Tuesday 10 January 2012

NaPTAN Necessitous National Naming [2]

Where do we start? ...

See also "NaPTAN Necessitous National Naming [1]" (read again)

On page 13 of the 211 page on-line guide to NaPTAN, after 12 pages of lists and index "stuff", we reach the "introduction".

    NPTG and NaPTAN Schema Guide    

The National Public Transport Access Nodes (NaPTAN) database is a UK nationwide system for uniquely identifying all the points of access to public transport in the UK. NaPTAN seeks to provide a comprehensive data set of all of the stopping places used by public transport services.

The National Public Transport Gazetteer (NPTG) provides a topographic database of towns and settlements in the UK, and is used by the NaPTAN dataset to associate Public Transport Access Nodes (PTANS) with localities.

NPTG and NaPTAN together enable computerised public transport information systems to provide stop finding and referencing capabilities using consistent, meaningful names for places and stops. The points of the NaPTAN system provide a coherent national framework of reference for integrating all kinds of public transport data including journey planning and real-time information.
Or, to translate from Department of Transport Obfus-speak, "It tells you where the bus stops are and what they are called."

Or does it?

fbb lived, for most of his childhood, in Little Billing. It was a village with a church as its only "facilty"; no shop, no pub, no village hall. The ancient village ("A" in the diagram below) was clustered around the "Priory" (posh house), "Home Farm" (posh house) and the church with its associated rectory (posh house). The sniveling workers lived in a few small cottages.

Immediately post World War 2 a small estate of council houses was built ("B") one of which, No. 15 Valley Crescent, was occupied by a minuscule fbb and his family.
In a deal with his employer and local landowner, fbb's dad purchased a plot of land and commissioned a detached house at No 72 Orchard Hill. In the mid fifties there was a further expansion of council housing and private property ("C").
It was the government's decision in the 60s to double the size of Northampton that led to a massive expansion of little Little Billing. So nowadays, it looks like this:-
The stop at the church was where, for eight years, fbb used to catch the bus to Northampton Grammar School to be "educated". What, you might ask, would be a good name for this stop?
There's a clue in the background! So, how does NaPTAN describe this visually obvious stop for today's service 16?

Little Billing, opp Orchard Hill (on Manorfield Road)
[SMS: nthamjda]

It was at the other end of Orchard Hill, on the Wellingborough Road where young fbb would catch a bus to visit Granny or Auntie or to go to Sunday Bible Class. This stop for today's service X46 ...

... always was known as Little Billing Turn; possibly because it is where you would turn off the main road to get to Little Billing? But things move on and NaPTAN has a different view.

Weston Favell Centre, Wellingborough Road,
Adjacent Little Billing Way
(on Wellingborough Road)

Of course, it's hardly NaPTAN's fault that the centre of Weston Favell is nowhere near Weston Favell Centre; but the data engineers can be blamed for suggesting that this particular stop is in any way appropriate for the big shopping "mall" that took the name of a not-so-nearby village. To add to the problem, opposite the stop is ...

... a huge school, completely ignored by NaPTAN notions of the naming of nodes.
Of course, in fbb's youth, this land was all open arable farmland.
And to add to confusion and consternation; if fbb's grandson were to live in the former family pile (he doesn't, he lives at Wantage!) and if he were to attend fbb's alma mater, now named Northampton School for Boys, he would need to catch a service 5.
But that's not even credited with being at Little Billing, because it isn't; it's at ...

Standens Barn, adj Topwell Court Turning Circle
(on Topwell Court)
[SMS: nthatmad]

... although it's actually the nearest stop for No 72 and the only one with a direct service to the school! Standens barn was once a sandstone barn in the middle of a few fields. It was later converted into a small bungalow to accommodate a farm manager. It then gave its name to one of the first districts of the "new" Northampton to be built. The barn has long since disappeared under Billing Brook Road.

