Monday, 4 April 2016

Part 1 - A Good Friend Recently Asked ..

... Why is it So Bad?
Seaton chum Mike is not an idiot. He is now retired but held an important senior post in industry and was in the forefront of installing computer systems overseas. He is older than fbb, fitter and more mobile than fbb, has a car and would only use the bus if either he were forced to at gunpoint or, possibly in the future, were unable to drive.

He is just the sort of person that "The Industry" should be wooing.

"Why," he asked of fbb at a church coffee morning, "after over 100 years of bus operation in the UK, is it so difficult to travel by bus?"
Mike lives in Colyford where he has a wide choice of bus stops. By far the best equipped is "The Elms".
It has lavish shelters in both directions.
Both stops have a "flag" which tells him that a service X53 stops there. There is also a label which reads "X53 Jurassic Coaster".
Is that the same as the bigger X53 above it? It might be if only Mike could read the small print.
Which is almost impossible from the "waiting position"

There is also a label for "Traveline" and a phone number. Even more helpfully, there are some timetables. fbb sallied forth and photographed them yesterday.

The X53 panel tells Mike that if He is stupid enough to want to go to all the way to Poole, He gets there at 1504 ...
... but he cannot come back on the same day. What the timetable tells Mike is that the X53 is an utterly useless service in whichever direction it runs.

But also we can see other services to Lyme Regis and the bus to Axminster.
These are headed AVMT; which begs the question, "how can Mike get in touch with these bus companies to make enquiries?" What IS AVMT? What exactly IS Traveline?  Can Traveline tell Mike the fare?

There's a customer service number on the First timetable.
What IS "customer service"? Can they tell Mike the fare? How would he feel if he knew that he was ringing an office in Southampton, just under 90 miles away?
And we must remember that this stop, The Elms, is the best equipped stop in Colyford. We will look at other stop options tomorrow but, for the time being, let us assume that The Elms is a suitable place for Mike to wait for a bus. May we also assume that he has a rough idea where he might be able to travel to from this stop?
Will the Village stores and Post Office be able to help? Might they stock copies of the excellent Devon timetable books?
Even if Mike could get one, it will soon be out of date. 

From  2nd May  the 52A becomes 9A. It doesn't serve Colyford the Elms, but Mike might find it useful.

The pathetic X53 becomes a less pathetic X52 on  8th May 

The 899 to Lyme Regis runs its last trip on  27th May 

The new East Devon booklet is valid from  31st May 

Mike is very computer literate, so he would perhaps go on-line for seek information. What would appear on screen if he typed in Bus Times Colyford?

885 - Traveline South West - English

Local bus, coach and rail information for Colyford -

Bus Timetable – Musbury Village

885 - Seaton -Colyton - Axminster – Bus Times

[PDF] 885 - Cartogold

[PDF] Exeter - Devon County Council X53 and X31 Jurassic Coaster Bus Services - Jurassic Coast

[PDF] Timetables for Service Number: X53

Colyford to Honiton by line 20 bus, taxi, car | Rome2rio

First Bus Service Timetable - Get Bus Routes, Schedules & Fares

[PDF] X53

[PDF] Local area map Buses Taxis - National Rail Enquiries Exeter to Colyford by bus, taxi, car | Rome2rio

Several of these links connect to (very!) out-of-date information; and nowhere in the first two pages of a Google search can we discover that the fount of all on-line bus knowledge is supposed to be Traveline.

But what is this?

Colyford to Honiton by line 20 bus, taxi, car 

Form a site called, scarily, Rome2rio.

When we exploresd the stop at The Elms, we found information for services 885 (Seaton to Axminster), 899 (Seaton to Lyme Regis) and X53 (Exeter to Poole if you don't mind being stranded there).

Nowhere in Colyford is there any indication that route 20 exists. Here it is.
A complete secret kept hidden from Colyfordians.

"Why," Mike asked of fbb at a church coffee morning, "after over 100 years of bus operation in the UK, is it so difficult to travel by bus?"

He's got a point, you know!

 More Mike's blog : Tuesday 5th April 


  1. If I read the current Barry Doe timetable directory entry for neighbouring Dorset correctly they are no longer producing timetable booklets. Instead one is told to refer to them in the operator section which indicates that they produce 'a leaflet'. Does that indicate just how sparse their supported network will be after the forthcoming cuts take place?

    You are fortunate if Devon are continuing to produce them. Doesn't answer your friends question, but it is a growing trend in many areas. Don't produce written publicity, don't distribute it and then claim demand for it doesn't exist. On the other side I find tourist information centres and libraries are closing and some council offices are not prepared to stock it.

