I have been impressed by One New Change by St.Paul’s in London.
Today, as I needed to eat on the way back from Burnley, I visited Trinity Leeds, which is a shopping centre close to Leeds station to have a late lunch in Carluccio’s.
Although, Trinity Leeds is four times as big as One New Change, it has a similar upmarket feel. When you stand both of them alongside such centres as Meadowhall, Lakeside and quite a few others, there is no comparison, although they are smaller.
They have both been developed by the same company; Land Securities. it would seem that some of the features and tenants have been chosen to improves the shopping experience. Both centres have an extensive selection of restaurants and have been designed to blend in, rather than dominate their neighbours. Leeds has even got an Art House cinema from Everyman Cinemas. Usually shopping centres, just have a multiplex showing exclusively Transatlantic trash.
From my point of view, the centre is ideally placed, as it puts a second Carluccio’s close to my preferred interchange station in the North of England; Leeds. I won’t use Leeds every time there is not a direct service from London, but for Burnley, Blackburn and possibly a few others, it is the best route, especially if I can get lunch.
Today at Leeds I got a close look at the similar bridge over the tracks at Leeds station.
It is not so impressive as the bridge at Reading, but it is a few years older and probably built to a tighter budget. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more stations being built or rebuilt on similar lines.
Leeds shows one of the advantages of this design, in that on the bridge at the station, is a large coffee outlet, an information kiosk and plenty of seating. This seems to put them all where they are needed on the walking route for passengers changing trains. As the sides of the bridge are to a certain extent closed in with glass, it is much better place to wait for your train, than on the draughty platforms below.
If there is a problem, it is that there is possibly not enough escalators, although each platform does have a lift.
If you live in Ipswich, support Town and want to go by train to the last match of the season at Burnley,you’ve got a five hour journey starting at six in the morning.
I’m luckier in that I can catch the 08:03 train to Leeds and change for Burnley there, getting there in just under four hours.
Yet again, East Anglia shows how badly it is connected to the rail network.
I also get back to London about 19:30, whereas those going to Ipswich arrive two hours later.
So to answer my question, the answer is yes! But those of us, who live in London can do it a lot easier, than those that live in Ipswich.
In the last few months, I’ve been to Barnsley, Birmingham, Bolton, Brighton, Hull, Leeds, Leicester and Wolverhampton to see Ipswich Town play. Although in some cases like Hull and Leicester the football wasn’t the best, I’ve not had much of a problem with the trains. Except of course in getting to Ipswich, where they have chosen match day Saturdays to rebuild the line.
Usually, I travel First Class either one or both ways. On the Wolverhampton trip, where I could be sure of my times, I used Advance tickets that cost just £31 with a Senior Railcard. Some of the supporters, I met at the game, were rather surprised at the price.
But sometimes, I’ll get Off Peak Second Class and pay the upgrade, if it is available, like it is on Virgin. GreaterAnglia and others.
Next Saturday, I’m going to see Ipswich in the FA Cup at Aston Villa. For that game, I’ll book the outrun on a specific train using an Advance First Class ticket on Virgin, as they seem cheaper than Chiltern and stop in New Street, where I can get the train to Witton for Villa Park. but coming back, I’ll get an ordinary Off Peak Standard Class ticket, as that will mean I can get any train. If I want to upgrade to First Class it will cost me £10 on the train.
I’ve just booked the two tickets and they cost me a total of £31.65.
I took this picture in Leeds on Saturday.
Someone must have won a gold medal at the Olympics. But then Yorkshire did better than Australia!
I travelled in First Class to Leeds yesterday. I do get more and more fed up with the standard of the class on Saturdays.
I paid about thirty pounds more for a comfy seat, a table and two cups of coffee each way. My fellow travellers also got some rather boring-looking sandwiches both ways.
But I suspect, judging by the number of empty seats and those on Virgin a couple of weeks ago, the train companies First Class offerings on Saturday, are not the hottest product.
At least that on First Hull Trains is better! But on the other hand, it didn’t seem to sell many seats.
It strikes me though, that the train companies need to do a bit of thinking about their First Class product. And whilst they’re at it, they could look at their gluten-free offerings too!
Inciodentally, I had breakfast in Carluccio’s before I travelled and got some sandwiches from Marks and Spencer in Leeds station. I also noted that Leon’s restaurant had some good gluten-free breakfast offerings.
So some things are getting better, but the trains aren’t keeping up with the competition. Although you could argue, that the presence of Leon’s and Carluccio’s in stations, is down to policy changes at Network Rail.
