From the archives of things I never got round to writing about - some photos of Fukuoka Subway in 2015.
Monday, 2 November 2020
Anyone who knows me knows that my professional passion is customers in unusual, event or perturbed travel. One of the most common of these is planned engineering works, the subsequent supply of customer information and directions, and the operation of rail replacement buses. Taking advantage of a brief break in respective national lock downs in the UK and Germany, I was fortunate to see rail replacement in Berlin.
In Berlin (and in common with many German cites) the bus, tram and metro (U-Bahn) networks are operated by the city transport company, in this case BVG-Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe, and the heavy rail (S-Bahn) by DB Regio (part of the national rail operator, Deutsche Bahn). The latter is a tendered service though DB Regio tend to win most contracts, not least because any new operator has to find their own trains, depots and staff (unlike the UK, where physical assets are usually transferred (being part of the DfT's registered asset base) and staff are TUPE'd).
1) U-Bahn route U6
Two week suspension in mid-October between Naturundmuseum and Franzosische Strasse, which is the section of the U6 through the centre of Berlin,
|Basic information is provided on these A-boards on the platform. Information on replacement bus stops is usually provided in map form.|
|More helpful for people unfamiliar with the area is directional signage. These footsteps on the platform are a simple way of doing this, although their provision was variable across the closure.|
|An alternative form of platform marking. This one shows the end destination of the line, possibly because the closure, and subsequent replacement bus, was extended overnight. I didn't like these as people tended to suddenly stop to read them.|
|Exiting the station the foot steps or any kind of signage ran out.....|
|.....although the rapid appearance of a replacement bus quickly identified the stop. The replacement buses were running every 2-3 minutes, which is a good frequency compared to the train arriving every 12 minutes. Once again the bus displays the southern terminus of the U6 rather than the terminus of the replacement bus.|
|Overview of information provided on the stop. The stop is a summary and map of replacement buses.|
|And the bottom half is a timetable. Frequency is superb, going from 9 buses/hour in the 05:00 hour through to dichte busfolge, literally dense bus sequence.|
|The at-stop signage included an English translation. This section is showing that Franzosische station (at the southern end of the day time closure) does not have step free access, and that in some cases local buses or another nearby station should be used instead.|
|This information display is at an exit from Franzosische Str station. A small amount of confusion in that the signage (smaller arrows) is pointing left, but the logo for the BVG improvement programme uses an arrow pointing right! Key learning point: don't put arrows in your logo!|
2) U-Bahn Route U1/U6
This is a long term closure of routes U1 and U3 (which share the same track) between Kottbusser Tor and Warschauer Strasse stations to the south-east of the city centre. It will continue until 'spring 2021': good to see BVG comply with Roger Ford's law on never committing to anything more than a season for delivery!
|The date is October 25th 2020, and I knew there was a long term closure of the U1/U3. Some haphazardly placed stickers on the train described a closure a few months earlier!|
|Two posters on the platform at Kottbusser Tor showing replacement bus information. Unfortunately it's quite a complicated junction underneath so not the most intuitive.|
|A problem we all have is having to serve some streets that neither local residents or local authorities care about. This is the walk to the replacement bus stop at Kottbusser Tor.|
|Replacement bus timetable provided on the departure stop. As with the U6, most of the time it is dense bus sequence.|
|Again, as with the U6m the buses are all drawn from the regular city bus fleet of BVG, and are therefore provided with a good standard of customer information inside and out.|
|Exterior view of a replacement bus at Warschauer Str, showing the clear destination display in German.....|
|....and in English. Onward signage from the bus stop was not great: whilst most people using this route will be local, the location of Warschauer Str station was not obvious.|
This was a one week (nine days) closure of a short stretch of the S-Bahn route through the centre of Berlin in late July/early August 2020, which I again stumbled on creating the perfect busman's holiday....
|Directions to the replacement bus stop at Alexanderplatz are provided using the feet stickers. This was necessary as the departure stop was not immediately outside the station, rather at a temporary stop round the corner on Grunerstrasse.|
|Unlike the closure of BVG's own railways, DB Regio Berlin contracted operation to a variety of local independent bus operators. These tended to provide buses in a variety of liveries, of which about two thirds were the livery of whichever municipal operator the bus was acquired from.|
There are some common themes running through these examples of Berlin's track closures and alternative transport provision:
- The track closures are all relatively short
- Information provision in stations varies
- Information between station and bus stop varies considerably
- Replacement bus journey times are not much more then ten minutes end to end
- Articulated buses are the norm, suitable for short distance/high capacity
- Destination displays are good
- The driver has no interaction with the passengers
- There is no ticket checking or revenue collection
- There are no bus service controllers
- There are rarely any staff at bus stops
My conclusion is that sticky feet and proper bus destination displays can go a long way to keeping customers on track. These examples were from longer term closures (a week or more) so not all may be seen or applicable to weekend only closures. However, my impression is that longer term closures are becoming an accepted norm across Germany.
Gratuitous inclusion of S-Bahn replacement bus photographs