Sunday, 31 January 2016

Beeston travel times comparing buses with the tram — a new map

Sitting in Mason & Mason's Tearoom at the eastern end of Beeston High Road or Jo's Local not global deli on Chilwell Road, as I do several late-mornings a month, I am well placed to observe the buses which pass by and in the case of Chilwell Road, the tram as well.

The buses are not as busy as they used to be, nor are the trams as full as I expected them to be. I am not sure where the passengers have gone? Now it may be that the arrival of the tram has changed how and when people travel. I am sure it has.

What I do know is that the bus is still the best way to go into Nottingham city centre. I am assured a seat, more legroom and it will take me closer to most city centre locations. The tram wins out when it comes to the east side; Hockley, the Lace Market and the Market Square. Otherwise, bus is best and, importantly, quicker! — as my map below clearly shows.

The other disadvantage of the tram is that it serves a narrow corridor and it is relatively slow, despite the phasing of traffic lights in its favour. We hear a lot about how many people are within 800 metres of a tram stop. I am in the 'tram corridor' at the top of Wollaton Road, but this is a practical nonsense. It takes me 10 minutes to walk to Beeston Interchange and then I may have to wait another 10 minutes for a tram if I have just missed one, add on 23 minutes to the Royal Centre and a 5 minute walk to the Victoria Centre and I have a personal journey time of 48 minutes. I may also have to stand all the way on the tram and the chances of Susan and me being able to sit together are very slim.

Compare this with the minute it takes me to get to the L10 bus stop on Wollaton Road close to my home and, even allowing for it being a few minutes late (which it frequently is, but that's another story for another day), it will usually take c35 minutes at most to reach the Victoria Centre, as it is able to make up for lost time along most of its route. In other words it usually takes me 40 minutes at most by bus to do a journey which by tram would take me 48 minutes!

And so it is for countless others living in Beeston and Chilwell, but somehow there is a myth about that travelling by bus is second best, when you can be seen on a tram. Ignore the fact that your journey will take longer and, in terms of seating, be less enjoyable. There is just one tram route to the city centre from Beeston Interchange, whereas there are six bus routes, albeit two of them, my little L10 and Trent-Barton's 18 go around the houses. This still leaves four direct bus routes totalling 23 buses and hour between them (Monday–Saturday daytime), all doing the journey as quick as the tram, quicker if you take walking distances into account.

The only drawback when it comes to the buses is that there are four operators, all with their own ticketing and travel discount cards. The 'universal' Kangaroo ticket and its companion Robin Hood travelcard come at a premium price and does not (as at today) include YourBus.

The bus companies are missing a trick by failing to co-operate, but then Trent-Barton's parent company, Wellglade, has a stake in the tram, so they are hardly in competition with the tram.

For all the hype, public transport in and around Beeston and Chilwell is complicated. This is topic I have been writing about for years and I make no apologies for doing so. Public transport is a utility, like communications, energy, health, housing and water. All should be under public control. It is very easy to forget that all these things were once owned and managed by local government in many parts of England Wales and Scotland.

An excellent report, Building a world-class bus system for Britainpublished last week argues for the municipalisation of public transport, saying that in its absence what we need is London style 'contracting' arrangement to remove wasteful and expensive competition. In one of several mentions of Nottinghgam, the report points out that bus companies like Trent-Barton make huge profits at our expense. I will come back to the report in a future blog. Right now I would like you to look at my map and see for yourself why the bus, despite all the tram hype, remains Beeston's most important and valuable form of public transport. Simply click on the map to enlarge.

After reading Building a world-class bus system for Britain, I revisited a report in my possession from 2011 (which you can still find on the web) arguing the 'full business case' for the tram extensions to Beeston and Clifton. It makes interesting reading and in a good few respects the vision offered is very different to the reality delivered.

