Friday 21 October 2011

Money, Time & Effort Wasted!

fbb is appealing!

Investigating the revised service 53 from Sheffield to Mansfield gives fbb the opportunity to look at how public transport information is processed.

Bus companies are required, by law, to submit "registrations" for "local services" to the Traffic Commissioners eight weeks before the service starts. For a view on what a "registration" is, see "how to Save Money" (read again). So the revised timetable, incorporating the withdrawal of evening and Sunday journeys should have arrived before 5th September. Unless Stagecoach is very casual, the structure of the service would have been pretty-well fixed well before that.

The registration was officially published in "Notices and Proceedings" on 23rd September, having missed the 9th September issue ...
... but "N&P" really only tells you that something is happening but not exactly what. Nevertheless, Stagecoach is obliged to send copies of the timetable etc. to all local authorities through which the route passes, in this case Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. So these folk have eight weeks to do something about publishing a revised timetable if they wish to do so.

It is worth remembering that the counties have no obligation to publish any timetables at all; indeed neither has the bus company any legal requirement other than to send the details off as indicated above. Incredibly, a bus company does not have to tell Joe Public when its buses will run!

So how do these various organisations perform?
Traveline East Midlands got it wrong at first ...
... but were quick to correct it. The full timetable change was in place in good time but suffers from the inability of the "system" to separate out old and new times. Very messy and difficult to follow. See the full version (here)
Derbyshire  went live with the evening and Sunday 53A change, then published a "2nd edition" with the Monday to Saturday daytime alterations. It is the ONLY version to include the useful connecting times for Sheffield and Mansfield when these are unserved by through journeys. Well done fellas; you can read it in full (here).
South Yorkshire's leaflet popped up on line, also in good time. It has a map (of sorts) and a typically weird description of the route. IF these two failings could be sorted out and IF connections were added it COULD be the best offer of all. Have a gander (here).  
Traveline Yorkshire doesn't provide full timetables although the data is in their system. You are limited to little bits like the example (here). The site does link to South Yorkshire's timetable set, so, once this is all in place, you can get the info.

Now things become less happy!
Nottinghamshire was still showing a timetable from 2010 with a hourly bus between Mansfield and Sheffield. The service went two-hourly from April 1011.  With just less than a week to go to the latest change you can check (here).
Astoundingly, in parallel with Nottinghamshire, Stagecoach, operator of the Monday to Saturday daytime service was still showing the old HOURLY 2010 times with (on Friday 21st October) not a word about either the April 2011 or the October 2011 revisions. (Here) the current timetable isn't.
T M Travel, operator of the new evening and Sunday 53A remain equally silent, but even if they did give advance notice it would only be a link to either South Yorkshire or Derbyshire. Their paltry effort is (here).

Can you believe that Stagecoach,  the company that runs the main service, can't even get the right current timetable on-line? Unbelievable!

Can you believe that Traveline can't get its revised data to work correctly?
Look at that 1804/1807 connection. Is it "official"? Will the 53A wait? You would hope so, or it's two and a half hours in sunny Bolsover. This is how traveline doesn't cope with the minimal 3 minute connection time shown above:-
Despite the definite delights of a dubious Derbyshire diversion, fbb would really prefer to arrive in Eckington at 1837 rather than 1921.

But the crunch question is this ...

There are many people, in headless chicken mode, desperately pushing bits and bytes into their confusers  all over the East Midlands and South Yorkshire. There are lads and lasses at Stagecoach, Traveline East Midlands, Traveline Yorkshire, T M Travel, Derbyshire, South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire; all working their little socks off to deliver different timetable layouts, different print styles and, in two cases, hopelessly wrong information.

Money, Time and Effort all wasted.

fbb IS appealing ...

... for ONE single national timetable library, available free to view, to download and to print. It can simply (?) be funded via the registration system and any individual, county or enquiry service can access it within a couple of days of a bus service's registration.

If you, dear blog reader, agree, please forward this blog to your local bus company and/or local authority. In today's straitened times they are all supposed to be saving the pennies.

The xephos people would run it willingly, efficiently and cheaply, wouldn't they? 

Next blog : due Saturday October 22nd


  1. Doesn't Xephos directly market its products to every bus company and local authority and demonstrate how much money they can save and how many more customers could be easily reached?

  2. But nowadays compliance is more important than usefullness. I regularly look at the VOSA website for my area and, as you say, all it tells me is that something is going to happen. What is more, there are times (change of operator licence etc) when it tells me something is going to stop running but it is also going to start running. What is the purpose of that? Who is it giving infomration to? Clearly not the public.
    The whole system needs a root and branch reorganisation so that it becomes fit for purpose. But until someone defines the purpose that ain't going to happen.
    However, if it did, it could actually save money as well as being useful. Naaah. Fooling myself again.

