Friday, 18 May 2018

Journey Planner Jeapordises Progress

An Unexplained Oddity?
fbb is well known for being politely suspicious about modern technology and often writes of his lack of enthusiasm for the lemming-like rush into journey planners that besets the Public Transport Industry today.

He gets much grief from his comment writers who enthuse about the easy confidence with which they use JP technology. Some also enthuse about the quicker (but often more complex) journeys that this clever stuff comes up with; odd twiddles that save a few precious moments.

But his experience on Wednesday of this week was just weird.

The Service of Thanksgiving for the life of his former Church Secretary and Leader was timed to start at 1400 at Clarence Road Evangelical Church East Cowes, a short and perfectly do-able totter from the Red Funnel ferry terminal.
The terminal looked very swish when it was rebuilt a few years ago but now looks tired, cluttered and unwelcoming.
So a massive redevelopment plan is now under way - well, at the planning permission stage. In simple terms, the actual ferry parking bit remains roughly where it is now, but the current vehicle marshalling areas (bottom centre, below)...
... will be developed for housing and an hotel (brown below) ...
... whilst are area between Dover Road and the shed with the biggest Union Flag in the galaxy ...
... will become the new assembly area vastness. Needless to say, residents of the threatened properties and business are a tad dischuffed about the idea.
Be that as it may, the fbbs aimed to arrive at 1300 (1200 from Southampton) and duly checked on the National Rail journey planner (JP)
It was exactly as the fbb's expected; indeed it hasn't changed for yonks. In fact it only changes when a reduced car ferry service operates in the "winter" season. But all was well ...
... and a 1300 arrival at East Cowes would allow the fbb's to partake of luncheon on board the vessel. Red Funnel all-day breakfast anyone?
Sounded spiffing in the extreme. But a telephone conversation with our esteemed senior Isle of Wight correspondent put the mockers on that plan.

"Why not come earlier and we can join you for lunch at The Lifeboat?"
Surely that would be simple. Leave Axminster at 0800 approx vice 0900 and all would be tickety snitch!
Oh, deary me. No 0800 approx. Surely there was a departure between 0630 and 0906? The fare at 0630 would be a whopper compared with what fbb expected.
But nowt between 0630 and 0906 according to the National Rail JP.

"Rubbish" quoth fbb to himself, with a certain teeth hissing vehemence.

Beginning with the ever useful GoTimetable App for Seaton, he began to explore, NOT journey planners but TIMETABLES.
And, of course there is an 0803, arriving Salisbury 0919.

The 0933 from Salisbury connects generously with the 1030 Quay Connect bus at Southampton Central ...
... alighting bang opposite the front door of the Ferry terminal six minutes later.
Through the booking area and caff and up the lengthy ramp ...
... to relax in comfy seats at the front end of the 1100 sailing for a pleasant cruise over to the Island.
A very pleasant day, a lovely lunch and a joyous Service of Thanksgiving for a life hugely dedicated to the power of God and with a commitment to serving his Lord and his Church.

fbb doubts whether his final passing will be so positive and so well attended! Cheerio Lawrence, we'll see you soon!

The last words of the reading, Psalm 27, summed it up beautifully.

Trust in the Lord
Have faith
Do not despair
Trust in the Lord

At a more mundane human level, the fbbs completed their non-existent journey with consummate ease.

 Journey Planner NIL, Timetables 1 

The return journey was equally straightforward, despite the failure of several bits of modern engineering.
The Great Western Railway train (a weedy class 150 instead of a class 159) to Salisbury stopped at Romsey. A disabled gent in a wheelchair wished to alight; but our guard was unable, even with the addition of the driver's muscle, to unlock the train's ramp.

And Romsey was unstaffed and rampless at that time!
Oh, no, there wasn't!

After much effort, debate and delay, said gent agreed to travel on to Salisbury and return to Romsey from there.

Thus it was that the GWR train arrived a few minutes after the fbb's connection to Axminster was scheduled to depart. And they don't wait, you know, because of the effect of a delay on the lengthy single track sections way out west.

But it hadn't. It sat forlornly in the platform with a small bevvy of hi-vis jacketed blokes peering at it, equally forlornly.

Normally, at Salisbury, the front three coaches proceed to Axminster and Exeter, leaving the rear three to chunter off to their little shed ...
... or to be glued on to the next train back to London. But it was the front train that was poorly.

And the lads couldn't get the front train out of the way until the GWR unit had set off for Bristol and Cardiff.

Thus the fbbs could stagger wearily through the subway ...
... with an adeqate oodle of time to catch their onward train. Yippee!

Ack in Baxminster just ten minutes late. No sweat (literally!).

Any offers as to what is/was wrong with the National Rail confuser system? Here's Traveline's alternative schedule - also avoiding the 0933 from Salisbury ...
... but workable - just about!

Someone's algorithms are less than effective. But you can buy the ointment.

 Weekend catch-up blog : Saturday 19th May 


  1. The Red Funnel plans have planning permission.
    It’s not exactly to tidy up the terminal. It’s the complete redevelopment of the whole area of East Cowes
    The White Hart has sold to Red Funnel

    Come on, keep up. Old news is no news.

  2. I find National Rail's attempts to give bus or ferry times correctly is poor. Usually out of date, but sometimes just mistyped, despite using them for through tickets.

    National traveline I just don't like. which is my preferred general planner (nationally!) offers the Red Funnel journeys correctly. It also gives the RedJet and Cowes floating bridge as an option, although the connecting parts are not quite right.

    The mistakes are getting less, but how many items of data are there to get right?

  3. Personally I often go to Google maps as my first port of call. It is generally a very good journey planner, which scrapes its data from traveling I assume, although I normally find it rather unnecessary to give me the map. It gives the 0803-1200 option perfectly well, as well as a 0803-1146 (via WEST Cowes) further down.

    Normally I just use it as a way of finding what bus timetables to subsequently look up, since in most of the country it is an utter pain to find which buses go where.

  4. Andrew Kleissner18 May 2018 at 11:18

    While I agree that the "missing" service is odd, the price difference is surely explained by the restrictions on the use of your Railcard. For non-Railcard holders, the difference between Peak and Off peak is less than £1.

    1. It seems to me as thought the problem is with a missing ferry service (third party data? Who would have thought it?) on NatRailEnq, as the 0803 shows up fine if you only search as far as Southampton. I tried to search as far as Town Quay to see if the bus was an issue, but it doesn't seem as though you can do this (the STQ code seemingly being internal and not searchable).