Media reports all tell us that the new Chilwell and Clifton tram lines (known as 'Phase 2') cost £570 million to complete (then there are the interest payments over the next thirty years). A high-frequency bus network across the whole county could have been in place by now for a fraction of £570 million. The quality of road surfaces and reserved roadways could all have helped to improve the quality of our 'bus-ride' (a commonly cited reason for preferring the tram over the bus — the smoothness of the ride).

Again, as I have said on many occasions before, I did not oppose the tram. I bought into the arguments about park and ride, getting motorists out of their cars, reducing road congestion, that men see the tram as 'more sexy' than the bus and all too many will not abandon their cars for the latter. I can't see it myself. Such men have obviously never experienced the delights of the back bench seat on a bus, especially a late-night double-decker!

And on with that thought in my head and I will go and do Sunday lunch...

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Busting the Nottingham tram myth — bus and tram journey times in and around Nottingham

As I have admitted in my last two postings, I have a bee in my bonnet about the Nottingham tram and all the claims which are made on its behalf. Today, the Nottingham Post is at it again. This time it is actually pointing out that the Nottingham tram is down on its performance targets. Given that the network has doubled in size, it seems logical to expect more problems — simply because there are now more opportunities for delays, accidents etc.

I keep tweaking my map showing bus and tram journey times in and around Nottingham and surprise myself. A few who have seen the map have questioned its accuracy, because they find it hard to believe that the bus still has a quicker running time than the tram to Beeston, the QMC and Hucknall for example, and that the City Hospital is just a 11 minute bus ride from the city centre (Milton Street).

I have amended my Ruddington times from the city centre. Instead of the Victoria Centre, I have used the Angel Row timing point instead. This reduces the journey times. I have also changed the Ruddington Business/Country Park time to the hourly Kinchbus route 9.

I have printed off copies of all the timetables I have used and added a list detailing the routes etc. in the sidebar on their own page in the next few days.

The point is that all my journey times start in the city centre and the tram only shows the Old Market Square on its timetable downloadable as a pdf file.

Whatever way you look at it, the tram does not out-perform the bus in a number of ways: the bus is actually quicker (and you get a seat) going to Beeston, Hucknall and the QMC Derby Road entrance (the tram takes you direct to the QMC Treatment Centre on the south side of the QMC).

City Transport routes 68/69 from Bulwell may take 3 minutes longer to reach the city centre, but like the 36 and Y36 from Beeston, it stops right outside the Victoria Centre. Add on tram walking time (and factor in bad weather conditions on some days), the bus is simply a better option.

My page in the Post on Saturday explains why buses still have many advantages over the tram in Nottingham.

I could go on, but the aim of my unique map is to get you considering the facts for yourself, to check your own journey times and to look beyond the hype which surrounds the tram.

I believe there will be no more tram lines running along Nottingham streets. The long-term disruption in Beeston and Chilwell caused by tram construction work have soured attitudes towards new street tram lines. The future has to be with converting some existing railway lines to light-rail 'tram-trains' and there are plenty of opportunities for this (something I wrote about in the Nottingham Post in July 2013*). Here is the map I produced at the time:

As I always say, simply click on the map to enlarge and I do have pdf versions at 300dpi.

I could go on, but I think my maps speak for me and I have yet to see any comparable Nottingham public transport related maps.

The Robin Hood travelcard and Kangaroo ticket should cover the whole of the Nottingham travel to work area and this includes parts of Derbyshire and the City Council's efforts in this direction should be supported by Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire county councils. If or when we get a 'combined authority' including the Derby–Nottingham conurbation, the first task of the elected mayor should be the creation of a 'twin-city' public transport authority (PTA) to ensure we have just one universal travelcard like in London. It's quite simple if you have the will and commitment.

We shall see

NOTE: * Couldn't get link to story on Post website to work - sorry.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Another look at bus journey times around Nottingham

I admit to having a bee in my bonnet about the new City Council Robin Hood 'oyster style' travelcard, which has not got off to a very good start, but I think the politicians know this and want to show willing.

