Travelling by Lynx Bus 1 Week In

Thoughts onthe new bus service between King’s Lynn and Fakenham one week in.

INTRODUCTION

I have now done one work week using the new Lynx Bus 49 for the journeys, the withdrawal of Stagecoach from King’s Lynn now being an accomplished fact (apart from the 505 to Spalding, most of which route is in Lincolnshire). This post covers my week at work as well as detailing my thoughts about the new services.

TUESDAY

Setting off from my flat at 6:45AM I was at the bus station in good time for the bus that I needed to catch at 7:00. The bus arrived and departed in good time, and arrived in Fakenham at 7:49, as indicated by the timetable (unlike the unlamented Stagecoach their schedules include some slack, so that a traffic jam does not always mean running behind schedule). As it was warm enough that my workplace would definitely be bearable, and I had a lot of imaging to do and little time in which to do it I decided to go straight there and get stuck in early. I commenced proceedings by finishing off the badges on boards as images of these were needed for the catalogue, and then got to work on the cigarette cards, and managed to image the first 50 lots of those as well, before closing time, and my departure for the library, to do stuff there until I could catch the bus home (the service is very infrequent at present). I have already shown some images from this day’s work in a previous postThe bus back duly arrived and set off exactly as it should (a double decker for the evening run btw), and there were no significant delays en route. 

THURSDAY

Again no issue with the journey out. Tony’s Deli stall was still being set up when I headed to work, so I got ready to start the day, and then popped back out to make my purchases there, before returning to get stuck into work. I did the loose badges (imaging them in batches of six to save time) for the first of the two days of badge sales, before once again focussing my attention of the cigarette cards, the last lot of the day being lot 166. Another visit to Fakenham library to fill in time at the end of the day, and once again home on a  bus that ran to time.

93393293793858

88
Lot 88, uncut cigarette cards – very unusual (until we got this consignment our expert on such cards, with nearly half a century of experience had not seen any.

88-a88-b

100
Lot 100, famous cathedrals
100-a
Close-ups of the two local examples (even if you cavil at Ely being described as local to a Norfolk auctioneer, the octagonal tower was designed a mid-14th century prior named Alan of Norwich).

100-b111119121

133
Lot 133, famous castles
133-a
A close up shot of two among the castles that I have visited.
134
Lot 134 – famous cathedrals

134-a166

FRIDAY

After another uneventful journey in I imaged some militaria for the first day of that sale, reverted to cigarette cards until I had imaged the last album to have been numbered up (ending at lot 294), at which point I started imaging badges on boards for the second day of that sale. 

831-a831

837
These backpacks (three items, there are two images of this one and one of each of the other two) are quite heavy even when empty, but that metal framework probably gives them gfreat stability.

837-a838839191216226228235

235-a
A close up of the local building.

250272

273-a
Both local and arguably the most iconic of all the buildings in this set.

273274-a

279
Lot 279 – the cigarette card equivalent of a 50-piece jigsaw.

2941700-171718-321733-431744-561757-68

It was warm and sunny when I locked up at work, and also of course a Friday, so I headed for The Limes and some liquid refreshment taken in the outside seating area. I had entertained hopes of finding a locally brewed craft ale, but given the actual options settled for Hobgoblin (still a very decent drink). The bus back was significantly late, but the still left Lynx with a score of 5 out of 6 for punctuality on the week – something that Stagecoach had not approached in a very long time.

THE LYNX BUS 49

The buses themselves are clean and comfortable, the drivers are friendly, such services as there are by and large run punctually. The trouble is that there are so few services on the new route. I might, particularly in winter, see if I can use my tickets on the route via Wells, which ultimately gets to King’s Lynn by way of Hunstanton. The prime disadvantage of this route is its length (doing the journey by that route would take about two hours on the bus. However, Lynx have stepped up to the plate in difficult circumstances, and their service standards are much better than Stagecoach. The cost of tickets is greater than on Stagecoach as well. I believe there remains a possibility of the 48 route, which currently terminates at Pott Row being extended to join the A148 and then on to Fakenham. 

Some Suggestions Re Public Transport

Some thoughts on public transport, prompted in part by Lord Adonis’ resignation statement.

