Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Daftness in Dartmouth (2)

Yesterday, we looked at Dartmouth's Park and Ride service, largely through the eyes of a less-than enthusiastic on-line reviewer from 2017. The research was prompted by a email from correspondent Keith who used the service a week or so ago:-

I had occasion to use Dartmouth P and R last week, which has been established for many years so I had assumed that it would be a slick, well run operation by Stagecoach. Ha ha!

On arrival by car there are clear signs to pay £5 into the car park machines, collect two tickets, put one on the car and show the second one to the driver on the bus. Easy. That was all done OK, and we then walked to the bus stop and Stagecoach timetable case.
There were two timetables displayed, the 90 which is a Dartmouth Town Service and a 91 which is the P and R route. The timetable for the 91 was dated 2017 and showed various frequencies based around Public Holidays which of course were different for 2019!

Hopeless!

So I could not work out from the 2017 dates whether the frequency was every 20 mins or every 10. Then a Solo on the 90 pulled on to the stop.
We all went to board but the driver said P and R tickets were not valid on the 90 so we were not allowed on (why does it call at the Site and confuse all the customers then?). We waited and a Dart pulled in with 91 on the blind on which we were allowed to travel. It's departure time bore no resemblance to either of the every 20 or  every 10 2017 timetable displayed.
Of course, it's not a Dart; but Keith, intent on enjoying a visit to Dartmouth, failed to spend large amounts of time taking pictures for this blog. Some peoples' priorities ... ?

Returning from Dartmouth in the late afternoon we looked for a P and R bus at Dartmouth Pontoon. 
Another 2017 timetable was displayed. There was a 90 on the stop but once again the driver would not accept P and R tickets but he did tell us to wait for a 92 as it was up and running again now (implying that it hadn't been!)! A 91 duly arrived about 10 minutes later and took us back to the P and R site.

How not to run prestigious P and R service. I am in the industry and can find my way around all these shortcomings but other 'normal' customers were lost and confused and had nothing but bad words for the operator. A totally hopeless operation which Stagecoach management have completely failed to address. How not to impress car drivers.

Why can't the PLCs get the basics right? I despair.

Can we, using the wonders of modern technology, help poor disillusioned Keith out of his fully justified misery?

Is it all on-line?

In a word - NO! Here is, according to the sainted Traveline, a list of all (all?) the buses serving Dartmouth.
The 3 is, of course, twaddle. Service 3 runs from Plymouth to Dartmouth and is jolly pleasant ride. In First Bus days (and before it was numbered 3) it used to have jolly branded double deckers ...
... but, under the aegis of Uncle Brian, anything with a wheel at each corner seems to suffice.

Does the Stagecoach map of the Dartmouth area help?

Not at all - because there isn't one. The only on-line offering is the massiveness of the whole (actually the incomplete) Devon network.
No service 90, no Park and Ride 91 and a mysterious X64 which doesn't appear on the Traveline list BUT, consequently, no service 92.

This could be explained by the fact that the 92 ...
... has replaced the X64 from mid April this year. Thanks for keeping the map up-to-date, Stagecoach.

For a while the route was part of Exeter's "Gold" ...
... then it became (or/and reverted to) un-gilded X64.
It ran approximately hourly but still "through" from Exeter.
It has now become a more mundane service 7 between Exeter and Totnes!
And, as we have seen, the link to Dartmouth is an equally mundane route 92.
It does pass the Park and Ride site!

And note, please, that service 3 now gets you as far as Kingsbridge but not, sadly, to Plymouth.
But it does go there, honest, Mondays to Saturdays, even if the Stagecoach web site wants to keep that salient fact a trade secret.

Is it not despair-inducing (see Keith's "envoi" remark above) that a giant public transport PLC is totally unable to provide complete and up-to-date information for its potential and frustrated customers.

AND NO MENTION OF ANY PARK and RIDE

Nor, for that matter, is there any on-line evidence as to which company operates it. fbb assumes Stagecoach, supported by Keith's experience; but there is no definitive documentary support from Stagecoach itself.

Tomorrow we will discover just what is on offer on-line to complement Keith's 2017 times available at the Park and Ride site and again at the Pontoon terminus in the town.

