Being Enthusiastic…

“OnThisBus” usually looks at the current bus scene. How it might affect passengers, what the future might hold, how the industry progresses.

Today was all about wallowing in nostalgia. A bit of good old history and an appreciation of bus services as they used to be. Nowt wrong with that.

It was great to read the thoughts of Ray Stenning in the recent issue of trade magazine Passenger Transport regarding being a bus enthusiast. Ray has produced some of the most imaginative liveries and branding on public transport in recent years. He’s bus industry through and through. He also owns, designs and edits Classic Bus magazine – a veritable wallow-fest into the world of the bus long-departed, if ever there was one. Industry pioneer and “anorak” if ever there was one. And there are many others. There’s no longer a need to hide under a bushel if you actually “like” buses themselves. Ray has come out of the closet and declared himself a “bus enthusiast”!

I was – an am – a bus enthusiast first and foremost. I write about current industry issues because I’m passionate about public transport and what it does for society. I want to understand the nuts and bolts of how it ticks every minute of every day. But I also appreciate and love dearly the history of it all. How it used to be. And what lessons we can all learn from yester-year to bring to the melting pot today. Because there’s ALWAYS something to learn.

So, full of cold (!), I gladly accepted an offer to go to Wythall’s Bus Museum with my good friends David and Emma, fellow appreciators of the 6-wheeled art for a bit of Bank Holiday fun.

Wythall is one of those places that is near enough to keep “ignoring”. You know it’s there. You can go anytime. We all have these places. But I went. And I’m so glad I did.

There’s plenty of old Midlands buses to see here, but today also included loads of real “running” tours and services – a chance to really get out on the road and take yourself back to another era.

And this I did. Today’s event included a “road run” of 6 historic vehicles up to Five Ways in Birmingham, along the route of service 1 – which celebrates it’s 100th year this year. I opted to ride a Daimler Fleetline of 1968 vintage -the youngest of the six on the run, but still a very sprightly 48-year old! All six lined up on Calthorpe Road near the City – much to the delight of passers-by, who were whipping camera phones out en masse to record this impromptu blast from the past. Later, I rode around the glorious countryside and through the delightful Henley-in-Arden on board a classic Midland Red D9 double decker, 51 years-young!

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Line up of classic Birmingham buses, celebrating 100 years of Birmingham’s route 1.

Is all of this just boys playing with their toys?

Of course it is! There were plenty of smiles and genuine happiness at this recreation of bus operation from the days of yore. A delightful way to spend a Bank Holiday.

But if you’re that way inclined, it’s also a chance to learn about our great heritage and compare it with what we have today. Perusing the sales stalls, I bought a local West Midlands bus map from 1978 and a complete Dudley District bus timetable booklet from three years earlier for a couple of quid. They are absolutely fascinating to compare and contrast with today’s operations. Of course you can’t compare like-for-like. Factories have closed, new shopping malls have opened. Work patterns have changed. More people have cars. And yet you can see how bus transport has progressed and morphed from what it was then, to today’s network. I also bought a few glorious black and white pictures, including one of an experimental Midland Red D10 double decker – only 2 ever existed – with this one having doors at both the front and the rear! Fast-forward on 50-odd years and London’s innovative “New Routemaster” possesses this very feature! But it didn’t catch on then.

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Bus services in the West Midlands – 1978-style!

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1975 Dudley area timetable book

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The innovative Midland Red D10  in the 1960s with doors at front and rear! (copyright unclear – please contact me if it’s yours)

A really fascinating, enjoyable day, and an appreciation both for the past in general, and the work of dedicated people who have preserved this scene for us to enjoy and learn from today.

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Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane? Or a Bus? Or a Coach?

Trent Barton’s Red Arrow has always been the posh way to travel between Derby and Nottingham. Straight up the A52, it’s no-nonsense stuff, taking little over half an hour end to end. And the stonking great vehicles on the route are both eye-catching and luxurious. Historically, the coach link has been there for nearly 60 years.

Indeed, you might fancy a 14-day trek across Europe in one of these Volvo/Plaxton monsters, rather than a quick trip across the East Midlands.

But for happy shoppers of the concessionary pass variety, the free ride appears to be coming to an end…

More on that in a bit. First, I thought it pertinent to have a tootle on one, seeing as it’s been a while. The last time I had the pleasure, the vehicles were unusual, but nonetheless luxurious Scania / Irizar beasts. These were from batches bought in 2004 and 2010, so they were due a refresh. The service itself boasts a 10-minute frequency, and the bit that carried on to Chesterfield has been chopped off and made into a separate service. In recent years the independent operator YourBus took on the mighty Red Arrow  with “normal” buses, but has since retreated, and sprung up on the longer Derby-Nottingham link.

