Sunday, 29 January 2012

2012 - Day Out 02: Wolverhampton

Date: Saturday 28 January 2012

It is the second day out of 2012, and we decide to do a local trip in the West Midlands, it means that we have a later start and an earlier finish, which is okay by me as it is a cold winters day.

Wolverhampton Library
First of all, I make my way to Wollaston and have a few minutes wait for the 09:16 journey of Service 276, operated by National Express West Midlands. As I wait I have to put up with an old woman moaning about bus drivers, why they should let her on because it is cold and that Hanson's drivers are the friendliest. I put up with this for a few minutes and I see a welcome sight, Service 276 coming from Wollaston Island, I get on board using my NBus travel card and promptly make my way to the back of the bus where I can give my ears a rest. I send the usual text message, and after five minutes, we are in Norton, where Mr UK Buses boards our first bus of the day, we now make our way into Stourbridge, on a day where there are no plans, and as we come to the bus stop on the Stourbridge Ring Road, we alight, where Mr UK Buses gets his camera out for the first time today and decides to take a few photographs of the Bell Street Multi Story Car Park, and we also have a walk inside and around the outside of The Crown Centre, which is now being prepared by contractors. Tesco have just acquired the land from Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, and within the next few months will demolish the shopping centre and car park to make way for a new Tesco store, this will also change the landscape on this side of the town and will also rejuvenate the town as a whole. Photographs have been taken and we make our way back to the bus stop on the ring road.

We wait a few minutes and we decide to board the National Express West Midlands Service 246, as we board I am told by the driver (he organised the last 246 charity walk that we helped with marshaling), that I have to walk the route, I don't think I will today, as it is a bit nippy. We make our way through Brierley Hill and Russell's Hall Hospital before arriving at Dudley Bus Station, as we alight I get my own back on the driver and tell him that "I could have walked it here faster." He seemed to take it in good spirit's, like I did when I got on the bus at Stourbridge. We decide where to go now, and Mr UK Buses is already on the case as he darts to catch the National Express West Midlands Service 313 which will take us to Walsall. Along the way we head past The Black Country Living Museum, and through Princes End. We arrive at Wednesbury and considering that Wednesbury bus station here is already a few years old, I just hope that the new Stourbridge Interchange will not have the same dreary character to this station, not one of CENTRO's best efforts of bus station renewal. We soon depart Wednesbury bus station, and make our way once again towards Walsall. We are soon near our destination and as we arrive at Bradford Place terminus we reluctantly alight, we were comfortable and warm on the bus, now we are in the cold literally and after a few photographs taken whilst in the Bradford Place vicinity, we make our way to Walsall Bus Station located next to St Paul's. Along the way, we pop into WH Smiths, where Mr UK Buses and myself buy the latest edition of Buses Magazine (and I also get my monthly edition of F1 Racing), Mr UK Buses gets served first and after he is served he waits for me close by. I get served and pay my one penny for a WH Smiths carrier and find out why Mr UK Buses is lurking about so close, as I wait for my change, Mr UK Buses is in penny saving mode and as swooshed into action by putting his magazine in my bag, considering the speed of this deed, Mr UK Buses could be one of these magicians which show off the "close at hand" tricks. After deciding not to charge Mr UK Buses two shiny penny's for the rent on my WH Smiths bag, we make our way to Walsall St Paul's.

We take a few shots whilst in the area and after the photographs have been taken, we decide to rest our feet and get a little warmth by visiting our first J D Wetherspoons of the day and enter "The Imperial", which is located virtually opposite the entrance to the bus station. Last time we were in Walsall, this place was undergoing a refurbishment, and we can tell, it has improved the look inside of the public house, and as we make our way to the bar, I am informed by Mr UK Buses that it is my round. We opt for a coke and we decide that we are cold enough already and skip the ice. Mr UK Buses finds a seat, and after being served I take the drinks across. I inform Mr UK Buses that where we were seated was once a place of a big model of a dinosaur when this Wetherspoons first opened here years ago, I think he was a bit confused when he replied that "Mr D9 is not with us today". After a rest and finishing our drinks, we decide to make our way back to the bus station and we opt to use the new disabled entrance / exit to the pub. We decide to make our way across to Wolverhampton, but after finding out a couple of long services that will take us there, we also find out that both services have just left a few minutes prior and there would not be another for at least twenty minutes. Mr UK Buses bus radar is on form today, and he spots a service that will get us to Wolverhampton, so after quickly making our way to the stand, we have to move to the next stand as another bus is blocking its stand, and we soon board National Express West Midlands Service 89. This service will get us to Wolverhampton in just over an hour and along the way we head through Pelsall, a place I have visited before and the chip shop confirms the location as I remember having chips there and eating them outside in the freezing cold. We also head through Bloxwich and Wednesfield. We eventually arrive in Wolverhampton and as we make our way through Broad Street, Mr UK Buses makes a note of a few specialist shops that he may want to visit on future trips to Wolverhampton. Again we reluctantly alight from the warm bus just around the corner from Lichfield Street and we make our way to our second Wetherspoons of the day, "The Moon Under Water", and we decide to have lunch here.