INTRODUCTION

The timing of this post is due to the resignation statement of Lord Adonis, a man who I have very little in common with, but who hits the nail on the head with his resignation statement, which you can read in full, courtesy of The Guardianhere (an excerpt is reproduced below, courtesy of twitter):

adonisresig

EAST COAST FRANCHISE LOWLIGHTS

The first time the East Coast Franchise hit difficulties, it was being run by National Express. The then government took it into public ownership, albeit with the (stupid) rider that it be reprivatised as soon as it was back in the black. On reprivatisation it passed into the hands of Virgin Trains, run by a combination of tax exile Richard Branson and the Stagecoach Group (as a non-driver who lives in Norfolk I know them too well and like them too little for comfort). The East Coast Franchise is now back in trouble, and the current transport secretary, Chris ‘Failing’ Grayling, as well as being a strong contender in the ‘most incompetent minister ever’ contest is such a ‘private good, public bad’ zealot that rather than take the logical option of taking it back into public ownership is bailing it out at vast cost, thereby setting a horrendous precedent which will enable any other rail franchise that hits trouble to demand a bail out. 

RENATIONALISATION AS START POINT

Not only should the East Coast Franchise be renationalised now, with it being made clear that it will not be privatised again, the whole railway network needs to be renationalised. The Labour party have laid out how this can be achieved – namely by refusing to put each franchise up for tender as and when it expires. For further detail check out We Own It’s Railways page. However, this is only a beginning – both because railways are only one part of public transport – there are also buses, and because one needs to consider how the system should be run. As I was typing this, the following came through on twitter from We Own It:

we own it buses tweet

Bus and railway services need renationalising, and they need to be run jointly. As to how they should be run – well there are two groups of people who should be represented in the body that runs public transport services: those who use the services and those who provide the services. If services are to be publicly owned (and these should be), they need to be fully publicly accountable. 

SOME EXTRA RESOURCES

I have three final links to share which relate to this piece:

  • A second piece from the Guardian on the Adonis Resignation
  • Mike Sivier of Vox Political has offered his take here.
  • The Mirror has demonstrated yet another way in which privatisation is failing us, with fares going up by an average of 3.4% (when we already pay on average five times as much as our fellow Europeans for a service that is probably not even on fifth as good as most of them get – I have travelled extensively in Europe over the years and most countries provide far better services than are available here in Britain) – we have on average the oldest carriages since records began (that average is 21 years old, with the Caledonian Sleeper holding an unwanted record with 42 year old carriages).

PHOTOGRAPHS

Here is you reward for reaching the end of this piece:

TW30TW29TW28climbing squirrelrunning squirrelTW27TW26TW25TW23TW22TW21TW20TW19TW18TW17TW16TW15TW14Sun on the Great Ouse11 lapwingslapwings and gullMallard drakes and white duck

 

Public Transport (and more Spring Photos)

More spring photographs following on my last post, likewise some appropriately themed music, some stuff about public transport, some autism related links and some other links.

INTRODUCTION

This is a follow up to my previous post, but after the photographs I will be sharing a number of links as well. Here is some appropriately themed music once again – Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”.

THE PHOTOGRAPHS

Immediatelty I had put up the previous post I set off on another walk. Although I did not manage to capture any more butterflies I did get plenty of splendid pictures.

Corn Exchange
The Corn Exchange

HG

St Nicholas
St Nicholas Chapel
Cats
Cats on a pipe that crosses Bawsey Drain

DrakeMoorhen1sparrowsblackbirdDrake headMoorhen2

sunlight
sunlight on water and exposed mud flats
Waterfall
The upper Purfleet following much needed clean up work.

AN EXAMPLE OF THE DAFTNESS OF BRITISH PUBLIC TRANSPORT

This too has some photographic content. I made passing mention of a daft situation involving public transport in Norfolk in my post “Network Autism”, and now I am following up on it.

bus
A return journey from King’s Lynn to Norwich on this style of bus, going by way of Fakenham, Lenwade, Hellesdon, Taverham and Drayton costs £5.50…
X1
A return journey from King’s Lynn to Norwich on this type of bus, going by way of The Hardwick Industrial Estate, Middleton, Narborough, Swaffham, Dereham and Easton costs £11 – twice as much as in the other style of bus.