So what’s all the fuss about?

I rocked up in Derby bus station just as a healthy crowd was piling onto a Red Arrow. The waiting area has posh red comfy seats to get you in the mood. But I wanted a bit of information about tickets first.

Derby bus station boasts a travel shop AND a TrentBarton “shop” (although it is merely a counter you can talk to a human behind). TrentBarton heavily plug their “Mango” smartcard, but I reckon this is for more regular travellers, not perhaps one-offs like me. So I ask the friendly assistant if there is a day ticket that will get me on the Red Arrow to Nottingham and perhaps any others I might fancy.

“Zigzag!” she replies, enthusiastically. £6 all day across “trentbartonland”, as it’s called. (After 0900 weekdays – although what’s on offer before then isn’t clear).

“I’ll have one” I respond, equally enthused, but although this is the “TrentBarton Shop”, she can’t sell me one. Strange, as the person in front of me in the queue has just bought something involving numerous ten-pound notes. I’m pointed in the direction of the man on the departure stand and called a “duck” or something.

The man on the stand is equally enthusiastic when I approach him with a wallet.

“Can I buy a zigzag off you please?” I enquire. “Yes Sir!” he beams. No ducks, but he relieves me quickly and efficiently of £6 and hands me a small paper ticket. This is great. Real personal human-being-based service, the like of which the bus industry (and most others where they can) have got rid of. I think I’ve only really seen this sort of thing in Oxford, where competition is rife for the market to London.

Red Arrow pocket timetable

Red Arrow pocket timetable

I hop on the big red beast. It’s mid-morning, yet I struggle to find a seat and end up almost at the back. The vast majority are seemingly concessionary pass holders.

The trip is no fuss. The coach is super-luxurious, with USB ports to charge your gadgets and free wifi (which actually works – such is my disdain for such technological advances that often don’t). The legroom isn’t great (for a large 6’7″ beast like me) and the tables that used to adorn the older coaches have gone. These seat 57 (or 55 with wheelchair) and it’s almost full. There’s an announcement to put seatbelts on (which most haven’t, and then don’t) but other than that, not a lot happens, apart from a scrolling information screen pushing the delights of Mango.

In Nottingham, the service sets down in Upper Parliament Street (convenient for the tram and City Centre). Our driver grins at an outgoing Red Arrow, who returns the compliment. Then it’s a few moments to Victoria bus station, the smaller of Nottingham’s two bus stations, and tucked behind a large shopping centre. Here I grab some pictures as our mighty steed loads up and heads back to Derby, and within moments, another one has arrived on stand. I climb aboard for a swift return.

Red Arrow Nottingham Victoria bus station

There’s only a handful of takers on this one, and I grab the seat next to the emergency exit which boasts extra legroom. Unfortunately, every time we stop, something on the door clicks rather loudly, as if I’m in a taxi and the driver doesn’t want me doing a runner. It’s perfectly acceptable for a 35 minute journey, but a fortnight on this to Switzerland might have seen me going ever-so-slightly clickity mad.

There’s nothing remotely interesting to report on this trip either. It’s all done with maximum efficiency and excellent driving.

Back in Derby bus station, I acquire a cheese sandwich with horrendous amounts of my daily allowance in almost everything on it, and decide to try the alternatives between these two East Midlands Cities.

First up, the i4. These run every 15 minutes end-to-end and take just over an hour. There are buses every 7/8 on the Sandiacre-Nottingham section.

TrentBarton i4

These are “proper” buses, although extremely attractive Optare single deckers. Apparently, “i” can do all sorts of things on here, as the fine Trent Barton publicity machine informs me, but “i” choose to scoff my sandwich and worry about not eating for the rest of the week, given it’s fat content. “Only happy people” drive the i4, according to the timetable. Our particular driver, resplendent in his black woolly hat, doesn’t exactly look full of happiness, but then again, neither does he look miserable. Should I crack a joke and see if he laughs, for a “happiness” test? Perhaps not. Besides, I haven’t heard a decent joke for ages. And the ones I do know may not be acceptable to the Mum with small child / buggy in close earshot.

"only happy people drive our buses"!

“only happy people drive our buses”!