Cheers! from the Moon Under Water
I get my own back on Mr UK Buses and inform him that it is his round, and after the drinks are ordered we look for a table. Instead of hiding out at the back half of the pub, we decide to get a table in the corner at the front and also a place where it is warm, see picture right. We scan the menu before ordering and Mr UK Buses opts for his now standard BBQ Chicken Melt with out the "Melt", and I opt for something different, A gammon and chips without the egg. We also feel a bit peckish and opt for an extra bowl of chips as on the last few occasions, a Wetherspoons portion of chips have been the "Chester" standard. We wait about ten minutes and our food arrives, we now think that bowl of chips may have been a bad idea as the portion of chips today has been a greater portion. We eat our lunch and also force the extra chips into our stomachs, which means that we are full and it is nearly time to move to our next location, so we opt for a few more minutes rest to let our extra food settle.

Cheers! From The Wheatsheaf
We decide to go out in the cold, but only for a few minutes as we descend on another Wolverhampton regular, "The Wheatsheaf", situated on the corner of Market Street and Castle Street, we get back in the warmth and take our usual seat in the lounge at the back of the pub, see picture left. We spend a little time here to let our big dinner have more time to settle in our stomachs. Today, we don't have the bar maid that served us on our last visit to this establishment and Mr UK Buses seems a little disappointed, but at least we are in the company of a lot of friendly regulars who make our visits to this establishment worthwhile and always make us want to return. We finish our drinks and we could stay here for the rest of the trip as we are warm and comfortable, but we do have other places to visit, and we sluggishly make our way from the pub.   It is now 14:15, so we decide to have a walk past the Wolverhampton Central Library and then down Cleveland Street where we wait and decide which bus to catch next.

The Moreton Arms, 800 Stafford Rd, Wolverhampton
At 14:25 a National Express West Midlands Service 3 turns up which we duly board, I think I know a pub that I have visited a couple of times which is towards the end of this route so we decide that we will alight when we see it. After passing the Molineux, home to the Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club, we make our way back to Stafford Road and make our way along this long road, making a slight detour around Fordhouses before making our way back along the Stafford Road, where I recognise the area and keep an eye out for the stop that we need to alight. We don't move a lot further up the road where I spot our next destination and we alight and cross the road to our next place of warmth, "The Moreton Arms", see picture right, a public house that I have visited a couple of times before and was impressed with, so I decide that today it is Mr UK Buses turn to be introduced to this establishment.

Cheers! From The Moreton Arms
Mr UK Buses is eager to get indoors and decides to enter the lounge, a room in this pub that I have never visited as I usually frequent the bar, the drinks are ordered and we take our seats and decide to move, we take another seat and decide to find our way to the bar, as we seem that the regulars in the lounge don't like to have outsiders sitting in there establishment, we make our way through the double doors and I find that my usual seat is vacant and we decide to rest in the more friendlier company of the regulars in the bar, we find a spot to perch our cameras and take a cheers photo, see photo left. We finish our drinks and we can't seem to time it right today as when we get to the end of our drinks we find that we are comfortable and warm and we have to reluctantly get up and go back out into the January chill. We investigate the bus stop in Springfield Lane and find out that it is no good for us, so we head back round the corner and stand in the shelter located outside, and after an Arriva bus has passed us, we signal to the National Express West Midlands driver and we board another Service 3 which takes us back into Wolverhampton. We alight outside The Varsity and make our way back down Lichfield Street and into Wolverhampton bus station.

