Tuesday 2 September 2014

Three Options for a Funeral [2]

Episode 2 : "A bus, a bus, we're searching for a bus"

... the on going challenge of getting from Groby to a funeral in Maidstone.
Fortunately, Traveline has a timetable index which is unavailable on Transport Defunct or Google Transit, so we can start by seeing what buses serve "Vinters Park Maidstone Crematorium (stop)".
There are four.
Or we can look at buses that go to "Vinter's Park, Vinters Park Crematorium (poi)".

As a performance art, poi involves swinging tethered weights through a variety of rhythmical and geometric patterns. Poi artists may also sing or dance while swinging their poi. Poi can be made from various materials with different handles, weights, and effects (such as fire).

Does it mean "place of interest" in this context?
Now there are a few more buses to choose from.
Or we can look at buses to "Weavering, Vinters Park Crematorium, Bearsted Road (ME14 5LG)" ...
... where the list is strangely familiar.
We won't bother with the list for just plain Vinters Park, because that gives us even more options, namely 20 route numbers to consider. What Traveline does not make quite as clear as it could is that the first list, the shortest, shows buses that stop AT the Crem whereas the others show buses which go NEAR the Crem. And near, for Traveline, is a whopping "within 20 minutes walk".

Far too energetic for fbb but possible for chum David who, although older, is wiry and less encumbered by bulk. 
So the next line of approach is to go to Google Maps, enlarge the bit near the Crem and click on the little blue stop icons.
On the westbound side of the road we are offered ...
.. whist the eastbound stop ...
... makes some changes and doesn't offer any times.
... no 88 but an added 9. Checking the timetables we discover that the 335 only runs on Sundays but does call at the stops indicated. The 784 is a Monday to Friday Commuter service to London which MIGHT stop there but probably needs pre-booking.
The 9 is a schooldays bus running in one direction only, whilst the 88 offers peak hour journeys in each direction which, again, MIGHT stop there.

Realistically there are no suitable buses to Vinters Park Crematorium for a funeral due to start as 1230!

We could, of course, continue this process with all the routes nearby (?) but fortunately the journey planners can do some of the leg-work for us.

Some of our readers will now be screaming, "Why didn't the idiot use a journey planner in the first place?" The answer is simple; journey planners cannot be trusted without a measure of corroboration. Remember that Traveline delivers the answers that the programers think are best, not necessarily the options that fbb or chum David might choose.

Because our research is based on arriving by rail, we search for Maidstone Stations to Vinters Park Crematorium. In this case fbb used Google Transit which is just Traveline and Transport Direct in a thin disguise.

Two options are offered. From Maidstone West station via bus 6A to the bus station.
Then 334 to Vinters Park. Sounds OK and looks reasonable. This Vinters Park is the housing estate, but he Crem is just round the corner.
Wast the journey planner does NOT tell you is something you really do need to know. Firstly, there are loadsa buses from the station stop (Rocky Hill) to the bus station, you don't have to wait patiently for a 6A.
What fbb does not know is whether this useful stop is prominently promoted in the station with a sign pointing to "frequent buses to Chequers bus station." The stop is well hidden from the station on a one way loop of road. Take the "right hand lane" and you will be guided to the station.
It is unfortunate that the "official" network rail map does not use the "official" name of the stop!
What the planners also fails to tell you is that the 334 with its bedfellow 333 is every 30 minutes. But it is a viable option.
A seemingly better alternative is to catch the 506 (Park % Ride) from Maidstone East.
Again, the stop is not physically visible from the station, but an intelligent traveller will cope.
fbb wonders why bus stops are often badly signed from stations. The answer, of course, is that "it's nothing to do with us, guv" for the railways. And even if the bus companies wanted to encourage you to travel on their services, the complexity of railway legislation would mean that something as simple as putting up a sign would take three years or more of contractual and litigious wrangling. Potty!
The Park and Ride site is a short walk from the Crematorium ...
... and the bus runs every "10 to 13" minutes.
It is technologically interesting to see that Google Transit can show the walking bit as following the actual roads (although there are no signs to help you) whereas the 506 bus smashes through buildings to get to its terminus.

Of course, we may be frightened by the concept of Park and Ride. Do we pay for the bus or the parking? Is it a combined ticket? Will we be able to travel "back" to the car park site if we haven't travelled into town? Is our old crusties free travel pass valid or not? In Exeter, for example, you have to park to use the ride. Again, thanks to the wonders of the interwebnet, we can glean the answers for the 506:-

Return Tickets can be purchased from town centre bus stops


The National Bus Pass is currently accepted on these services.

Even better

Off-Peak Day Return    £1.60


So, all we have to do now is to find a train that gets chum David from Leicester to Maidstone East station. Should be a doddle. Oh yes, David is prudent with his pennies and would be looking for the cheapest rail ticket!

Should be a doddle - again!

 Next bus/rail blog : Wednesday 3rd September 


  1. In Exeter you most definitely don't have to park to ride. They even have single fares as the service is commercial. In peak the services even run as local buses serving the industrial estates.

  2. Actually, the "Onward Travel" posters in the stations are now fairly accurate, but it has taken several iterations to get there, including persuading the rail operator to persuade its outsourced producer to use the allocated stop identities, rather than invent new ones of their own.

    But you are not wrong about railway bureaucracy - I've succeeded in getting two real time information signs on railway premises and given up on several more.

  3. Thank you anonymous - I was only reporting what I have been told by local users! Such "normal bus" facilities as you report seem well hidden.

  4. The Chalkwell Commuter service does not require booking - like most it is registered as a local bus service as local journeys are 'possible' on it.

    On the Kent County Council website there are local bus maps for each of the towns and the one for Maidstone helps to indicate where the routes go in that area - but is not of course linked to any of the confuser enquiry sites. A downside is that while it shows the location of the Park and Ride site it does not show the other bus stops it helpfully serves at nearby offices and on old Sittingbourne Road (used by local residents).

    The bus stops by the Crematorium are on a section of road that was historically served by bus services between Maidstone and Bearsted village. In latter years these had been re-routed (horrendously diverted) beyond that point to serve Grove Green then continuing south to the A20 before going north again to the village. This primarily operated hourly though for a few years the Borough Council funded a second hourly operation (when it still had an interest in such things!!).

  5. To which I should have added that Arriva changed this route a few years ago to operate direct out from town via the A20 Ashford Road (then dog legging into and out of Grove Green form the south. Vinters Park gained the new 334 service and the section of road past the Crematorium had in effect nothing in the off peak. This obviously caused some issues locally and Nu Venture did try operating a couple of journeys but there was in reality little point.