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Much-needed Update

15 September 2009

Today we see a much-needed update to the front end of www.stroudvalleys.co.uk which, we trust, will make it easier for visitors to navigate around.

sv_site_upgrade_sept_09You might say that the site has evolved into something more like Gloucestershire’s rather than Stroud’s buses. Well, it’s the Stroud element that’s by far the more content rich.

Cheltenham Gold

5 September 2009

We’re more used to celebrating 75 than 80 years but that’s not stopping Stagecoach commemorating the 8oth anniversary of Cheltenham District Traction Ltd—plus the launch of the new double decks on Stagecoach Gold on service 94 (Cheltenham-Gloucester).

chelt75Readers may recall it was five years ago, in May 2004, that Stagecoach did something similar. At the time, we built a small standalone website by way of an acknowledgement and today we’ve revived it and added it online at www.stroudvalleys.co.uk/cheltenham/

Here, pretty much as it was in 2004, you’ll see something of the flavour of that event, the heritage vehicles used, the QBP launch and a history of the 94.

Watch out for a repeat of the event on 12th September.

First, there’s a special service operated every 20 minutes between Racecourse-Town Centre-Hatherley-Arle Court. Expected on this service 80 will be a K, KSW, VR,  J, two Ls, two MWs, an LH and a Leyland National. Details via Stagecoach which includes vehicle workings.

And there will be a mixture of Stagecoach Gold and heritage vehicles operating, including an LD, FLF, FSF, VR and four REs promised. Details are via Stagcoach again with indicative workings.

New Single Deck for Stroud

14 July 2009

It’s understood that Cotswold Green is about to claim a triple first: its first brand new purchase, its first low floor bus, and one other…

Tempted by a significant reduction in MAN dealer stock for a Plaxton Centro bodied vehicle (as opposed to one bodied by Wrightbus), speculation is mounting that Cotswold Green has ordered one such MAN/Plaxton for its 620 Tetbury-Bath service. This follows a successful appraisal of this vehicle in the Spring.

If true, this then makes it the third first: Stroud’s first brand new single deck other than minibuses since 1979 — 30 years ago. Not that it will see that much activity is Stroud itself, though there will be the odd working in and around the town, especially on Saturdays.

Running Out of Diesel & Eating Odd Food

12 July 2009

See the Beavis Page on Stroud’s Buses

As a family in the 1970s, we took three continental Alpine Tours holidays (and one to Folkstone!).

One was to Fortezza in the Dolomites of northern Italy; a second to Kitzbühel in Austria; and a third to Interlaken, Switzerland. A feature of all was a post-channel ferry stop at Abbeville in Northern France and the long slog across open flat French countryside thereafter. I got to loath both Abbeville and northern France.

That to Interlarken was for my parents’ silver wedding anniversary. It was on this tour and one other that there was actually another teenager, somewhat rare as you might expect.

I can remember but two of the vehicles we used. One was an AEC Reliance with Plaxton bodywork seating I think less than 40. B.E.W. Beavis was ahead of the game in offering decent legroom. Another was a Ford R1014, again with Plaxton bodywork, seating 41. I fancy the third was a Leyland Leopard with Plaxton Viewmater bodywork, with an on board lavatory.

On the first two occasions, Mavis Beavis was the courier/guide. She seemed to have a good command of foreign languages and also the resorts to which she went. The driver on both occasions was Colin Hook who, apparently, is still driving part time for Beavis at over 70. I recall Hook owned a signal yellow Mk II Ford Escort Mexico warm sports car.

On the third occasion, Hook was on his own. It was here that while descending the Black Forest in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, he ran out of diesel. This was a serious omission but Hook did say that his gauge was faulty. We coasted downhill to the valley bottom and somewhat miraculously came to a stop on a filling station forecourt. We were in the Ford so he could relatively easily bleed the front engine that intruded into the passenger area next to the driver.

On one trip, we stopped overnight at a motel not far from Dijon, France. Beavis advertised no overnight travel. Here we enjoyed a steak so rare and so tender that it fell apart on the fork. Half way through, someone suddenly whispered it was horse meat. Like a ripple, this spread around the room and we all downed our cutlery… Beavis didn’t get the blame but the French hoterliers did but by morning we all saw the funny side of it.

