Thursday, 30 December 2010

Worrying Wantage Wanderings (Part I)

Who can you ask?

fbb and Mrs fbb were staying for a few days at "The Bear" Hotel at Wantage (Oxfordshire).
A special offer enabled them to spend some post Christmas time with the family.   An added bonus (possibly not for Mrs fbb!) was that the hotel is adjacent to the main bus stops in the Market Place; so, at breakfast or dinner, fbb has been able to observe the operation of public transport in "The Vale".   [the Vale of the White Horse of Uffington, a notable piece of pre-historic graffiti.]
Now, as we have come to expect, there is nowhere obvious  in Wantage to obtain bus information.   The local council office has closed permanently and the library has little to offer.   So, it's off to the Market Place bus stops to see what is available.   There are two shelters each with shiny new bus top "flags", one of which has a dot matrix information screen on one side and the three services using the stop on the other.

On Monday 27th December the screen showed the words "see timetable" all day.   Great?   Where was the timetable?   On the stop?   Nope - it was a bank holiday and nowhere was there any information on what service was running.   So zero marks out of ten!

On Tuesday  28th December it gave information about the hourly 32 (via Didcot to Abingdon), yet X30s and 31s arrived and departed unannounced!   One helpful 31 (photographed in the earlier "big snow") was painted up for the "S" services from Oxford which run to Witney and Bicester but NOT Wantage - but it did have 31 on the front!   So, perhaps 3 out of ten for a third of the correct information!
But, three belated cheers; on Wednesday 29th December the sign showed details of all three services from that stop.   At last - a grudging 10/10 after two days of (NOT) trying very hard.

Sadly, due to the pedestrian (= slow moving) "refresh rate" of the wizzo electronics, fbb was unable to take a photo of the sign in action.  (Or even in "lack of action" on 27th and 28th!).   
Note the spiky thing on the top!   An aerial?   Presumably with a link to "deep throat" located in a hardened underground citadel somewhere at Oxford  County Council HQ.    But it turns out to be a very shallow "deep throat" computer which doesn't seem to understand that on "non standard" days there will be MORE customers wanting information - so it ought to be complete and right.

But, surely, there are timetables on display at the stop?   No, again!   Just a list of departures - so you don't even know when you might be able to get there, yet alone come back.   At least if you are good at mental arithmetic you can add up a list of travel times between each stop; but, while doing the mental gymnastics, the bus will have pulled away anyway.   AND, you still cannot be sure what service is actually running on Bank Holiday or similar "odd" days.   Not helpful.
Of course you can ring Traveline (or get times on your mobile).   But, and a big "but" it is,  you have to PAY traveline (16p for the first minute, that's over three shillings in real money!).   Crazy - it's like Tesco charging you a fiver admission to use its stores -  paying to find out what they sell and how much it is.
Four suggestions so far.   There WILL be more!

1. Ensure that there is a full set of up-to-date literature available SOMEWHERE in Wantage.
2. Put timetables up at the bus stops, not just summaries.
3. Try to persuade your electronic thingummies not to have bank holidays.   Maybe the electrons were a little tired - or even hung over - after Christmas.
4. Don't make us pay for the privilege of finding out what you sell, namely rides on a bus.   Tesco seem to manage to advertise their wares without a surcharge for information supplied!

But, hang the expense!   fbb DID ring traveline ...
... to be continued

P.S. The hotel was very pleasant indeed.