  2. Were you not lamenting the X53 in a recent post, yet now the service is "useless"?

    I can only agree with Clive C that at least Devon are still producing two high-quality timetable books a year, I presume with amendments as necessary. Far more than many councils still do.
    Unfortunately, when budgets are as tight as they are at the moment, it is easy to see why councils think operators should produce timetables (certainly for commercial services, and why not for tendered services given they want to run it) and let them spend their money on actually providing the service, even if having everything in one place would be more convenient.

  3. Much to digest...

    First of all, it is fair comment to make the wider challenge as to the difficulty of obtaining information. Traveline is decent enough and one location online and phone does provide for consistency and economies of scale.

    The standard of roadside information is massively variable across the country from the good (comprehensive and accurate) to bad (non-existent) to dangerous (wrong). Sadly, we've seen many councils cut back on this aspect and do we expect to see AVMT or Turners to start populating timetable cases? We won't see that and it's an indictment on the local authority cuts that we're experiencing. On those areas, I agree with our portly blogger.

    I will take issue with the idea that a service is "utterly useless" because it allows you to travel one way but not back in the same day. Such a definition would make the NatEx 315 utterly useless. One might ask how many would be looking to go from Seaton to Poole? Very few, one would suggest.

    Also, is Mike (who I'm sure is a lovely chap) "just the sort of person that "The Industry" should be wooing?" A person with a free pass who can use their free pass at a fraction of the cost of a standard fare payer? Also, and not wishing to appear mean spirited, but twirlies are not the future. What the industry should be targeting are those current users (still in education) who need to be convinced not to purchase a car in the first place

  4. And the best way to publicise the service for ANY user is with clear timetables online and on bus stops that are up to date and warn of changes. That doesn't mean next departure boards as they usually give no real indication of how long it takes to get anywhere. Then I had TfL journey Planner yesterday that helpfully gave me live departures but told me it would take 37 minutes from Waterloo to Liverpool Street by 26 which stops directly outside both stations and by its own live departures timetable took 17 minutes! Devon are great with their timetable booklets but they don't publish amendments so are often out of date which is a flaw of printed timetables. To their credit their website is like Essex and has a map with direct clickable links on each route. This really should be the way forward as you can find your stop on the map and immediately ensure you get the right timetable (assuming the operator bothered to update it!)

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  6. The uselessness of the X53 beyond Axminster is indicated by the dearth of passengers. The cut-back of October last year was an utterly daft idea and has probably lost any last remaining passengers. First were warned by alomst everyone and they ignored advice.

  7. Mike has family. He may not be "the future" but his famnily is. An enthusiast for public transport can be evangelical.

    1. That isn't what the blog says though... "HE is just the sort of person that "The Industry" should be wooing."

      And as I said (I was anon 13:39), they should be wooing those who are the future. Generally, you don't market to one group in the hope of influencing another. If you think that, you are effectively rewriting the book on marketing.

      I do think the "brain dead" remark was uncalled for. The issue of an 0871 number to obtain times and so having to pay for information is a tricky one. Currently, it's the caller but if it isn't them, who is it? A load of local numbers for various commercial providers but then who pays for the supported ones? The councils??

  8. Here in Hertfordshire we have Intalink . . . . this is a partnership between County and operators to disseminate bus timetable information.
    County owns the bus stops and timetable frames, and undertakes to post up to date timetables therein. Operators pay to post timetables at each stop (around £10 per stop at present), and also pay to be members of Intalink; County top up the necessary funding.
    County also operate the Intalink website, and produce maps twice a year. They used to produce timetable books as well, but stopped in 2010 (shame).
    The books were (in my view) over complicated because of the need to use NaPTaN codes {which allocate a code to each stop, hence the need for so many entries for town centre stops in many towns}; I suggested simplification of timetables (as per the Devon style) to save costs, but County reckoned that digital was the only way forward, and won the argument.
    Perhaps the corpulent one might like to road-test the Intalink offering? It's by no means perfect, but it does offer comprehensive information.

  9. Andrew Kleissner5 April 2016 at 13:12

    Surely having a twirlie on your bus is better than having no passenger at all?

    1. Only if you're already covering your costs and so you're gaining a marginal benefit. However, what you're now getting is such little remuneration that services cease to be viable. That was the case with the X53 - a long, resource intensive service that in winter has much less traffic and much is ENCTS.

      You can either cut services or you can hike up fares for all other passengers. Whilst doing the former is unwelcome, is it really fair to penalise all other fare payers to subsidise twirlies.

      Sad to say, that is the nub of it and that rabid corporate monster Peter Shipp realised it too

      As I say, Mike may be a lovely gentleman but, being direct about it, he is not the future of bus ridership. Instead, we will seek to penalise those who are via higher fares to subsidise twirly holders

      If the central tenet of this blog is to highlight the lack of consistent publicity and access to it, then I do agree with many of the observations.

      However, the idea that a 70+ year old whose travel is increasingly subsidised by younger passengers paying higher fares is scarcely credible