TrentBarton buses carry large digital clocks at the front. Perhaps our driver is aware of this as he waits time at the White Lion pub in Sandiacre. Then we push on, via the “QMC” (“Queens Medical Centre” in English) into Nottingham, terminating at the City’s other – and bigger – bus station, in Broadmarsh.

Here, I invade the travelshop and avail myself of a pile of timetables, much to the amazement of a woman on a small car-sized mobility scooter, who appears to have dropped by simply for a chat. I scuttle out with my haul and jump on another service that will take me back to Derby – “Indigo”.

TrentBarton Indigo service

TrentBarton Indigo service

TrentBarton indigo timetable booklet

TrentBarton Indigo timetable booklet

Indigo is another well-presented TrentBarton offering. Comfy leather seats and wood laminate-effect floor, although there’s no sign of the “superfast wifi & USB chargers on board” the timetable promises. This one takes slightly longer end to end, taking around an hour and twenty minutes, weaving it’s way via Chilwell, Long Eaton and Borrowash, where a particularly irate meat-head in a black car tries totake on our bus, come face to face with a central reservation and somehow decide that it’s not his fault. At our next stop, he pulls up alongside our driver, sounding his horn. Our driver ignores him beautifully and issues a ticket to a boarding passenger. Meat-head man resembles a 5 year old who’s just dropped his ice cream and roars off into the distance, as if to demonstrate he’s the only driver in the World who knows what his right hand pedal does. Silly boy.

Indigo also faces another challenge – not only from meat-head car drivers, but from YourBus. The independent runs it’s Y5 service in competition along this corridor, on a 20 minute frequency, although all of their journeys run end to end (Indigo also runs on a 20 minute frequency, with extra journeys Nottingham – Briar Gate. From the Derby end, they are timed 5 minutes in front of TrentBarton departures, but TB is ahead of YourBus from the Nottingham side. Yourbus doesn’t use Broadmarsh bus station in Nottingham, starting from Friar Lane instead).

YourBus Y5 timetable leaflet

YourBus Y5 timetable leaflet

YourBus has “Genie” tickets, in response to TB’s “Mango”, and a £5 Daysaver, also available after 0900. I spot YourBus’s smart purple Mercedes interwoven between the Indigo’s. The whole corridor looks well used.

These alternative routes between Derby and Nottingham are potentially about to become even more patronised. From 1st April 2016, Nottingham City Council is withdrawing concessionary pass reimbursement for Red Arrow services from their end of the route. Those boarding in Derby will still travel free. A leaflet I picked up in Broadmarsh bus station explains that Nottingham City Council is having to make savings of £20.5m this year. They appear to be invoking a section of the regulations that refers to services “where the fare charged by the operator has a special amenity element”.

This is curious stuff, and it got me thinking.

Many moons ago, the more wily concessionary pass holders were finding out the nuts and bolts of “free travel”. some of them ended up on National Express coaches (as they were partly registered as local bus services in some areas) and other anomalies such as tour buses, etc. These loopholes were largely closed, but this development is a new one on me.

There’s no doubt the Red Arrow is distinct from a bus service. Or is it? It has a whopping 10 minute daytime frequency and the journey takes around 35 minutes. So from that perspective, it acts like a “normal” bus, in many respects. It doesn’t stop in many places, so maybe that’s the “special” thing about it. You don’t “pre-book” seats on it (although I did buy my Zigzag before boarding – I think the driver can also sell them.

So by shunting the pass holders onto the conventional services, Nottingham City Council looks set to save money. Fair enough, in many respects, I guess. The other services take longer, but thy are very decent alternatives. The Red Arrow is very much a “jewel in the crown” service, in terms of time taken and comfort. I’m sure the really good commercial team at TrentBarton will come up with something that will attract at least some of the pass holders back if they are prepared to pay. But there are significant numbers of them. Around a third of the Red Arrow customer base are concessionary pass holders, making around 350,000 passenger journeys per year. My outbound journey from Derby was packed with them.

There are other questions in my head. What if YourBus were still competing head-on with Red Arrow using conventional buses? Would they be subject to the “special amenity element”? What does that actually mean? The fast, non-stop element of the service? Or the luxury provided? Or both? What about other “posh” services? Is Transdev’s uber-cool 36 between Leeds and Ripon a “bus” service? It’s vehicles are “buses”, but they are easily comparable to Red Arrow’s interior for comfort.

It’s no good wondering. So I email the good people at Nottingham City Council for the lowdown.

To their credit, they reply very swiftly with a detailed response. It’s all about budgetary pressure. Nottingham has seen it’s grant reduced by half over the last three years. The Council’s “Locallink” services are seen as vital to preserve.

