Thursday, 14 May 2020

Good News But Not Quite (3)

On Monday of this week the people of Todwick, east of Sheffield ...
... were beneficently bestowed the benefits of a bus service every hour into Sheffield. They had lost their hourly X54 and occasional X55 services at the start of the virus cutbacks. From Monday their buses would run via Kiveton Park and Wales to Swallownest then fast (ish) into the city. The X54 had run a somewhat more convoluted route and took 44 minutes. The X5 variant takes 36 minutes and continues to the Hallasmshire Hospital and Broomhill BUT, this generosity of scheduling only runs on Mondays to Fridays.
So comes the big question; how would Mrs Miggins, happily resident in her neat little bungalow in "The Pastures" ...
... find out about this new service, operated by First. How would she know that it was now possible to get to her appointment at the Hallamshire Hospital using one direct bus journey?

First Bus (1)
fbb received a Chinese whisper (from a St*g*c**ch employee) on Wednesday 8th May informing him that First Bus changers were expected from Monday 11th. A quick look at first's web site revealed this:-

From Monday 11th May, we will be operating a revised frequency on services 11, 11a, 20, 24, 51, 52a, 66, 71, 72, 73, 75, 76, 81, 82, 83, 87, 87a, 97, 98, 120, X1, X10, X5 & X78.
Please note that all other services will remain the same frequency as outlined below.
These timetables can be viewed on our timetables page .

A full list of the changes also appeared and was both accurate (nearly, 95/95a is missing from the list) and helpful, as per the example below.

81 Stannington - Ecclesall - Dore/Millhouses Monday - Sunday daytime services will operate hourly

82 Hall Park Head - Ecclesall - Dore/Millhouses Monday - Friday service will operate every 20/40 minutes. Weekend service will operate hourly

For most of the time (ALL of the time on their emergency timetables) 81s run to Dore and 82s run to Millhouses; so fbb is not sure why the text implies that both run to both.

83 Ecclesfield - Sheffield - Bents Green (buses run via Greystones, the important bit of information not revealed) Monday to Sunday daytime service will operate hourly. Extra hourly service from Sheffield to High Storrs  only (that's the same as Bents Green and still via Greystones). Combined 30 from City.

In a wondrous example of true partnership, Stagecoach are running hourly to Bents Green (i.e. Greystones) as well; so Bents Green (i.e. Greystones) has three buses an hour, its normal weekday pre-virus frequency.


But here's a map to help. fbb has moved the label for Greystones because the PTE map has it in the wrong place!
But we are hoping for timetables.

So when fbb clicked the link to the new timetables, notably the X5 via Todwick, he was taken swiftly and electronically to the old ones.

On Thursday morning, fbb received the timetables from his very helpful chappie at First and started processing.

South Yorkshire PTE
What about the PTE a k a Travel South Yorkshire?

Not a dickybird until Sunday Morning when text notes appeared on the PTEs long list of temporary virus arrangements.
Later a timetable appeared but fbb is not sure when.

First Bus (2)
Meanwhile, back at First, by Thursday morning enquirers were getting stuff like this ...

Unfortunately the search term specified (X5) cannot be found in our database. Please amend your search or view all timetable listings for South Yorkshire.

Alternatively, you can call Traveline on 0871 200 22 33 or visit

... and this.

We are experiencing problems serving our timetables at the moment. Until we get this resolved, you can call Traveline on 0871 200 22 33 or visit

Their web site was well and truly busted. So no timetables there.

They did finally appear on Monday morning, the same day that the service changed - better than nothing but disappointing and frustrating for all involved - including, fbb suspects, the hard working chaps and chapesses who drew up the improved schedules.
Such is the joy and delight of large unwieldy web sites (note cancelled 638, X54, X54 in the heading and timetable layout above) designed up by people who don't run the buses - or travel on them. It would be so much easier to get the lad, Gavin, to do it on a simple timetable site, uncluttered with adverts and Covid Advice, from a desk at Olive Grove depot a k a East Bank bus garage.

And as for recommennding Traveline ...

The correct number for Traveline in South Yorkshire is ...

01709 51 51 51

 ... not as quoted by First.

Traveline On Line
What would you find, then, if you took up the suggestion above, say for the X5 via Todwick?
Yep, you guessed it - the old pre-virus timetable with no mention of  Todwick!

Bus Stops
And what would Mrs Miggins find in the frame at her bus stop by the shops at Todwick?
fbb asked a chum who lives in the city what was on display at stops and what was showing on the electronic departure indicators (where provided).

His reply:-

electronic screens
None whatsoever.

timetables in frames
The timetables displayed are still the pre-virus ones, and have not been changed since then. They are even displayed (unchanged) at the stops now unserved such as those served only by 83a ...
... where unsuspecting would-be passengers will wait for ever for buses which will never arrive. All the changes are a state secret unless you know where to look on various websites.

People have no idea what is operating and when.

Traveline Phone
What about telephoning Traveline?

Oh dear! fbb is really sorry for the folk answering the phones. They are working from home, which is never very satisfactory, but they appear to have totally inadequate information.

fbb telephoned 01709 51 51 51 ...

... and asked about a journey from Todwick to Hallamshire Hospital for an appointment at 1400.

The agent apologised that it might take some time. It took 5 minutes. Part of the delay was due to the operative's initial search for Northern General Hospital; but even after that, he struggled.

fbb thinks he was trying to match paper (remember that?) information with inaccurate computer output. What was absolutely clear is that the poor man was very inadequately equipped to help the public.

