Thursday 6 May 2010

And a very Unhappy Birthday!

10 years in November since the very last edition.

What a very good idea.   The Great Britain Bus Timetable was published by Isle of Wight bus company, Southern Vectis.   It contained nearly 3000 timetables in summary form and was available in all Tourist Information Centres, all main Libraries and staffed railway station enquiry offices.   It had its limitations, of course, especially as timetables changed so frequently - but at least it was a start.   Each timetable had the operator's phone number, and, in the heady pre-technological days way back in the 1990s, someone would answer who actually knew where the buses ran.

But cartoonist Rupert Besley's farewell cover says it all.  PTI (Passenger Transport Information) which begat Traveline; which begat Transport Defunct; snuffed out the much admired and much used only national source of bus information.   The bus companies withdrew their modest funding (£250,000 in total) in favour of the more expensive Traveline - now enhanced (?) by the £50 million budget for Transport Defunct - and GBBTT was no more.

How have we moved on in 10 years?

With the exception of Traveline south east, full timetables are simply not available on the more expensive replacements for GBBTT.  Try for yourself:  find me the timetable for Service 3 to Splott!   (Radio presenter John Humphries was born there!) And when you have found it, print out a copy to take with you when you go.   You could even try getting one from the company that runs the service, or from the Local Authority that pays for it and -- as they say, Best of British!

Obtaining even on-line timetables is now very difficult oustide the larger PTE areas (e.g. Manchester, Sheffield) and, helpfully, totally impossible in London. - and obtaining paper copies can be well-nigh unachievable.  Tourist Information Offices are more about selling accommodation and and souvenirs and show little interest in providing a proper service of, well, information for tourists.   Libraries are usually useless and bus enquiry offices are as rare as the manatee.

For little money - say £750,000: small change for the industry - a full set of timetables could be available on-line, downloadable at home, at railway stations and in libraries.

So, bus industry, give us back our Great Britain Bus Timetable, on-line will do!   Then we can make sensible travel plans, not burdened with restricted information, often misleading and sometimes plain wrong, as we grapple with over complex journey planners.

UPDATE : I note that Traveline Scotland now provides timetables (in PDF format).   Whereas the best Traveline North East can do is link to a few operators' websites.

1 comment:

  1. I had an issue about timetables at the weekend when travelling from Pangbourne to Paddington and back.

    The outward journey was fine, but the return journey was more of a challenge. Our Network Rail timetable downlaod showed the start and finish points but not the train destination.
    When changing from a fast to a stopping train at Reading we found that the electronic summary displays only showed destinations whilst the printed displays did not show the train destination or platform number.
    We had to resort to the old fashioned approach of asking a member of staff - hard for us men to do! Of course, once we were at the correct platform, the individual platform displays gave all the information.
    Not very joined up.