Thursday, 23 August 2018

The Case Of Nonsensical Numerology

Sherlock Watson and John Holmes are enjoying a brief period of relaxation at 221B Baker Street when Mrs Hudson taps respectfully at the door of their parlour and announces, "There is a lady to see you Mr 'Omes".
Breathlessly, the well-dressed lady introduces herself as Miss Hortensia Harper-Hill, a resident of Wildboarclough Hall and, in a shaky voice, she outlined her recent problem.

"Mr Holmes," she explained, "I travel rarely, but one day past I sought to take the carriage from Buxton to Ashbourne. I waited patiently at the designated stopping place, clearly labelled with the number of that service; boarded the vehicle and settled down for the brief journey."

Her voice quavered a little.

"I must have dozed for what seemed only a few brief moments, but I awoke to find myself I know not where. I saw a sign which pointed towards 'Milton Keynes', a terrifying place of danger and mystery. I was afraid for my life and asked the Coachman what was happening.

He replied gruffly, 'Ee ain't going there, lady, you'll have to get off at Victoria' and soon I was here in London Town and and most terrifyingly not in Ashbourne."
"Calm yourself, Miss Harper-Hill, you have come to the right place. Watson will hail a brougham which will take you to the London Terminal whence you may return safely to Buxton and thence to Wildboarclough."

"But that's not all, Mr Holmes," the agitated young lady continued, "the previous week I had sought to visit my good friend Mr Erasmus Peddle who resides at King Sterndale, a nearby village.
Once again I boarded the carriage which bore the correct number 65; once again a little closing of my weary eyes,"

"But beautiful eyes, If I may be so bold as to day so," interrupted Watson, irritatingly.

"When I awoke," she continued, "I was passing through Foolow and I felt such a fool, low in self esteem, as I had completely missed my alighting stop. Again I sought the coachman's advice to which he replied in an annoying and peremptory manner that the carriage no longer travelled via King Sterndale but through a place called Wormhill."
"I nearly swooned at the thought that I might have alighted at a hill of worms!"

"My dear, dear lady," comforted Holmes, "Watson will pour you a generous draught of our finest vintage brandy before escorting you to your carriage home and, without a moment's hesitation, we will take on the case."
It was on the train north that Holmes explained his intentions.

"Watson, I see the hand of that arch public transport villain Moriarty of Matlock. We have met him before - his sole aim is to confuse and distress travellers by horseless carriage. He and his henchmen may have been at work in Buxton."

So, upon arrival, they hurried out of the station to the stopping place to investigate. Firstly and obviously opposite the station building:-
"Lookee here Holmes," expostulated Watson with some enthusiasm, "details of the young lady's carriage number 65." And indeed there were notices to that effect.
"But how would the young lady find her way to the Mr King of Sterndale?"

Holmes ignored his friend's unanswerable question whilst Watson carefully sketched the headings for future reference, leaving out Tideswell in each case to save time and space.

 65 Sheffield - Buxton 

 65 Buxton - Sheffield Meadowhall Interchange 

 65A Buxton - Sheffield Interchange 

The investigators then transferred to the stop on the station side of the road.
Watson became even more excited. "And here, Holmes, is a notice guiding folk to the stopping place we have just visited, namely that which stands opposite the station."
"My dear friend," Holmes replied with mock sympathy, "have you still never learned from my methods? Never assume that your first conclusion is the only possible solution to the problem. What does this sign indicate?" He pointed his cane at a similar notice:-
Watson penned another abbreviated sketch.

 65 Buxton - Sheffield 

 65 Sheffield Meadowhall Interchange - Buxton 

 65A Tideswell - Buxton 

"But, but," spluttered Watson in confusion, "where should Miss Harper-Hill have boarded her carriage number 65? I must confess Holmes that it is totally beyond me."
"Clearly a three pipe problem, Watson," mused Holmes before sinking deep in thought as the troubled pair took tea and crumpets before striding onwards to the Market Place.

"But it gets worse," wailed Watson as they arrived, "carriages leave here for Sheffield and Meadowhall but they are now coloured blue and not green ...
... and one of the 65s has disappeared completely."

Watson seemed unable to comprehend the existence of two carriage services, both labelled 65.

"It seems you are right, Holmes," sighed Watson, "yet again Moriarty of Matlock has been at his dastardly ways. We are undone!"

"Do not despair, old chum, we will eventually unravel the knotted string of confusion that Moriarty and his team have tied here. Alas it will be too late to help Miss Harper-Hill who may never risk travel by horseless carriage again."

"An utter disgrace," hissed Watson, "Moriarty of Matlock is an utter bounder!"

As they trudged wearily away from the Market Place, they both failed to notice two bus stop flags ...
... each advertising a very different service 441.
If only someone had explained that to the distressed young lady!

As their express drew close to Saint Pancras railway station, Holmes seemed to wake from  his three-pipe reverie and almost shouted,
"I have it! When I last visited Switzerland, I found that all the public transport arrangements were the essence of efficiency with clear notices and understandable services all operated by the same coachmen. It was refreshingly easy to find one's way around without let or hindrance. Surely a model to be adopted in our great a Godly nation?

Let us hope that Moriarty never uses the excellent information facilities to find his way to somewhere like the exquisite and spectacular  Reichenbach Falls!"
Indeed, say us all, that would be the end!


