Thursday, 24 November 2016

Super Sign Set-up at Sidmouth (1)

After the joy of the three new departure signs in Exeter (one non-working when fbb visited), the erratic new display at Axminster ...
... and the hitherto non working example at Seaton ...
... hot news comes of a new electronic screen at Sidmouth.

Tuesday last was wet, cold and miserable, so what better time to spend an hour at "The Triangle" observing buses and their computerised manifestation while Mrs fbb and No 3 son enjoyed the exciting retail experience of Sidmouth's decoration-bedecked shopping centre?

The cycle of scheduled departures was as follows:-

There are three shelters at the "terminus" and the new, one sided, sign faces the third shelter used by the 9 and 9A to Exeter and the 157 to Exmouth.
Surely it should be mounted parallel to the kerb rather than pointing its blank side at the two other departure points?

Unlike the Axminster version (orange dot matrix), this is an LED screen in a non standard format and thus, fbb would guess, more expensive that using a standard computer or TV screen. Strange.

Photographing it proved very difficult, partly because of the onset of hypothermia and frozen fingertips plus rain in the camera lens and partly because of Moiré patterns.

A moiré pattern is large scale interference that can be produced when an opaque ruled pattern with transparent gaps is overlaid on another similar pattern. For the moiré interference pattern to appear, the two patterns are not completely identical, they must be displaced, rotated, etc. or have different, but similar pitch.

The different scan rates of the screen and the camera cause these vertical dark bands.
Because the sign is facing the sunlight in the mornings, reflections are a problem for camera and people and the overhanging shade makes exposure almost impossible.

"That's because your phone camera is rubbish," offered number three son, overflowing with filial encouragement, and promptly escorted his elderly old man to a phone shop to choose an upgrade. The new model is on its way and will cost your parsimonious blogger a whole 50p a month extra. . (That's ten whole shillings, or half a pound in real money!)

With apologies for the poor pictures, let us take a look at the screen in general.
The display shows the stop name and the current time, plus, of course, the Devon Council logo on the left. Then comes a panel showing four departures. This shows route number, operator and destination.
Underneath the destination is a summary of the route but this is near illegible. Then at the far right is either the timetabled time or the number of minutes until the bus will actually arrive - so-called "real" time. Most indications were simply a repeat of the timetabled time as posted om the frames at the stops. But nothing explains this subtlety!

The Sidmouth sign cycles through three screens although nowhere does it tell you this. Railway versions have an e.g. 2/3 indication. So in this case ...
... it shows a 61 minute wait for a bus to Honiton (i.e. 1149) but the 1049 has not yet arrived and will pop up on the next screen. Baffling unless you know what it is doing and why.

The Stagecoach 9A runs eastwards to Lyme Regis ("Oh yes it does!" "Oh, no it doesn't!" - well it will soon be the pantomime season.)
On the fuzziest picture (sorry), the eastbound 9A is the third destination from the top. Honest it is and it says Marine Place. Now those of us who have second sight or study timetables with meticulous care will know that Marine Place is the Seaton time point. Incomprehensibly the illegible route of the on-screen 9A tells us that it calls at Seaton on the way to Marine Place.

But, electronically at least, there are no buses from Sidmouth to Lyme Regis.


Final point. What is the band of white space below the display used for?
You could get two more departures in there. You can bet your bottom fiver that Devon County Council will be trying to sell that space for advertising. Bike hire? Car hire? Roller skate hire? Cheap insurance? It certainly won't be used to promote bus travel, will it?

Now to the nitty-gritty. How helpful was the Sidmouth sign to that bane of all public transport operations, namely the passenger?

This will be revealed tomorrow.

Meanwhile, In Nottingham ...

... a small group of entrepreneurs is attempting to out-Megabus Megabus.
Cheapo fares are being offered and journeys between Nottingham and London form the mainstay of the operation. In amongst these has been one return trip to Birmingham.
Ar £3 a seat (£6 return) fbb reckons that a full coach would still be losing money. So the jury is our on the future success of this venture.

Below is an extract from the "Route One" magazine article.

In the first two weeks 600 people paying £3-£4.50 per single trip have used the route. Users book online or on a mobile phone app, which also includes the ticket and live travel information.

Sn-ap is hiring coaches from local operators, such as Marshalls of Sutton-on-Trent and Sharpes of Nottingham. It has also employed one member of staff in Nottingham, Marcus Standish, to help the launch.
CEO Thomas Ableman (pictured above) who spent seven years at Aylesbury-based Chiltern Railways as Commercial Director, says: “As travel and tech experts, we spotted an opportunity to use technology to match customer demand for inter-city trips with high-quality local coach operators.”

The London-based firm chose Nottingham for the launch due to its central location, good size and the large student population, which is one of the key target audiences. “We want to use the success of that to raise investment and expand to other places, with more services. It's akin to Airbnb because we match people who want to go places with coaches that otherwise wouldn’t be used,” adds Mr Ableman.
You have to wonder how the incumbent operator will respond.

Important P.S.
On the way back from "Drop In for Coffee" at church yesterday morning, fbb noticed that AT LAST the Seaton sign had been switched on. It has been blank for nigh on six months. We will add that wonderful facility to tomorrow's blog.

 Next information blog : Friday 25th November 


  1. I'm guessing this means the sn-aP exeter to london trial wasn't as successful.

  2. Sorry if I've missed it but where are the departure points in
    Both Nottingham and London

  3. Roy - all stops shown on the website. Five in Nottingham, including the station and others related to university locations; central London includes Marylebone, Baker Street and Euston.

    Nottingham Pick-ups
    London Pick-ups
    Birmingham Pick-ups
    Derby Road, Lenton
    Nottingham Station, Queen's Road
    Chalk Farm

    Royal Concert Hall
    Covent Garden

    Nottingham University (Broadgate)

    Toton Park & Ride
    Baker Street
    Finchley Road
    Marble Arch