Friday 19 July 2013

London, Saturday July 6th : "Cool" or "Hot"? [5]

Hey diddle diddle,
there's a bend in the middle!
from our Northampton correspondent
Uno (Universitybus) deploys bendies in Northampton? Sadly true; but not true! No doubt Uno would love to be carrying so many passengers on its services to and from the campus day by day; but these were imported from Hatfield to carry the crowds of jubilant students and proudly doting parents for yesterday's graduation ceremony.
Apparently they were very efficient at moving the people! An idea for London, Boris?
fbb on Mastermind? In your dreams!
Your name? fat bus bloke

Your chosen specialist subject? London Bus Timetables

You have two minutes on  London Bus Timetables starting, NOW

Name the official supplier of bus timetables in London?
There isn't one

How many bus stops in London have timetables displayed?

How many bus timetables are there on the TfL** web site?

How many timetable leaflets does TfL** print annually?
Usually none

How could you know how long a bus journey might take?
You couldn't

What is the London Mayor's policy on bus timetables?
Ooh, er, golly gosh; you don't need them, do you? Cripes!

Who is Robert Munster?
If I answered, I might have to be shot
No wonder John Humphrys looks a bit confused!

fbb has arrived at South End Green or Hampstead Heath (or not?) and his aim is to ride on the "Borismaster" (New Bus For London) all the way to Pimlico ...
... and back. So, it is reasonable to want to know how long this trans-Metropolis trek will take.

Although fbb's trip was on a Saturday, the following comparisons etc. will be for the Monday to Friday service. On Saturday most journeys are for leisure, shopping etc.; whereas on Monday to Friday people's travel may involve tight timescales or interchange with other transport modes. So accurate timings may be more important.

The boarding stop has the following information:-
But, being more prepared than most, fbb has also downloaded a similar copy from the TfL web site. Here are the Monday to Friday times on-line.
Note that they are different! Leaving aside the odd on-line presentation of times between midnight and 0100, and ignoring the weird mixture of 12 and 24 hour clock systems on the same panels (in the same "sentence" with 0030 to 1 am!!), they are still different!


Now let's create a similar departure list using fbb's software, namely his Bus Rail Access Information Notification suite of programs. Using the Preparation Execution Nodule facility, combined with the Publicity Application Presentation Efficacious Resolution equipment, fbb has been able to create this:-
click on the panel to enlarge

It accurately (well nearly) shows the exact frequency for the departure stop at South End Green. "Nearly" because between 0630 and 0730 buses run every 4 or 5 minutes to allow the service to maintain the 6 minute frequency as traffic builds up later in the route and slows the buses' progress. Whilst fbb's panel was created manually, he is certain that a bright 7 year old could write a simple confuser program to do the job "sustainably".

It may be better; but it still isn't a timetable. The panel at the bus stop says that the average journey time is 40 minutes. Of course that is utter drivel. It is simply wrong! The panel from the on-line page looks a bit better ...
... at 57 minutes "off peak", whatever that might mean. But, frankly, an average or "off peak" time is about a much use as a chocolate teapot. This is a sample of the service 24 "running times" in minutes hour by hour on Mondays to Fridays from South End Green to the Pimlico terminus.

0000  40
0600  40
0700  53
0800  66
1800  66
1900  64
2000  57
2200  50
2300  47

57 minutes applies to trips around 2000 which is a weird definition of "off peak". There is a 65% increase from the quickest to the slowest; which is why we need access to a timetable.

So we should all be grateful to Robert Munster. Currently awaiting a decision on Political Asylum from the Laird of Rockall Island, Munster flies in the face of danger by publishing all London Buses timetables. This act of self-effacing whistle-blowing is both highly commended and very risky.

But, sooner or later, the Transport for London Gauleiters will find him; and a sentence of an eternity listening to Boris's speeches is inevitable.

Munster's site is (here) but beware. As Edward has revealed ...

... "they" are watching your internet!

But never mind. Thanks to Robert Munster, fbb was able to work out that his return journey from Hampstead Heath (aka South End Green) to Pimlico and back would take about 2 hours and 20 minutes - to include a photo stop on the banks of the Thames at the "Pimlico" terminus.

So we had better take a ride on this revolutionary, iconic and controversial New Bus for London.

And before you add a comment along the lines of, "Why doesn't the fat idiot use the journey planner?" ...
That's why!

And, yes, the idiot did try the "bus only" option and ...
... that's why again!

**TfL - Transport for London

 Next Bus Blog : Saturday 20th July 


  1. FBB - you made a fatal mistake in using the Journey Planner - you didn't know the answer before asking the question. Now, if you just ask for Hampstead Heath to Pimlico, as shown on the bus destinations, the system will think you want to go from a station to a station. However, if you tell it you want to go from South End Green NW3 to Grosvenor Road SW1, removing all of the ticks except bus and also ticking the 'fewest changes' box it will admit that you can do the journey by a single ride on a 24 bus. Simple really.

  2. TfL does post full timetables at some stops. You just have to
    (a) want a particular type of route
    (b) look in the right place.
    Within London, you can find full timetables for most of the commuter and express routes that call at TfL stops.
    Outside London, where TfL stop infrastructure exists - and its tentacles spread a long way - it posts the timetables of non-TfL routes in its cases, in its own format. So the stops for the 233 in Swanley (Kent) include timetables for routes such as the Swanley-West Kingsdown service which does not enter the TfL area at all!
    There was even a standard New Johnston-font timetable for the late lamented Greyhound routes from Victoria (complete with the helpful note that "TfL Bus Passes, Travelcards, Saver Tickets, Oyster Cards and National Concessionary Passes are not accepted on this service").

  3. thanks both! The existence of timetables at the periphery makes the lack of them elsewhere even dafter! I can understand that there may not be room on a stop "frame" for tables of huge and frequent services; but the old "Panel Timetables" did a reasonable job. Daddysgadgets summarises the poor quality of the journey planner perfectly.

  4. TfL produces panel timetables for non-TfL operators because these companies' scheduling systems do not link into TfL's software, so stop-specifics cannot be produced. Exceptions are X90 and The Original Tour where the operators' own stop-specifics are posted.

    Personally I think stop-specifics are a vast improvement over traditional panel timetables, but that's just my view.

  5. But there is no reason why stop specific timetables could not be created. The present system, as explained above, means that length of journey - important for interchange, for example - will ever remain a TfL closely guarded secret.

    1. Not really that practical. Journey times can be so variable from day to day in London (some operators actually have slightly different scheduled running times on different weekdays on certain routes) that publishing the timetables from each stop could actually be more misleading than the very generalised journey times that TfL publish. Remember that the vast majority of routes in London on the basis of maintaining scheduled frequency, not specific times.

      I would challenge any operator to run a central London route to a published full timetable - it simply wouldn't be possible.