Wednesday 2 January 2013

Half a Cheer for "Here to There" [1]

But definitely not in Essex!
pensioner bins useless book?
a staged picture for the local press

Pensioners have hit out at the cost of a vital bus timetable book that has rocketed in price following Essex County Council's decision to stop producing it. The saga all began when the latest edition of the county council's book failed to hit shelves last October and there was little sign of a new one arriving until a private publishing firm took over the job, but increased the price from £1 to £13.50.
Eye-squintingly tough to read and "ridiculously" overpriced is the message from passengers who have caught a glimpse of Here To There Publishing Company's Bus Times For Greater Essex, March 2012 book, the council's recommended alternative.

Former bus driver Ken Healey, 79, from Pinewood Way, Hutton, uses the local services every day. He was dumbfounded by the price and called for the bus firms to take over the schedule and route pamphlets once again. He added: "The first thing is the small print, it's very hard to read. I think the bus companies should go back to producing them like they used to, they know the routes."

Reeling at the £13.50 price, Brentwood Bus And Rail Users' Association member Alfred Thornhill, from St Mary's Avenue in Shenfield, said: "I would not dream of buying a bus timetable for that price."

So not a huge success, then? Questions were asked at a County Council meeting.
Good questions!

fbb has not seen a copy of the Essex book, being like Alfred Thornhill (above) and unwilling to shell out huge bucks to find out what bus companies sell. Therein lies the eternal and oft repeated problem. Why should a potential customer have to pay to find out what is available. The cost of producing a timetable book is just small change for either a bus company or a local authority. Set against the cost of running buses or running a Council it is just one rather tiny peanut. Sadly, telling people where the buses go and at what times seems to be of no interest to either the operators or the County Council and at best we are left with a frustrating and often fruitless forage for a set of leaflets.

In view of all this, it was with some anticipation and excitement that fbb unwrapped his prezzie from No. 3 son; as hinted, it was one of the new London timetable books produced by "Here to There" publishing.

Surely we hear you cry, fbb will be thrilled to have access to paper copies of real timetables. This information is a closely guarded secret in the Metropolis, where Transport for London refuse to produce a single solitary bus timetable in print or on-line.

So it must be Three Cheers for "Here to There", surely?
Once upon a time you could get area timetable books in London, but they never contained full, proper timetables for the more frequent services. The last versions of these included a Central London book priced at five shillings (25p) which was exorbitantly expensive way back then.

So there has never, ever, ever been a "proper" London bus timetable book. Publication of the "Central" summary book ceased but TfL still provided "panel timetables" ...
... which were displayed at stops and available by post, although the latter service was not well advertised.

Now, officially, nothing. 

One keen enthusiast, the delightfully named Robert Munster, has maintained a collection of "proper" TfL timetables on his website (here). He posts full, detailed timetables and PDF versions summarised down to one A4 page - similar, in fact, to the former panel timetables.
And herein lies the core of the "Here to There" London books. The compilers have simply taken the Munster pages and reprinted them in book form.

What a super spiffing and splendid idea!

But is it? Tomorrow, fbb looks at the North West London book in detail - and wonders ...

 Next Bus Blog : Thursday 3rd January 


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I have removed Suzy's helpful comments (as editor of the "Here to There" books) because her views and thoughts are too important to "lose" in a simple comment. Doubtless she will have more to say after the next two in the series!
    I will be publishing her responses later next week as a guest blog.

  3. This blog has answered a question I have often wondered about, namely how many copies did Essex CC sell of their timetable. The other unanswered question is how much did it cost to produce the ten thousand copies, the answer to which would then tell us what a reasonable price for an individually produced copy is. In my view the Essex CC book wasted a huge amount of space (and therefore money) because of it's page layout, something which I think is confirmed when you compare it's size with that of an Eastern National timetable from the 1960s which covered probably 90% of the county's bus services.

  4. SEV777 I think your 90% Eastern National is a bit of an overestimate when you take into account Colchester Corporation, Southend Transport, London Country around Grays and Harlow and independents such as Hedingham and Osbornes. 50% is probably nearer the mark. However your basic point is correct as my 1972 ENOC timetable has 330 A5 pages while the comprehensive 1999 South and North Essex books have 330 and 290 A5 pages respectively. On that basis around 330 A4 pages should cover the county - while the 2011 Essex comprehensive book has around 550 - I.e. about 67% more paper than 2separate books.