Friday 11 May 2012

Hopeless Experience at Hedge End [2]

  Dateline : Thursday 3rd May 

fbb has arrived at Hedge End Station in slight drizzle and notes that the bus stop is correctly labelled with the new route numbers appropriate for the First Bus revised route network. The former 8A ran every 20 minutes from the station to Southampton, not serving the village of Hedge End.
The new  service is quite different. Unfortunately neither First's map nor their timetable gives a true picture. In fact buses traverse a large loop from Moorgreen and the Ageas Bowl via Hedge End Station, Locke Road, The Maypole (once a pub, now replaced by a care home but retaining the name) ...
... Hedge End centre, the Superstores and back via Moorgreen. 8As run clockwise, 8s run widdershins. Because of the loop, buses cannot (obviously) be spaced out evenly all the way round. So, if you care to spend time working it out, the timetable shows departures from the station at xx27, xx31, xx57 and xx01 with the xx27 and xx57 taking the long way round to Southampton but providing the bus link to many residential areas of Hedge End.

At least that was what fbb was expecting, but the screen said different.
And up pops service 8 ...
... operated by Brijan and not going to Southampton. And the screen suggests that the 8As run every 20 minutes. What does the timetable in the frame say?
8A every 20 minutes. Yes, you guessed it! On the fifth day of the new network all the information at Hedge End was for the old timetable. It was all absolutely useless. Who is to blame? fbb has no idea who should keep this stuff up to date, but guesses it should be Hampshire County Council who will blame the dreaded "cutbacks". Surely First Bus should be more than anxious to ensure that the publicity for its services is correct? Clearly nobody at First had checked.

So far then
two different service 8s
a wrong departure list
out-of-date "unreal time" screens

It's going well so far.

Furthermore, it would be good if the buses offered useful connections with the trains; not easy with such a large loop. The train from London arrives at xx34, but the bus to the village centre (town centre?) has left at xx27; whilst a passenger from the village to Portsmouth can arrive at xx31 and might just sprint across the bridge in time to see the rear end of the train fading into the distance.
Assuming there is no need to buy a ticket!

In the other direction the train to London leaves 9 minutes after the bus arrives from Hedge End but an arrival from Portsmouth (like fbb) has to wait 17 minutes. There is no easy answer, but you do wonder whether the planners even considered the possible options.
Thus fbb's chosen but unscheduled (according to the stop) bus arrives and departs on time. By pure fluke the stop at Hedge End Centre is correct. First's 8 stops opposite, this 8 is Brijan again.
But West End's stop is hopelessly wrong. The 7 now runs to Portswood and Bassett and there should be an 8 with the 8A.
But at Northam, no longer in Hampshire but under the aegis of "unitary" Southampton City, the job has been done and the labels are correct ...
... as were most stops in the city.

And what of First's brand new livery, surely evident as part of a major network relaunch? All day (well, from 1040 to 1530) fbb spotted FOUR new liveried buses.
So, teacher's report on the first five days of the "Take it Easy" new network, directed at all parties involved ...

Could do better : should do better.
More effort needed.
Lose 20 house points.

But the new Southampton and Gosport/Fareham timetable books are even better than sliced bread. So, later next week, the cheerful chubby chappie is much more positive.

 Next Blog : Saturday 12th May 


  1. The 7 in West End is the Brijan 7, nothing to do with the First 7 which does not, nor never has, gone anywhere near West End. Anon's mark for fbb's attempt at nit picking nonsense in West End 5/10 - could do much better!

  2. Oh dear, yet another seat on the naughty step for fbb. I had completely forgotten Southampton's "other" 7 : that's the price the elderly pay for having conflicting route numbers (!).
    Nit picking? If those concerned can't keep bus stop info up-to-date, then we should return to a plain "flag" and leave the passenger to find out - or go by car - or not go at all!