I know I’m a Londoner and live in the finest city in Europe, let alone the UK or England, but in my travels around the country, I have come to the conclusion, that most bus services outside the capital are very second-rate.
To start with, I should say that in most places it isn’t mainly the buses themselves, as towns and cities like Leeds, Manchester, Bristol and several others have buses that on a quick look to be on average to be the same condition and age, as those in London.
But there are three major differences.
- Most London buses are front entrance and centre exit, which effectively means that they pick up and set down passengers a lot quicker. It also means in London’s case, that a wheelchair passenger has an easier route to get on and off, as he or she uses the middle door. Because of the smaller dwell time at stops, two door buses actually travel faster and carry more people more efficiently. Whether this means the capital cost per passenger journey is lower, I don’t know. But it may well be so!
- London buses also announce the next stop both visually and audibly. Many visitors to my house are very surprised, when I say something like take the 141 to Balls Pond Road and get off there. The system also announces route changes and can be used by the driver to send a selection of common messages to the passengers.
- But the biggest difference is that all London buses are touch on, either with an Oyster card or a concession like my Freedom Pass. If you have a paper ticket, you show it to the driver and they tell you to get on. There is no timewasting mucking about with paper tickets, that London obviously deems to be just litter.
- From next summer, you will be able to touch in on your bus journey with any credit card, as Oyster is being augmented for the Olympics.
But it is the field of information that London buses are streets ahead of every other bus system in the UK.
- As a child, you were always told, that every tube station had a street map of the local area. So if you got lost, just go to the Underground station. So now, like many Londoners, when you are going somewhere foreign like Croydon for a North Londoner or Wembley for a South Londoner, you never carry a map and rely on the map at the destination station. It usually works. Now this street map system has been extended to the buses and most bus stops have a local street map. Only last night, whilst walking back from the pub, I used a map on a stop to show a tourist from Germany, how to walk to the pub where he was meeting a friend.
- These street maps are paired with spider maps, which show all the routes in the area, where they go and at which stop you catch the bus. Frank Pick and Harry Beck would be proud of this idea from their successors. Spider maps work well and if I’m lost after a walk, I just find the nearest bus and work out how to get home. Incidentally, Transport for London call them bus route diagrams, but you can’t argue with umpteen million Londoners, who call them spider maps and that term is now the one generally used by all.
- London has recently introduced text messaging at stops to find out how long you have to wait for the next bus. Other cities have this and it should be the norm everywhere.
- Important London bus stops have displays showing how long you’ll have to wait for the next bus. But as people are starting to use the text system more and more, I suspect, the number of these displays will decrease.
- You can also see when buses will arrive at a stop either through the web or from a phone app. I don’t have a smartphone, but my dumb Nokia 6310i is perfectly capable of telling me if a 30 bus, which is my preferred route home, is due ten minutes out of Kings Cross or Euston.
So how do some of the places I’ve visited compare to London in various areas?
Two Door Buses
You see the odd ones about, but not many.
On-Bus Information Systems
I’ve never seen one, but I’m told Colchester has them.
Maps at Bus Stops
Very few and most that I’ve seen have been very inferior and totally useless for visitors.
This is a typical London next bus information notice.
And here’s one from Leeds.
No prizes for guessing, which is the simpler system.
Not only is London, just a five digit number but the sign is easily read and is as low as they can put it, so that everybody from say eight to eighty can read it with ease. I can’t believe that there are over 45 million bus stops in Yorkshire! The london sign has the great advantage that it is small and just strapped to the post. So perhaps it could even be used on a temporary bus stop at road works.
I’ll let Frank Pick have the last word on this.
The test of the goodness of a thing is its fitness for use. If it fails on this first test, no amount of ornamentation or finish will make it any better; it will only make it more expensive, more foolish.
And he was born before the age of modern technology. He would have had a field day, if he was still alive and in charge of transport for the whole of the UK.
So to answer my original question, the answer must be an undoubted yes! London has proven that good, frequent and understandable bus services attract more riders, so the sooner we Londonise all buses the better.
People will go on about cost, but the first thing to do is get the maps at stops in place and get sensible text messaging systems working. And then we just have to make all new buses to the London standard! Remember too, that London retires quite a few buses each year. Many of these with a bit of refurbishment would be very suitable for lighter use in the provinces. Certainly, many of the older ones in London are much better, than the disabled-unfriendly old banger, I got back to the centre from Elland Road.
