Wednesday 21 March 2012

Publicity Hazard : Pont Hafren [4]

Timetables Telling the Truth? Or Not?

The history of services crossing Pont Hafren (The Severn Bridge) is complicated and fbb was only able to offer a very broad and confused overview in yesterday's blog (read again). The comments added to "Publicity Hazard : Pont Hafren" episodes [2] and [3] have been most enlightening : thanks, all.

It is today's service pattern and how the information is presented that we now consider.
Stagecoach gets it nearly right, so we had better start there. The service between Newport and Bristol is jointly operated by First and Stagecoach; indeed this overall structure has remained unchanged for many years. 

Thanks to really silly interpretation of Drivers' Hours regulations, the through service has been split into two; then both operators lie through the teeth about offering "guaranteed connections" between the X14 and the 14 at Chepstow. Twaddle! It's a through service; always has been; always will be.

But the ever sensible (?) Traveline South West fails to grasp this salient point and treats the X14 ...
Stagecoach X14

... and the 14 as separate routes with separate operators, so (with X10 and X11) provides the enquirer with SIX separate tables ...
First 14

... and so, of course, fails to find any through journeys!
But, be fair, fbb; (why?) if you remember to "switch off" coach and train options, it does graciously find the X14/14 combo; but still tells you to change buses at Chepstow.

And, before we move on, Monmouthshire's version of the timetable doesn't mention connections at all ...
... and South Gloucestershire's effort insists on a change of bus ...
... only for Stagecoach trips. With First, you can travel through, as indicated by the black blobs and a note at the foot of the table!

Whereas the Bristol version doesn't admit to service 14 at all ...
... the journeys are, apparently, numbered X14 throughout. And the 0850 from Chepstow actually runs at 0855, probably.


We really do need a breather, so take some pills, enjoy a good night's rest and come back tomorrow to tackle some more baffling confusion. Meanwhile, we have so far discovered that, as a source of timetable information ...

Stagecoach have got it nearly right (more later)
South Gloucestershire haven't quite grasped connections
Monmouthshire haven't grasped connections at all
Traveline South West is utterly useless
Bristol doesn't understand the route numbers

But let's end todays blog with a refreshing picture of a Stagecoach X14, chuntering through Chepstow.

There now, that's better, isn't it; and this one's even snazzier - and newer ...
... but dirtier!

In a terrible omission, fbb has, so far, forgotten to give Chepstow its "proper" name which is, of course,  Cas-gwent . Sorry, welsh speakers!
 Next Blog : due Thursday March 22nd 
 We pause from Pont Hafren
to take an advance glance
at the Gosport and Fareham "BRT"
which opens one month from today!


  1. To my mind the silliness is not in the interpretation of the drivers' hours regulations, but in the regulations themselves, insofar as they differentiate between services that are, or are not, more than 50km long. The regulations are about 'hours', and that is undoubtedly a factor that contributes to tiredness, and therefore potential risks to safety. As long as the driver does not drive for longer than the permitted time, it cannot really matter whether he or she covers one trip on a longer route or four trips on a shorter service. Indeed, arguably, driving shorter intensive urban services may well be more tiring and stressful than longer interurban or rural routes.

    So the fault lies with poorly designed regulations, with frankly irrelevant rules, which the operators then have to devise ruses to get around in order to offer the passengers a half decent service. Unfortunately this is far from being the only such example of poor legislation - whether it comes from bureaucrats in Brussels, or politicians in Prague, Potsdam and Paris is another debatable question!

  2. I am not familiar with the wording of these regulations but I suspect that, like most so-called Health and Safety "rules", the nonsense is a result of interpretation by lawyers whose business is making money our of interpretation.

    I once heard (on the radio) an H&S "biggie" who explained patiently to the interviewer that NONE of the then current H&S sillies had emanated from his office. They were all created by "jobsworth" officials and "posterior protecting" lawyers.

    Maybe a bus-type lawyer will comment by way oif confirmtion or contradiction.

  3. Done it again, "our of interpretaion" should be "out of interpretation".

  4. It is the requirement for services over 50km to have tachographs (and associated restrictions) that has brought about these split registrations.

    Couple them up as a series of registrations of less than 31 miles and there is no need for tachographs.

    However, as operators only have to send a copy of the registration to the local authority in which it operates, then the information received by the transport authority may not reveal the whole picture, unless the operator adds an explanation. So on this service, the registrations west from Chepstow need never be sent to the English authorities; and Newport will never receive copies of the routes running from Chepstow into England.

  5. Thanks for your correction, 'Man of Kent', I had forgotten that it was the tachograph issue that was at the root of the splitting of longer routes. Strangely, I recall that this issue first raised its head when I was working in the industry during the 1970s, though I think there may have been hours implications then (usual disclaimer - it was a long time ago!). The company contemplated splitting routes in a similar way to that now used, in that longer routes would have been covered by two licenses. Strangely, at that time we had one license that was operated as two routes, which had been separated several years previously, and no particular mention was made of the connections in the timetable. The nature of the rural operations meant that connections generally did exist, as all routes came into the bus station on an hourly or two-hourly frequency.

    To some extent, my thoughts are still valid, in that I am not sure there is any good reason why routes should require tachographs, or not, dependent on the distance between the terminal points. If the tachograph is a useful data recording device, then surely it should be used on all services? I would also have thought, that with modern electronic systems it should be possible to make the use of the tachograph reasonably straightforward, and not particularly onerous for the driver, while at the same time providing useful data.

    I am reminded of an occasion later in my career, with another operator, when I was asked to help setup a computerised database for mileage and fuel consumption recording. My initial attempt to get mileage readings for the complete fleet failed because not all of the buses had mileometers, let alone tachographs!

  6. The current move towards splitting routes is down to the wording of advice from DfT, which sets out their understanding of which services can be exempted from EU driving rules. The main defining point is that the "route length" is less than 50km. If the route is longer than that, it can still be exempted by splitting the service into two or more registrations.

    However, the advice draws a distinction between a "through" service, where the registration split is invisible to the user, but there must be a change of driver, and a "connecting" service, as shown in this case, where a change of driver is not required. As to why this is important, and as to why length of route is relevant at all, is unknown.

    It is, therefore, more flexible for the operator to register "connecting" services, but, as pointed out, this can mean that some local authorities may only see part of the whole story. The simple way round that is to tell them, but what they do with the information is up to them!

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