let them open without causing a gale, but they don’t.

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      1. I would be very surprised to find any bus around Birmingham reaching 60mph given the level of delays our network suffers through heavy traffic so your problem would not occur the exception would be the X1 to Coventry which uses the A45 & that is usually has a Double Decker Platinum & so social distancing isn’t usually a problem. The guidance on National Express West Midlands website is still to keep all windows open and buses generally leave the terminals as such & for passengers regularly use hand sanitizers & where possible wear a mask which many continue to do. The majority of Single Deck vehicles always have all the windows open in Brum due to threats to the heath of ECVPs and Transport for West Midlands has detailed Covid-19 advice on its website. Personally speaking have you thought of wearing a scarf & suitable cold weather clothing to assist your journeys?

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    4. Also, Covid aside, how often do you see buses on a wet winter day with all the windows closed and misted up, everyone breathing each others winter bugs snd adding to the damp atmosphere with wet clothing. So unhealthy.

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  3. The human element makes or breaks much of what you show.Retail is detail as they say.Hopefully someone in a position of power can attend to some of these shortcomings.It rarely is just one person however,and who likes to take responsibility for doing anything these days? I believe other operators are also returning to paper timetables,so not all is lost on that front,or font.

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  4. My wife went into Peterborough on the bus yesterday morning (on a packed single decker running the hourly service from Whittlesey which used to be half-hourly) and returned quite gleeful that the escalator up to Queensgate has at long last been reinstated. (The “engineers” had been “on their way” for what seemed like months.)

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  5. It would be really interesting to out if any research has been done to quantify the benefits (financial in particular) of good quality, regularly checked passenger information at bus stops. One has the feeling that managers have assumed there is little or none: that is not my opinion, and I don’t think it is Roger French’s, but is there any persuasive data we can point erring officials towards, to get them to improve their ways, and to make MDs realise that dividends to shareholders can go up if they take the trouble to get this issue right?

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  6. ‘Executive Correspondence Manager’. Sounds a fun job. Does that mean he’s the Executive in charge of dealing with correspondence, or that he only deals with correspondence from a better class of passenger…… those travelling First Class, plus Roger of course? 😀

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    1. As part of the transportation planning team at the Birmingham & Sandwell Commonwealth Games Stagecoach delivered thier contract excellently. In no way should the Birmingham Commonwealth Games be blamed for Stagecoachs own regional mismanagement & incompetence. The games were an undoubted sucess and one of the great legacys is the local swimming baths I use daily will be moving to the end of the same road shortly to world class facilities. 60 drivers being sent to Brum is quite simply a matter for DWS, we have no complaints in thier delivery of the contact signed with us and were proud to have Stagecoach as a partner.

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      1. Say what you like Richard, but the evidence is in the final sentence of the press report:

        ‘Damien Jones, a witness for Devon County Council, told the inquiry in October that it had received 217 complaints over the past 12 months, relating to services solely supported by the council. He said he was struck by the volume, tone and sincerity of the complaints and that despite service reductions from July 2022, the situation had not improved.

        He added situation had been exacerbated by vehicles and drivers being reallocated to local and national events including the Commonwealth Games. It was confirmed some 60 drivers had been allocated to the Commonwealth Games for a three-week period’.

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      2. Commonwealth Games so successful that the swimming baths came in at £60m over budget and destroyed a playing field. Now flogging t shirts and tat all over Facebook for stupid money. Should never have happened.

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      3. The Sandwell Aquatic Centre was delivered at a cost of £73m and within the original parameters of costings. The teams using the Londonderry Playing Fields were relocated within Sandwell . The Centre will open next Summer to the public with a 50m & 20m pool replacing facilities in the same road from 1930 along with a new state of the art gym, outdoor training facilities & a community space giving residents of Sandwell unprecedented world class facilities accessible to all which will be a lasting legacy from The Commonwealth Games. I for one cannot wait to move down the road from Thimbermill Baths to the Sandwell Aquatic Centre & it’s unrivalled facilities.

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  7. Appalling that NR can give a car manufacturer advertising space at a rail station.Advertising those weapons in a country which doesn’t allow you to own firearms or dangerous dogs but you don’t even need a license to buy a motor vehicle only in theory to drive/ride it .

