Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Handy at Sandy (2)

Sandy is not over-blessed with bus services; the following being the situation today with whatever viral reductions may still apply. Its main and only "full-time" route is Stagecoach 76 from Bedford, for which we have a timetable ...
... and what the Stagecoach web site calls a  "Sandy network map".
Perhaps this is not everyone's definition of a network?

Centrebus runs two routes from the town also to Biggleswade but via "the villages" ...
... with a couple of trips to Blunham tacked on to the 188. Looking in the opposite direction, it might have been helpful to show the burghers of Blunham that they could get FROM the station and Tesco ...
... by showing the 1055/56 and 1545/46 from station/Tesco at the top of the Blunham times.

If you look up Sandy on Traveline you get a forest of extra services. Some of these, in typical Traveline helpful fashion, don't go anywhere near Sandy; but some only run to the Market Place.

These are the Ivel Sprinter community bus services ...
... which offer a bewildering array of (mainly) once a week services which get those with no transport of their own to their essential destinations. The timetables are equally bewildering.
Elsie and Mavis know that they will get to Sainsburys at twenty to ten and leave and twenty past ten  if they only need a few things or just before midday if they want to shop further afield. They do get a ride in a nice comfy minibus with a really friendly volunteer driver.

So now we visit Sandy's Tesco, courtesy of blog reader Katie who supplied the key photo.
Nearly two weeks ago, a new departure list appeared in that huge frame in the dinky shelter located o/s the store.

Two things were immediately obvious. There is another notice covering up some of the times ...
... and the poster did not inspire confidence in the rest of the information.
Second, the poster was dated ...
... from 30th March although it was installed in the frame at the end of June.
So let's start with Stagecoach 73 ...
... because the company web site shows a nice tidy hourly frequency Monday to Saturday.

0535 and hourly until 1935 to Bedford

0650 and hourly until 2050 to Biggleswade

Let's call up a typical hour's departures from the shiny new (old?) departure list.
Now fbb is renowned for jumping to the wrong conclusion, but even in the depths of his decrepitude, he can see that the poster produced predicts a half hourly service in both directions.

And none of the times in the frame match Stagecoach's timetable, so whenever you turn up you will need to wait anything between five and thirtyfive minutes for your bus.

Traveline ...
... agrees with Stagecoach.

Now let us try Centrebus 188 ...
 ... with a simple company offering of:-

1127 and 1617 to Biggleswade

1056 and 1456 to Sandy and Blunham

And the departure list poster?

1027, 1156, 1356 and 1556 to Sandy and Blunham

0956, 1227, 1427 and 1627 to Biggleswade

And, while we are at it, the 190 ...
... with its published timetable.

1410 to Sandy

0920 and 1415 to Biggleswade

The Tesco stop display is, like the rest, totally wrong in every way.

0753, 0912, 1110, 1310, 1510 and 1725 to Sandy

0800, 0920, 1115, 1315, 1515 and 1744 to Biggleswade

Of course, there are two possibilities. Either the bus operators have not updated their web sites, OR, South Bedfordshire has put up a very wrong poster.

Is there a right poster? Or has South Bedforshire heard that buses are returning "to normal" and simply put up the pre-lockdown departure list.

Katie did not say whether the "real time" displays in Sandy are correct, but if traveline is correct then there is a fighting chance that the  screens will be telling the truth.


Arriva Sends An E-mail To fbb
fbb wonders how it works for journeys TO Leicester.

For example, chum David gets on a bus at his Groby stop (map, upper left) to travel into town for something essential. He travels happily at 1 metre plus social distance for just half a mile.

At the newly installed border post at The Brantings ...
... the guards come on board ...
... and, if there are too many for the tighter social distancing within Leicester itself, some passengers will be thrown off and have to wait for the next bus.

It make travelling even more difficult and frightening.

But maybe some of the crime scene terror can now be reduced, except in Leicester.

