Seen around

Thursday 18th January 2023

This month’s miscellany I spotted on recent travels.

Coalville information

I was in Coalville on Tuesday. It has two locations in the town centre where buses congregate – one called Marlborough Square and the other Memorial Square. It can be confusing for visitors but credit to Leicestershire County Council which has installed helpful information in bus shelters at both locations showing where buses depart.

There’s even a network map too. Amazing.

£2 capped fare

It’s interesting to see passenger reaction when advised by bus drivers it’s cheaper to buy two singles at £2 each than their normal return ticket as they board the bus. It brings home just how hard it is to promote a major initiative – which the £2 fare cap is – across a whole nation’s bus network (except for where it doesn’t apply).

Bus companies need to make sure they really are making the most of it, even though the depths of winter is the worst time of year to be enticing passengers to give the bus a try. It might be worth reviewing what other promotional messages are out there and whether they could be causing confusion as spotted on a Stagecoach bus in the Midlands this week.

Spring bulbs

It’s usually only on Heritage railway platforms you find displays of old trolleys and luggage – but why not on the National Rail network too, so well done to West Midlands Trains staff at Nuneaton station who are getting ready for a spring flower display.

Not very reassuring

Bus companies are facing enormous challenges at the moment, and it’s good to be honest with passengers, but I’m not sure how reassuring the attached notice is which I saw earlier this week.

It doesn’t say what the “number of industry-wide challenges” are but good to see “we’re already trying to resolve this as quickly as we can”. Whatever “this” or even “them” might be.

Improved signs at Euston except….

The new bright coloured departure displays recently introduced at Euston station are certainly eye catching and have helped to break up the wall of passengers that used to stand in front of the old board making passenger circulation a challenge at times.

But it’s a shame you can’t see the displays when sitting in the seats along the southern wall of the concourse.

The new display also has less departures on show (6 instead of 14 – with an extra four in smaller text). Euston is renowned for only giving platform numbers close to departure times – something I suspect will only get worse as more platforms are taken out of use in preparation for HS2 construction works.

Peak hour travels

I was at Euston to catch the 09:13 to Manchester – which is the last departure before off peak tickets become valid (not before 09:26). It was interesting to see just how empty this train was wheras the 09:33 is very busy being the first off-peak departure. It just reinforces my thought that so called peak hour travel, especially for long distance inter-city trains needs a complete rethink. This Spring’s initiative in Scotland to do away with peak hour fares will be watched with great interest.

Happy 160th Birthday London Underground

London Underground is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. There’s a special station name at Baker Street and most stations are displaying this notice, which when I first saw it I thought it must be some official notice about a line closure or industrial action as it was to the usual corporate style for such messages. Seemed an odd way to announce a milestone anniversary.

A welcome return of departure posters

Meanwhile over at West Ruislip station I was very pleased to see Chiltern Railways have reinstated posters showing departure times to each station listed in alphabetical order.

Here’s hoping others will follow as well as printed timetables.

HS2 is happening

Before leaving West Ruislip you can get a glimpse over the railway bridge of the scale of work taking place all along the line of HS2.

More progress at Gatwick Airport

I’ve featured the revamp at Gatwick Airport station in recent miscellany updates in particular the departure concourse which is being remodelled and enlarged.

Now it’s good to see the revamped platforms 5 and 6 back in use with new escalators and lifts once they’re ready and commissioned.

It’s still work in progress with more to do but with this platform capacity back to normal it would be good to see the Gatwick Express return to four trains an hour between the airport and Victoria. The current two per hour to/from Brighton as well as Southern branded trains from Eastbourne/Littlehampton/Bognor Regis is not enough to cope with the numbers travelling with huge numbers boarding already well loaded trains.

Tesco’s shameful shelters

I’ve noticed a few supermarkets don’t give much thought to facilities for bus passengers. The shelters at one of the bus stops outside the huge Tesco in Mereside, Blackpool are a good example of ones that need improvement. Smashed panels might be OK for a shopping trolley shelter but it’s not good enough for shelters for human beings. Every little helps, as they say.

Contact us

Despite the amazing advance of technology over the last few decades leading to a revolution in communications it is still incredibly hard to make contact with a bus and train company these days.

Some train companies don’t even publicise a phone number at all while many rely on centralised call centres with all their pitfalls “we’re experiencing high volume of calls….” etc etc.

So have a nostalgic look at this listing from a bygone age when you could telephone your local rail station in Sussex and speak to a human being. How wonderful. No chat bots in those days.

And I love the phone numbers for Billinghurst and my local station, Hassocks.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS

22 thoughts on “Seen around

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  1. Well the £2 fare has not stopped the bus cuts

    Some of the latest being as below

    Arriva 242 (I bet HCC are not pleased they only took on the contract a few weeks ago)

    Arriva 331
    Arriva 390
    Arriva 6
    Arriva 856
    Arriva SB10
    Various serves reductions to the SB routes
    Arriva 401(Sun)
    Arriva 403/5

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    1. Well, perhaps no surprises there, then? I m surprised the (already reduced) 331 has survived as long as it has. It’s a microcosm of the Home Counties problem. Historic routes with no future.

      What I find amazing is how, for instance, First Essex seem to use the local Arriva as a model (formerly the local Stagecoach), but seem to manage to cling on. It’s no magic, but they must be doing something right, so is it desperation? Admittedly, they do cut, but it seems to be “out of sight, out of mind” luckily.

      Arriva seem to have engaged in a regular stop-go cycle over the last couple of decades. Why, is anyone’s guess.