We find ourselves at the entrance and looking at the live destination boards we find it hard to see what bus we can catch as the screens display keeps going off and comes up with an information screen informing us that the stands will be changing tomorrow for certain services. Amidst all this, Mr UK Buses finds a service that we can catch. We also try out the touch screen information points and we find a big error in the way it works as when we put in our next service we want to catch, Service 81, it won't display information as the route number needs to be three digits, lets hope that these points won't make their way to the new Stourbridge Interchange when it opens in a couple of months. We track down our stand and after a couple of minutes wait we board National Express West Midlands Service 81 which will take us to the Merry Hill Centre passing through Coseley and Dudley along the way. As we leave Wolverhampton, the bus takes us for a tour around the old Cleveland Road depot which is still standing and currently being used as a covered car park.

After we pass through Dudley, we head through Netherton, where I inform Mr UK Buses that there is a picture of his bus that he drove in his past life on the wall in The Old Swan. We make our way through some back streets before finally arriving at the bus station in Merry Hill, where it seems that the current station is in need of a change as there are now too many routes serving the shopping centre, which means that the bus station is normally a congested place. The light has gone now so we cannot take any more transport pictures today, and after a few minutes of seeing what is due, we decide that we will wait a little longer and catch a National Express West Midlands Service 276. This gives me time for a "fresh air" break and after I finish, we make our way to the stand where we only have a short wait before our service 276 bus pulls up. We pass through Lye and Pedmore Fields before arriving at Stourbridge, Mr UK Buses has had a good idea for once as we will not have to alight at Stourbridge in the cold as we can stay on board and go through to Norton and Wollaston, it is at this point that I inform Mr UK Buses that I may end up in Dudley later as I am too warm and comfortable and dread getting off into the cold at Wollaston. As we pass the Stourbridge Interchange, we notice that the destination screens and stand points have been installed in the main building, and it is currently working as I can see Stourbridge services information on the screens. We make our way back onto the ring road, before heading up Worcester Street and past Mary Stevens Park, where after a few more minutes we are in Norton, where Mr UK Buses says his goodbyes (also grabbing his magazine after a rent free day in my bag) and I stay on board for a further few minutes before alighting at Wollaston and having a little warm in the Chinese takeaway for my now customary end of the trip meal to take home and devour.

Another good day out has been had despite the cool temperatures of the day, and the snow has been kept at bay for another trip. One month down, two trips in, and we still have the rest of the year to look forward too. We will be back out in a couple of weeks time and hopefully the trip will be a warmer experience. All in all it has been a good start of 2012 with the accommodation sorted out already for our weekends away to Weymouth and Torquay this year in June and September respectively. A big thank you goes to Mr UK Buses for the excellent company today.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

2012 - Day Out 01: London

Date: 07 January 2012

It is a new year and we start it off with a visit to one of our favourite locations, the City of London, and we also start the year as proper Londoners when we use our Oyster Cards for the first time.

The Magnificent London Marylebone Railway Station
It is an early start on the first trip of the year, and I make my way to Wollaston in time to catch the first bus of the day at 06:42 or so I thought, as I am walking up Cobden Street, it is just after 06:30, and at the end of the road, I see a National Express West Midlands bus drive past, I presume that this is Service 276, the one I need to catch, so I sprint the rest of Cobden Street to Wollaston and as I turn the corner, the bus is pulled up at the bus stop, after looking at the timetable on the stop, I find out that the bus departs Wollaston at 06:36 and quickly board and take a seat whilst I get my breath back, looking at the plan I discover that I didn't read it properly and it was due to leave at 06:36. The bus departs and we head to Norton where Mr UK Buses boards and we start the first trip of 2012, after passing through Stourbridge going past the nearly constructed Stourbridge Interchange, we end up in Brook Road where we alight and walk up to Stourbridge Junction to get our first train of 2012. We only have to wait about twenty minutes before our train turns up. Normally when we go to London we go via Birmingham New Street and catch a Virgin train to London Euston, today we are not doing that, we decide that we will catch a Chiltern Train and go via Birmingham Snow Hill to London Marylebone. We board our train which will take us straight to London without the usual change from Birmingham Snow Hill to Birmingham New Street, so we get a seat, get comfy and for the next couple of hours we just relax, something that Mr UK Buses does quite literally for half of the journey and nods off, luckily he doesn't snore which is a good thing seeing as we are in the quiet zone. I keep myself occupied on the journey whilst Mr UK Buses is asleep and have a play with my new toy, a BlackBerry Playbook, and with the help of the free Wi-fi on the Chiltern trains, I get to keep in touch with the outside world. At 09:37, we arrive and it is a welcome return to the glorious station that is London Marylebone.