Although the routes taken differ, the distance covered and the time taken to cover that distance are similar, and therefore so too is the fuel consumption of the bus. The First Eastern Counties X1 route is available almost the whole day, whereas the Stagecoach X29 route is more restricted timewise, with the first bus leaving King’s Lynn at 6:28AM and the last return bus leaving Norwich at 5:20PM (and the other way around the restriction is greater because the depot is in King’s Lynn. 

This is the sort of nonsensical situation that can arise when public transport is in the hands of greedy profiteers rather than being publicly run and publicly accountable. There is no rational justification for the same journey costing twice as much by one route as by another like this.

LINKS

For today this section divides into two subsections, starting with…

AUTISM RELATED STUFF

I start with a link to a post on Mamautistic, titled “Not an Excuse”. This post is liberally laced with links of its own that I recommend you to follow up. Click on the picture below to read it in full.

My remaining links in this section are to posts on thesilentwaveblog. First up is a post titled “Asperger’s / autism may not be a disability only (but we *do* need to treat it like one)”. Please click on the image below to read this post, which is detailed and well reasoned, in full.

Next comes a post with the title “When an “official” Asperger’s / autism diagnosis is just a formality”. This one is is super-detailed but very well worth the read. Once again, there is an image that I can use as the link.

Finally, to end this subsection, although I reblogged the magnificent ‘put the boot on the other foot’ type post “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Neurotypicality: a handbook on the rest of the world for Asperger’s / autistic people” earlier today it is so good that I feel another plug is in order, so if you have not already read it please click on the image below to rectify the omission.

OTHER LINKS

I start this section with a horrifying story from The Canary about how some girls in Britain in 2017 are missing school because they cannot afford sanitary products. Click the image below to read this piece.

Girls are missing school because they can’t afford sanitary products. In Britain. In 2017.

My last two links go together – not only are both to pieces on Skwawkbox, both are to pieces about Tory election fraud:

  1. The first one is titled “#TORYELECTIONFRAUD JUSTICE REQUIRES FULL RECKONING, NOT #MCKINLAY AS SACRIFICIAL LAMB” – as usual I am using an image as the actual link.
    mckinlay
  2. The second piece deals with a ‘tactic’ that the Tories are using as a supposed form of defence, and is titled “TORY ‘NO INTENT’ #ELECTIONFRAUD CONFIDENCE IS A NON-STARTER. HERE’S WHY”. Click the image below to read the piece.
    newsnight intent.jpg

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on Public Transport

Some jottings on public transport.

INTRODUCTION

This post arises from several issues: changes to the bus services in my region, and the way in which the company in question has handled those changes; a campaign that has recently come to my attention to restore rail links to Wisbech, and finally the fact that I have recently been in Sweden and thus privileged to see at first hand how a properly run public transport system works.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT SHOULD MEAN PUBLICLY OWNED TRANSPORT

The more I see of public transport (and as a 41 year old non-driver I see plenty) the more convinced I become that private companies should play no role in running it. Whether you consider the blatant failures such as the current situation involving Southern Rail, the high and increasing prices of tickets across the board or the frequency with public transport in Britain is affected by delays or suspensions of services, it is plain for all to see that private companies cannot do the job.

I regularly see people in Fakenham, where I work, who have missed a connection due to a late running bus. A missed connection means a loss of at least one hour, possibly more due to the infrequency of services.

A NOTE ON INTEGRATION

Those of you who are familiar with my London Transport themed website will have noticed that I am strong believer in integration of services, which is manifested on that site mainly by my suggestions for improvements to existing lines. Ideally all routes would be interconnected.

TWO CASE STUDIES

My first case study concerns…

STAGECOACH BETWEEN KING’S LYNN AND NORWICH

There have been two major changes on this route recently. Firstly, the service between Fakenham and Norwich has been halved (it is now hourly rather than half hourly), albeit with a couple of gaps in the service between Fakenham and King’s Lynn closed to make that a proper hourly service. The effect of the axing of half of the services between Fakenham and Norwich has been that for the first time standing passengers are a regular feature of that route. A week ago today the X8 designation vanished, the whole route now being referred to as X29. While there is a certain logic to taking this step, especially if it means that all Norwich-Fakenham buses go through to Lynn, the way in which it was handled earns Stagecoach a major black mark. Apart from messages on the screens at King’s Lynn bus station (the way I learned about it), this change was given no advance publicity, with the result that those passengers who do not use King’s Lynn bus station were caught on the hop, and even on Friday evening the sight on X29 to King’s Lynn was still capable of causing confusion with certain passengers.

