Wednesday 31 October 2012

Tosh for Terminating Timetable Troubles

g News : Breaking News : Breaking News : Breaking New
Stagecoach has announced that it is buying First's Wigan depot, buses and operation. It will be integrated into the Stagecoach Manchester company.
More in due course.
Back to today's debate
The curse of electronic registration.
A couple of weeks back, fbb was railing against Travel South Yorkshire for reneging on its promise their leaflet publicity better with the massive Sheffield Partnership re-organisation (read again). One long term beef is the appalling presentation of the service 88 (and former service 83) to Bents Green ...
... with a fake and meaningless terminus at Banner Cross. This produces a daft set of results throughout the TSY system.

The blog produced some challenging responses, some of which are quoted below. One commentator suggests that fbb's arrogance was misplaced and the system was working perfectly:-

On this occasion it would appear that fbb needs to rush off to Amazon and buy a copy of Electronic Bus Service Registrations [EBSR] for Dummies. Stagecoach have been a leading promoter of EBSR and indeed, throughout the country all of their bus service registrations are supplied in this format to VOSA, PTEs and LTAs; no paper copies at all.

 fbb has contacts in various bus companies, PTEs and Local Authorities and the off-the-record attitude to electronic registrations is that it is (a) a disaster and (b) involves far too much work. Certainly fbb's previous blog on the subject showed how unnecessarily complex and over engineered the system is.
One of the widely stated reasons for doing this was because they wanted to remain as ‘owners’ of their data and have it presented in the format they supplied it in.

If this is the case, why do some Stagecoach printed timetables show loop journey correctly and sensibly?

The idea that Stagecoach wants to present timetables in a way which confuses and misleads the public is so farcical as to be hardly worth considering. The more likely explanation is that nobody bothers to think.

Take a look at the Stagecoach Yorkshire website, check out the current 83 and 88 timetables (the new ones are not available yet) and ‘Hey Presto!’ the journeys on their own timetables terminate at Brincliffe Edge Road, Banner Cross. It would appear that the good people at SYPTE are merely carrying out Stagecoach’s wishes.

There is no obligation, in law, for any bus company to produce a printed timetable. There is no reason why SYPTE should publish drivel, just because Stagecoach chooses to output it from their weird and badly programed confuser system. Once upon a time, it was a requirement for every bus to carry a copy of the fare table and the timetable for that journey. This presumably no longer applies as fares are hidden deep in the bowels of electronic ticket machines.

Stagecoach are correct. EBSR cannot handle loops per-se, because the duplication of information required would otherwise legally commit an operator to run duplicate journeys, (as is strictly the case with many paper registrations...except bureaucracy appears to make allowance for these aberations on paper registrations whilst the guidelines specifically bar them in electronic ones).

It is clearly a non sense to even suggest that common sense can be pushed aside by some poorly designed piece of electronics.  There is absolutely no electronic reason why a simple piece of code can't be written which allows "the system" to ignore duplicated information on terminal loops for (supposedly) legal purposes. Likewise an instruction to suppress duplicate data could solve the problems of "real time" displays. It could be written by a reasonably competent schoolboy.

Therefore, to produce decent timetables from an EBSR file requires manual editing ...

What a terrible shame. How absolutely awful to expect a human being to edit and produce a timetable page for the use of other human beings. If this happened, the timetable might be (a) right and (b) useful to the passenger. That would never do!

... something that everybody took for granted wouldn't be the case. However, the advantages to downstream users such as RTI providers, PTI sites etc etc (in terms of easy access to stop-specific information) by far outweigh the disadvantages.

So here is an example from the new Sheffield Network showing all the advantages (?) of over-prescriptive electronic registration.

The new 83 has a large terminal loop from Ecclesall, anti-clockwise via Silverdale Road (previously unserved by bus) and Dobcroft Road to Millhouses. The buses then return via Springfield Road, roughly replacing previous route 4 (hourly) with a much enhanced 20 minute frequency.
The printed and on-line timetable offers no help with the route and simply terminates journeys at Millouses. To continue round the loop you need to look up the reverse-direction tables.

And if you try to extract a Traveline journey  from Silverdale Road (half way down the left hand road on the one way loop) ...

... to Sheffield Centre, you get this sort of answer:-
A 14 minute walk to frequent services at Ecclesall. The through bus takes longer so is ignored. Other options involve a change to a service 97 or 98 bus at Millhouses and thus the direct route into City. Because the loop is not shown "correctly" the burden of a 20 minute wait at Millhouses for the next 83 means that a sensible through trip on one bus is never found. [unless Ken Traveline-Dorset can make it happen!]

Of course, if you were to use the xephos system ...
The clever programing offers a choice of the through journey by service 83 or ...
... a change at Millhouses. With properly managed data, it can be shown properly.

And at some time or other in the future it won't be optional - there will be no paper registrations; kudos then to Stagecoach for getting in on the ground floor ...

... and making life difficult for everybody!