Now the above is a bit of nonsense, but lying behind it is a real problem. Whilst we may be able to understand how the two service 65s happened; and there may be a good commercial reason why High Peak decided to run through Buxton in the opposite direction to Stagecoach but used the same route number and destinations ...

... it is not an excuse.

What isn't satisfactory is the way in which it is presented.

A start would be to remove completely all journeys that are terminating in Buxton. (But we can't do that, those panels are produced automatically by our computer system).
Then add a notice informing the passengers that the other 65 leaves from the opposite stop. (But we can't do that, those panels are produced automatically by our computer system).
Secondly, please ensure that the coloured headers are the same throughout the town for the same routes. We have already had GREEN (Station), DARK BLUE (Market Place) and now we see BROWN at Terrace Road - all for the 65s. (But we can't do that, those panels are produced automatically by our computer system).

And then there's the bus stop flags.
Numbers in an illogical order; different styles, different colours and utterly confusing. Awful. But not just awful ...
... filthy, tatty and awful.

What bugs fbb is how bus operators can tolerate this. The bus stop "flag" is one of the key adverts for your bus service. The display in the frame is an important piece of comfort, assurance and a potential source of new customers.

So why do you allow it to be so disgraceful?

Would a Tesco store allow their local authority to advertise their products? Would ASDA tolerate tatty ASDA signs outside their stores showing tired logos and gunge encrusted posters?

So why do you tolerate it?

And please, please don't bleat on about cost pressures. The costs of doing the job properly are negligible compared with the cost of running a bus company. Alternatively, it could all be funded by an increased fee for registrations (hypothecated** - essential).

It is easy to solve - SO WHY NOT GET ON AND SOLVE IT!
Your buses look good - pity about the rest of it.
And while you are at it, TELL THE COMPUTER WHAT TO DO; don't let some box of electronic gubbins dictate to you.

** hypothecated : a weird word that means that a tax or fee MUST be used for a set designated purpose, not thrown into some vast and unfathomable heap used for anything the government or local authority decides at any given moment.
It reads "Improving life for local people."


Thank to correspondent Roger for sending most of the illustrations. The pictures of timetable frames are poor, usually because the frames haven't been cleaned for years. 

PTE Pottiness Proliferates
Remember yesterday's blog revealed that South Yorkshire PTE had issued a non-leaflet timetable for service 218 with the wrong Sunday times (hourly). Further that they had now issued a correction with the correct half-hourly frequency?

The PTE, masters of incompetence, have re-published the current 218 Sunday timetable, not the revised 218 Sunday timetable with slightly altered running times throughout! (But we don't know how that happened, those panels are produced automatically by our computer system).

So we await edition 3!

Beyond belief!

 Next Innsbruck blog : Friday 24th August 


  1. Yawn....

    Different day, same old nonsense.

  2. To be fair, CH doesn't have a long distance coach network at all, so the NatEx one is a different issue. Though maybe they should do something to differentiate themselves from bus numbers, e.g. use a prefix (NX401) or 4-digit numbers.

  3. There can't be many places where a local bus service shares its number with the National Express working through the same town! The Buxton - Ashbourne routes used to be 42 and 442, until somewhere along the line the "direct" 42 was reduced to one journey in each direction for shopping in Buxton, and renumbered 441 (There may be interim steps), 441 being a number closer to 442 (and at the time, there may have still been a 443, as a lot of rural shoppers routes in that area were given 43x, 44x or 45x numbers). In any case, the two never meet, as the NatEx service runs very early from Manchester and very late to Manchester, whilst the High Peak service runs during "normal" days. In fact, I wonder how many HP passengers even know that the NatEx service exists!

    The flags look as though they are a cheaper alternative to new flags. The 441 is clearly in the place the 42 used to be, the 77 used to be, I think, the 76, and the 65 and 66 have clearly been stuck over other withdrawals. Ugly? Yes. Illogical? Yes. Different colours and typefaces? Yes. But more accurate than leaving it entirely unchanged? Yes.

    It has also been raised here many times before, and you have been informed very carefully by company representatives: some local authorities DO NOT ALLOW operators to do anything on local authority property. Indeed, an operator close to me was rounded upon for putting it's own stop flags on local authority stop poles without permission. Put up your own pole, I hear you say? Planning permission, comes the answer.

    Bus companies have many faults, a good proportion of which they could and should solve themselves. Indeed, there are many examples of poor companies that don't get a mention here because they are outside of the sphere of knowledge of FBB and correspondents. Intransigent local authorities, however, are beyond any bus company control.

    1. Oh, and I forgot to mention that Derbyshire CC produces what Barry Doe describes as quite possibly the finest county-produced timetables in England (although, given they are mounting a subsidy reduction consultation, one wonders for how much longer). Yes, they cost £2.50 each, and there are three of them to cover the county as a whole, but that doesn't smack of an authority entirely uncaring!

    2. Sorry - couldn't resist a challenge!
      Brighouse sees a 564 NX to London and a 564 Halifax Bus Company to Barkisland. And as a Barkisland service arrives at 1021 to depart at 1025, and the NX at 1022, there's a chance they might meet in the small bus station. It is unlikely they might be confused, though!
      Right - now must find a life!

  4. Derbyshire county council have not produced any timetable books this year nor any amendments for last years books since the Autumn - the Peak District Book dated June 2017 is virtually useless now!