THE TRAIN BETWEEN KING’S LYNN AND LONDON (WITH A SIDELIGHT ON PROPOSALS INVOLVING WISBECH)

The train service between London and King’s Lynn is hourly, and after a non-stop run to Cambridge it splits into two, with four coaches continuing north to King’s Lynn and four returning to King’s Cross. The necessity to be in the front four coaches if going beyond Cambridge can mean standing all the way to that station or even beyond (I have stood from London to Waterbeach at least once). I am aware that the restriction to four coaches beyond Cambridge is due to the shortness the platforms at some the intermediate stations, but there are least two possible solutions, and variations thereon:

  1. In addition to the through services from London run regular (half hourly, or even quarter hourly) shuttle services between Cambridge and King’s Lynn). This (especially with the more frequent services) would mean that not everyone journeying between Cambridge and King’s Lynn or intermediate stations would need to board through trains at Cambridge – I for one would aim to make the return leg of a trip to Cambridge on one of the shuttles rather than a through service.
  2. For points north of Cambridge have an interleaving of shuttle services as above with faster through services calling at only the stations with long platforms (Ely, Downham Market, King’s Lynn), so that services between London and King’s Lynn would consist of hourly through services, with changes at Cambridge, Ely or Downham Market as appropriate for intermediate stations) which would be augmented by shuttle services on the Cambridge-King’s Lynn section.

You will note that I have not even touched on the possibility of lengthening the platforms at Waterbeach, Littleport and Watlington so that eight carriage trains could call at those stations – I have merely mentioned the possibilities that do not require work on the existing infratsructure.

WISBECH RAIL LINKS

I found out about the campaign to bring the railways back to Wisbech via twitter. They have a website which gives considerable detail about their proposals. I conclude this post by aking use of one of more recent bargain basement acquisitions, this what Wisbech’s rail connections looked like in 1947…

dscn5086

 

 

James and Sons July Auction

An account of yesterday’s auction, complete with photos, a link to a book review and a (well-merited) swipe at Stagecoach.

INTRODUCTION

This is my account of the latest auction held by my employers, James and Sons, which took place yesterday at the Maid’s Head Hotel in Norwich.

THE JOURNEY IN

Stagecoach, who have subsumed Norfolk Green, have very recently and without anything approaching proper communication cut a large number of services. One casualty of this piece of axe wielding is the 6:10 AM from King’s Lynn to Fakenham, which used to become the 6:55 from Fakenham to Norwich, and would see me arrive at the venue around about 8am, as needed. Fortunately, having been alerted to the mayhem while at work on Tuesday I had the foresight to check the timetables posted at King’s Lynn Bus Station and was able to come up with a back-up plan – I bought a single ticket on the X1 to Dereham and Norwich which is run by First Eastern Counties, departing at 5:55am and was in Norwich at the appointed time. This single fare and the single fare back from Fakenham (having travelled from Norwich to Fakenham as a passenger in the company van) amounted to £10 between them (£6 and £4 respectively) instead of £5.50 for a Dayrider Plus, to say nothing of the uncertainty created by the ham-fisted way in which these cuts were made. Surely if significant cuts to services are to be made (and I consider cutting what was the first bus of the morning on a particular route to be significant on its own – and I also know that half of the services that used to run between Fakenham and Norwich have been axed) the announcement should be made long in advance of the cuts happening, and every bus travelling on an affected route should be well stocked with new timetables that accurately reflect the planned reduction in services. Also, especially given the parlous state of public transport services in Norfolk, I consider any cuts to be unacceptable in any case.

THE LAYOUT

With people arriving to view stuff not long after we had got there, there was not a lot of scope laying stuff out artistically, especially given how much of it there was, but a couple of areas were reasonably well done nevertheless…

DSCN8067
Part of the toy display – inside that suitcase marked is lot 363 was a large collection of items of rolling stock.
DSCN8068
A little cluttered, but at least the three smartest hats got due prominence.

THE SALE ITSELF

I am glad to be able to report that there were no IT issues at any stage of the sale. While the coins & tokens, some of the militaria and some of the ephemera sold well, the stamps did not go well, and the vinyls did less well than we would have liked.