Appalling, unnecessary and quite wrong!!


1310 from Todwick shops, direct to the Hospital arriving just before 1400.

Give that man a chocolate peanut for doing his best!


So, back to the opening question. 

How does Mrs Miggins of The Pastures know that she has her buses back?

Assuming she does guess that something different is happening on the streets of Todwick, where can she find the times of these buses?

Who will she ask?

Does she have to ring Traveline and hope the agent can work it out from the poor information he is given? Is she prepared to pay the high price of enquiring every day that she might wish to travel, just in case.

Or maybe trawl through a whole heap of tedious over-engineered web sites just in case something has changed?

What she needs is a one-stop quick access to timetables.

It is called a timetable book or a timetable leaflet. It is cheap to produce, can be done area by area and could, with a little effort be made available in time for even emergency changes. It can be done in-house using a photocopier and be ready in minutes once the revised timetable is created.

The bus operator has to organise schedules, organise staff shifts, organise maintenance and fuelling all of which take time. Printed material or at least quick and obvious access to oniline timetables supported by, say, press advertising and a general notice on the buses and available in local shops, is needed to help people cope.

If only there were a simple app or web site where timetables could be checked easily without wading through clutter and multiple key prodding.

Mrs Miggins cancelled her appointment!

 Next Chinese Trees blog (plus) : Friday 15th May 


  1. fbb says 82 Hall Park Head - Ecclesall - Dore/Millhouses Monday - Friday service will operate every 20/40 minutes. Weekend service will operate hourly

    For most of the time (ALL of the time on their emergency timetables) 81s run to Dore and 82s run to Millhouses; so fbb is not sure why the text implies that both run to both.

    And it's worse that that - the 20/40 minutes bit only applies to half the 82 route, from Hall Park Head to Snig Hill; there is just the hourly service to Millhouses!

  2. I'm not sure why at this time FBB is still demanding paper versions as superior to on-line information, even if you could get it printed as fast as FBB thinks there is no way to distribute it as everywhere is closed and you have to know you can travel to get to somewhere to pick it up anyway.

    As for the timescales, in this circumstance FBB is seriously underestimating the planning timescales are operating to. At the moment operators only have to give 24-hours of a change and we often need no more than that for the entire process. As an example we restored some services/journeys on Monday 11th, the decision was taken at 1800 on the Wednesday with the schedules & timetables issued to depot & customer service/publicity staff at 1330 on Thursday (remember Friday was a BH) - even the most basic form of paper publicity couldn't have been prepared, printed & distributed in that time. In many ways operators are relying on the sight of the bus of the notification of a service being restored with customers then looking on-line/phoning for what is running as the planning timescales are so short that anything else won't be processed that quickly.

    As for roadside, in many cases the issue is that the staff who handle that are also the most likely to be vulnerable & self-isolating. At many organisations these staff are semi-retired or on lighter duties due to health issues so you lose these staff early.

    1. Good to see a dose of reality that reflects the actual situation on the ground and the very real-time challenges the industry is facing.

  3. Andrew Kleissner14 May 2020 at 09:20

    Yes, the idea of paper timetable leaflets is potty.

    Except ... couldn't the operators scrap the complexities of "Journey Planners" and produce simple pdfs of their timetables which could be placed on their websites? Ipswich Buses (a smallish operation I know) has never used Journey Planners but it's managed to keep abreast of changes during the pandemic - and passed them on to the county "Suffolkonboard" people. Cardiff Bus have managed almost the whole thing: updated timetables on the website in advance of changes, live departures on their app, paper timetables at stops. Digital displays aren't working and I haven't tried any journey planning.

  4. When First SY introduced their NHS specials (since increased) three weeks ago, the online 'timetable' was the running board. Not ideal, but it did the job.

  5. Mrs Miggins cancelled her appointment!

    Notwithstanding that many routine appointments are cancelled.

    Then Mrs Miggins is unnecessarily wasting NHS time.

    Mrs Miggins should remember that she should "consider all other forms of transport before using public transport".

    If she MUST use public transport, then information can be found online using Traveline or Travel South Yorkshire or the Operator's website.

    She could also phone Traveline on either 0871 200 22 33 or
    01709 51 51 51 (both are technically correct) - where as FBB found she would get the right information*

    She could even use GoTimetable Sheffield if she was aware it existed (and wasn't too concerned about Cookie compliance).

    The one thing that would be useless would be an inaccessible paper timetable leaflet that she didn't know existed and wouldn't know where to obtain one from.

    *Provided she could get through what with FBB wasting the agents time with his hypothetical requests.

  6. FBB is puzzled by First's references to the Sheffield 81/82. The answer lies in the non-Covid timetables, with the numbers being used to indicate the terminals used in each direction. Southbound 81s run to Dore, but most buses FROM Dore are 82s to Stannington (Nethergate), whereas southbound 82s run to Millhouses, generally returning as 81s to Hall Park Head at Stannington. On the temporary timetables things are simplified with 81s running Dore - Hall Park Head in both directions, and 82s Millhouses - Nethergate.

    1. Except that southbound 82's (in the normal timetable) often run to Dore, and 81's to Millhouses, especially on Sundays. The confusion this incurs is greatly increased by the way TSY displays the information at stops, where it become impossible to answer a question such as 'when is the next bus to Millhouses?'