Thursday, 5 July 2012

Traveline's Technology Triumphs!

Last week fbb was on holiday in Largs and took a trip over to the Isle of Cumbrae by CalMac ferry. See "Languishing in Largs [Day 7]" (read again). On arrival at the Island slipway a service 320 bus ...
... operated by Millport Motors, was waiting to transport the chubby one (and accompanying party) on the short run down the coast to Millport.
Copies of the ferry timetable are readily available on line and locally, confirming fbb's somewhat unreliable memory that the service is "frequent".
But what about the connecting bus? Observation from the fbbs' rented flat window suggest that a bus meets every ferry throughout the day. BUT ... can this be confirmed on-line or from locally available printed material? There is absolutely NOTHING available at Largs to give you guidance about the 320 bus service.

CallMac offer the following advice on their web site nd on the printed version of their timetable ...
... but past experience suggests that paper confirmation might be helpful, especially so because the ferry timetable has significant seasonal variations; and a visitor might like to check return bus times from Millport.

fbb once saw a leaflet from  Stratclyde Partnership for Transport [SPT] ...
... with its avowed policy of "joining up journeys". Sadly the current on-line version of SPTs leaflet offers this for the Summer of 2012:-
About as much use as a set of water wings! It also happens to be completely wrong; there is no such bus. Undaunted by patently failing to join up anything, SPT then suggests ...
So that's what fbb did!

The conversation was too lengthy to report in a brief blog, but it can be summarised as follows:

 fbb  I need to get to Millport

 TL  When do you want to go?

 fbb  That depends on what the timetable says

 TL  Where do you want to start from?

 fbb  That also depends on what the timetable says. Let's say Glasgow.

 TL  You'll  need to take the ferry ... and a train to Largs

 fbb  O.K. let's assume I travel from Largs

 TL  The ferries run every hour at ten past the hour

 fbb  And that takes me to Millport?

 TL  No you'll need to catch a bus from Cumbrae Slip.

 fbb  Where's that?

 TL  The bus meets the ferry. The bus runs every hour as well

 fbb  Thank you.

Much of the detailed conversation ran like the text of an Eugene Ionesco** play but it was very obvious that the Traveline "Adviser" had no idea where Millport, Largs or Cumbrae Slip were. So apart from giving totally incorrect information, Traveline did not inspire confidence.

As a final step into the unknown, fbb decided to try Traveline's timetable ...
... which, in typical Traveline fashion, has a place name ("Portrye") which no-one else in the galaxy uses or has ever used. There appear to be two buses running at 1040, indeed two buses running every 15 minutes, but with column heading notes.

What about the whole PDF timetable? Here is just a small extract from six pages of downloadable timetable information:-
You may struggle here with, apparently, four separate services between Cumbrae Slip and Millport. To which we need to add an explanation of the notes.
So, thanks to Traveline, we now know all that you might possibly want to know about buses from Cumbrae Slip to and from Millport. What we might not be able to do is to understand it. Certainly, to Mr Average Passenger, the traveline "full" timetable is a meaningless jumble of chaos and confusion. What makes matters worse is that the timetable is actually blissfully simple.

Lie down, take a couple of aspirins and fbb will explain all.
In 1986 Cumbrae Coaches started up in competition with Millport Motors on the "ferry run". This was daft! Eventually, peace broke out and the route is now shared. Each operator keeps their own revenue, so, to ensure fairness all round, each company runs alternate schedules on alternate days. Millport Motors meets the xx15 minutes past ferry from Largs today, then the xx45 minutes past tomorrow. Similar sharing arrangements operate throughout the year. Outside of the peak ferry service period, each operator takes a day in turn.

The passenger doesn't care; his bus is always there!
Traveline, being comprehensive but profoundly NOT comprehensible, has simply imported this irrelevance from registration documents. It shows both sets of departures, presumably so that you can choose which of the two bus companies has the inestimable privilege of your custom, having chosen the appropriate ferry time to match the bus departure. "It's Thursday. I'll go on the 1115 ferry so I can travel with Cumbrae Coaches." Maybe not!

Here is a form of words that could be added to the CalMac website:-

"Buses connect with all ferry sailings at Cumbrae Slip for the 10 minute journey to or from  Millport."

Maybe they should add:-

"Whatever you do, don't contact Traveline."
And, as an added and revolutionary fbb suggestion, it might be an idea to have copies of a combined bus and ferry timetable available available in the Tourist Office and at Calmac's Largs Pier ticket office. For a minuscule fee, fbb will produce a nice PDF files for someone at Largs to print out. Indeed, here is the fbb version of part of the summer timetable; created absolutely free of charge.
And perhaps the sainted Traveline might consider giving out some useful and understandable information at the same time.
**Eugene Ionesco (1909 to 1994)
A Romanian-born French playwright, arch-proponent of the "Theatre of the Absurd". His play "The Bald Prima-Donna" (or "Soprano") is a continuous stream of non-sequiturs in which the title is delivered as an irrelevant line in the dialogue, by a passing fireman!

Public transport is straightforward by comparison!

 Next Blog : Friday 36th Septober  


  1. Thank you very much for this info, will get the bus into millport and let you know how I got on.

  2. Plan on going there on wednesday if the weathers good..Will remember this info.
    George Aimer