Once the auction finished we picked out all the stuff that had sold to bidders not in the room, loaded the van up for the return journey and were able to head back. I was able to catch the 17:38 rather than have the dicey prospect of relying on the 18:35 not having been cut (if they can cut the first bus of the day, why not the last?). However, I was not yet at liberty to relax – there was still the matter of watering a few plants at Hampton Court, Nelson Street. Thus, it was almost exactly 14 hours after I had left my flat that my time was my own again.

MY ROLE AND LOT 450

There are two members of James and Sons staff who can manage the IT during the auction, so we swap duties during the day (auction days are the only time I regularly do front-line customer service). My colleague did an IT session between lots 200 and 300, at which point we had a scheduled break. I then did the first 75 lots after the break, before swapping for 100 lots or so, for a period when a few things I was interested in were coming up, before I then went back to IT duties until the end of the sale.

The first items that I was interested in were five sets of railway postcards, lots 391-5:

391392393394395

These as expected went beyond my possible price range. Next to command attention was lot 403, a book of views of Cambridge:

403

Again, to no great surprise this rapidly went beyond my price range.

The next items of interest were some antique maps, which I was fully aware I would not be able to afford but enjoyed seeing go under the hammer. This set the stage for the last lot to command my interest, and unlike any of the foregoing it was one that I was determined to get if at all possible. Lot 450, “The Bus We Loved: London’s Affair With the Routemaster”, was not an item that I as someone who runs a London transport themed website could happily countenance going elsewhere. There was a mini bidding war as someone else was also interested, but when I went to £10 that secured the item. For more about the book please visit my review of it that is on my website.

450DSCN8071DSCN8072

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

Yesterday was a very demanding day, both physically and mentally. However, everything went fairly smoothly. Given the Stagecoach schemozzle referred to earlier, the travel element of the day was as good as I could have hoped for.

 

 

Compensation for Public Transport Problems

An account of how I gained deserved compensation from Stagecoach for unacceptable delays to their X8 service between King’s Lynn and Fakenham

INTRODUCTION

This post is mainly taklen up with an email exchange between myself and various people at Stagecoach, who since they took over Norfolk Green have run bus services ion my local area. Last week, after five successive journeys that were late, sometimes by very large margins I decided it was time to contact Stagecoach about the X8 route between King’s Lynn and Fakenham, which I use to get to and from work, at a cost of an hour’s wages per working day.

THE EMAIL EXCHANGE

This starts with my opening email, sent on Friday morning, 24 hours after the last of the five delayed journeys in question…

THOMAS’ OPENING GAMBIT

This is the text of my initial email, with the subject being “poor servcice on X8 between King’s Lynn and Fakenham”:

To whom it may concern

I use this service to travel to and from work, and it has been plagued by punctuality problems for some time. This week the situation has finally become so 
unacceptable that I have decided I have to write to you. My working days this week were Tuesday, Wednesday and yesterday, and in chronological order the 
experiences I had were:

Tuesday AM: bus was over 20 minutes late at King’s Lynn (it is supposed to leave at 8:45, and both 8:55 to Spalding and 9:05 to March which were running to time 
came and went before it).

Tuesday PM: bus was over half an hour late.

Wednesday AM: bus was 15 minutes late at King’s Lynn.

Wednesday PM: bus was over 10 minutes late

Thursday AM: bus was just under 10 minutes late at King’s Lynn (The 8:55 to Spalding was already standing in bay C, so this bus used bay B).

Thursday pm: Mirabile dictu this bus was actually on time.

Five buses out of six being not just late but significantly late cannot be considered acceptable by anyone. I also point out that as someone who is very conscientious 
about arriving in good time (especially given that this service runs hourly) I spent considerably more time waiting for this buses than documented above (5+ minutes for 
each journey). As a final point, this bus service is expensive enough that each journey swallows an hours wages. I would like to suggest that what has happened this 
week is sufficiently unacceptable to warrant financial compensation. My suggestion is that given an expenditure on my part of £20.70 compensation of £15 would be 
appropriate. If you agree, you could send a cheque to:

Thomas Sutcliffe
117E High Street
King’s Lynn
Norfolk
PE30 1DD

As a final point, I have various press contacts with whom I could share this story, a well supported blog and an even better supported twitter account. Just how hostile 
to you my final write up of this story is depends on the speed and nature of your response to this communication.

