Thursday, 20 November 2014

Stagecoach are Bettering Buses to Kettering [3]

A Bridge Too Far
One problem has faced buses running between Northampton and Kettering. And it is this:-
This is the Midland main line immediately north of Kettering station. The road has been lowered but double deck buses have generally be forced to take a significant diversion.
At this junction (offending bridge to the right) the route turns left and wiggles via Kettering Hospital ...
... before turning back southbound to the town centre.
The low bridge is to the left of the (new) roundabout by the "K" of Kettering; Hospital upper right.

The bridge was a real problem and occasionally caught out visiting vehicles as here ...
... where 25 West Midlands children on a day trip to Wicksteed Park were injured.

So let's look at running times; with a reminder that the Gold X4 runs from Peterborough to Milton Keynes and follows a fast(er) route between Wellingborough and Northampton.

 6  via Moulton in 1952 - 56 minutes
 256  not via Moulton in 1959 - 49 minutes

 38  via Mears Ashby in 2014 - 83 minutes

 39  via Old in 2014  - 83 minutes

 X4  via Wellingborough in 2014 - 60 minutes

After the changes on November 2nd we have on offer

 38  withdrawn

 39  via Old REVISED - 78 minutes

 X4  via Wellingborough NO CHANGE - 60 minutes

 X43  via Moulton NEW - 54 minutes

For those not familiar with Northamptonshire's geography, Old is a village not a description of Stagecoach buses or an ancient bus route!

Not only is the X43 new and (slightly) faster between Northampton and Kettering, but it continues northwards to Market Harborough taking over from the former service 18.
Here is a chunk of the new X43 timetable:-
The Stagecoach leaflet is well laid out with 39 and X43 on offer including a full route map ...
... plus a selection of town maps; that for Kettering itself showing how far stops are now removed to the railway station. Integrated transport? No fear?
Stagecoach are generally good at providing information but what is available out in the sticks of Kettering?
The other "coming together" of buses is at Eskdaill Street ...
... and round the corner at Newland Street.
Alan writes:-

"You recall the splendid Public Transport Information display at Wellingborough Church Street. Well Kettering has two, one in Newland Street and another round the corner in Eskdaill Street. The signs match the generally run down appearance of the bus loading area, no wonder there are people out there who think only the poor and unwashed travel by bus."

Here are Kettering's two.
Newland Street

The Northampton Street Fair advertised was from 25th to 28th October. The blue and pink poster is for the Kettering Dayrider but the glass (plastic) is so dirty you can hardly read them. Eskdaill Street is similar ...
Eskdaill Street

... with the addition of a just visible 7 day ticket poster in purple and grey.

And what about printed timetables? Erm, what? Eh? You want a TIMETABLE? Hey, Bill, we've got a guy here who wants a bus timetable!

In common with the code of secrecy and despite large display frames in the shelters ...
... Stagecoach does not display any timetables anywhere the town. Departure lists, yes. Timetable, no. Route maps, no.

Alan did a tour, mystery shopper style, as follows:-

1045 - X4, Northampton to Wellingborough.
1133 - X1, Wellingborough to Finedon.
1210 - 50, Finedon to Irthlingborough.
1240 - 45, Irtlingborough to Wellingborough.

       Lunch break.
1442 - 34, Wellingborough to Kettering.
1559 - X43, Kettering to Northampton.

He searched for timetables in general and for the new X43 service specifically.

Northampton North Gate. Timetables for Services 39 and X43 on display.
Wellingborough Library seems to be the only source of printed timetables in the town and oh dear! Out of date timetables for W3 and 45 still displayed, nothing for 34, X46 and X47 and no train timetables.
Finedon library does not open on Monday or Tuesday so no chance of finding anything there,
Kettering's council offices have lots of lovely computers but no bus timetables.
They are across the car park at the Manor House Museum. There was a complete set of current Stagecoach timetables but nothing for the 34 or any rail information.
The café in Newland Street used to have them but not any more.

Alan further opines that he knows the area, he knows where to look BUT how would a visitor find any leaflets, with the notable exception of Northampton's bus station?

Of course, how stupid of visitors to Kettering. It is obvious that you get bus information from the town's museum. Bus passengers are just SO incompetent!

Is this really the (non) advert for their services that Stagecoach want? Printed material has sunk into the "it's all too much trouble and they can use the internet" philosophy. Some can, and do. Many, many more can, but don't. But the vast majority of bus passengers would not be able to access on-line information. Weirdly this represents the majority of today's bus users. What other industry would treat its largest tranche of customers with such contempt?

Yet Another Ticket Splitter
A blog comment on Tuesday ...
... suggested that fbb should try a third site offering to unravel the complexity of rail fares. A more detailed report on will follow on Saturday. At first glance it looks better.
 Next bus blog : Friday 21st November 


  1. I would point out that the 34 isn't a Stagecoach service, it is an NCC tendered service awarded at very short-notice (about 2-weeks I believe) to Centrebus. With that sort of lead time from award to commencement of service it is very unlikely printed publicity can be prepared to be got out anywhere near service start, in my experience it takes designers longer than that just to get the first draft set up. When it does appear it will undoubtedly appear as part of Centrebus's Northamptonshire booklet rather than as a separate route leaflet.

