Last month at the Walsall Writers Circle I had the immense privilege of meeting Stuart Williams from the Grand Duchy of Bloxwich, author, commentator and publisher of the irreverent but always topical, Bloxwich Telegraph. While we were chatting later about writing and general literary stuff, I came to realise that I had failed to post anything on my own blogs for some time, as I had become too busy with my regular blogging spots for http://www.2020uk.org and the Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association.
This lack of application has also previously been brought to my attention by the always lovely and always super-efficient, Sonia Dixon from Walsall Library Services, who is a great supporter of local literary talent – even of my inane ramblings.
When it comes to keeping a watchful finger on our borough’s pulse, in addition to Stuart and his BloxTelegraph, we are also well served by Brownhills Bob, Brownhills Barry and not forgetting The Yam Yam. (If I have missed anyone out I should have mentioned, prostrated apologies will follow).
I had not posted anything on the Clayhanger Review since July last year, where I demanded and failed to receive (surprise,surprise), an explanation from that mythical of mythical beings, a Walsall Council Highways Officer, concerning the botched re-surfacing of our estate roads and footpaths the previous autumn.
So having decided once again to take up the cause of bringing Clayhanger to the wider world, I cast my eye around for anything of likely interest, or some new piece of official lunacy, with which to stretch your credulity even further.
I didn’t have to look very far….
A few weeks ago the organisation which runs the public transport network in the West Midlands, the imaginatively titled Network West Midlands, announced that an extra bus service would be plying the already overcrowded bus routes between Brownhills and Walsall. This half-hourly daytime service from Monday – Saturday would be provided by Midland, whose red buses look almost as old as some of their drivers. This new service – given route number 33 – passes through Clayhanger and Pelsall villages then via Rushall and up to Walsall Bus Station. The new service is designed to complement an already existing route – also route number 33 – run by Arriva Midlands for several years now and which coincidentally, also passes through Clayhanger and Pelsall Villages, then via Rushall and up to Walsall Bus Station. Everyone with me so far?
If you think that’s stretching credulity, look at the timetable below for the services at Clayhanger Lane. You will notice that during the main hours of operation between 0800-1600hrs ex Sunday, the buses are timed to run six minutes apart, although the Midland service appears to stop for lunch between noon and one o’clock. Clearly both man and machine need sustenance at crucial times!
If the services are to run half-hourly, surely it would make sense to schedule them to run 15 minutes apart thereby ensuring an adequate gap between services? As the Midland 33 runs only to Brownhills and no further it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of the route planners to organise this, or am I being too simplistic in my analysis?
It doesn’t take a genius to know what comes next: if either service is running slightly behind or slightly ahead of schedule, then the odds of both services arriving at any point along the route at the same time are better than William Hill’s. Yesterday for instance, while driving along Lindon Road at around 2.25pm, I saw an Aviva Midlands no.33 heading towards the Wheel Pub only to find when I went to turn into Coppice Road, a Midland no.33 exited from Friezland Lane barely a minute behind. If that wasn’t enough, about an hour later while heading toward Clayhanger Lane from Maybrook Road, I was passed by the same two buses about 30 seconds apart both heading back towards Brownhills!!
Nor is the first time since the new service’s inception have I personally witnessed this shambolic state of affairs. You know, it might just be time to invest in a digital camcorder, set the time and date stamp and take up a suitable vantage point near the Methodist Hall for when the almost inevitable happens again.The resulting footage I can upload onto the web and we can all have a good shake of the heads at the mindset which left has left our village with two bus services, with the same route number and with a timetable, even an illiterate teenager would realise is unworkable.
How the mind boggles!!!!