Friday 9 September 2011

Web Sites, Used or Confused? [4]

Are They Having a Laugh, STILL?
Readers will recall the blog on utterly ludicrous bus stop
publicity (read here) and Travel South Yorkshire's almost as 
ludicrous attempt at a correction (read here).
A chum emailed yesterday (Thursday) to report that TSY
have just replaced the corrected information once again ...
... with the original utterly ludicrous version.
This man, David Brown, the Director General, is
ultimately responsible. They sack failed football managers!
You couldn't make it up.
It makes the Isle of Wight look reasonable : nevertheless ...

Gatcombegate, The Final Word
With rumours flying around the ether about buses to Gatcombe, near Newport, Isle of Wight; a possible vanishing act by David Copperfield, grand illusionist, and some shirty comments by "anonymous" appended to fbb's previous blog (read again), more research was obviously needed. Most of fbb's previous conclusions were based entirely on publicity currently available, on-line and in print; so anonymous' somewhat pained reaction might suggest that he (or she?) had the benefit of insider dealings.

Fact 1  : until Friday 2nd September, Gatcombe Church was served by route 36 operated by Wightbus.
Fact 2 : from Monday 5th September, route 36 was replaced by the very similar (almost identical?) but curiously renumbered route 35, operated by Southern Vectis.

Fact 3 : route 35 lies hidden in Traveline's list of timetables ...
with no mention of the journeys via Chillerton and Brighstone in the index, so tricky to find the information, eh?

Fact 4 : According to Southern Vectis' new timetable from 5th September, route 35 no longer serves Gatcombe Church.
Fact 5 : Despite this omission, it appears that route 35 does serve Gatcombe Church, at least according to Traveline's map.
fbb, foolishly had not spotted this. Additionally his usually reliable source was adamant that the 35 did NOT run via Gatcombe Church now that the NEW 36 was operating.
Indeed an "informed source" from the Isle of Wight Council, when pressed,  seemed unsure which way the 35 would actually run. BUT .... fanfare of trumpets ... sound of fbb tucking into humble pie ... chortles from anonymous as he shouts "told you so" ... an even more reliable source from Southern Vectis confirms that both the 35 and the new 36 serve Gatcombe Church, giving that pretty ecclesiastical edifice (there's not much else) three trips to Newport on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays at ...

0918, 1050 and 1118

... and three journeys back home at ...

1110, 1250 and 1410

A fantastic service giving the particular privileged passenger a huge choice, better than ever before.  An fbb map explains all ...
... or does it? The official registration for the 35 is shown in green. It implies that the 35 bus does a "double run" from the main road, turning at the Church (which is here, in the trees on the right on a dangerous bend with poor visibility).
As fbb's alter ego, Victor Meldrew, might have said ...
"I don't belieeeve it!" 

And the question which, in a way, started all this, still remains. Why run the 36 AND the 35 for minimalist passenger numbers at one solitary stop, roughly a quarter of a mile from the hourly service 6 on the main road and not particularly near the main settlements in Gatcombe? There is certainly a faint odour of ratus ratus in the Island air.

Gatcombegate, the Final Word - OR IS IT?   

Not quite, there's another question. Why is the 36 still a secret in all printed and SV on-line publicity? Perhaps illusionist Copperfield may yet be preparing one of his celebrated vanishing acts?

And another question. How is Joe Public ever going to work this lot out

And, by the way, another of fbb's chums reports that, so far (on Thursday, the fourth day of the scheme), he has seen NO "community partnership" drivers on any service 6 journeys, they have all been dressed in smart Southern Vectis uniforms. The "partnership" was, if you remember, for half the 10 trips a day to be run by the community. News is also breaking that the Unions are expressing deep concern about the use of "volunteer" drivers, so possible "trouble at 't mill" may be looming in the not too distant horizon?

Who said something about "Tears before Bedtime"?

Stop Press In order to sort out what is clearly a mess, fbb went back to the public domain information, namely the service registrations deposited with the Traffic Commissioners. This reveals that the 36, part of the 6 documentation, was registered on 21st July whilst the 35 is dated 9th August.


Either a change of heart at the last minute ...
... by the ever efficient Isle of Wight Council (pause for hysterical laughter) which foots the bill, OR, an act of mis-management (there are cruder phrases available) by the bus company. "Sorry, guv, we forgot!" But NONE of this is any excuse for the outrageous omnibological obfuscation on-line, and in print, all totally disgraceful. (see comments on the previous blog)

Readers may draw whatever conclusion they wish from:-

Fact 6 : The NEW service 36 is to be withdrawn after service on Friday 21st October, just 7 weeks after its secretive un-launch.

Next blog : Saturday September 10th


  1. One of the baffling aspects of this whole issue is the daft approach to route numbers, which seems particularly ridiculous on a small, self-contained piece of land like the Isle of Wight.

    The post-4/9/2011 route 35 has two variations which are significantly different, and while one of them is similar to the version of the route prior to that date, the new version is significantly shorter. There is therefore a good case for using completely new route numbers. Since there appear to be no routes numbered above 39, there is plenty of scope for new numbers without going into three figures. Or is there an IoW By-Law that says 'thou shalt have no route number greater than 50'? (I seem to recall there have been some in the 40s in earlier years.)

    Obviously some common sense needs to be used in the application of such a policy - minor changes to a route don't warrant a new number. In this case, I'm sure that at least some of the confusion, caused by the inadequate information in print and on the web, could have been avoided by the simple expediency of giving the amended routes new numbers, and variations of routes, separate numbers.

  2. Thanks RC169.

    SV has used, at various times, numbers in the 50s for works services,
    70s for Summer coach-operated shuttles from Ryde and East Cowes to holiday destinations,
    81 for the short-lived Newport, Ryde, Ferry, Portsmouth London link,
    91,92 and 93 for routes between Cowes and Newport, Shanklin and Ventnor.
    Wightbus has used 100s occasionally for "normal" (?) but occasional services and frequently for school routes.
    The modern trend, instigated by Trent, of using the same number for widely different routes, seems particularly daft.
    Recent operation of three distinct 7s to West Wight (now down to 2) has proved particularly baffling to visitors and occasional users.
    But then, who cares about passengers whilst they happily thrown money at you?

  3. So were the registrations in paper or electronic format? The DfT's Electronic Service Bus Registration format means that all stops served by a service are shown; in turn, that should enable the Traveline compilers to take the data as it stands, rather than second guess which stops are served. But then, the operator would have to get it right in the first place...

  4. Electronic registrations, anonymous? On the Isle of Wight? More likely chiseled into blocks of granite or using runic text on bits of old sheepskin. Perhaps that's why its a mess.

    One thing is certain; electronic registration is another technological disaster.

    But we have got the "lectric" now.

  5. In London buses are provided on routes, elsewhere in the country buses are normally provided on services. That means that a ROUTE number can have no deviations without it being renumbered (perhaps with a suffix) but a SERVICE number can contain diversions as all of the various routing options are provided under one number; the SERVICE number.

    Now, there's a debate to be had!

  6. Semantics? Pedantics?

    Sheffield Transport had the most workable and clearly defined system which was "headlined" in the introductory pages to their timetable book. Brain-fade means I may not be 100% accurate in quote, but something like:-

    The route NUMBER defines the route along which the bus operates, the NAME (i.e. destination) shows how far along that route the bus will travel.

    Seeples : AND it was consistently applied from the early 60s when "short working" route numbers were phased out.

    Of course some trendy companies operate "lines" (as in USA), something of a linguistic abomination for us Brits. [sorry, pedants all, that should read "we Brits"].