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  2. My suspicion is that in all cases the centre likes a “dash for growth” but the depots just can’t cope. Decentralisation is the new name of the game. Unless, of course there is an LTA coming to the rescue. The chickens are coming home to roost. COVID meanwhile has added a hefty supply of fuel to the fire.

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  3. The interesting thing us what happens in March when the temporary funding runs o]]

    Whether the £2 fare will drive passenger numbers up who knows. No real sign of thar mind you publicity of the scheme has been close to zero well unless you already use buses

    Wrong time of year for the scheme as well would have been far more sensible to run it from May to July. Even more sensible and lower cost would have been to have much lower off peak fares. Most buses off peak run around with no more than half a dozen passengers and most of them would be concessionary pass holders

    The cost of running a bus is pretty fixed if you have one passenger or 70. Any potential loss of revenue from existing passengers is modest and would only need a small increase in passenger numbers/ Making the reduced fares bandied would be sensible say upto 5 miles £2 5 to 10 miles £3 over 10 miles £5

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  4. Interesting article as ever. I have just had an advert for bus driving pop up on You Tube saying it does not have to be a childhood dream (it could become a living nightmare). But the Arriva notice photographed above does suggest that drivers are targeted for the poor service provided. Passengers may be aggrieved, but giving direct feedback to drivers just leads to drivers being less likely to want to face this and stop doing overtime or want to leave. Not the time for a £2 promotion.
    At the weekend I ventured out by bus and at the stop there was a lady telling her friends that the bus company had introduced a scheme where for 3 months it would only cost £2.50; her friends at the stop were unaware but were already planning to travel, so the message is not cutting through. The real test will be to see how many operators maintain a reduced fare once the subsidy goes.

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    1. It would be a giant step for mankind if bus operators actually promoted their services and encouraged people to use them. At present, most operators appear almost completely indifferent to the traveling public and potential customers. Lack of information and uncomfortable buses seem to be the norm.

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  5. Peak/Off-peak boundaries will always be difficult, and probably have to be pushed a little later than you might expect to avoid too many people delaying their journey. Make that 09:13 off-peak and it might be full with people defecting from the 08:53 who are prepared to travel 20 minutes later for a cheaper fare but not 40 minutes later. The 08:53 could then be half empty with calls for it also to be off-peak! The ideal to avoid that is a sliding scale with different fares for each train, but that has its own problems. The Scottish experiment is almost bound to get complaints that there’s no incentive to travel at quiet times of day (other than of course having a more pleasant journey).

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  6. When i was younger i had a County Council bus leaflet with a coalville map on the back same design really. Next thing where i live in Sussex. The Tesco’s bus stop isn’t the best like you pic. When i was younger they had really old information on it for years but years later they keep the information up to date.

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  7. The road to hell…

    Giving them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps Arriva are trying to address the problem that whilst their popular commercial services go to rack and ruin, buscos are being lent on (heavily) by LTAs to rescue their budgets by taking on an excessive number of little used tendered routes? It wouldn’t be unheard of, nor unreasonable to Council treasurers with their own headaches.

    On the other hand, the architects of their own misfortune…

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  8. I’ve been going to local towns by bus every week this month, taking advantage of some time off I have. I’ve been randomly talking to people about the £2 fare, and very few people know about it. The advertising isn’t working, and therefore the scheme will fail. In a time when we should be using buses to ease congestion and fuel usage, this is a nationwide scandal / fiasco.

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      1. There was literally no notice of the £2 scheme, one of its biggest failings. Operators only got final confirmation of reimbursement (to know whether they could afford to take part) on the Monday before Christmas with the scheme coming in the week after Christmas. That simply isn’t enough time (given Christmas being sat in the middle) to arrange any serious external marketing to take place. By the time we had confirmation of a Commercial Team of 3, one had already left for their pre-Christmas holiday and another should have been but came in just to get on board notices out. It is the wrong scheme, at the wrong time, done in the wrong way and implemented without enough notice to make it effective.

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  9. Thanks – I always enjoy your ‘Seen Around’ observations. I particularly like that list of station phone numbers – not much meaning to having a ‘telephone number salary’ in Hassocks in those days …

    Liked by 1 person

  10. West of England bus passengers face more cuts as dozens of services to be axed in April
    About 42 bus services in the region face the axe, although there is confusion over exactly which ones.

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    1. A long list according to this article. Also featured on BBC Points West tonight. The West of England Combined Authority and mayor Dan Norris seems to have a fractious relationship with its member authorities.

      On a related note in February edition of Buses Magazine you can read how Bristol City Council introduces its low emissions zone while First West of England cuts services because it doesn’t have drivers, and thus squander a golden opportunity to grow its business.

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-64332425.amp

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    2. I fear that there’s going to be an absolute disaster for bus operations in April when the extra Government subsidy is withdrawn. We are beginning to see the start of this with cutbacks, but I suspect there will not only be massive service cuts but also numerous service withdrawals.

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  11. London Overground (LO) have been displaying posters showing departure times to LO stations listed in alphabetical order at Kensington (Olympia) for some months now and I saw another at Harrow & Wealdstone on Tuesday. The Olympia posters do not show stations only served by Southern trains.
    Southeastern have issued timetable booklets for their services but do not want to publicise them as they are only on public display at a handful of stations.

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  12. Bus services in Bolton and other surrounding boroughs are being cut after the operator which currently runs these routes missed out on a major contract. A dozen services – almost all of which are currently run by Diamond – will have a reduced timetable from April, five months before Go North West takes over.

    This includes reducing the frequency of services from Bolton to Manchester city cente and withdrawing daytime routes serving Salford, Bury and Leigh. However, some of these services could be saved if subsidies are offered.

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