Tuesday, 15 November 2016

A Bard is Bereft of Buses? (5)

Where Do You Inter Change At The Interchange?
If you travel in France, Germany and the Netherlands, for example, you can expect to see an obvious line of bus stops just outside the station. In very rural areas you won't see it, because France lacks rural bus services!

But Stratford-upon-Avon is not rural. Many famous people have connections with the town, e.g Simon Pegg, Quentin Wilson, Gordon Ramsay and Craig Charles, thus it is a hotbed for tourism. Another internationally renowned dramatist (whose name fbb cannot quite remember) is also a lure for visitors, especially those from overseas.

So you would expect plenty of publicity boards at the station guiding the ignorant visitor to the town centre and other places of interest.

Stratford Tourist Highlights
Clockwise from top left:- Bill's birthplace : his favourite caff : home of American singer and actress Anne Hathaway : the theatre where his plays were not originally performed.

But there aren't any.

There may be an onward travel poster at the station ...
... but the on-line version is as usual, out of date and useless.  There is no mention at all of the interchange ...
... showing only the stops at the top of the super steps. And many the route numbers are wrong.
But that is always the problem. Notwork Rail or the individual railway companies have no interest or incentive to publicise connecting buses. You would think such information might be an encouragement to travel by train. But, as far as these posters are concerned, giving out of date information seems to be the official policy.

There are two rail companies serving Stratford; London Midland and Chiltern. So, even if they decided to do something properly (flying pigs again) it would take years of negotiation and page after page of contractual guffery, plus huge fees to legal leeches ...

... and anyway there are taxis available.
But who built the little-used un-publicised interchange? It was Warwickshire Council. Bravely, correspondent Alan made contact with them, amongst other things enquiring what the interchange was for and why there was no publicity to (shock horror!) help the passengers.

The reply was laughably awful but, sadly, fbb's email server has lost the full version; but it can be summarised thus:-

1. Why is it there? It was build using money from a developer (Section 106 grant) but we are not sure what to do with it now.

2. We do intend to put up some signs when one of these is delivered.

3. It is, of course, up to the individual bus companies to decide whether to use it (and most of them don't want the hassle.)

4. We don't have any money; it wouldn't be right to spend a very small amount of cash on a few signs to the detriment of the vast sums spent on social services, schools, councillors' expenses etc. etc.

Can Traveline help us? (pause for cynical readers to snigger impolitely). Asking the interwebnet to list all bus services from Straford upon Avon Interchange ...
... finds five. But, sadly, these are not all Interchange routes. Traveline has replied on behalf of a stop in Alveston!
Try Stratford-upon-Avon Station?
Lots more now!
Unfortunately many of these do not stop at Stratford station; maybe most of them. The 19  ...
... and 50 don't ...
... but the 6 does.
Some routes call at the Alcester Road stops at the top of the super steps.
The number 3 stops at that elevated location ...
... but you can't tell from the timetable because the station stop is not an official "time point".

What about the journey planner side of Traveline?

Asking for a journey from Stratford-upon-Avon Station these are some of the (un)helpful answers.

Service 3 - Alcester Road top of steps - Correct
although, in this case, there is hardly any point in a 1 minute bus ride and a 12 minute walk.

Service X7 (which actually starts from the Interchange)

Service 6 (which actually starts from the Interchange)

Service 5 - correct

These screen shots were taken over last weekend but correspondent Alan seems to think things are improving. But, sorry Alan, still wrong for enquiries for journeys made late last night for travel today. Hereiwth two trips which actually start from the Interchange (see below) but where you are advised to walk to nearbk (and not so nearby) stops.

First service X7, journey plan and map. Green line is walk route; red blobs are bus stops.

And service 6 with a longer walk; journey plan and map. Green line and red blobs as before

Fortunately the bus operators do seem to have a better idea of their terminal points. This is Johnsons service 6 and 7.
But of course you can only find that out if you know where to look in the first place. Traveline's timetable agrees, but its map doesn't.
It has all been (and continues to be) a complete mess, showing incompetence beyond belief. Why do bus operators put up with the mis-selling of their products?

As a final indication of Warwickshire's deep-seated commitment to good quality bus information, please note the appalling lack of numeracy in their list of timetables.

503 Catteralls Coaches
Model Village, Long Itchington, Stockton, Napton On The Hill, Southam, Harbury, Bishops Itchington, Knightcote, Northend, Fenny Compton, Avon Dassett, Farnborough, Claydon, Cropredy, Great Bourton, Little Bourton, Banbury
539   Johnsons
Kenilworth, Stoneleigh, Nac Stoneleigh, Bubbenhall, Baginton, Coventry
55 Stagecoach
Nuneaton, George Eliot Hosptial, Bermuda Park, Bedworth, Ash Green, Keresley, Coventry
56 Stagecoach
Nuneaton, Attleborough, Whitestone, Bulkington, Bedworth, Cross Keys, Ash Green, Coventry
57 Stagecoach
Bedworth, Ash Green, Coventry
580 Johnsons
Rugby, Dunchurch, Thurlaston, Lawford Heath, Bourton On Dunsmore, Frankton, Birdingbury, Marton, Princethorpe, Stretton On Dunsmore, Ryton On Dunsmore, Bubbenhall, Baginton, Coventry
585 De Courcey Travel
St Cross Hospital, Rugby, Newbold On Avon, Harborough Magna, Pailton, Monks Kirby, Stretton Under Fosse, Easenhall, Brinklow, Coombe Abbey, Walsgrave Hospital, Coventry
6 Shipston Link
Shipston, Stretton On Fosse, Todenham, Moreton In Marsh, Shipston
6 Johnsons
Banbury, Drayton, Wroxton, Shenington, Edgehill, Ratley, Radway, Kineton, Wellesbourne, Alveston, Tiddington, Stratford, Stratford Railway Station
63 Stagecoach
Rugby, Dunchurch, Kites Hardwick, Stockton, Southam, Ufton, Radford Semele, Leamington Spa