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  8. The Sheffield Connect service is an ineffective response by Sheffield Council to a self inflicted problem. One of the main bus arteries through the City Centre was closed to allow antisocial distancing during the pandemic, allegedly. The closure was then made permanent, and another long term road closure has pushed the resulting diversion even further away from the main shopping areas. The Connect service was a sop to address this but the road closures make that objective impossible. At a time when several tendered routes have ceased due to lack of tenders, it is a gross waste of scarce finance and staff resources.

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  9. The drivers were procured by the then Stagecoach PLC to the contract awarded by Delivery Team at Birmingham Commonwealth Games If no cover was provided by the local operating company it is the fault of mismanagement by Stagecoach in its own operations. Stagecoach bid for a contract & were awarded it & delivered it it end of story. In no way were The Birmingham Commonwealth Games in any way directly responsible for the problems encountered at Stagecoach Devon Limited as outlined in the written evidence I gave to the enquiry it is simply mismanagement at Stagecoach Devon Limited. When I lived in Wellswood in Torbay for a decade Stagecoach Devon Limited constantly were short of drivers and regularly cancelled the 32 & 200 & were notoriously unreliable. I very much doubt Devon County Council would ever be able to support a world class international sporting event to the sucess achieved by the West Midlands Combined Authority & Andy Street CBE.

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    1. No one has suggested that CWG or WMCA were directly to blame.

      However, it is clear that Stagecoach entered into a contract that they were subsequently unable to satisfy without massive disruption to passengers in Devon, and indeed, in other areas of the country such as Gloucestershire that also were greatly impacted. Again, this is a direct result of Stagecoach mobilising resources and the issue lies with them and hence the actions of the traffic commissioner.

      Not certain of the reference to Devon Country Council, However, we should be pleased that Birmingham’s successful delivery of a major sporting event is the latest in a succession of similar triumphs that have been delivered by Manchester (2002 CWG), Glasgow (2014 CWG) and, of course, the 2012 London Olympics.

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      1. Yes exactly that. Operators cannot be allowed to abandon their responsibility to one area in order to operate a lucrative contract elsewhere. Public transport is a serious business, that is vital to economic prosperity, not a game.

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  10. Related to the continued turmoil of what was Stagecoach in his next “Scene Around” I and am sure most others who love this excellent Blog would welcome Rogers & everyone’s thoughts on the decision by DWS to scrap the entire heritage fleet. I understand Sir Brian Souter is personally saving a number of vehicles but again this underlines how lucky we are in Brum to have a Transport Museum devoted to preserving the heritage of Midland Red & the WMPTE and its constiuants.

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      1. Peter it would appear so speaking as an accountant it has all the hallmarks as the beginning of asset stripping to me it has all the hallmarks of Granadas takeover of Fortes many years ago strip a company bare and sell of its assets piecemeal for the greatest net realisation value with little regard to a companies heritage.

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  11. From Section 9 of the OfTC investigation into Stagecoach Devon Limited.

    “Some sixty drivers had been allocated to the Commonwealth Games for a three-week period. This was a contract signed at Group level a year ago and it was felt that it needed to be honoured”

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  12. Yes Peter Brown is quite right there should always be the high level of corporate responsibility within any company, lessons should be really learned from this within bus companies in respect of this especially when they have a responsibility to the public.

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  13. Stephenson’s have been cancelling lots of services at short notice. IT seems to be the common problem of an operator losing routes and until the new operator takes them over the services go to pot for several weeks leaving passengers frequently stranded. This is something the Traffic Commissioners should look into as unfortunately it is becoming very common a very common issue

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  14. Stephenson’s say, “You may have seen on the news lately, or read in the newspapers, articles relating to a national shortage of bus and lorry drivers around the UK.This is affecting companies across the whole country, however, thanks to the hard work of our staff, thhe majority of our services are now running as scheduled. In the unlikely event there are any cancellations, they will be listed below”.

    They then list for today 4 cancellations on route 12 (Cambridge-Newmarket), 6 on the 16 (Bury St Ed’s-Newmarket), 6 on the 38/38a (Witham-Braintree-Halstead) and a couple of others. I cannot tell if there were any early morning cancellations on top of that.

    Hmmm …

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    1. We have a large number of employees from an Non UK background working at Diamond Bus in Tividale they are very welcome & all are hard working and professional individuals who contribute greatly to the vibrant multi cultural area I live in .

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  15. FirstGroup PLC have announced today its Southampton garage is to close after service on Saturday 13th February 2023 & all services in the City withdrawn.

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