Friday 27 July 2012

Honiton Revisited

Hot news from our Northampton correspondent concerning the closed enquiry office at Northampton Station. It has re-opened. But before you cheer too loudly, let's see what has appeared in its place.
Well now, not content with closing the enquiry office, London Midland has let it to a car and van hire company; so you can pop into the station and be encouraged not to use the train at all.
Green Motion's "launch" picture for its new Northampton Station office doesn't seem to match any part of the station that fbb knows and loves.
Perhaps they don't know where the office is? Perhaps Green Motion will be selling train tickets in the rest of their offices? The company stresses its environmental superiority; but surely the greenest car hire is not to hire one in the first place? Mixed messages all-round.
And so back to Honiton

And it's Still Great ...
... the station, of course! fbb first passed through Honiton Station on his way to Sidmouth back in November 2011, 6 months after its refurbished re-opening. The impressive little cupboard cafe was still trading last Saturday with an amazing range of goodies ...
... and the advertised warm welcome. Called "Otter Halt", after the river, not the animal, it had now sprouted a couple of tables and some chairs.
The coffee is superb.

fbb and Mrs were, once again, connecting with Stagecoach service 52B for the short and picturesque trip to Sidmouth.
The bus runs via a one way clockwise loop through Honiton and after a short breather in Honiton High Street, pulls into the Station forecourt ...
... where there is a shelter and a timetable.
And, as you see, it is a timetable, not a departure list. So far so good.

But now things get less satisfactory. Who runs the buses? Answer Stagecoach, from their Exeter depot. Who runs the trains? Answer Stagecoach. To an outside observer it would appear to be part of the same company. BUT ...
In the waiting room cum booking "hall" there is a rack with some tourist type leaflets and rail timetables. Is there a stagecoach bus leaflet? Nope, not even for the bus that stops outside and connects with the trains.

Of course there is an "onward journey" poster giving details of bus rail interchange at Honiton station. It mentions both the 52B and a couple of journeys on a Honiton local service that happen to call there. There is a helpful map ...
... which suggests that the 52B leaves from stop "B" on Church Hill opposite the station yard access road. There are no stops there!
There is a stop at the bottom of the station steps near the railway bridge that crosses the road.
Imagine the annoyance of a luggage laden elderly lady who has staggered down two dozen awkward steps, dashed across a rather dangerous road and hailed the bus; only to find that it then turns into the station yard and stops plumb outside the station building. In fact the map is both wrong and utterly useless. As an aside so are the similar maps at Salisbury, riddled with out of date information and wrong service numbers.

Who creates this stuff, and who is responsible for keeping it up to date? No doubt it comes from some impersonal unresearched database and is processed by a "lesser mortal" who has no idea where Honiton is in the first place. And we all know that if it's "on the computer" it mist be right, even if it's utterly wrong.

One improvement to the railway at Honiton is a set of new signals ...
... which don't look particularly interesting until you get up close and personal. They are actually powered by LEDs (light emitting diodes) and consist of lots of green and red dots so they can show both aspects from one signal head.
Very clever and a lot cheaper to install and maintain than conventional signals.

Oh, and as if to confirm cartographical chaos, Google Maps doesn't seem to know where the bus stops are either.
But at least they give you a choice of FIVE.

So fbb has a message for nice bearded Mr Souter, boss of all Stagecoach operations everywhere:
How about telling your lads at Exeter that you also operate trains, and maybe they should pop a few leaflets into the station. Perhaps remind them that the bus to Sidmouth connects with the trains. You never know, people might use public transport a bit more if you told them about it. Similarly, perhaps you could tell your lads (and lasses) at Friars Bridge Court (an address that you seem to keep secret on your web site) ...
... that you run a bus or two here and there and you would like people to use them. Assuming that you do want people to use them.

fbb has provided this consultancy service entirely free of charge; unlike most consultants used in the transport industry today who would probably charge half a million pounds for such an intellectual insight into promotional and publicity possibilities. Mind you a free SWT rail pass would be nice. How about it Brian?
 Next Blog : Saturday 28th July 


  1. Car hire at stations for local journeys (in the "car club" vein) makes sense at stations for the last bit of a journey where the bus doesn't suit. No worse than a taxi.


  2. Agreed; but that is not the "Green Motion" business model, I suspect! Certainly it is not the thrust of their advertising.

    1. The Green Motion business model is to offer excellent service to anyone who wishes to hire a vehicle, Green Motion is not trying to take people away from the railway and as you have me pictured above I would welcome a conversation with you to reassure you that here at Green Motion Northampton we are fully supportive of the rail network and regular use it when a car is not needed. I would appreciate a call from you on the Green Motion Northampton phone number 01604 531025 as I feel this is a great expansion of the services provided at a railway station. Best Regards Andy Higgins.

  3. Interesting that we have exactly the same problem at Poole Station where the leaflet racks have to be filled to a corporate layout, and staff locally cannot change them. The staff will happily take the Route One leaflet and the local bus map but can only put them on the shelf in front of the ticket window, where they are only seen by people buying tickets to leave Poole!. Trying to get SWT management to address the problem is a waste of time. Want an extra rack for bus leaflets? Forget it!
    With regard to the onward connections poster, these are as you surmise generated by some database somewhere. One appeared at Poole that was so inaccurate we actually succeeded in having it removed. A suggestion that perhaps they send the proof to us to check next time was of course ignored.
    With regard to bus stops on Google Maps, it is simply a matter of them not updating the stop data more than once every couple of years. As you know Naptan is updated every week, but beyond that it's up to the user to decide on the frequency they take the data.
    It's very frustrating for those of us who try to do things properly being constantly thwarted by corporate brick walls.
    Ken Traveline Dorset & Poole B.C.

  4. Yes, the onward travel information from National Rail is strange. As far as I can see, it's not just wrong, it's two different sorts of wrong.

    On the NR website, there's a copy of the poster diaplayed at the station - but there's also a "local area map". For Honiton, this map shows three bus stops (instead of two, as on the poster) and four bus services (instead of three). For Salisbury, the differences are even greater - and it doesn't seem to be that one is just more out-of-date than the other. It's wackier than that.

  5. The situation with the stops at Honiton Station is perhaps even more puzzling than has been suggested.
    Firstly, Google Maps appears to show 'transit stops', rather than 'bus stops', and therefore shows 5 stops in the vicinity of the station, 4 of which are bus stops and the other is the railway station itself. The number of bus stops shown on Google is therefore the same as on traveline maps, so would at least appear to be consistent.

    There is a useful feature in Google Maps where if you click on the stop itself, a window appears naming the stop and with a link to the appropriate site to give details of the next departures. For Honiton Station, this links to '' and for the four bus stops to ''. So it is fairly easy to establish which buses stop where, and the stops A and B on the road outside the station (B and C on Steve's local map)are served by routes 367 and 380. However, there is no sign of these stops on Google Streetview, and as fbb says, 'there are no stops there'.

    Even more puzzling, the fourth bus stop - the one at the bottom of the steps in fbb's photo appears to have no bus services at all according to the transportdirect link, and is not shown on Google Streetview.

    Assuming that 367 and 380 both stop somewhere near the station, a number of questions arise
    a) Where are these stops ?
    b) Are they marked ?
    c) Does anyone use these services to get to the station ?

    Answers on a postcard please !