One thing surprised me at yesterday’s inaugural Gosport to Fareham busway service: the relative lack of enthusiasts present. Perhaps by the time I joined the party, devotees & supporters had gone home or elsewhere (perhaps to the nearby charity garage open day, near Botley). There were nevertheless a handful of photographers along the way. And several ordinary passengers were marking the occasion on film.
There were, indeed, plenty of “ordinary” people about. Whether they were out for a taste or whether it’s always like this on a Sunday, who knows. I suspect at least some were the former. But, unlike the launch of the Cambridgeshire guided busway, there were no duplicates, no terminus crowds and no crushes which, actually, was disappointing, really. I would’ve thought better of the good people of south Hampshire, especially considering their transport heritage—horse & electric trams and railway. At least a number of departures were full, though.
Passenger reaction was nevertheless favourable. Everyone commented upon the Eclipses’ interiors and many seemed genuinely surprised that a bus could “feel” so good. Mind you, much of First’s ordinary interiors are now looking a little careworn. The ambience inside Eclipse simply highlights the different in a very stark way. Two late teenage girls, upon moving towards the rear, yelped at each other, saying how “weird” was the bus. And how “weird” it smelt. That would be the leather. Bournemouth’s Gemini 2s still smell of leather, even now, even after thousands of passenger journeys.
Passengers were also complimentary about the ride on the bus. This was less the bus and more the busway, of course. The difference between the busway and standard roads was immediately noticeable (to me at any rate). The busway limit of 40 (I’m guessing for environmental reasons) meant that progress seemed stately rather than rapid. But it’s always different on the cushions to in the cab, isn’t it.
One person felt the bus was like his kitchen. I took this to be a Good Thing. It might mean he feels at home on the bus. He was talking of how dirty and slippery the light wood-effect flooring might become in bad weather. Dirty, yes, and First is going to have to make every effort to keep these clean. Unless First takes pride in these vehicles, they will become shabby quickly. Slippery, no, not in Bournemouth, where there’s a multitude of such interior flooring.
Passenger opinion of the overall project was still divided. Some felt it a waste of money, others thought it was a good investment. Those in the negative didn’t seem to be put off in using the busway, though, which is as well. A couple of the drivers were keen to engage in feedback. Again, this was positive but I wonder whether they, too, might feel the greater public is against the cost of the project.
There were few enthusiasts and, fortunately, no campaigners. The security patrols along the busway had not diminished but there was no trouble from those who had previously tried to thwart the scheme. They’d previously claimed that the rubbish tip that had become the disused railway was actually a wildlife haven. Interesting how there wasn’t much concern before the busway. One dog walker had decided to defy the No Pedestrians ban and was teetering along the edge of the busway.
And that brings me to a point of real concern. The busway is also open to cyclists and there were a lot about. Mostly adults, they were behaving. What about children? This might be worst at dusk when there’s no lighting along the route (other than at stops). As far as I could see, the barriers would be effective in barring cars but what about motorcycles, via the pedestrian & cycle on slips? A possible night time nuisance?
All vehicles were nicely equipped with a monitor that shows your relative position and the next stop, with stops going red when due. It was a bit indistinct from towards the middle to back. Strangely, only one bus had any announcements. They appeared to be in bodged English, so Palmerston Drive came out as Pal *mer* ston. And Fareham as something like Fairy Ham. The announcements were also rather loud and, should the bus sail by, the second was slightly after the event. These things, I am sure, will be resolved.
The quality of shelters was excellent and was a real credit to the county council. All the fittings were top quality (and will be prone to vandalism and graffiti?). Each stop has a screen scrolling between RTI, news headlines, weather and, northbound, rail departures from Fairy Ham.
Alighting for the train, I was told by my last driver that “they” had sited a new bus stop for just such a purpose. Fair play.
So far, so Fair-ham. Sunday as Day 1 was a good bedding in day. The real business starts today. And only then will the good people of Gosport & Fareham know whether this is a winner or not. Much will depend upon Redlands Lane, where the 40 mph busway hits Fairy Ham at 30 mph, with the chance of doing that speed would be a fine thing...
Regarding Sunday’spost, I get the point about undertakers. I understood this as being funeral directors, I really did, not statutory undertakers. Funeral directors does make sort of sense… crematoria work on slots and it would be possible to miss on owing to traffic on the A32.
I was corrected on Provi’s Seddons. They weren’t RUs, according to RC169. I checked and he was correct. Thanks.
A while ago I used “Gentile” when I meant “genteel”. Thanks to whomsoever pointed this out. I blame the spell checker : )