  2. I must disagree with my much respected comment writer. NCC will have received Stagecoach registrations at least 8 weeks before the change. Allowing a generous one week for discussion at County Hall, tender forms could be available at bus company level relatively quickly. Generously you might allow four weeks for "due process". That leaves four weeks to set up. It tales about 30 minutes with a computer, a pair of scissors and Pritt stick to create a basic timetable page and photocopy it. 1 day visiting timetable outlets, breaking into rusty timetable frames (if any) and asking village representatives to stick one up on community notice boards. They will usually be delighted to cooperate. An advert in the local press is quick and cheap. Build these costs into the standard tender form and it is not, as they say, "rocket science". The problem is not that it can't be done. The problem is that nobody will accept responsibility. There seems little point in running a bus service if you don't tell the customers it's there.

    1. It was awarded with 2 weeks notice, I've checked when I received the finalised tt & route description to submit the registration. It took NCC 2 weeks to devise their tenders not 1, they then gave operators 2 weeks to submit their bids, 2 weeks to evaluate & a couple of days to finalise the specification (they adjusted both the route & timetable after award to reflect so passenger requests) leaving under 2 weeks from finalisation to service start. The other service involved in that tendering, the 38 was awarded even later with part going to Stagecoach & part to Uno, that may well have been under a weeks notice when it was finally fixed.

      I shall have to check with my colleagues whether roadside was updated, unfortunately as a very shirt notice take up it may have slipped through the cracks as it came in the middle of a number of major service enhancements to commercial services elsewhere, I'll give a nudge to get it checked when I get into the office on Monday (though both Wellingborough & Kettering Town Centres appear to be managed by Stagecoach under contract to NCC so should have been done automatically) as we don't have any changes over the next month.

      I think fbb may be guilty of assuming a very passive travelling public, they seemed to know what was happening as soon as the operator did, the first enquiries came through on the phones whilst the registrations were prepared. I don't think many operators think they have got their publicity distribution exactly right yet, Centrebus certainly don't (it's actually being reviewed at the moment to see if it can be improved) and as an industry we have always struggled when dealing with short notice tenders & getting information out fast, though it is affected by what type of tender it is (cost contracts mean that there is little incentive for the operator to spend much time on it as there is no benefit to them in the short term as the council keeps all revenues) though over longer periods most operators will include such services simply for clarities sake. Internet usage is increasing amongst bus passengers of all ages, many of my parents retired friends are happy to use the internet to find bus times, it is not universal but it is not uncommon, and it will become more widespread as time goes on but these tend to be groups who prefer simpler layouts so complicated websites & difficult journey planners making timetable location difficult will help put them off.

    2. no 2 no rural buses24 May 2015 at 07:31

      Just to clarify the routes around the northampton, Kettering, wellingborough triangle (as I call it!)

      34 wellingborough-Kettering,
      hourly run by centrebus

      37 northampton-hannington,
      One 'on peak return service' run by stagecoach
      One 'off peak return service' run by uno (but is surprisingly full some days!!)

      38 northampton-Kettering (a one off journey starting at 06.34 Mon-Friday mornings except bank hols) via broughton and pytchley, run by stagecoach (schoolday part of the 39 timetable!)

      39 northampton-Kettering,
      hourly run by stagecoach

      X43 northampton-Kettering,
      hourly run by stagecoach,
      with some schoolday journeys run via Overstone and sywell (caught out one driver when I told him he was going the wrong way i.e not into my nearby village, and a novice passenger told me he wasn't!!

      X46/47 northampton-raunds
      Half hourly with ' return on peak' journeys to thrapston
      Sunday daytime X47 Northampton-Higham Ferrers only, hourly run by stagecoach

      X4 Milton Keynes-Peterborough
      Daytime northampton-earls barton & vice versa
      via A45

      evening & Sunday's wellingborough road running nearly tandem with X47 between northampton & wellingborough on the latter for a half hourly service.

      I should point out a I've even had to end up going to Kettering depot to get timetables for routes in a around wellingborough as the library is hopeless with travel info as the regard route 45 as W5!!!! Carrying timetables/route info are strongly recommended when traveling on the stagecoach midlands network to avoid getting stuck!!! You have to ask for a printout for route 37!!!

    3. no 2 no rural buses24 May 2015 at 07:40

      Yep 2 weeks it was, very nerve racking time to see if me and the locals had a bus service, which resulted in a poorly planned (in our view) route 37!!!

  3. Why would "the vast majority of bus passengers...not be able to access on-line information"? The trips I make see all ages playing with electronic equipment on-board, especially when the bus is equipped with wifi.
    And for instant "when's the next bus?" information, I would thoroughly recommend Having worked on telephone enquiry lines from time to time, I'd say the majority of enquirers ask about departure times, not journey lengths. That has possibly influenced what operators and local authorities now choose to put up at many bus stops (with a vastly increased coverage compared to 15 years ago or more) and the sad fact remains that many people are thoroughly off-put by a conventional timetable.

  4. On my various (and extensive) trips by bus since moving to Seaton I have NEVER seen anyone accessing bus information by any electronic means. MofK must live in a different (perhaps more affluent) world. A quick survey of bus passengers at church reveals that none of hem have ever used a computer for bus information. But they are all about 107!

  5. Excuse me, fbb - I use a computer to access bus information and I am slightly less than half of 107!

  6. Hi,

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