Thursday, 13 November 2014

Worries Whilst Waiting at Watford [P.S.]

Two days ago, fbb waxed all lyrical about the on-line timetable finder provided by the Intalink partnership; aka Hertfordhsire County Council. His enquiry for a service 320 timetable was quite easy. But researching subsequent blogs revealed some problems.

So let us look more closely.
Let us type in "8".
And, as you would expect, up pops a link to the service 8 timetable ...
... plus every other timetable in Hertfordshire. Please note that the B3 goes to the delightful Borehamwood "suburb" of "Well End Twice Well End" and the H1 serves "PM Pinehirst Circ".

Our friend the W30 ...

Watford - Business Park (Circular) - Unknown Watford Town Centre to Watford Business Park (Circular) via Watford Junction

 ... serves the "Unknown Watford Town Centre". And there are TWO route 8s ...

8 Mount Vernon Hospital - Woodside/Abbots Langley - Woodside - Mount Vernon Hospital Woodside to Mount Vernon Hospital via Watford

8 Abbots Langley - Mount Vernon Hospital - Mount Vernon Hospital - Abbots Langley Mount Vernon Hospital to Abbots Langley via Watford

... but, fret ye not; they both lead to the same PDF timetable. Or you could try the service 16 ...

16  NOT TESCO OUT Burns Road (Circular) to Town Centre via

... to "Not Tesco Out". In fact the list is full of unintelligible gibberish. Where this stuff comes from is unclear, but whoever put it there should be made to explain it publicly from a soap box on Watford High Street. Remember John Major?
It didn't work for him either! And bear in mind that we were looking for service 8.

Of course, there is an explanation specifically for the daft search results, even if the timetable headings are intrinsically potty. The confuser is doing what is called a "text string search"; it looks for every occurrence of the input set of characters. So asking for service 53 ...
... brings up everything with "53" in it. The top answer is Dunstable Lowther Road Outside 534. And there's the stop ...
... with 534 being the house on the left with white lamp and white on black house number.
the stop is actually bang outside number 536! It is served by hourly route 34.
So now you know; but not much help in finding services in the Watford area.

Because of the search system, looking for buses from Watford Junction station is another mess.
You need to know which stand your buses uses to find out which stand your bus uses. Watford Junction Station [stand blank] is the bus to the Harry Potter Studio tour ...
... which we already know leaves from stand 4.
Click on the Stop 4 entry and the 311 is there as well. fbb has not done the lengthy (and tedious) research needed to check whether Intalink's on-line index is accurate and up-to-date. From evidence so far it probably isn't.

Thinking back to the wondrous three versions of the W30, try looking for buses to the business park.
Entering the "official" name ...
... produces a nil response. So, once again, to find anything you have to know exactly what to look for. If you get the question wrong, you will get the wrong answer.

In conclusion, to close; and  for our general entertainment, here are a few juicy services from Hertfordshire's list.

25 Buntingford - Reed/Cottered (Circular) - Buntingford - Cottered/Reed (Circular) Reed/Cottered to Buntingford via Circular

How many times does it go the Reed and Cottered? And is it the same as ...

25 BUNT ANTI CLOCK Sandon to Buntingford via

...which, as it's anti clock, never runs to time? And another multiple monstrosity:-

305 Sandridge - Tyttenhanger/Welham Green - Welham Green/Tyttenhanger - Sandridge Sandridge to Tyttenhanger/Welham Green via St Albans

In fact the route runs from Tyttenhanger via St Albans to Sandridge with a couple of odd extensions. People would be far less confused if the basic route were indexed and the extensions shown on the PDF timetable. One can only assume that these on-line timetable headings are generated "on the fly" from some databse. If the PDF timetable is laid out in a confusing matter it will deliver a stupid heading. One day, when he feels particularly brave, fbb will unravel the mess that is routes 304 and 305.

In the meantime, your investigative blogger has to conclude that the Intalink on-line timetable search facility is not worth the good house point he awarded a couple of days ago. Searching for route 320 did not confuse the confuser as the "text string search" wouldn't find much else containing the character group 3, 2 and 0.

In fact this index and the answers it gives are bad beyond belief.

The last word goes to Ricky Gervais, courtesy of YouTube. Blog readers may substitute "they" as appropriate!
An investigation of Hertfordshire tendered service W19 is postponed.
Bus Company for Sale 
Fellow blogger Plymothian Transit reported yesterday that a "Cornwall bus company" was for sale.

Business For Sale - Details Independent Bus Company
Well established independent company
Operating routes within Cornwall and into Devon and Plymouth
New four-year Council contracts recently awarded
Extensive bus fleet operating from a freehold
   and 3 leasehold depots and workshops 
Turnover year ended 30th September 2014 c.£7.9m

It would appear that Western Greyhound is the company in question. No surprise there, but who might want to buy it?

More on this story as it develops.
 Next bus blog : Friday 14th November 


  1. Oh dear. Lists of services.
    Here in the north east, Go North East present a list ordered by number, irrespective of prefix or suffix. Thus 1,Q1,S1,V1,W1, X1,2, V3 etc By contrast Nexus present a list collated by number then letter: 1,2,3 ...Q1,X1,X2 etc.

    My preference is the latter, but whether that is a product of my working background I don't know.
    Go NE's approach suggests to me that they view the prefix as unimportant. If that is so, they should get rid of them.

    But, as usual, you have to have an idea of what the answer is before you ask the question.

  2. Nothing to do with Watford, but I'd just like to say how much I look forward to my daily fix of FBB - it has become as essential as my first coffee of the day, and I boggle at the amount of work FBB and his team of elves put in on this. Thanks! - PS Buckinghamshire CC produce lovely (and expensive, I would imagine) comprehensive timetable booklets, one for North Bucks, the other for ... South Bucks.

  3. Your comments about the Intalink search engine have been raised by me on more than one occasion (I am a member of the Intalink Steering Group, but unfortunately with no power to get anything done).

    I agree that it is appalling; the response from Herts CC was that the data input came from another Herts CC program and should have been checked. HCC now need to go back to their software supplier and get something changed within the search engine (at this point, my eyes started to glaze over!).

    So - they know it's wrong; they can't quite understand why it went wrong, and they need to think about what needs to be fixed and why! And this is from a group of young types who live on their smartphones! If they can't understand, what hope for the rest of us old farts?!

  4. Excuse me but my farts are not old but quite fresh, thank you