Sorry that this blog has been a bit technical, so here is a nice picture of days gone by when ...
... timetables were simple and stable and you could ring up a man at the office who would tell you exactly what you wanted to know. And it would be right because "the man" would be a regular bus user who would be taught where and when the buses run.

See also Partnership Proposals Promulgated [2] (read again)
See also Partnership Proposals Promulgated [3] (read again)

 Next Blog : Thursday 1st November 

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Difficult Concept, Dawsons Corner [2]

And difficult it always has been! Dawsons Corner is usually linked with Stanningley, as it's just off this map to the left. The red line is the Bradford Road, so ...

 ... Where is Stanningley? 
Parts of Stanningley come under three registration sub-districts, two Parliamentary Boroughs and two ancient parishes. Dealing with the parishes first, the parts of the 1852 map (above) in blue and green came under Calverley parish, and events such as marriages and Christenings would be conducted at St Wilfrid's church in Calverley. The part in yellow came under Leeds Parish and events would be conducted at St Peter's in Leeds. The parishes were broken up around 1840 and then each section of Stanningley had it's own church, these being St. John in Farsley (green section), St. Thomas in Stanningley proper (yellow) and St Paul in Pudsey (blue). Pudsey already has a parish church (St. Lawrence) so, confusingly, St. Paul's church is usually referred to as St. Paul's Stanningley.

Regarding Registration Sub-districts, Stanningley fell under three. Calverley with Farsley, Pudsey with Tyersall and Bramley. To find a relative in a Stanningley census return, for example, requires the examination of more than one document. Calverley and Pudsey were in the same Parliamentary Borough and Registration District, which was Bradford, but Bramley is part of Leeds Borough.

To add to the confusion, the present Stanningley has sort of evaporated compared with olden times. Here, a tram passes through residential streets ...

... but today, the pub is some sort of business premises and many of the houses have been demolished.
Looking in the other direction, towards Stanningley bottom, the same decline applies. Here are more trams (note the railway arch in the distance) ...
... and a similar view today.

 Dawsons Corner, Stanningley? 
Travelling a little further to the west we come to Dawsons Corner and once again we need to take into account all the background to the area as outlined in last Friday's blog. (read again). Our researches began by considering buses which terminated at Pudsey Civic Hall which isn't at Pudsey. Because it's on the north of the Bradford Road, Pudsey Civic Hall is probably in Farsley.
Whilst Metro West Yorkshire uses the Civic Hall as its time point, but, crazily, only for terminating journeys, Traveline has a completely different set of names.
This fbb map shows the (moved) Dawsons Corner at the roundabout, the road Dawsons Corner behind the police Station and three stops also named Dawsons Corner. Oddly, the stop opposite Farsley Dawsons Corner isn't called Dawsons Corner at all. Weird.

Thus bus ...
... from the days just after West Yorkshire's services were absorbed by the privatised Yorkshire Rider is captioned as being at Dawsons Corner; the Farsley version according to Traveline. The right hand side of the road looks much the same today, although, in Traveline-speak it isn't Dawson's Corner.

 Dawsons Corner, the Road 
The Traveline journey planner seems to focus on Dawsons Corner (the road), so perhaps for public transport purposes both those stops should use that name.
Indeed, if Traveline insists a "district" name, then why not create a mini-district of "Dawsons Corner", perhaps with "Fire Station" added for the original location. Then the other set of stops could be tagged "Dawsons Corner (West) Meadow Park Drive". Of course the failed xephos system allows any number of aliases for any stop, so a whole range of options could be included to make life easier and more understandable for the bewildered passenger.

One final victory for obfuscation! Transport Direct, when asked for a journey to Dawsons Corner seems to want to ignore the real and historic location and dump you to the west of the mega roundabout.

 ... or New Pudsey? 
fbb is now so confused that, in the unlikely event of a return visit, he will travel by train to New Pudsey Station ...
... which, of course, isn't at Pudsey! His first visit, back in the 1970s, was to accompany a football team (note accompany, not participate) to Priestthorpe School ...
... which lies off the northern bit of the ring road at Dawsons Corner, accessed via this very footbridge.
Ah; the delights of youthful endeavour.

Fat Bus Bloke's Bible Blog asks "Would you Adam and Eve it?" (read here)
An alarming experience on a Red Funnel Ferry : video from No 1 son.
 Next Blog : Wednesday 31st October 

Monday 29 October 2012

Hurrah for Happy Hyperlink Hype

a happy snap received from No. 3 son.
Has fbb finally flipped; showing an exciting picture of a piece of platform edging? But look at that little dot bottom left.
It is a tiny mouse, no less, waiting on the northbound Northern Line platform at Waterloo. No 3 son does not state its intended destination but fbb advises that the stop is called Hampstead, not Hamster. (groan) [2209 Sunday : No 3 son has just suggested Mousewell Hill, but this would involved a change to a bus. (louder groan)]
But ... Hyperlink launched yesterday!
Can we Fix It?
fbb has been somewhat underwhelmed by the on-line publicity for First's rebranded service 72 between Leeds and Bradford. See "How 'Hype' is Hyperlink?" (read again). One commentator wrote, slightly critical of fbb's critique ...