The way of the future - The Oyster Card
With no change at Birmingham, Mr UK Buses has catered for me in today's plan, by giving me time to pop out the front of the station to have a "fresh air" break, it also gives me a chance to look at the outstanding station building, whilst I'm doing this, Mr UK Buses is halfway down Great Central Street after he has spotted a few buses to take a few photographs of. "Fresh air" break over, we make our way inside, and we go for our first trip of 2012 on the London Underground, and we get our Oyster Cards out ready to scan on the barriers in the enter the Marylebone Underground Station. Well it looks like they are working as it has let us in and we board our first tube train of the day which is on the Bakerloo line, but it is a short first journey as we alight at the next station which is Baker Street where we change platforms for our next journey. We are now on the Jubilee Line, which takes us from Baker Street to Finchley Road, where we alight and we are let out of the station as the barriers let us through after showing our Oyster Card. Before we made our way to London today we topped up our Osyter Cards which was supposed to have been credited when we scanned them in at the Underground station at Marylebone, as we leave Finchley Road Underground Station, we spot a topping up machine and we decide to check that everything is in working order by scanning our cards where it shows that the top has been added successfully and also we get to see how much the balance is on our cards. We leave the station and we have a few steps along Finchley Road to get to our bus stop where we will catch our first bus in London using the Oyster Card.

We have a short wait for our bus, and on time a London Metroline Service 82 bus turns up which will take us to a place called Henlys Corner. The journey takes just under half an hour and we alight opposite a Holiday Inn hotel, London Golders Green to be exact, which will be the accommodation that Mr UK Buses will be using when he comes back to London in just over a weeks time to watch the Snooker. With the hotel found, we stand outside which is also where the bus stop is located and after a couple of minutes, another London Metroline pulls up which we board to take us back to Finchley Road Underground station, as we leave the hotel we spot a bus station at Golders Green which may be worth a visit on future trips to London. We arrive back at Finchley Road Underground Station, where we make our way back inside and back onto the Jubilee Line to take us back to Baker Street, upon arrival we stay in the station and change onto the Circle Line where we have a long journey and we make our way to a new Underground station that we haven't visited before, Wood Lane Underground Station, a relatively new station as this was opened in 2008, if Mr UK Buses had his way, we would have still been sitting on a tube train in Baker Street as he originally boarded a train that was laying over. As we make our way outside on to Wood Lane we scan the Oyster Card onto the barriers and we both see that on the scanner that the balance on the card is shown with the price shown for the journey in brackets (Finchley Road to Wood Lane is £2).

The BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, London
We leave the station and virtually opposite is the BBC Television Centre and I get my camera out ready to take a few photographs of the the Television Centre, but Mr UK Buses has other ideas, and we walk underneath the railway bridge and into Ariel Way and there is a bus station, the White City Bus Station, which opened the same time as the Wood Lane Underground Station in 2008, this bus station serves the nearby Television Centre and also the Westfield London Shopping Centre. With the camera in hand already, we get to take a few shots of the buses laying over. As we nearly finish taking photographs, a bus driver makes his way towards us asking what we are taking pictures of, thinking that we were taking pictures of him and not the buses. This is the first time on trips to London that we have ever been approached by an inquisitive bus driver, but luckily he calms down after we tell him that we are only taking pictures of the buses. After finishing with the photographs, we head back around the corner back to the Television Centre to take some pictures of the most famous television building in the United Kingdom. After looking around to see if we can see any celebrity's we come away disappointed as we see none, and we make our way to the White City Underground Station, which is located virtually opposite the Television Centre and a stone throws away from the Wood Lane Underground Station. We make our way onto the Central Line, where upon arrival at Bond Street Underground Station, we change lines and get onto the Jubilee Line which will take us to our next destination, which is Westminster.