The Control Tower
Re-arrange three of the the walls and fill in some of the gaps ...
... and cover with a skin of plastic stone work. Cut holes in SOME of the window spaces and ...

... hocus pocus, sim salabim etc. you have a different building, albeit in "low relief".
fbb will explain more when it is finished; perhaps when it is more finished.

Happy Memories
Those were the days ...
... when bus companies gave out their own information, so it was always right and always up-to-date. By far the majority of enquirers would be better served if we went back to something like that. Remember that most enquiries are local, not regional; and most want to know the time of a bus and not a chunk of over engineered journey planner.

That is also why printed timetables are better for the majority. They are easier to use, quicker to use (you keep the timetable book behind the clock) and not subject to the vagaries of the world of wiffy squiffy iffy electronics.

IF we want people to come back to travelling by bus, we need to make the process of finding out when and where they go much simpler; e.g. web sites devoid of clutter. Most passengers have become frustrated and disillusioned (and unnecessarily frightened) by the way services have been altered without warning during recent months.

Tomorrow's blog includes a sad and very personal memorial.

 But Plenty Of Other Stuff blog : Thursday 9th July 


  1. Is it a 76 or a 73?

  2. Andrew Kleissner8 July 2020 at 09:10

    And how do people get hold of the printed timetables? I can't see bus companies doing a leaflet drop around every house in the town. And how do folk know when the timetable has been changed - as, for instance, in the Covid crisis?

    As far as websites, well they do vary and some are awful. (True of most train websites where "proper timetables" are cunningly hidden). However the two websites I know best are Cardiff Bus and Ipswich Buses, and I think they're pretty user-friendly and reliable. I know other operators use the same software as Cardiff Bus so they'd be very similar. I think you may underestimate the "computer-savvyness" of a large sector of the population - for most people, and not necessarily young ones, the Internet is the first place they go to for information.

  3. Sigh... dear FBB....
    Is this time really sensible to be comparing information at bus stops with information on line in the usual way? Rather than the vastly overcomplicated procedure you go to here, the Central Bedfordshire council website makes it pretty clear (quite easily to find) that the 73 and 188/189 are running to special timetables. They are a few years old now, but the last timetables I have accessible clearly show a half hourly service on the 73 and two-hourly on the Centrebus services.

    As mentioned by Andrew, many people are perfectly internet savvy now (an estimated 93% of people have access to the internet), and as I have said before, given current guidelines, if you can't find when the bus is running, you probably shouldn't be using it.

    Given the frequency with which timetables are changing at the moment, do you really think is a sensible use of taxpayers money to be printing new posters every other week? Quite aside from the fact the staff responsible for changing them may be redeployed or furloughed.

    You often comment on a lack of respect shown in comments: perhaps it is high time you showed some to operators and local authorities and the situations they are in now, rather than ranting from your armchair and waxing lyrical about how easy it was in the days you ran a couple of buses.

    1. And just for context, the 'normal' 188/190 timetable changed fairly significantly in late March (in that it no longer runs through to Hitchin) so new roadside information would have been due to go up as lockdown commenced anyway. Undoubtedly the council felt that, with operators beginning to return to some resemblance to normal service levels on some routes (my employers have a number, though as yet by no means a majority, of routes back on normal weekday timetables) that they need to ensure that they are ready for that given service change notice periods are currently counted in days not weeks.

      As usual if you don't do what FBB believes is the correct way you don't simply have a difference of opinion but are incompetent or actively choosing to do damage. The general public are brought up on computers & the internet and even today's retirees are used to using the internet, may parents are retired and over 70 and routinely use the internet for getting their bus times. You can criticise how websites are laid out or how easy information is to find but railing against the preference given to a mode that most customers will reach for first is short-sighted. It is far harder to ensure customers have up to date printed information, I have 3 different timetables for my local routes from different dates around my house, than ensuring your website it correct. I do believe that it is important to still provide printed publicity for a number of reasons but seeing it as still being the prime medium is increasingly out-dated.

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