I also think the County Council should be in there with the City, supporting them with money, to make sure the Robin Hood card is the success it can be. 

Not all the bus companies are taking part and I suspect that those who are, are calling the tune, making the card more expensive and geographically restrictive.

I hope the map below is self-explanatory. The usual rule applies. Click on the map to enlarge it.

On Friday 8 January the Nottingham Post ran a front page story about how the tram had reduced bus services in Beeston by '25%'. The story contained a number of errors, including a reference to the 17, which stopped running between Beeston and Toton before the tram started. Its demise came as no surprise to me, but this is not ‘Beeston’ news by any stretch of the imagination — which is why I ignored it. See my blog post from a year ago:

The Derby Road service (Stapleford Club Class), may have been cut, but Trent-Barton have doubled the frequency of the i4 and YourBus have started the Y4 (following the same route as the i4), so there are now many more buses running along the Derby Road between the Priory and Bramcote islands than there were. How this can be interpreted as ‘a cut’ is beyond me, nor is it really Beeston. It is too far out of the town centre.

The 510 change will be seen positively by folk living on Queens Road, who can now catch a bus direct into Beeston again, after the 36 returned to it original route, once Chilwell Road re-opened. For some this is a good news story. I actually chopped a paragraph from my piece about the 510.

On Saturday 9 January, the Post published a full page by me about the tram and its impact on local bus services. My take was very different and was something I had been invited to write some days ago. 

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The Robin Hood and Kangaroo travel cards fall short

All the maps below can be enlarged by clicking on them.

The first map is the official map for the new all-in-one Robin Hood travelcard issued by Nottingham City Council. Its launch has been surrounded by hyperbole. It does not include YourBus, nor train services, and still costs far more than it should because, as the Council says, the amount card users pay is determined by the participating companies.

In other words they set a rate which encourages bus and tram users to stay loyal to one company because they can't afford the Robin Hood premium. At the moment the card is not more than a day-rate card.

I have long been perplexed by how arbitrary the travelcard boundary points are. They are not related to journey times or miles, which leads me to suspect that they are commercial — a question I will be asking the Robin Hood Network once this post has gone live.

The 'official' map is a classic example of how geography can be distorted. The map above, which I have created with the help of, also uses a circle which passes through Chilwell Retail Park. My map does not pass through another travel card boundary point. In terms of distance, Chilwell Retail Park appears to be the furthest away from Nottingham City Centre.

My third map takes the official map's idea of a circle marking boundary points and place Ruddington Business (and Country) Park on the bottom of the circle. It takes 41 minutes to reach this point on a Nottingham City Transport route 10 bus from the City Centre. Chilwell Retail Park is 35 minutes away from the City Centre.

If one 41 minute bus journey can be included in the travelcard scheme, why not all journeys within 41 minutes? Afterall, it cannot cost any more. The 'map' also shows (blue dots) towns within 15 minutes of the present 41 minute limit and lots of places within the 41 minutes excluded from being part of the travelcard scheme.

Bus users in Stapleford have good reason to feel aggrieved at their exclusion because Stapleford is just 26 minutes from the City Centre by bus, whereas Chilwell Retail Park is 35 minutes away. In other words, Stapleford is a whole 9 minutes closer, so why are they excluded? I suspect that this decision has not been been made by Nottingham City Council, but one (or more) of their public transport 'partners'. 

We will know more if they answer my question. Until then I leave you with my evidence that whatever the City Council and their 'partners' say, bus users in Greater Nottingham are being duped.

The situation is not helped by the fact that Nottingham City Council is also between a rock and a hard place. It wants to get shoppers and workers into the city council area, but the same buses and the tram can take people out of the city to other shopping centres like Arnold, Beeston and West Bridgford (but not Eastwood, Ilkeston, Long Eaton or Stapleford). Hucknall can be reached by tram, but not on a bus, even though both run to the town. How crazy is that?