Clearly this stop-naming business is far from simple. So, tomorrow, we ask whether the complexity of NaPTAN naming is helping or hindering the needs of the average bus user. Does the stereotypical Mrs Miggins find all this easy to use?

Go on - guess what the answer might be.

 Next Blog : due Wednesday January 11th 


  1. As you will be more than aware the naming of bus stops can make difficulties to people trying to find their way. Sometimes I, or relative or friend, want to go somewhere. It is only because I know that there is a bus service that I get some clues about how to find it. Anyone not so transport savvy would quickly come to a conclusion that such a journey was not possible.

    Having said that, things can change. I know of a number of London stops that have, since LGOC days and before, been named after pubs. With many pubs closing and others being renamed what is the National Bus Stop Name compiler to do when the Red Lion disappears? Churches are, generally, a safer bet!

  2. Dog & Dart in Grappenhall, Warrington - now a retirement home! Much better name is Knutsford Road, jct Bradshaw Lane etc etc. Sure, it can retain its "friendly" name, one that the old people can recall, but not much use for anyone who's new to the area.

  3. Reading the NaPTAN guide (War and Peace in the original Russian is a bit easier to understand), there is "advice" to the effect that "Landmarks" (i.e. pubs) should be avoided as the "definitive" name for the stop. The problems is that these can remain in bus operators' and users' combined psyche for ever and a day. I could never find Mengham "Rose in June" on Hayling Island because the pub had long since been closed. Stagecoach have at last started using "Mengham Corner".

    Of course,sometimes operators are right despite themselves. Sheffield Transport eschewed "Manor Top" in favour of "Elm Tree" after a (now closed??) hostelry. But the pub and the road junction stood on the top of "Elm Tree Hill", a local name now lost for ever.

  4. 8 years' worth of catching the bus to the grammar school, fbb? An extra year as a reward or a punishment? Do tell!

    Sadly the NAPTAN naming conventions started out with good intentions (and to be fair, no-one had ever tried to record every single bus stop in such detail) but alas, it proved impossible to have genuinely local knowledge in every location.

    More frustratingly, it often ignores a name already allocated to a bus stop flag, and wonderful local names such as "Umbrella Corner" may disappear forever. Still, I know most of the tricks now, and have succeeded in having some restored to locally understandable descriptions.

  5. Eight years? - you shouldn't have asked. Took both parts of my 11+ aged 9, started at NGS at 10, did four years to "O" level; first "A" levels at 16; spent two extra years in the sixth form collecting more "A" levels and "Special Papers" and having the most enormous fun and some "real education". It was all an academic mistake as I couldn't get a good Uni place because they wanted a matriculation set of results at one sitting. Despite this I wouldn't have missed those 4 years for all the tea in Tesco.

  6. P.S. My place at Sheffield was not "good" but more than adequate for my chosen career in teaching. No requirement then for a tedious Postgrad Education qualification!

    By the way, as my piece tomorrow will opine, there is no need whatsoever to limit the names given to bus stops. xephos. for example, allows any number all "aliased" to the stop location.

  7. Two things.
    Firstly what does NaPTAN do about those few remaining "hail & ride" sections of routes?

    Secondly, why do Stagecoach appear to spell "5" with a "6"?

  8. I think it may be a 5. There has never been a 6 to Topwell Court (unless anyone knows better?) and dotty destinations don't always photograph well. Or it's a mistake. But it IS Topwell Court, promise!

    NaPTAN has a whole mind-numbing section on "Hail and Ride" although not all data sets seem to cope. Neither do they cope with "request" section of route.

    Sheffield has a frequent (well, every 20 minutes) cross-city route - Stagecoach 25 - which has a "hail and ride" terminus and time point. Now that must be a good one for the trivia quizzes.

  9. A "hail and ride" terminus sounds like a contradiction in terms! What happens if nobody hails the bus? Does it just carry on to somewhere else?

  10. These transport reviews are written by actual customers of the company you plan to do business with.