We make our way out of the Westminster Underground Station and we head to Parliament Street, and stop by the Cenotaph to take a few photographs, the last time we was here, the police stopped me to search me before we saw the Remembrance Day Parade along this street. We make our way up Parliament Street and into Whitehall walking past the tourists taking pictures of the guards outside of the Horse Guards Palace, we walk a little bit further where we enter J D Wetherspoons, "The Lord Moon of the Mall" and we rest our feet whilst we have lunch. Mr UK Buses opts for his usual BBQ Chicken melt without the cheese, myself opting for the beer and burger having the chicken variety. I do try and get on the PlayBook, but the free Wi-fi inside this Wetherspoons does not want to communicate with my new toy so I put it back into my pocket. After we have finished lunch, we head out of the pub and around the corner to Charing Cross, where we wait for our next bus, Stagecoach London's Heritage route 15, we don't have to scan our Oyster Cards upon boarding as there are no scanners on Routemasters and we take a seat on the top deck with a pleasant view of London as we are sat at the front. Whilst en route, the conductor comes up with his Oyster Card terminal, but my card doesn't want to scan, so the conductor takes it off me and after a few attempts it does scan, Mr UK Buses has no problems with his card. After a journey time of twenty minutes and nearly a collision with a black cab, we arrive at the Tower of London. We are ahead of schedule, so we catch an earlier First London RV1 which is an hydrogen bus. We make our way and we have a pleasant journey on this "green" bus and a different sound as the bus has no engine. After fifteen minutes we arrive close to London Bridge Bus Station which after a little walk, passing the London Dungeons, we arrive at the bus station. No photographs will be taken here today as the station is currently being redeveloped, so we make our way to the temporary stop around the corner where we wait for a Service 48 bus. We have a good view whilst waiting for the bus as we are outside of a Fitness First gym and we are able to see the treadmills and bikes, the girl in the green t-shirt supplies the entertainment, with a girl in a pink t-shirt arriving just before we leave to have a ride on the exercise bike, unfortunately our Stagecoach London service 48 bus turns up.

Back at our London regular, The Blind Beggar
We board and we haven't got far to go, Mr UK Buses must have been mesmerised by the girl in the pink top as he fails to spot where we have to get off and luckily I spot the bus stop which displays Dukes Place and we run off the bus before it pulls off. According to the plan, we now have a short walk to Aldgate Bus Station, but somehow we don't follow Mr UK Buses directions and end up lost, luckily though for us we head up a street and arrive at Liverpool Street Railway Station. Alongside the railway station is Liverpool Street Bus Station, so we make up for not visiting the bus station at Aldgate by taking some photographs at this bus station. Photographs taken, we are now off the plan, and we catch an Arriva London service 133 which takes us back to where we have come from and we end up at Borough Underground Station. After scanning in, we head onto the Northern Line and travel to Moorgate Underground Station where we swap lines and head onto the Metropolitan Line to take us to Aldgate Underground Station, or so we thought. Mr UK Buses boards a Hammersmith and City Line train and we arrive at Aldgate East Underground Station instead, after this little snag, we decide to stay on the train and we arrive at the next Underground station,  Whitechapel, where we alight and scan our Oyster Card to get us on to Whitechapel Road, as we scan our cards we find out that we have reached the daily cap for the zones that we have travelled in today, we will not have any more money taken off our cards today. We make our way through the market and we arrive at our City of London regular, "The Blind Beggar", see picture right, where we have a well deserved break, whilst in the pub, I am treated to a drink served in a Blind Beggar badged glass, Mr UK Buses has a standard blank glass to drink from.