The decision to withdraw Red Arrow from concessionary scheme reimbursement is taken from the “Travel Concessions (Eligible Services Amendment) Order 2009” which states that certain services may be excluded from the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme, namely:

. Services where more than half of the accommodation on the vehicle can be reserved in advance;
. Services intended to operate for less than six consecutive weeks;
. Services operated primarily for the purposes of tourism or because of the historical interest of the vehicle;
. Bus substitution (rail replacement) services;
. Services where the fare for the service includes a special amenity element.

Red Arrow is seen to fall into the last category of the above, based on the fact that it has the following:

. Limited-stop express journey times comparable with rail.
. Large storage facility for luggage and buggies.
. Spacious seats with tray tables.
. Dedicated bike racks.

Other authorities have used the legislation before, but mainly for Park & Ride schemes.

TrentBarton has withdrawn Red Arrow from Nottingham’s multi-modal “Kangaroo” scheme, although the only really feasible use would have been from the City to QMC (Queens Medical Centre), of which there are plentiful alternatives. But we now have the somewhat strange scenario whereby Red Arrow is free for concessionary pass holders from the Derby end (as Derby City Council aren’t following suit) but chargeable from the Nottingham end.

Does all of this really matter?

My hunch is that TrentBarton will come up with a deal that will be attractive enough for concessionary pass holders to pay for the convenience of the fast service. The free alternatives are good, but take considerably longer. But the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. A stated above, around a third of Red Arrow users are of the concessionary pass variety.

It does, however, throw up the intriguing question of whether a competitor using “bog-standard” vehicles would also be exempted from concessionary pass reimbursement under the same criteria if it went on the same route. If not, TrentBarton would be being penalised for raising the standard of it’s service against a “basic” alternative.

All of this merely underlines the ongoing issues for the industry regarding concessionary pass reimbursement. A great idea, with undeniable social benefits for users, but an omnipresent issue for councils and operators when it comes to paying for use behind the scenes. The concessionary bus pass remains the political hot potato that no politician seems likely to touch – at least in the short term.

Nottingham City Council flyer

Nottingham City Council flyer

 

 

Technology Needs The Human Touch Sometimes

A night on the real ale necessitates public transport to get you home.

So after a night discussing the delights of Indian Pale Ale and Polish steam train driving, I found myself at Stourbridge Interchange for the 22:50 Arriva Midlands 257 service back home. I was there 10 minutes before, and watched the digital display faithfully showing “22:50” as the departure time.

I ought to point out that, although Arriva has the technology to track their buses (they have a mobile phone app and website that does just this), it appears, for some reason, that they don’t share this information with Centro for use at their bus stations, unlike National Express West Midlands, who’s services you can watch counting down as they approach.

Tired, and slightly merry, I inevitably despaired when 22:50 came and went, the journey disappeared off the screen, and I was left to watch the next journey – a National Express West Midlands 256 – count down in real time. 30 minutes away.

What’s a man to do? The taxi rank is opposite the bus station. It’s cold, I’m tired. But I have a day ticket. A taxi home will cost me around £7, and I might have to wait the best part of half an hour anyway, as it’s Saturday night. And what if I sit on the faded 1970s couch in the taxi waiting room and the 257 appears late?

So I tweet Arriva with a semi-sarcastic rebuke about having lost 30 minutes of much-needed beauty sleep. I don’t expect a response, as, like many transport providers, the Twitter people only tend to work mostly office hours. Should we have live Twitter so long as services are operating?

This was a Saturday evening. I receive a Twitter response from Arriva on Monday morning, apologising for the fact that the service didn’t operate due to a mechanical issue with the vehicle.

No problem with that. Buses have broken down unexpectedly ever since the combustion engine replaced horses at the front. It happens. Frustrating, yes – the frequency on that service is only hourly (it’s a Centro tendered service). At least National Express West Midlands run a commercial 256 on the opposite half hour along the same stretch of route as far as where I live. But 30 minutes is still a long wait when it’s cold, and that would be enough to underline how naff bus travel is to my friends who insist I’m bonkers to catch buses when I have a car. (Even though I’ve had the benefit of real ale all evening). I also know, because I’m a geek, that Arriva provides this service from their Wednesfield depot, which is the other side of Wolverhampton – so the prospect of a quick replacement vehicle isn’t likely.

But once I’ve sobered up next morning, it got me thinking about the benefits of this brave new world of technology, and how, with a bit of live human intervention, it might have helped me to decide whether to indeed take that taxi or not.