  3. FBB you appear to have missed the point, the bus stop flag in West End is correct other than the 8 is missing but the 7 most definitely isn't wrong, how does one get confused with another route that doesn't go anywhere near where one is boarding? There is a High Street in West, a High Street in Eastleigh and a High Street in Southampton, do the poor residents of all three locations get confused about where they live given the remarkable likeness of the name of their street?

  4. Accepted. I've not missed the point BUT conflicting route numbers in one geographical are is simply poor practice. It leads to misunderstandings and mistakes at all levels. Had I told an innocent old fogey traveller (with pass) to catch the No 8 at Hedge End to travel to Soton ....
    Many counties and most PTEs (South Yorkshire an exception!) have a consistent route numbering policy which operators are "encouraged" to support!
    The "creator" of the new Soton network has a "thing" about single digit route numbers hence confusion and conflict within the operating area after these changes.
    Some conflicts will happen at the fringes, but these are totally unnecessary.

  5. To be fair, it was hardly First who are to blame for Southampton's route number duplication. It was Solent Blue Line who decided they wanted to run their routes with numbers a little more imaginative than "47A" to Winchester, etc.

    Even with the old network, there were two route 7s in the city centre, Brijan's and First's. This is still the case.

    I don't like route number duplication, but it's recognised that low, single route numbers work best for passengers. What do you do when two operators co-exist? You can't do a lot about it. Having the operator's logo on the stop flag is a good idea, but with council tendered services, you don't want to do it as it would require a change if another operator won the contract. But having Hedge End served by an 8, another 8 and an 8A is not good and an arrangement ought to be made to sort it out.

    Hampshire County Council are abysmal at updating their stops. They don't have control over the stops flags usually, but they get a bee in their bonnet, install shiny new HCC stops - and then do a poor job at keeping them up to date. If I was First, I would be driving round all my routes to make sure everything's correct. So they do get a small bit of blame.

    Go to neighbouring Surrey. Much better, the bus companies have no involvement in stops at all, except the option to provide timetables (that the council has to approve before they put them in). Result? Tidy looking stops with correct info all round.

    PS. Whoever did that stop at Northam by slapping a sticker over two e-plates and leaving the First logos in view desrves to be shot.

  6. But FBB my dear my comments earlier related to your nit picking in West End which is still live on your site and wholly unjustified, surely given you pernickety stance on 'getting things right' you would have hit the edit button on this post and corrected this most glaring of errors as soon as it was pointed out or even better properly researched the existence of the Brijan 7 ? Nil pois for accuracy from the people's republic of Eastleigh, West End ward!

  7. Its more fun for readers to follow comments. I did write "Accepted" above and offered to sit on the naughty step! I will go without pudding tonight as well. If I correct the text of the blog all your lovely comments will be lost and fbb will appear totally perfect; which, as you point out, he most definitely isn't!!
    But thank you for your correction and opinions.
    It's all good for the omnibological animus.

  8. Apologies for the wrong information on the electronic display at the rail station. As to roadside infrastructure the county council invests in high quality bus stops, timetable cases and access kerbs and funds a range of printed information, Traveline, and electronic information systems.

    With a finite budget, revenue support goes on funding those bus services which would otherwise not run rather than on roadside publicity which remains with the operators.

    Thanks for an informative blog as always.

    Peter Shelley

    Hampshire County Council

  9. Dear FBB, while, as a reader, it is indeed fun to follow the comments, it is also just as informative to follow the preceding blog posts, even more so when they contain valid points. Might I humbly suggest a suitable compromise that will not only maintain your imperfections, but will also satisfy those who would wish to see those imperfections made less imperfect? To whit, editing the offending prose to strike it through, and inserting a correcting sentence in an appropriate colour.

  10. "Nil pois for accuracy"? At the risk of lighting another incendiary of ire from anti-nit-picking anonymous above. "Nil pois" might, at a stretch, be translated from franglais as "zero peas". The famous and original Eurovision Song Contest catchphrase was

    "Norvège : nul points"

  11. This correspondence is now closed!