We leave the Blind Beggar, and walk across the road to our stop, where we will scan our Oyster Cards for the last time today and after a few minutes wait, a Stagecoach London Service 205 pulls up. We board and tap our cards on the scanner and take our seats. This route takes us across from the East End of London to our final destination of the day, passing Kings Cross, our normal railway station of London Euston before arriving at London Marylebone. I have a "fresh air break" whilst walking up Great Central Street to the main station building, this will be my last fresh air break before we get to board our train. We walk inside the station and decide to have a bite to eat at the Burger King which is located inside the station. After our food we quickly pop into Marks and Spencer's to get us a drink for the journey ahead and we then get onto Platform 3 to board our waiting Chiltern Train which will take us back to the second city, we walk through the carriages where we find the last table seat available and get comfy for the journey ahead. It is 17:00 and our train pulls out from the station on time and as we make our way it is getting dark outside, so to pass the time we turn on the PlayBook where I log onto the Chiltern Trains on board Wi-fi and we both have a look at the Internet for the rest of the journey. We cannot complain about the connection, offering top speeds enabling the quick loading of the web pages we look at, whilst on the move, there were a couple of signal drop-outs along the way, but this didn't stop us from searching the web. After a journey time of just over two hours (due to stopping off at more stations than we did on the morning journey), we arrive back at Birmingham Snow Hill at 19:03. We have just under half an hour to wait for our next train to take us back to Stourbridge, so we head out to Colmore Row where I can have a "fresh air" break and we make our way back to Platform 1, where at 19:28, our London Midland train arrives and takes us back to Stourbridge Junction, stopping at all the stations on the journey. We arrive back at Stourbridge Junction where we promptly make our way from Platform 3 to Platform 1 where the 19:59 "Dodger" to Stourbridge Town is waiting, leaving the station on time, we arrive at Stourbridge Town station at 20:02, which gives us three minutes to walk to Stand F along Birmingham Street to catch our final bus to take us back home. Luckily, the driver of the bus is on the phone so we are able to get to our stand at a normal walking pace before Black Diamond's Service 276C arrives to take us back home to rest our feet after a long day out.

The first trip of 2012 is a successful trip, where we have taken heed of the latest technology and used our Oyster Cards for the first time, with everything working as it should be and we weren't disappointed with how it works. The company on this trip was good and we had a stress free and sulk free day out, with only a couple of hiccups which did not affect the day. If the trips for the rest of the year are like this, it looks like it will be a good 2012.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

2012 - Website 01: Redevelopment Update

First of all I will take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year and hope that you have a great 2012. This is the first blog post of 2012 and hopefully there will be plenty more for this year.

In 2011, I decided that I would create a new Stourbridge Bus Information website from scratch, this meant that I would redesign and create brand new web pages for the main section of Stourbridge Bus Information, SBI Timetables and SBI Past, including the management area, an important part of the website as this lets me update the information that is held in the database in seconds rather than having to update the information in a web page and uploading the individual web page(s). After nine months since I started the project, I have made progress with some pages being added to the main site today. I did not set myself a time limit as I wanted to take my time and get everything right and develop the management system so that it would be even easier to update the website than I did previously with the old management system. As I have created the new web pages that appear on the site, I have also had to create quite a few pages extra for the management system at the same time, and this has been the reason why it has taken so long, previous redesigns of the website have been quick as I have not had to update the management system. It has taken a while for the redevelopment to take place as I also have limited spare time when I am not doing my day (paid) job. I originally wanted the SBI Timetables and main Stourbridge Bus Information website to be complete by the end of 2011, but due to limited time and finding new techniques of how the web page code is applied to make features work more interactively, this has sadly been passed, but I am not too far of from completing the website.

Phase 1 - SBI Timetables

Phase 1 of the redevelopment was to complete SBI Timetables (Management system and website), this was an easy phase to complete and did not take too long to do, this was because most of the pages are shared with the main Stourbridge Bus Information Website, so there was only a handful of web pages to complete. The management system for this part of the website was greatly improved which means that you only have to update one set of information on the database instead of two or three as the data is interlinked with each other. Another part of the SBI Timetables that has been improved is that I have gone from the old PDF way of showing the timetables to including the timetable data in the actual web page, which also means it is easier to print and also for me to update once any service changes are upcoming with the timetables.

Phase 2 - Stourbridge Bus Information Website

Phase 2 of the redevelopment is to complete the main part of the Stourbridge Bus Information website, the main bulk of pages have been uploaded today and apart from a handful of pages, this phase is near completion.

A quick summary of what has been changed today:

News - The news section has been improved especially with the management system side of things. Before, you would have to write the news story in a separate text file and upload it to the web server. Now, the whole story, including HTML coding, is actually stored within the database. This makes it easier and quicker to create a new news item or update information on an existing news story.

Gallery - This was a section which was created and uploaded to the website early on in the redevelopment of the site, this was partly due to the fact that there is no management system I had to rewrite for this section of the website, and also these pages are created using a flash application, so apart from creating an XML file for the information of where the pictures are situated on the server and any commentary on the photographs, this section was basically written for me from the flash application which I used. A new collection of the gallery appeared this year with pictures taken throughout the year of the works taking place on construction of the new Stourbridge Interchange, this added to the existing collections of Black and White, Double Deck, Minibuses and Single Deck photographs, these collection also having new photographs added to them.

