Wednesday 19 October 2011

Oscar Oversees Optio

New readers, see
(read again) "Optio Red Revealed"
(read again) "Oh! Oh! Optio Orange"
Always willing to help with Good Advice
Oscar Fitch-Gates [O] works for South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive. He is a senior information officer in the D.O.O.M. section, [that's the Department Of Obfuscation Management].

At Oscar's request, fbb has fitted him with a hidden microphone, transmitting his conversations back to fbb HQ. This is a summarised excerpt from a conversation, logged on November 1st 2011, with Sam Ranga (from India) [S], a lab assistant at Sheffield University and living in Woodhouse; whom Oscar met outside the Co-op.

November 1st? It would appear that time travel is now possible in South Yorkshire.
S   [similar to Peter Sellers' in "Goodness Gracious Me"] I am wishing to travel on your excellent buses to the most excellent University of Sheffield. I am wanting to pay little money. Please, kind sir, can you offer wise advice.

O  [in a slightly squeaky nasal voice, stereotypically] Well, the single fare is £1.30 but we do have some very useful cost-saving deals available. Which bus route would you intend to use?

S  I am noticing that I can catch a 22, a 25, a 25A, a 30, a 52 or a 123; but of these only the 30, the 52 and the 123 go near to the University.
click to see a large version
sadly neither Oscar nor Sam has access to such a map 
O  Yes. The 123 is quicker at 35 minutes but only runs every half an hour; whereas the 52 runs every 10 minutes but takes 5 minutes longer. The 52 runs in the evenings and on Sundays but the 123 only goes as far as the City centre at these times. The 30, of course, does not go via Western Bank so you would have to walk from Glossop Road.

S  I may choose, then; whichever bus arrives first, I could travel upon it.

O  Yes you could.  But your choice has fares implications.

S  I do not understand with full completeness. What are these "fares implications"?

O  Well, if you travel on the 52 you can buy an Optio Red ...
... weekly ticket for £9 which equates to only £1.80 a day for five days travel to work; and you can use it for other trips if you wish.

S  So, I think, tripping on the 30 or the 123 if they arrive firstly at my stop.

O  Actually, erm, no. Optio Red is only valid on the 52. You would have to buy an Optio Orange ticket to use the 123.
S  So my Optio Orange ticket could take me to the City on buses with numbers 22, 25, 25A and 30 and I could walk to the University? I see your kind company offers flexibility and choice.

O  Actually, erm, no.  You would need a Stagecoach weekly ticket for the 25 and a First weekly ticket for the 22, 25A and 30 and they are more expensive than the Optio ticket. A ticket for all Stagecoach routes in Sheffield is £10.50 for a week ...
... and if you wanted to use the tram at any time, the price would be £12.
 First Bus have a similar product but it costs £17.50.
S  Perhaps I am misunderstanding the meaning of your words "flexibility" and "choice"? And, for example, when I have bought my First bus ticket, what happens when I wish to purchase a second one? Will it be different again?

O  [slightly testily, losing patience] The Optio ticket is flexible because you can use it on both companies' buses. First Bus runs a 52 bus, so does Stagecoach.

S   This sounds better already. So I could catch a First bus company 52 bus from the University back to the extremely co-operative shop here at Woodhouse.

O  Actually, erm, no. First's service 52 runs to a different part of Woodhouse.

S   This gives much confusion. There are two Wooden Houses in Sheffield?

O  [backing away hurriedly] If you require total flexibility, you could buy a Travelmaster network ticket which is valid on everything; but it is, naturally, much more expensive. 
S  So I could travel with only a little flexibility on a Red Ticket for £9, or perhaps with less flexibility on an Orange ticket for much the same amount of pounds, or if I decide which lovely bus company to use, exclusively to boot, I could pay £10.50 or even £17.50. But if I require really flexible flexibility I must pay £23.90?

O  [shiftily] Well, yes, I would be forced, reluctantly, to agree.

S  I am muchly confused by your bus fares; flexibly flexible £23.90 is highly expensive compared with feebly flexible £9 ...
... I think I will need to choose some really flexible flexibility.

O   [triumphantly] Then Travelmaster is for you! 

P   But alas no, kind sir; I shall purchase a motor car with both my first and my second hand ...
... that is, assuredly, the most utterly and complete flexibility, is it not? .... 

But, mysteriously, Oscar has suddenly rushed off to buy some aspirins in the Co-op. 

In recording this future conversation, fbb wishes to stress that there are no racially insulting implications implied or intended in choosing Sam Ranga's little anagramatic chat.

The episode does, however, serve to show that travel choices, with fares options, are far too complex for an innocent enquirer. In most European cities and even some in UK there are universal day, weekly and monthly fares at sensible prices. It is a sadness of history and commercial "freedom" that impedes such a simple product in Sheffield.

The final word : There will  be 24 (that's twenty-four!) different One-Day tickets on sale in South Yorkshire from 30th October 2011, ranging from £3 to £10.50.

Next blog : due Thursday October 20th  

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