The on-line bus maps are also out of date!
But we must be fair to the hard pressed county council staff. This notice was  spoted on lineon Sunday 23rd October. fbb cannot be sure how long it was there.

Changes to Johnson’s Bus services from Sunday 23rd October 2016.

Johnsons Excelbus have undertaken a review of their commercial bus network and have made some changes to simplify the network which operates in the West Midlands, Warwickshire and Worcester areas.

From Sunday 23rd October 2016, Services 21, 21A, 22, 22A, 23, 24, 24A, 25, 50A, 221, 222, 268, 269, 270, S20, 350, X50, X70 will all be withdrawn and replaced with amended services. Services 150 and X20 are also revised.

the services were, presumably, registered with the Traffic Commissioners at least eight weeks previously, say by 2nd September.

Still no-one knows what is going on.

Beyond belief!

 Next Hertfordshire bus blog : Wednesday 16th November 


  1. I used to log on to the VOSA website to see the forthcoming changes that local bus operators were making. It didn't have complete detail but listed the service number, terminal points and whether it was a new registration, change or cancellation.

    As of last Friday this facility has changed and access now only appears to be available to bus operators and local authorities? Why? Have I misunderstood and it is actually accessible elsewhere? Or is it a case that such information is now classed as a 'state secret' which if it fell into the hands of bus users would cause concern, questions and objections. As shown on this website operators don't often like to consult but prefer to simply decide and make the change, with information coming out at the last minute - if at all.

  2. This VOSA site is still open just now https://www.gov.uk/guidance/notices-and-proceedings-for-the-west-of-england

    1. This just gives you the fortnightly N & P. On the previous system you could see everything, by traffic area, that had been deposited that day and accepted.

      I suspect it was the subject of consultation with operators and LA's and they didn't like bus users etc finding out about changes and asking questions before they had caught up with what was going on. Far better to leave it to the last minute.

      I'm getting cynical as usual.

    2. You still can (or will be able to), you just have to use a different search tool.

      I have never been a great fan of the search anyway. It gives such little information that it inevitably leads to jumping the gun and speculative guessing.

      I doubt the majority of bus users even know (or care) the search exists.

  3. Yes this change to the VOSA web site seems to be yet another example of so called improvements making things worse. There was no announcement that the registration list would no longer be available, but now it can't be found.

  4. All looks much better today. Johnsons 6/7 and X7 correctly shown running from the Interchange (though merely called Railway Station), and the 3 from Alcester Road.

    The new Johnson routes are largely regular interval, and rather look as though an ex-big group manager has designed them.

    The CYJ posters are not updated as often as the online versions, but I have found a direct approach to the contractor at the e-mail address shown is usually good enough to get the on-line version updated fairly rapidly. It is up to the individual train operator as to how often the printed one is replaced - local experience is that they try to tie it to railway timetable changes, so perhaps two or three times a year.

  5. The CYJ posters for stations are generally only done once a year and as the same contractor appears to be doing them all they tend to be spread throughout the year. I normally get Branksome Parkstone Poole and Hamworthy to do in August which appears to be the time frame for South West Trains. I've had a look at Stratford on the Mentz software we use for Traveline, but as it's out of area for us in the south west it isn't always up to date. We import the out of area stops a couple of times a year if we need to. The station stops have not yet moved to the top of the steps on our system, but I can see that they don't appear to have a "footpath" connecting them to the station. A "footpath" is a defined link that we use to attach a station to any relevant bus stop without which the journey planner will simply find a walking route based on the location of the station and any other stop, hence that odd journey plan of catching a bus for one minute. Ken Traveline Dorset

  6. Interestingly, I looked at the official Stratford upon Avon visitors website. It (half correctly) tells visitors most buses are provided by Stagecoach, and links to their website.
    Unfortunately, it links to the "national" page, giving you easy access to the Stagecoach Annual Report, but not the promised maps and timetables!
    If the town can't link to the information correctly, it makes you wonder why the operators should do it for them!

  7. Warwickshire County Council did in fact publicise Johnsons' changes of 23 October several weeks in advance, as did Johnsons themselves. However, Stratford Station interchange opened apparently without ceremony. Traffic congestion in the area is usually bad so I'm not surprised that no other Johnsons services - nor anyone else's services - call in.
    I suspect that the benefit to the few of dong so would be considerably outweighed by longer journey times for the majority.