Thursday 12 January 2012

NaPTAN Necessitous National Naming [4]

NaPTAN Necessitous National Naming [3] (here)
NaPTAN Necessitous National Naming [2] (here)
NaPTAN Necessitous National Naming [1] (here)

So let's plan some journeys!
First, let's try Wellingborough to Little Billing. Wellingborough is off the map, top right, and buses will approach via the A4500, formerly the A45. Standard enquiry time; departing after 0800 Monday to Friday.
And the answer ...
... an unnecessary change and unnecessary expense for most people who would walk down Orchard Hill as they have done for countless generations; from a stop which NaPTAN does not associate with Little Billing, remember?

Next we try Southfields ...
... an estate to the north east of the town, to Little Billing ...
... and intriguingly, this time, the system gives the correct answer by unloading the enquirer at Topwell Court.
So somewhere in this melée of deeply delvable data there must be a cunning hidden link. So why isn't there a similar link from the top of Orchard Hill? Dunno. This link between Topwell Court and Little Billing is simply not explained, however, so you have to either know, or hope.
Next : what would the "system" advise for a journey from Little Billing to Great Billing.
This time we are dumped at Ecton Brook, again with no explanation, which is well off the above map to the right.
This is, without a doubt, the wrong stop for Great Billing. Service 16 crosses Station Road ...
... as it approaches Ecton Brook estate and that stop is called ...
... 11 Fishponds Road. Now the stop should be called "Great Billing Station Road" because it serves the most significant residential bits of the old village. The stop on the main road (A4500, service X46) is Great Billing Penfold Lane. From the unhelpfully named stop you can walk up Station Road, past pre-fbb's now closed Junior School (boo hoo!) ...
... past the village shop and post office, also closed (boo hoo!) ...
... and the village pump, no longer working (boo hoo!). And, finally, on to the pub where fbb began his career of heavy drinking.
[Two half pints with his dad every Sunday; debauchery in the extreme!] But any local resident would never catch a bus, they would take the footpath which used to run from Valley Road Little Billing across open country ...
... to Station Road Great Billing as above. The path now runs via Bellinge Local Centre ...
... but it is still the same path as trudged by tiny pre-fbb as he walked (walked - no "school run" then!) to do his sums, his problems and his comprehension.

So, to summarise:-
Wellingborough to Little Billing
Southfields to Little Billing
RIGHT but not explained
Little Billing to Great Billing

The problems seem to stem from a misplaced desire to try to achieve everything in one journey planner system. One of fbb's favourite mantras has always been "you can either be comprehensive or comprehensible but never both." So can this be resolved?

Traveline and Transport Defunct could certainly be improved with better local input; but only if such local knowledge can be found. Sadly both the bus industry and local authorities have immersed themselves in sub-contractors, low tenders and "expert" consultants to such an extent that local knowledge is, at best, weak.

If we (whoever we might be) want to help people increase their use of LOCAL public transport, then a total reliance on remote technology is NOT the answer. We need to revert to LOCAL information, delivered by LOCAL people on a LOCAL phone number. There's a clue in the words!  There are occasions when it will be useful to have access to national data, but these are likely to be statistically rare.

And we should ditch NaPTAN in favour of something less complex and less prescriptive.

fbb is grateful for the assistance of the fine folk from the financially failed xephos who set up these enquiries just to show how it should be done. Wellingborough to Little Billing:-
and Little Billing to Great Billing:-
It took about 30 seconds to make the necessary alterations. Data adjustments to deliver a better answer to the query for Southfields to Little Billing involve making changes to the locality names in the timetables themselves; a little too time consuming for this brief blog.

There may be blog readers "out there" who take part in extreme sports; who have an unstoppable desire to tread the verges of insanity or who have plenty of time on their idle hands. For such brave persons the full 211 page guide to NaPTAN can be downloaded (here). Indulge at your peril!

 Next Blog : due Friday January 13th 


  1. I’m a little surprised you persevere with Transport Direct – as clearly you don’t get on at all well with it ! Personally, I only use it if I need to compare rail and car journey times or in an area where Traveline doesn’t provide maps. I’ve therefore re-planned your journeys using Traveline East Midlands – which may shed some light on some of the issues you describe.

    1) Wellingborough to Little Billing
    While Transport Direct only ever seems to offer the fastest timings, Traveline EM will always suggest alternatives which take longer but have fewer changes. So as well as the times offered by TD, it also suggests getting off the X46 at 0826 at ‘Weston Favell Centre, adj Little Billing Way (on Wellingborough Road)' and walking 19 minutes to Little Billing, arriving 0845 – six minutes after you would do if you changed to the 16 at Weston Favell Shopping Centre. Now the 19 minutes may be an overestimate – but the distance is just over a kilometre as the crow flies, so would probably take 15 minutes anyway – and rather longer for someone who isn’t so mobile. As you say, most people would walk, but some would prefer not to. If only one option is presented the faster one seems more logical. So my verdict on TD in this case is ‘RIGHT’.

    Incidentally, if you request the same journey in an evening, when there are fewer 16’s and connections are poorer, TD will suggest getting off at Orchard Hill and walking the 19 mins to Little Billing.

    2) Southfields to Little Billing

    As I understand it, if the nearest stop is within a certain time of the destination, TD makes the assumption that no further information is required as you have effectively ‘arrived'. I suspect this is to avoid a situation where there is a short final walk leg to the notional ‘centre’ of the locality – which may not actually be where you want to go. However, Traveline always does show the final walk leg – which in this case shows a 14 minute walk from Topwell Court Turning Circle to Little Billing and is quite helpful.

    3) Little Billing to Great Billing

    Unfortunately, the stop shown on your map is NOT the one shown on the journey plan. The stop you have marked is ‘Ecton Brook, opp Primary School’, which is only served 5 times per day on Stagecoach 53 and 54. For your information, Stagecoach 16 follows a loop working in Ecton Brook – as shown by the map on their website at .
    The stop at Ham Meadow Drive suggested by TD is certainly nearer to the defined centre of the Great Billing locality (adjacent to the Penfold Lane stop) than your suggestion of Station Road and appears to be the 'correct' stop. Now, whether Penfold Lane is the best point to use as the centre of Great Billing is another matter - and you would certainly know better than I ! This is a good example of the situation described above where the supposed ‘centre’ of the locality is a moot point.
    So again, my verdict on TD is ‘RIGHT’.

    So overall my score is 3 out of 3 for TD – but perhaps ‘could do better’ if they showed some of their working !

  2. You analysis NMcB is a noble effort. Sadly the Mrs Miggins of this world are incapable of such perseverance. The stop highlighted at Ecton Brook was deliberate in an attempt to get a map of reasonable size on the blog. TD's efforts are, no doubt, based on strict geography rather than a practical solution. I have not explored "though" walk routes between Great Billing old village and Ecton Brook. Vague memory suggests that there aren't any!

    I know whose answers I would use - but then I used to live there and I am a little biased!

    Incidentally Traveline and Transport Defunct share the same data set! And I NEVER use either for real.

  3. Sorry, typing mistook. That should be:-
    "through" walk routes

  4. Just had a check, NMcB. there is a footpath from Overmead Road Ecton Brook through to Station Road Great Billing. It appears almost opposite fbb's former school. But it is somewhat longer and less pleasant (involving a subway) than fbb's "correct" route.
    The path passes close by the (former?) family residence of Matt Smith, aka Doctor Who!
    Watch out for low flying Tardises. (Tardes?)