We may also be able to explore the involvement of the mysterious service 90, also a state secret on the Stagecoach map.

Ton-Up for Ribble
fbb has already mentioned the special liveried bus from Transdev to commemorate the 100th anniversary.
The June issue of Buses magazine offers the Stagecoach Cumbria offering on the front cover ...
and a picture of Arriva's pre-privatisation version inside.
The accompanying article is well worth the cover price - so go buy!

 Next Park and Ride blog : Wednesday 15th May 

7 comments:

  1. Andrew Kleissner14 May 2019 at 06:42

    I think you're being unfair. No car driver, looking for P&R services in Dartmouth, would even think of using Traveline or looking up bus companies' timetables online. They'd just Google "Dartmouth Park and Ride" and - hey presto - up it comes. My only quibble is that you're not told about the £5 fare in coins.

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    1. Exactly - and a point that has been raised before. Whilst FBB's approach here is useful if you've seen a Stagecoach bus and think "oh, what's that all about", it is not how the average non bus-user would reach the service. Perhaps that might form an extra blog in this planned series? (*)

      https://www.discoverdartmouth.com/information-and-map/travelling-around/parking details the need for two tickets.

      http://www.justbdartmouth.com/guestinfo/dartmouth-park-and-ride , a private holiday accommodation, gives ample details on the need for two tickets, pricing options and (half a) timetable, as expressed below.

      Even the TripAdvisor review on which FBB's first blog was presumably based (without citation) comes up as a warning: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g186253-i2173-k10880619-Dartmouth_Park_Ride_be_prepared-Dartmouth_Devon_England.html

      _This_ is how the average user would find out about the service, and it's heartily worth keeping that in mind.

      (*) Given it is such a common "error" in FBB's blogging, perhaps it should be part of any "find the timetable" series?

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    2. Clicking through from the one of the Google results, I ended up on this page with a promising looking URL, but which turned out to be a "Dead animal report" form: https://www.southhams.gov.uk/article/4566/Dartmouth-Park-and-Ride

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    3. Perhaps the P&R is pining for the Fjords and has ceased to be.

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  2. Dartmouth P&R is unusual in the way it is structured. You pay to park like any car park and get a voucher to use on the the free shuttle service. The shuttle bus is run as a private hire and not as a service bus. The route number is in that sense confusing, but some indication is necessary. You can use the 90 town bus in the evenings to give a last return of 23:30. I think when it first started the bus was run by a coach company and the evening arrangement did not exist.

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  3. There are a number of websites offering information on the service. Through looking at two or three of them I found out that the service runs every 20 minutes "Everyday" (sic) and every 10 minutes "in school holidays" (...er?). A link to a "full timetable" took me to a document headed "Full schedule 2019) but that was just a calendar with each date colour coded into one of four colours! No explanation of the colours was given.

    I could also find out that I could use my P&R ticket on service 90 to return to the car park after the park and ride bus had stopped running but that at those times it would NOT enter the site, but use a bus stop outside. (So it appears that service 90 only serves the park and ride site itself when park and ride tickets aren't valid!). It's also unclear whether you can use a park and ride ticket to travel into Dartmouth in the evening on the 90, despite overnight car parking being allowed and even encouraged on the site. There was no mention of how to recognise a park and ride bus (operator? Service number?) that I could see.
    Fortunately I have no need to visit Dartmouth in e near future.

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  4. With reference to the 7, 92, x46, x64

    Dartmouth is in the Torbay Megarider zone. So the quick way for most Dartmouth residents going anywhere useful is the 90 to the quay, the ferry to Kingswear and the 18 / 120 onward.

    Also within Devon the train is a competitor. The Devon Resident's Railcard and First Great Western's fare reduction some years ago, makes the fares competitive and the service is better than the bus and at least as reliable.

    The 7 is twice the frequency of the old X64. The new 92 leaflet was in the Dartmouth TIC at least 10 days before it started. It gives the connection arrivals in Plymouth, Exeter and Paignton for each journey.

    The map will be updated at the end of May as usual and the Devon publicity also comes out then.

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