Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Trains, Tite, Trams and Transit [1]

Bloggus Interruptus
"Boris Blunder or Brilliant Bonus" blogs
will resume on Thursday
Eclipse Busway : First Monday : First Impressions
fbb and chum Alan sampled the first Monday (23rd April) of the much vaunted Fareham to Gosport busway service during the Hampshire monsoons ...
... probably not the best conditions to enjoy the "unlimited better bus experience".

First's enquiry office (sorry, Travel Shop) at Gosport looked bright and inviting ...
... until you opened the door. Then the enquirer was greeted with this unhelpful and, frankly, unacceptable notice:-
With PDF timetables readily available on-line, what possible excuse can there be for not having at least something available for the poor long-suffering folk of Gosport? The most basic of computer and printing kit could provide hard copy at negligible expense. Almost the whole network between there and Fareham has changed and, apparently, no printed information could be supplied until "next Wednesday". Does that mean 25th, usually referred to as "this" Wednesday, or will we all have to wait until "next" week, i.e. 4th May.
The notice was doubly off-putting as, in fact, there were timetables for the Eclipse busway service but for nothing else. The leaflet contained a full and clear timetable but the "route map" was the ever popular, but ever baffling, non-geographical diagram.
Such things are acceptable for an underground railway but trying to match the squiggles to the actuality whilst on board the "better bus experience" is not easy.

Why not have a proper route map overlaid on a street map? Surely a quality service demands quality information; not just "same old, same old"?
And, needless to say, we are not allowed any timetables at bus stops.
But the vehicles are very swish inside with two tone leather seats and wood-effect flooring.
One very nice touch was a coving panel giving brief but evocative reminders of the history of tram and bus services in the area.
In conclusion, then, what were fbb's first impressions?

Gosport bus station? : Tatty
First's information thereat? : Very Poor
Timetable availability at stops? : Appalling (as usual)
The new Eclipse buses? : Splendid! Even this old codger was enjoying the experience!
Non-Eclipse buses in First's new livery? None Seen!
So will some actual journeys offer "an unlimited better bus experience"?

More tomorrow.

For background to this blog, see "Trains, Tite, Trams and Transit [a preview]" (read again)
 Next blog : Wednesday April 25th 


  1. Not getting the publicity in sync with operation seems to be one of First's little failings. A trip to Norwich on 9th March found the notice in the bus station 'No X1 timetables until April'. Given that this is their flagship route (Peterborough to Great Yarmouth) it was a little surprising. As for Bristol and West and the X14.......

  2. There were actually many positives from the Eclipse busway experience. Stop side information was in place, a gang of First employees worked considerable hours on Saturday changing things over, Eclipse stops had RTI (I didn’t check its accuracy, though).

    More on the operations of the busway here

    And as regards infrastructure, try here

    Some background to the changes here

  3. It rather looks as if the seats towards the rear of the Eclipse vehicles are rather high set relative to the windows. For me, being over 6', I suspect that I would be looking directly at the cove panels from those seats, which I would find rather unsatisfactory.

    With regard to the non-availability of timetables, given the availability of computer technology, there really is, as you say, no excuse for not offering any paper timetables at all. Ditto the use of 'next Wednesday' - at least give a precise date. On the other hand, good marks for the wheelchair ramp to the door of the enquiry office.

  4. Thanks RC169. Indeed the view from those back seats is restricted as you describe. I am about 5'9" and could see OK but for those taller ...
    Bring back lovely large windows and warm air above same on the Leyland National!

  5. Actually - they were badly let down by their suppliers on the timetable front, hence they've not got any on time.

    And they were providing photocopies to anyone that wanted them.

    Your criticism of lack of "proper" timetables I always ignore, stop specific timetables like they have are far more appropriate, especially on a long, indistinct busway where you have little idea where you are, and certainly no idea whether it's a timing point.

  6. @FBB - despite not being a fan of Leyland Nationals, I have to agree that the big windows were a good feature, and visibility was generally good from any of the seats.

    @anon 12:35 - stop specific timetables are all very well, but if the prospective passenger cannot obtain a complete timetable in some form, they may well not venture to the bus stop in the first place. They may step through their front door and go no further than the car door!

  7. And the answer to that is to have timetables readily available on buses and bus stations.

    The answer is not from having the full timetable stuck to a pole (or indeed, two poles, one on each side of the road) on the roadside.

    You say that if a "passenger cannot obtain a complete timetable in some form, they may well not venture to the bus stop in the first place" - indeed. But they're not going to go hunting for bus stops to find the bus timetables, are they?!

    These give the times of departures, and the journey times until the terminus, what's wrong with them? We all know not everyone can read timetables. These are much simpler. I don't buy the idea that it doesn't show the times of return journeys. Any half decent bus stop display, even with 'proper' timetables, shouldn't show this anyway.

  8. I certainly wouldn't describe the timetable situation on Eclipse as "appalling", just because it's against my personal preferred method. That's just pointless and unhelpful.

  9. anon@07:46 - I think you're misunderstanding my previous comment. That was precisely my point - that the prospective passenger will not go looking for a bus stop if they don't know when there is likely to be a bus from the stop! Hence the need to be able to obtain timetable information in advance - whether that is in paper form, spoken, or from the internet.

    If the service is reasonably reliable, and the passenger has the timetable information available in advance, then it is questionable whether any timetable information is absolutely necessary at the stop - most people have watches, even if they don't have a smartphone or laptop. I cannot help but think that the expenditure on real time info systems might possibly have been more usefully employed in other ways - particularly if the system is not entirely reliable!

  10. Any public transport system is based on a "timetable". Lists of departures are helpful to regular users but for outsiders something more is needed.
    Confidence to travel comes from having all necessary information available. "All" should include:-
    1.Full timetable hard copy readily available; preferably distributed door-t-door.
    2.Departure list for regulars
    3.Simple route diagram for those "in the know"
    4.Full route map, geographical with stops, key destinations e.g. shops and key interchage points
    5.Full fare table
    6.Reproduction of destination blind display if different from any of the above.
    To start a "high profile" new bus service and associated network change with some of these missing is normal but appalling.
    Compare the start of Eclipse and its associated route reorganisation with the opening of a new Tesco store.
    And that's why Tesco is so successful!

  11. Actually FBB Tesco hasn't been that successful recently, too few staff, unwelcoming stores - and thats what they own Chief Exec thinks of his business ;)

    Your list of essentials is rather long and impractical, once the potentially user has read everything your suggesting they need they've probably missed several potential buses and 99% of people would be totally overwhelmed. Remember not everyone is a transport enthusiast who gets pleasure from studying the minutiae of timetables. Most people what simple easy to read info, I think those Omnistop displays are just the job.

    Whilst the criticism of lack of printed timetables for customers to take away is partly justified I can confirm that printed loose sheets of individual timetables were available (so your criticism there isn't valid as they have discovered photocopies in Gosport and Fareham) and I'd also heard they had been let down by a supplier. Their timetables have been available online for weeks for download and the area timetable book is now available, excellent as always!