Fares and Tickets - This section was completed within the last couple of weeks and made live today, just in time to coincide with the fare increases coming into force on 2nd January 2012. These pages have been made more cleaner with the way the data is shown. There are still three parts to this section, Cash Fares, Day Tickets and Travel Cards.

There is only one section to complete on the main part of the website, the Bus Information section, which is currently two-thirds completed after the pages which have been made live today:

  • Service Changes - This has been moved from the news section as I think it is more fitting to be in the Bus Information section as it is more of an information page that is always being changed as Stourbridge bus services change throughout the year.
  • Places Served - This has been renamed from the Where to? page to Places Served. The layout is more cleaner and text size has been increased (the same size is being used throughout on all the new web pages) making it easier for people to read, this has been accomplished by making all new pages on the site wider than the original 800 pixel wide layout - I have chosen to go larger after looking at the visitor statistics which showed that the majority of visitors have a screen size of 1024 pixels or wider.
  • Passenger Information - This page is shared by SBI Timetables, and was one of the earliest pages in the new layout to be completed.
  • Holiday Operations - This page has been made cleaner in the way it is laid out and it is also a page which is more interactive in how it displays information. In the past I have forgot to update this page and have been guilty of not showing information for an upcoming holiday or showing information for the previous holiday. This will not happen now as at the beginning of each year I input all of the data for all the public holidays in the coming year and the page will automatically display the data for the upcoming holiday three weeks in advance and then stop displaying it two weeks after the holiday has passed. I will also be using this technique on the relevant timetables in SBI Timetables for service changes and diversions in force for each individual service.
  • Frequency Guide - This is another page that was completed early on in the progress of redevelopment as this is another page which is also shared with SBI Timetables and the data that is used in this page is also shared with the timetable data, so any timetable description changes or operator changes will be updated automatically on this page when I make changes to the SBI Timetables data.

I have also completed the links section, but have not currently made this live as I am having a problem with one of the pages which is used to submit a link. When a link is submitted it sends me an email to inform me that a new link has been submitted, enabling me to log on and approve the link to display, it is this part of the code in the page that I am having problems with, which is confusing me as the contact form uses the same system and works. I will be contacting my web hosts to find an answer and hopefully making this section live in the near future.

That brings me up to date with the current state of the redevelopment of the website(s). I do have a little bit more work to do on the main part of the website, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and will be glad once the main section is complete. Once the main section is complete there are still a few housekeeping tasks to do, one is to replace pictures that are currently being used on the web pages. I hope to replace them with newer images with new images taken of the new interchange, and I will also have to do a little housekeeping of the management system to tie up a few loose ends with how the data is stored and collated with other web pages. The main layout of the website was actually created from the way I laid out this blog spot part of the website. Once I created the layout of the blog spot, I transferred this design into the layout of the main website, so that all parts of my website, internally produced (Stourbridge Bus Information, SBI Timetables) and externally (SBI Blogspot) look virtually the same.

Once that is complete, I will then start Phase Three, which is to redevelop the SBI Past part of the website, so I wont be taking it easy for a while to come, the first page which will be created is the current events guide which I did create during the early part of the redevelopment, but now I know how to store the data, I can redevelop the redeveloped page to make the data easier to store and display, especially data wise. Phase Four will involve sourcing a photographic sharing website to resurrect the Webmaster's images collection which died early last year when the image hosting website, Fotopic, disappeared from the Internet.

Also, last year I started to use the social media websites Facebook and Twitter which I use to inform website visitors about events taking place whilst out on the move and have no way of updating the main website until I get back to a laptop or PC. This has also been made easier after tying my Twitter account to the Facebook page which meant that I could tweet from my phone and the tweet would also update the status on the Facebook page, this has become a popular tool and both have been subscribed by a number of people, with numbers increasing as time goes on - tweets made by myself have also been retweeted on other twitter accounts which promote the local area.

All this will be taking place whilst I will be adding more blog posts to the blogspot with the tales of the days out with the ARM (Andy, Rog and Mark) team throughout the year, and this will be starting straight away as I will be updating the blog quite soon with the goings on of our first day out of 2012 next week and our first trip of the year to London. The new year has begun and I will still be working hard to make my goals complete, here is to a good and productive 2012.