Back to Normal

4 July 2009

It’s very sad that the Stroud RE Group got little publicity locally before last Sunday’s Stroud Vintage Running Day. This didn’t seem to deter too many members of the general public who found their way to Stroud College. Even so.  Stroud Life only took an interest on the day itself. BBC Radio Gloucester ran a slot as did Five Valleys’ Radio but that was all.

Why? Perhaps now that it’s in its ninth year, the running days are so established the media no longer are interested.

One area where people managed to find information was at the  Stroud Valleys website. The day beforehand saw 541 hits. Looking at June, you can see a marked rise ahead of the running day itself, at the end of the month.

But now it’s back to normal.

june_stroud_valleys

A vote of thanks

29 June 2009

I am sure we would all like to thank Mike, Brian, Alan, Andy and the whole extended team for another most successful Stroud Vintage Running Day. We should never under-estimate the amount of work that goes into these events. The team was on site from 0600 on Sunday. Last minute changes to vehicles and drivers meant that the schedule was only finalised 16 hours ahead of that early arrival. And that’s just the work over the weekend. Whereas the rest of us get to sample colourful vehicles on picturesque and challenging routes, the crew work hard on the day to ensure our enjoyment and maximise our safety.

Three cheers for the Stroud RE Group. Hip, hip… hooray.

An Interesting Email

12 April 2009

From time to time, an email on the subject of Stroud’s buses drops from the ether into my inbox. Usually, someone just wants to hire a vintage bus for their wedding, which is rather nice.

Here’s an email I received recently about Stroud’s bus operation. And this is how I answered it.

“I feel in relation to the bus station issue, they put the cinema in the wrong place. The bus station should have stayed where it was and benefited from a serious 21st century makeover.”

This view is all well and good. Was sufficient land, for example, available elsewhere for a cinema? Would it therefore have been so easy to build a new cinema somewhere else? Not to modern standards, unless the cinema moved out of the town centre.

Yet, I’m inclined to agree that the bus station should’ve stayed where it was. That’s because it has (albeit as a terminus, not a bus station). The old bus station was a tad too large for today’s operation, though.

“I feel the London Road car park sounded like a good idea [for a bus station], because of its size.”

There was once a proposal to site a bus station on the London Road car park. This was only ever a temporary expedient to give the authorities an opportunity to find a permanent home for it. London Road car park is very much edge of town and had the bus station relocated, it would’ve been little more than a desert.

“The rail station could be used as an interchange with passengers changing to buses there. If I recall, the car park outside the rail station goes as far as the goods shed to the new multi-storey car park.”

I’m still sceptical about whether there is enough space by the rail station for a proper interchange. The main constraint, however, is access and egress to and from the site. It would increase the amount of heavy traffic up and down Rowcroft, Russell Street and past the Holloway memorial. It would potentially be awkward for buses when entering into and manoeuvring around the station approach.

“I recall the old bus depot where Waitrose is now. That should never have been scrapped.”

The former bus garage now under the Waitrose car park dated from 1927, was on bad ground and needed some pressing improvements. The pragmatic solution was its sale and redevelopment.

“It sounds very much like the bus routes in Stroud have been broken up owing to privatisation, like in the rest of the UK.”

This is as much to do with deregulation as it is privatisation. Insofar as the network is no longer a single whole then you are right, it has broken up. But it has not broken down. Socially necessary bus routes remain, albeit from a different provider and with departures more befitting the number of users.

“Having looked at the Stroud bus times, it looks like it’s changed beyond recognition. But then that’s the price we pay for having private bus companies operating on what was Stroud Valleys’ buses.”

I tend to disagree that Stroud’s buses have changed “beyond recognition”. A network is always fluid, dynamic, reacting to changes, of course, but the core services are certainly recognisable as links with their past.

What’s changed is the demography of Stroud, especially the villages that surround it. It’s inevitable that the gentrification we see and the independent mobility that results leads directly to fewer buses. Villages such as Bisley, Amerbley, Selsley and so on cannot sustain anything like the bus service from which they once benefited. It’s an inescapable truth that the existing operator progressively has to cancel unprofitable services to be thrown wide to competition under tender.