Wednesday 27 July 2011

Real Time or Real Pain [2]

Oxontime, Clocks on Time, What's on Time?

fbb has previously commented adversely on electronic information in York; "York I D ten T I C" (read again). There were obvious problems at Slough; "Hairy Fair-y Berks Larks 3" (read again).
And this was from Derby's new Bus Station. Even overlooking the 1058 to "Undefined Alias", that lovely spot on the outskirts of the city, the 1055 and 1058 to "Derby Circular" are particularly pointless. And back in Sheffield's main interchange the service 95 screens tell you that the route runs via Western Bank; which it doesn't and never has done.

But fbb is now in Wantage.
After a somewhat unhelpful search of Oxfordshire's electronic information service "on-line", Real Time or Real Pain [1] (read again), fbb is now in place outside "The Bear" at Market Place. That is actually Wantage Market Place, but the computer system doesn't seem to know that.

fbb arrives to see the Stagecoach service 31 to Oxford via Abingdon waiting with welcoming open door. But only services X30 and 32 are appearing on the "real time" screen on the bus stop flag. The 31 sets off unannounced.

So what information should be displayed? Goody, goody, there is a poster on one of the two stops. Needless to say it is NOT on the stop which shows the electronic display and where the main "computer-zap" buses leave from!
This informs fbb that the ONLY Wantage bus to be capable of delivering Oxontime is Thames Travel's service 32. Yes, oh expectant reader, you guessed it; the poster is utterly out of date. It became even more out of date from Sunday 24th when Oxford Citybus and Stagecoach joined hands in holy matrimony to offer joint city services. It's all change on local city routes.
After observing for just over an hour and debating hotly with No. 1 son who (a) lives there, (b) uses the bus to get to work in the hallowed halls of academe in Oxford and, (c) occasionally draws comfort from the departure screens, fbb is more confused than ever.

Undaunted, the chubby one tries the "text for times" service at huge expense on his mobile phone. This offers X30, 32 AND the missing 31 information.

It appears that the times are simply a bus locator (using GPS?) and not related to the actual timetable at all. So when the bus arrives at Market Place all information disappears from the screen. The bus is there, so all is well. But what happens when buses disappear from screens en route? A potential passenger arriving tight for time might retreat, believing he had missed his bus, only to watch, from afar, the bus zoom past.

But Wantage "local" travellers can choose their omniscient options on the 32, but remain ignorant of the 38 ...
... which, of course, isn't on the system but doubles the frequency to Grove. Indeed none of the infrequent "country" routes is covered, so, where information is absolutely critical, it simply isn't available. Indeed, apart from little numbers on the bus stop flag, MOST of the infrequent, but essential, rural links are totally unexplained. There is no information at all.

Never mind, there is a poster at the stop advertising diversions and re-arrangements for the Wantage October Fair.

For 2010! 

In the hour or so that fbb was there, not a single person raised their eyes slightly heavenwards to look at the "real time" display.

And as a final futility, the next service 31 arrived and immediately disappeared from the screen; only to re-appear almost immediately as arriving 16 minutes later (and thus 16 minutes late). For those 16 minutes the bus sat here; but this time with doors firmly closed as the driver repaired to the nearby coffee shop for a cuppa and a wad.

Perhaps Oxontime really should be Oxotime and,
like Leicestershire's Star Trak, be crumbled into that great electronic cooking pot in the sky. It's certainly not much use at Wantage. Sorry, not much use at Market Place!

The poster suggests referring to "the timetable" when "Oxontime" is unavailable. No 1 son, who has lived there for years, knows of nowhere local that fbb could go to be certain of obtaining such a mysterious piece of printed propaganda, and definitely not on a Saturday. "You cold try the "Help Centre", he opines hesitantly, pointing to a resolutely closed shop near 'The Bear', "they might have some, if you're lucky."  Why is fbb not surprised?

More recent clients of the fbb blog may also like to refer to:-
"Worrying Wantage Wangerings (Part I)" (read again)
"Worrying Wantage Wanderings (Part II)" (read again)

Next blog : due Thursday July 28th  

No comments:

Post a Comment