The digital display in Stourbridge bus station showed that 22:50 departure as a “timetabled departure”, i.e. not a “real-time” counting down one. How about Arriva letting Centro have their tracking data so that at least it would have flashed up the fact that something was amiss?

Secondly, should Arriva (and other transport providers) provide a “live Twitter service” whilst their services are still operating? This resource could also provide a service for those who don’t use Twitter, by providing a phone service, and maybe updating live website information (or supplying it to a source like Centro / Network West Midlands)?

Thirdly – and I’ve been suggesting this for many years now – why cannot this “live running information” (as someone knows something about it somewhere) be broadcast over the tannoy systems in bus stations, in the same way that they are at railway stations? Why can’t tabarded people in bus stations go over to intending passengers at stands and inform them of the problem, and – heaven forbid – suggest alternatives? Or if this is too radical an idea, at least someone somewhere updating the scrolling information on the stand so that it catches people’s eye?

Now I get this will all cost money. I get that it requires a huge uplift in training, And I get that some bean-counters will look at it as a waste of resource when it is quieter, especially on an evening. But to me, it’s all about improving the image of public transport, and providing a human point of contact when things go wrong – which comes up time and time again when passengers are surveyed. Technology is great, when everything works and all the algorithms and ticking over nicely together. But public transport, especially at night, when a problem occurs, can be frustrating, bewildering and even frightening to some when maybe panic sets in when something doesn’t go to plan. A human being, with information on the live situation, could do so much to alleviate the situation.

In the apparent rush to rely on technology for most parts of our daily lives, should we reconsider the usefulness of the human being?

Hi-tec Let Down

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I find, as I get older, the world confuses me more than ever. In my mid-40s, I guess I’d better get used to being taken over by computer programmes that take my money off me in supermarkets, tell me when the bus is coming and offer to pay me compensation for an accident I never had.

Despite the indignation of having to “swipe” my own Mothers Day card and repeatedly telling the machine that, no I didn’t take a bag, and no, I don’t want any of the chocolate “offers”, I remain slightly optimistic that technology is the future.

“Slightly” being the operative word. Readers of previous blogs here will be aware of my little issues with the Swift Smartcard (which, to date, Centro and Arriva are still “looking in to” – hey, it’s their loss if they want to keep giving me free trips because their machines don’t work). I await the day when the vast majority of us are using “smart technology” and – as happened recently in London – the whole system goes belly up and everyone has to travel for free whilst some 15 year old boffin sorts it out.

I’m belly-aching on here this time as I managed to stumble over Network West Midlands’ journey planner. Now this is particularly bad luck (for them) as I have a pretty decent knowledge of the West Midlands public transport network and thus rarely have any need to use a journey planner in this part of the World. But Centro has recently re-jigged it’s NWM website into something a lot cleaner-looking and easier to use. Whilst having a mooch around, I played with the journey planner.

Oh dear.

I tried a few examples. From my house to Birmingham City Centre turned out to be the wildest of wild goose chases. Even if you were wild with a wild goose. I won’t waste your time describing these in detail, but suffice to say that they weren’t the most logical ways to get from A to B. Would they work? Yes. Would you use them? Only if you were a geek like me who enjoys the minutiae of it all.

I’ve come across this before when I’ve tried to use online journey planners for different parts of the country. Overwhelmingly not good! So I nearly always resort to getting hold of individual timetables, maps, etc and working it out for myself. Which is a shame. Technology appears to be getting too clever for itself. But is this actually putting off people from trying public transport? You can have the sleekest website (and Network West Midlands’ new one is very attractive), but if you’re still confronted with something that looks more difficult than it actually is, you’re still going to look goggle-eyed at it and drive instead. Or get a taxi.

I’m going to sound terribly old-fashioned now, or a bitter and twisted old bloke who can’t get “with it” when it comes to technology, but remember the days when we employed knowledgeable human beings who knew their “patch” and could advise people in enquiry offices and over the phone? They could write things down, give you a timetable and map and explain things because they knew the area. I know we had the inconvenience of having to pay them, but wasn’t it all better than staring blankly into a computer screen and thinking “that can’t be right”…..

I know we still have enquiry offices – and long may they continue to serve. I just hope the accountants don’t have them firmly in their sights for the next cull. Getting hold of maps is an increasing challenge and as for timetables – well Sheffield has done away with them in paper form. No good if you have no internet connection, or trying to access them on your phone on the move. It’s no good sighing into your mobile when you’re faced with the gobbledegook of the infamous “journey planner”. The Government’s plan to force the bus industry to hand over it’s data to geeks to make “useful” apps needs to be very carefully thought through. And not at the expense of more traditional ways of discovering information.