I think some of the cynicism about ftr must be misplaced! 72 is a better route for ftrs and the visual impact will be huge. 25,000 houses will get a leaflet/tt drop and a free ticket to try the service. We should wait a year before saying this scheme has failed and in the meantime wish it well.
Yes we Can!

So, in response to the comment, fbb emailed the lads from Leeds depot with a request for a copy of the leaflet.
Unusually by today's standards of response time, an envelope containing said leaflet was posted (bulk post 31p) promptly and arrived on Saturday morning.
And how different it is from the rather unhappy web presence!
The fares offers are clearly set out ...
... and there's even a little picture of the trendy leather seats!
But the highlight is the montage of the StreetCar bus itself ...
... which certainly makes the whole experience look super-trendy and really "cool". Then there are the special offers.

Supermarket-style you can fill in a little form, give it to the driver and get three ...
... rides completely free. That's what fbb calls "marketing"!

But the offers don't end there. There are two more ...
Now fbb has never enjoyed Frankie and Benny's New York Italian Restaurant culinary experience, and maybe never will. But it sounds good for the "youff". The idea, however, of the fat bus bloke taking up an offer at "Virgin Active" ...
... looks more like a punishment than a privilege! Didn't they do things like this to you as an alternative to a week in the stocks?

But it is this sort of marketing effort that the industry needs. For far too long, bus companies have plonked their product on a shelf and hoped people would buy it. Taking a leaf out for the Tesco sales manual must be one positive way forward.

A couple of fbb thoughts. Maybe it's just being old-fashioned but one might have expected the leaflet to tell people when the buses actually run; like by including a "timetable". even if it were just a summary. And what about a map? Or  is a separate timetable being "dropped" through letter boxes?

But fbb's big beef is this little panel ...
... giving the local Leeds Traveline number. Now here's a thought. Would Tesco be happy for its products to be paraded on the phone via a call centre which also gave information about ASDA, Sainsburys etc.? So why not promote your own product via a phone line staffed by your own trained and enthusiastic salespersons?

Well, why not?

Can you Fix It? Yes, you Can!

 Difficult Concept Dawson's Corner [2] 
 will appear tomorrow 

 Next Bus Blog : Tuesday 30th October 

Sunday 28 October 2012

Hidden London Hunted [2]

Tram Tunnel Television Travesty (Part the Second)
see also:-
"Tram Tunnel Television Travesty (Introduction)" [read again].
It was last Thursday's episode of Hunted that happened, in part, in hidden London, namely the Kingsway tram tunnel. For those unfamiliar with this series, it concerns the activties of a private "spy" company and its "best operative", Sam (Melissa George). She is a slight little "gell" who apears to have the skills of a heavyweight boxer, a kick boxing supremo and the incisive mind of a Deep Throat computer. She can also kill grown men with a snappy blow of her delicate little hands!
The arch baddie (Jack Turner) is played by a profoundly evil Patrick Malahide, who has moved on since his crime-fighting days as Chisholm in the "Minder" series! He is doing some hyper-dodgy deal with the Chinese which involves a computer system making huge profits from the stock market. The scheme makes mega-bucks when companies go through bad times, so Mr Super Nasty simply creates the bad things to enhance his profits.

Realistic, eh?

So Sam enters the offices and discovers, amazingly ...
... a picture of the very last tram to use the Kingsway subway!

Assuming the evil Malahide/Turner isn't simply a bus and tram geek, there must be some other nefarious explanation.
Later, lo and behold, an under-baddy arrives at the subway, climbs the former passenger exit steps and begins his dastardly deed. But the location is real; it is the Holborn entrance to the subway ...
... seen here on one of the rare public openings. (Note the hotel in the background). Anyway, at the top of the steps ...
... , rather than banging his head on the grating that covers the former exit, minor baddy Tyrone gains entrance to the basement of an office block; this being an typical example of he series' "artistic licence" (or simply yet another ludicrous bit of the unrealistic plot!). Here he cuts into a gas main with his angle grinder (as you do), thus ensuring that the first person to light up at street level instigates boom time for the office block.
Well, it's nearly November 5th!

So where's the travesty, we hear you cry!
Note the standard London Transport tram stop roundels at the original Aldwych tram station; there were also high-up ones to be read from top deck tram windows. Now pan round to the station name in the "Hunted" episode.
Aldwych Tram Terminus indeed!

Maybe this was not quite as awful as the railway scenes from ITV's "The Bletchley Circle" located, officially, on the line from St Pancras via Kentish Town to Barking. Locomotives were labelled "Southern", coaches were shiny malachite green and the stations were delightfully rural! fbb looks forward to a ride to beautiful bucolic Barking!
The departure board at St Pancras was a horrific fiction and, in one episode, a London bus trundled past. Sadly, for an episode set in the immediate post WW2 years, it was a routemaster with ...
... with a white LT roundel.

Good for a giggle, but disappointing nevertheless.

 Next Bus Blog : Monday 29th October