I think too, that we will underestimate the benefits of having the same bus information systems all over the country.
As an example, how much of my time and effort have I wasted trying to find out where to catch a bus on my challenge? And how much money have I wasted on unnecessary taxis?
So if it made travel easier and cheaper, would it make it easier for people to travel to work in the next town or perhaps have a day with Aunt Edna in Felixstowe?
We need any economic stimuli however small.
Remember too, that if we need new buses, that these are generally built in the UK, so much of the capital cost of new buses stays here. So if that is the case, why did Red Ken betray British workers, by buying a load of useless bendy buses? Few liked them, except perhaps fare dodgers.
Last night, I travelled to and from to Upton Park on some of the old D-stock trains. They may be thirty years old and are to be replaced in 2015, but they asren’t fit for the scrap heap yet. In fact with a bit of a tart-up, they would probably last another twenty years or so, judging by how well most Metro-Cammell trains were built.
Ride to Upminster and back on one and then say that they should be scrapped forthwith. You won’t get the words out, as none of the problems on the line, are the D-stock.
The good burghers of Harrogate, who might or might not live up to that Yorkshire stereotype of being canny have proposed that some of these trains be used between Leeds, Harrogate, Knaresborough and York.
The respected rail commentator, Alan Williams, hasn now weighed in with some south common sense. It might be Yorkshire common sense to, as I think he lives in Scarborough.
- He asks why this system is not being proposed elsewhere, like for the Welsh Valleys.
- He also says that it the thinking is very much in line with the McNulty Report. I suppose one could ask, if the civil servants are in-line with it. They probably aren’t as they never travel outside of London, except by air or limousine! It would be interesting to know how many of the top civil servants, who effectively run our railways have travelled in a Pacer.
- He says too, that they could use a modern protected third rail system, where the electric rail couldn’t be touched by trespassers. This is used on the DLR in the UK and in many places abroad. Perhaps civil servants would be more impressed with the proposals after a round trip of Europe inspecting systems elsewhere?
We could have a competition, where there was a prize for the most innovative use in a railway context of the D-stock trains.
For my Day 1 trip from Accrington to London, I booked an advance ticket on the 10:05 from Leeds to London, that arrived at 12:30. The ticket cost me £26.45.
But at the time I booked, I hadn’t thought that I could fit in the Aston Villa part of the trip.
So I found that if I took an earlier train from Leeds, it would give me more time. But no matter, it said that I could exchange the ticket for a fee.
So I looked it up on the web this morning and found that there were tickets for earlier trains still available, albeit at a higher price. There were also Super Off Peak tickets available at £28.90, which is probably what I should have bought in the first place.
So I went to Kings Cross and found out that to exchange the ticket for a named train would cost me a fee of forty-one pounds or so. I’ve changed advance tickets in the past and I think I got charged five or ten pounds or so. That would have been reasonable, but not ideal, as in fact, I’m not sure which train I want to take. As it’s a Saturday, I have a feeling that a Super Off Peak ticket allows me to travel on most, if not all trains.
So I left, after realising I had a nice story for my blog and of course, I still had a valid ticket on the 10:05, even if it is a bit tight to get to Aston Villa.
At home, I found that the £28.90 ticket was still there, so to see if I could get it cheaper, I tried the TrainLine. But that wanted £40.90. I don’t pay booking fees to anybody, so they can go and find some other mugs.
So I went back to East Coast and eventually bought the ticket at £28.90.
It’ll be interesting to see what price, I could pay for a walk-up ticket at Leeds on Saturday.
To return to the title of this page. I don’t consider, a forty pound plus fee acceptable, when I can buy a fully flexible ticket for about two-thirds of the sum.
This trip is starting to get interesting. Perhaps I should follow Tony Hawks lead and travel with a fridge. The problem is that I’ve had enough medical problems in the past few years, I don’t want another caused by humping a fridge.
Now it is being proposed that the line be electrified using a simple third rail system and reuse ex-London Underground, District Line trains.
It is an idea that might work and provide a better service.
Although I’m generally in favour of overhead electrification, there are lines like this where less intrusive third-rail electrification may be more suitable. On this line there is also a two mile long tunnel, Bramhope Tunnel, which would be prohibitively expensive or impossible to electrify using overhead wires.
Although this proposal is based around using London Underground D Stock, which are generally about thirty years old, there is no reason to believe that as CrossRail and Thameslink progress throughout London, that other suitable trains will be released.