The Ad-less Future?

An article in transport trade magazine Passenger Transport has caught my eye. It is written by Jason Cotterrell, who is the Managing Director of Exterion Media UK – “a leading Out-of-home media owner that allows advertisers to engage with urban audiences via bus…

It’s all about the current crop of bus designs that appear to limit opportunities for advertisers to shove even more words and images in our face when we’re out and about.

The beef seems to be about how new designs like the New Routemaster, ADL’s E400 City and others, that have sleek glazed staircases, limit the space where advertisers like to put their message – this is the “T-side”, where the drop-down “hero shot” normally goes (who thinks of these names…?) There is also concern that some operators may be limiting or even dropping bus advertising altogether.

Good for these operators, I say.

I don’t know what sort of proportion of income advertising brings in for bus operators. Maybe it’s a substantial amount in some examples. But increasingly (and maybe this is what is concerning Mr Cotterell) some are doing away with it altogether. And I like it.

A bus with no external adverts (or only ones that promote its own offerings) is a statement of confidence. People don’t pimp their own cars with advertising. How naff would that look? So the best bus operators say “look at our product. It’s excellent. Believe in it. Use it.We don’t need adverts to make it look cheap”.

It’s so depressing to pull up behind a bus with an advert for a new car deal. Or some garish promotion for a film or DVD running down the side. Get on board and find adverts for loans with 2000% APR or incontinence pads or a dire warning to see your GP if you’ve had a cough for more than 3 weeks. It underlines the image of buses as poor quality modes of transport.

Now try a bus where they’ve seen the light. A stunning external livery. No adverts. Get on board and find messages for free wifi, local attractions and fare offers to encourage more bus use.

Mr Cotterell quotes research (via his company’s own study) that finds that “two-thirds of people say they like bus advertising because it makes their town or City more interesting”. Further insight reveals that, shown a bus with, and a bus without advertising, 84% preferred the bus with advertising. “It also adds character to an urban area and is welcomed by consumers”.

Eh?

Maybe I’m an old curmudgeon who isn’t in the target audience of advertisers, but give me the brand image of Transdev’s recently-relaunched 36 route any day. Or The Buses of Somerset. Or Arriva’s Sapphire. Or Stagecoach’s Gold.

As is pointed out, bus advertising has always been with us, and some old pictures of buses carry adverts that, well, charm us all and offer a glimpse into the World now long disappeared (remember when buses used to proudly advertise cigarette companys?)

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The Black Country Museum’s preserved Midland Red D9 5342 carries advertising for Dudley Zoo

But buses today need to portray a professional image like never before. Congestion continues to be one of the biggest turn-offs and the bus can provide a very serious alternative, given the right environment to operate in. People need to look at a bus and think it might be an alternative. So with bus priority, competitive fares, free wifi and so on, it makes the case. But, in my view, subtle presentation is also right up there. If it looks good, it might be a go-er. If it’s plastered with in-your-face adverts for cheap car deals, toilet detergent and snogging couples, how upmarket is that?

Stevensons Metrobus 1994 Dudley

advert for a certain brand of toilet cleaner – does this image encourage bus use?

WMT 3234 Scania_Alexander

“everything should be xx”. Amusing? Or downmarket? 

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No room for general advertising. This bus is confident in it’s “offer” to sell itself. 

What Happens at Ten-Past-One?

Something intriguing – and maybe to us Brits, a tad amusing – popped up on my Facebook page earlier.

Alex Funken captured this seemingly innocuous bus timetable from Germany, which shows a pretty standard hourly service, apart from the 13:11 departure – which is curiously timed to be one minute later than most of the other departures.

What happens at ten-past-one here that doesn’t happen at ten-past the other hours? And whatever it is, it doesn’t happen on Saturdays either…

OK, so the Germans have a reputation for ultra-efficiency (although I have to say this is nowhere as precise as it used to appear to be) but maybe they’re just being absolutely correct, in case a demanding passenger starts tapping his watch at 13:10 when no bus has appeared.

Of course in Britain, we’d just time it at 13:10 and blame the traffic when it (hopefully) appeared one minute later.

But I’d love to know what prompts the minute-longer journey. Maybe it’s a union agreement for the driver’s break to compensate for leap year….?