Yours sincerely

Thomas Sutcliffe

THE FIRST RESPONSE

That afternoon I received this initial response:

Message Received: Dec 11 2015, 03:14 PM
From: “Amy Fields” 
To: “Thomas Sutcliffe” 
Cc: 
Subject: Re: Poor service on X8 between King;s Lynn and Fakenham

Good Afternoon Mr Sutcliffe 

I am sorry to hear the circumstances that have brought you to contact us. 
We will be looking further into the matter and I will be passing this over 
to the Assistant Operations Manager her attention who will be in contact 
in due course regarding this matter,

Would you be able to advise me if in the morning it is always the 8.45am 
bus you catch in the morning and would you be able to let me know what 
time you catch the bus home so that we can look at the correct journey.

Please accept my sincerest apologies for the delays you have been 
experiencing.

Kind Regards
Amy
Stagecoach in Norfolk
Hamlin Way
King’s Lynn
Norfolk
PE30 4NG

Tel: 01553 776980
Email: amy.fields@stagecoachbus.com

Registered Office : Stagecoach (East) Ltd, Daw Bank, Stockport, Cheshire, 
SK3 ODU. Registered in England & Wales No. 1673542

http://www.stagecoachbus.com/codeofpractice.aspx
http://www.stagecoachbus.com/conditionsofcarriage.aspx

I duly fired back this response of my own:

Dear Amy

Yes – the 8:45Am is my regular morning bus, and the one that applies to all the journeys mentioned in the initial email. My regular bus home, and again the one that applies to all the journeys mentioned in my first email is the 17:38. I look forward to learning the final results of your investigations. 

Thomas Sutcliffe

RESPONSE AND RESOLUTION

Finally, this afternoon (given that I sent my initial email on a Friday morning I considered Monday afternoon to be not unduly tardy), I received this message…

Message Received: Dec 14 2015, 04:06 PM
From: “Lisa Addison” 

To: thomas@thomassutcliffe.freeserve.co.uk
Cc: 
Subject: X8 Service

Dear Thomas,
I am writing in response to your email dated 11th December 2015 regarding 
service x8
Thank you for bringing this to my attention and I apologise for any 
inconvenience caused
I have investigated your comments regarding the Kings Lynn and Fakenham 
departures due to depart at 08:55 and 1738 hours respectively. On 
investigation and after tracking the services via our Greenroad system, 
which is GPS based, I can confirm that unfortunately the journeys stated 
were indeed operating excessively later than scheduled. One of the reasons 
for this is due to traffic related issues in both arriving into Kings Lynn 
in the mornings but also the service departing from Norwich in the 
afternoon. The second is that the vehicle that operates both the AM and PM 
journeys operates a school service prior to the X8. This more than not 
incurs lateness primarily down to departing the school grounds and then in 
turn operating light to the relevant starting points thereafter i.e Kings 
Lynn and Norwich respectively.
I appreciate that the above is not acceptable therefore and as a matter of 
course I have copied our commercial manager into this response in order 
that this ongoing reliability issue can be addressed. 
As a token of goodwill and part compensation I will post, via a postal 
order, the sum of £15 for inconvenience caused.
May I take this opportunity to apologise for the inconvenience caused and 
you can be assured that further investigations will be forthcoming into 
the reliability of the X8 service.
Yours sincerely
Lisa
Lisa Addison
Assistant Operations Manager
Stagecoach In Norfolk
The Bus Station
Vancouver Centre
Kings Lynn
PE30 1DS
—————————————————————–
Tel :- +44(0)1553776980
Email :- lisa.addison@stagecoachbus.com
Web :- www.stagecoachbus.com

I concluded the exchange by sending this brief acknowledgement…

Dear Lisa

Many thanks for getting in contact with me regarding the problems I have highlighted and for agreeing to compensate me as per my request. 

Thomas Sutcliffe

CONCLUSION

An acceptable resolution has been arrived at. I woulkd point that although I expressed myslef quite forcefully in the opening email there was no bad language on either side, and I cast no aspersions on the ability of anyone at Stagecoach to do their jobs. I do hope you have all enjoyed this post even though it includes no pictures.