  3. Answer to top Anonymous. Yes since about 1999. The problem is/was buyers (mainly the govt) only like(d) to deal with expensive suppliers with a track record (however flawed) who promise(d) much and deliver(ed) little.
    The people who PAY for Traveline simply don't know how bad it is - they probably never use it; the people who know how bad its is have no ability to change things and are perennially sidelined by "politics".
    See Anonymous 2 re: the useless (?) registration system!
    'Twas ever thus ...

  4. Thanks for another excellent blog - always a good read and lots of challenging ideas !

    Here are a few thoughts to add to the debate :

    1) The changes to the evening/Sunday service on the 53 are actually linked to complementary changes on Stagecoach Chesterfield 50 (Sheffield – Eckington – Chesterfield). This currently runs to/from Halfway Tram stop in the evenings and Sundays, but from 30th October will run to/from Sheffield Interchange instead. As the 50 runs hourly at these times and 53 two-hourly, the change actually represents a significant improvement in the ESu Sheffield – Eckington Bus Station service, as well as providing direct links to the west side of Eckington, New Whittington and Old Whittington. As these places enjoy a half-hourly service to/from Sheffield during the day, the revised arrangement seems more logical – although their gain is clearly at the expense of Renishaw, Clowne, Bolsover etc.

    2) Your original post of 30th September mentions that ‘for reasons only known to the potty programers (sic) producing pages for Traveline's users, "old" journeys south easterly from Sheffield to Mansfield appear on the same page as "new" journeys in the opposite direction’. Well, I’m not one of the said ‘potty programmers’, but it seems rather obvious to me that the problem was that the data supplied to Traveline by Derbyshire CC had the ‘Outbound/Inbound’ directions of the 53A the wrong way round and was easily fixed when these were corrected. Like any other system, Traveline can only be as good as the data it is provided with.

    3) In my view, one of the real strengths of the Traveline system is the way it shows both current and future times on the same table – thus making it easy to identify if journeys you may be relying on today cease to operate next week. I, for one, find this presentation method very helpful to understand the details of service changes - this has certainly been the case for the 53/53A. Incidentally, when planning a journey if you click on the ‘Timetable’ button, the interactive version of the timetable does not display any journeys which no longer operate. So selecting a Sheffield – Bolsover journey for a date after 31st October only shows the new times. However, the same doesn’t apply for the pdf version – which is presumably fixed and isn’t generated separately for each journey plan.

    4) I don’t really understand what you think is wrong with Traveline journey plan for the Mansfield – Sheffield journey that you have included. Neither the Derbyshire nor South Yorkshire timetables for 53/53A give any indication that the 1807 53A from Bolsover will wait for the incoming 53, and at that time of day delays are only to be expected. Given the generally high quality of Derbyshire timetables, if there was a guaranteed connection, I am sure it would say so. On that basis I would contend that in the absence of information to the contrary, the Traveline journey plan is correct. The reason it doesn’t plan for the connection at Bolsover is presumably that it allows a certain minimum connection time (5 minutes, I think) - but if the timetables are specified appropriately it seems this can be overridden. One example of this is the ‘0-minute’ connections between Heyfordian 25 and 25A at Kirtlington (try a journey from Oxford to Wendlebury). be continued

  5. 5) I entirely agree about the need for a single national timetable library – but feel things are moving in the right direction with the existing arrangements for Traveline in the South-East, East Midlands and East Anglia which operate as an integrated system. It would seem logical for this to be extended to other areas in due course, but only time will tell. I rarely bother with other sources of information for timetables in these areas – and, for that matter, also use it for planning National Rail journeys where Traveline can produce better results than National Rail Enquiries (e.g. try a journey from Harwich to Abergavenny).

    6) Regarding the xephos system, if my memory serves me right, its timetables and journey plans operated at timing point level, rather than the stop level used by Traveline. As a result, it didn’t handle postcodes, addresses or places of interest (such as Basingstoke Baptist Church). I’m not saying it couldn’t, but if a re-invigorated xephos system were to offer this functionality it would have to use the same system of stops, localities, etc. as used by Traveline - and this seems to be one of your main bugbears about both Traveline and other timetable suppliers (e.g. Travel South Yorkshire), e.g. the issues with Broomhill.

    7) Re your comment at 15:23 on 21/10, I really don't see any problems with the Traveline system for the South-East, East Midlands, East Anglia etc. and if asked, I would rate it as excellent - as it delivers all the journey planning and timetable details I might want with a high degree of accuracy. However, I have to admit that for a variety of reasons the other Traveline areas would come rather lower down the scale !