Nottinghamshire County Council also has responsibility for bus services and is, understandably, more interested in helping people reach local centres rather than Nottingham. There is a conflict here which will not be resolved until we have some kind of unified public transport authority for the Derby-Nottingham conurbation — something I have long argued for and will happen if the proposed combined authority is created.

In the December 2015 issue of Buses magazine, Phil Stockley, who works for Trent-Barton, wrote a column, albeit in a personal capacity, headed 'People, not systems' which included references to public transport in and around Nottingham transport, with a photograph of the Beeston Interchange. He is a great champion of letting the market be. He believes in competition and choice.

If you take this view to its logical conclusion, then you withdraw all subsidies, concessions and you don't spent a penny on public transport infrastructure. The market manages itself, but I guess that Mr Stockley is a typical free marketeer in that he wants public investment to help his company make money.

I have no problem with public money going into public transport. I just want there to be public benefits too in terms of fares, concessions, good quality buses and frequent services across the whole conurbation, including its rural hinterlands, and in fairness to Trent-Barton they are a good bus company, but they will leave communities without buses if there are no profits to be made, witness the future of the 18 serving Beeston Rylands, which hangs in the balance.

My response is 'look at my maps'. They show how arbitrary the system is, governed not by community needs, but profits and grand schemes which do little for bus users. 

It is a subject I have been writing about for years and will go to my grave arguing for better public transport everywhere and not just outside my front door!

Friday, 1 January 2016

Another year, another day, so we begin again

Several folk have commented on my decision to pull the plug on Beeston Week and yesterday, after Susan and I spent the morning on a long wander around Beeston, I decided to continue, but without the pressure of feeling the need to do weekly posts. From now on they will come as the mood takes me.

Mish Mash will morph into One Off in a few months time. In readiness for the change, the gallery front has had a makeover. More nearer the time. For now, just enjoy how the gallery sparkles at night. Still the best place in Beeston to buy that special card you are looking for. RH.

Yesterday we walked from our home off Wollaton Road to the Local Not Global Deli on Chilwell Road (opposite its junction with Imperial Road), where we had long slow coffees with some of Jo's delicious chocolate cake, then onto Fabric Place, which was closed, but never mind we were going to the Mish Mash Gallery anyway, where we chatted with Gary and two other folk, who followed us down from Jo's.

Then it was back towards Beeston and a visit to ArtWorks, opposite the Local Not Global Deli, where we bought some more bits and pieces, then a visit to a very empty main post office with a parcel. I have never been in there before and seen staff sitting at their counters waiting for customers. Hallams had queues longer than Christmas, yet we walked into an empty Barnsdale Butchers and came out with a fine shoulder of pork for today's lunch, when we are being joined by old neighbours and close friends from Lenton.

A final call at Out of this World on Villa Street, then back up the Wollaton Road and home. Four hours in all.

We dined on lettuce sandwiches after eating cheese from Jo's every day for nearly a week. The best cheese in Beeston. Her secret is to stock not too much, but what she does is good, very good. It's the same with her pale ales. On any other Thursday, I would have come home with a thermos full of her pork goulash, but we had a chunky homemade golden vegetable soup waiting to be finished.

In all this you have a clue what Beeston Week is morphing into — the 'topical' has gone from my strap line. Contemporary affairs will be left to others. OK, there may be the odd foray and there will be buses, always a topical subject to some, but for me they are a lifelong source of joy and pleasure, nerd that I am.

For me, 2016 is going to be a year of writing and starting a memoir using personal photographs as prompts and I suspect that these will find their way onto my Wembley Memories blog, which has been dormant for over two years.


The Nottingham Daily Photo blog has Beeston connections and by chance he has chosen a bus photograph he took as his 'Photograph of the Year'.

You can read more and see Christopher Frost's many other excellent photographs by clicking on the link above the photograph.