Friday 17 January 2014

January Changes in Sheffield [5]

FirstGroup, the leading transport operator in the UK and North America, today announced that its UK bus division has ordered 425 new vehicles worth £70m for delivery in the 2014/15 financial year. First’s order, which includes six electric vehicles, represents the biggest ever investment in new buses in the UK, for services outside London, and brings the company’s total investment in 2,000 new vehicles to around £310m over four years.

All but six of First’s new buses will be manufactured in the UK with Ballymena based Wrightbus winning the largest contract. First has placed an order for 301 Wrightbus vehicles including 274 of its ‘StreetLite Micro Hybrid’ buses, one of the most fuel efficient buses on the market.

Back to Sheffield!

The award winning Sheffield Bus Partnership has promised much and, to be fair, has delivered much. For passengers, many fares have come down; for First and Stagecoach, passenger numbers have increased. The general view is that profitability and reliability have also increased which is good news for everyone concerned.

But what about the stability of the network?
And have the promised improvements in printed publicity materialised?
The answer for printed material is categorically NO, and again, NO, and even louder, NO!

In this week's series of blogs, enhanced by fictional minutes from Travel South Yorkshire, we have seen the following failings; all of which have been evident for years.

In episode 1 (read again) we saw very basic errors in the route changes list ...
... potential confusion with duplicate route numbers ...
... and recognised that some timetables change far too often.
To be fair, most timetable changes are created by he operators, but, however commercially nwcessary they may be, the result can be unhelpful to passengers. Repeated timetable tweaks leave the public confused and convinced of the inherent unreliability of the whole network.

In episode 2 (read again) we saw that at least one block of changes at the end of January are confusing and possibly off-putting to the passengers.

In episode 3 (read again), we have come across leaflet headings ...
... and route descriptions ...
... which were misleading or wrong.

Yesterday's episode 4 (read again) looked at the farce of Greystones ...
... and revealed more of the nonsense of Travel South Yorkshire [TSY] "much admired" (by whom?) computer generated leaflet information. The pointlessness of the maps was obvious.
And we haven't really looked in detail at he presentation of the timetables themselves. Another time maybe?

Despite a barrage of criticism from the public and from its own staff, the PTE seems oblivious to the problems. The answer is always the same, "if it's on the computer, it must be right!"

And obviously it isn't!

What is needed is a complete re-think of printed publicity with less emphasis on complex (and expensive?) technology and more on the human brain. Once upon a time First used colours and the "Overground" brand but the scheme has faded gently away. Glasgow's simpliCity has recreated something similar with some success.

So, a suggestion for the Partnership; too late for this change but a opportunity for the future.

 A  For First  : Consider simple branding for groups of services as in this very "rough and ready" diagram for the revised 81, 82, 84 and 85.
click on the diagram for a bigger view

The fbb scheme is based on currently unused route numbers (impractical, sadly, as 4 is already in use!) with the potential to advertise "your new network: as easy as 1, 2, 3 and 4!"

Stick a vinyl on the side of the vehicles ...
again, click to enlarge

... and there is just the remotest possibility that the public will work out where the buses go!

 B  For TSY  : Get someone in to draw useful maps! fbb, like Charles Dickens' Barkis, ...
... is willing! Produce a booklet which shows all "integrated" services together. Do NOT (under any circumstances whatever) believe your computer system when it imports incorrect district names. Perhaps ask local people to tell you the correct names to use. Even better, send your publicity people out to ride on the bus routes! They could then find out where Greystones and Upperthorpe might be.

Something needs to be done; nothing positive has happened in the last two years to fbb's knowledge. But will anything ever change?
There they go again!

 Next bus blog : Saturday 18th January 


  1. I am wondering which are the 6 buses in the First Group order that will not be manufactured in the UK? OK, most of them actually have some foreign content, but I don't see where they get the figure of 6 from.

  2. It would be the 6 coaches as they are Volvo and the chassis is manufactured in Sweden I think.

  3. If the Scots vote for independence the ADL Enviros will be built in a 'foreign' country too

    Mind you it will make First and Stagecoach non-UK companies, as well!

  4. And Mrs fbb will become a foreigner! Och aye!

  5. The First South Yorkshire version of the changes here and maps here and here may be of interest...