Wednesday 4 January 2012

NaPTAN Necessitous National Naming [1]

via an fbb Christmas Present ...
... a full set of Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister DVDs. This scrumptious series ran in the eighties and satirised the continual battle between elected leadership and the turgid resistance of the Civil Service. The epitome of effective obfuscation was portrayed by the "permanent secretary" Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne).
His explanations of policy and practice directed towards the hapless Minister for Administrative Affairs, Jim Hacker (Paul Eddington), were rib-achingly hilarious but, almost certainly, based on real life.

So fbb was interested to come across this on-line document as he amused himself with post festive browsing. The extract is somewhat lengthy, but stick with it and you may be able to understand the parallels! fbb has interspersed the text with a few pictures of bus stops, for light relief.
So a rail station may contain a stop area representing a Metro Station and other StopAreas representing Bus Stops; but a Metro Station cannot contain a stop area representing a Rail Station.

A bus station is a StopArea which contains a cluster of individual stopping points (each bay or stance must be a separate StopPoint in NaPTAN). For arrivals, a special "unidentified bay" (BCQ) can be used to cater for the situation where buses may set down at different bays in a bus station - but departures should always be coded to use the correct physical stop. The only exception might be where, say, coach services leave from any one of several adjacent bays, depending on which one is free; this forms another application for the BCQ stop type. 

Each StopArea has the equivalent of a CommonName - and generally this should be the same name as that which is used as the CommonName for each of the stops in the StopArea. AlternativeNames can also be assigned to stop areas for ease of finding them in Gazetteers: and all names are associated with a language to allow for multi-lingual naming where relevant.

Every StopPoint and StopArea must belong to an NPTG AdministrativeArea, which is responsible for managing it and its data. A StopArea may belong to a different AdministrativeArea from that of some of the stop points it contains; although this should be avoided wherever possible. The StopArea is considered to be associated with all the NPTG localities (and alternative localities) of its member stops. Different stops in a given stop area may belong to different NptgLocality instances - but again use this option only where essential. Normally the stops of a stop area will belong to the same NptgLocality, but it is possible that the stops may be in different NPTG localities that are either adjacent to each other, or contained within one or the other (that is, hierarchically related through an 'is part of' association, either directly or indirectly)

Well said, Sir Humphrey. That's better. fbb has always felt that these matters needed clarifying. It is good for all our blog readers to share in the sophisticated yet subtle simplicity of the system.

The quoted paragraphs come from the introductory pages of ...

 TRANSPORT DIRECT                            
 Written by: Roger Slevin                    
 Date: 25th March 2007                       
 Version Number: 1.0                         

... a document which goes on to explain how NapTAN (the National Public Transport Access Nodes database) works in detail; about 20 pages of detail in fact. Fascinating and edifying bedtime reading for anyone even remotely interested in public transport.

All this to describe a bus stop?

fbb will continue with a further exploration of this exceedingly important document in a few days, after taking recently prescribed tranquilisers. In the meantime, two thoughts:-

Technology for technology's sake, AGAIN? : and,
Can you trust an organisation which can't spell superseded?

The organisation?
Supersede from latin "super" = "above" and "sedere" = "to place". The word "sedentary" is also derived from the same latin root. Sir Humphrey Appleby, GCB, KBE, MVO, MA Oxon, (a classics "first") would have been apoplectic with rage at the poor standard of literacy in a government department.

There is much more to reveal, but we do need to pause to celebrate a notable Sheffield Anniversary.

  Next Blog : due Thursday January 5th  


  1. Generally makes sense to me - mind you, I do occasionally have dreams about database schemas...

  2. Hi
    I am so looking forward to this!!
    Better not comment further.
    Ken - Traveline (and NaPTAN) Dorset

  3. "Can you trust an organisation which can't spell superseded?"

    Well, maybe not; but their counting seems a little backward as well. Version 1.4 seems to have come after version 2.0 (in all of its sub-versions)!

  4. JimmyMac - perhaps we both need a good psychiatrist, then.

  5. Never mind the Simple Guide. Give us the full strength Complex Guide to NaPTAN!

  6. You seem to have a few people to convince here !

    Apart from anything else, life has taught me that knowledge of spelling is not a guide to trustworthiness - so I am inclined to forgive the DfT for their slip-up on this occasion. At least they are consistent !

    Having said that, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website at defines 'supercede' thus :

    Supercede has occurred as a spelling variant of supersede since the 17th century, and it is common in current published writing. It continues, however, to be widely regarded as an error.

    So at least the alternative spelling appears to have some pedigree and cannot be blamed on recent falls in educational standards!

    At the risk of being even more pedantic, and although (unlike Sir Humphrey) my only classics qualification is O-level Latin, I am also rather doubtful about your etymology for 'supersede'.

    The University of Notre Dame website at
    gives possible translations of 'sedere' as
    'to sit; to sit in council or judgment; to sit about , be inactive'
    and not 'to place' as you suggested. To my mind, 'sits above' certainly conveys the meaning of 'supersedes' rather better than 'places above'.
    The confusion may arise because a possible translation of the Latin noun 'sedes' is 'place' - but the equivalent verbs don't appear to relate to each other.

    There are various possible latin translations of 'to place', the most obvious of which is 'locare', although 'sistere' would also do.

    Here endeth the lesson !

  7. NMcB - you can't win. (Well, I can't, anyway)! Noah Webster, of course, was from "over the pond" and thus often at variance with the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (British and obviously Best!) which lists "supercede" as an older and "superseded" variant. The quip is mine, not the OED's. Of course the sense of "sit" is akin to "in place" rather than locare - nearer to "find", as in some uses of locate or even sit down.

    Perhaps I had better stick to omnibology (in neither Webster nor the OED) rather than etymology!

  8. Having made one tongue-in-cheek comment, I would add that I do agree in principle that such matters do need to be clearly defined. Problems arise when such matters are left open to interpretation, and usage becomes inconsistent. Unfortunately, the definitions contained in your excerpts don't all seem to be completely precise, but that is the introduction. Perhaps the detail pages clarify the circumstances where, for example, "A StopArea may belong to a different AdministrativeArea from that of some of the stop points it contains" - however much that should be avoided where possible!

  9. The city offers a variety of public transportation which includes bus, train, and taxi to accommodate different needs of travelers.


  10. I should imagine the StopArea belonging to a different AdministrativeArea is in order to cope with long-distance coach services. Dang you to heck, National Express!

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