Thursday 8 January 2015

Snozzle Shemozzle Part 4

First's First Day Fowey Frustrations [2]
Technology troubles trouble timetables.
Having parted from the periphery of Par and the properties of picturesque Polmear (?) there is nothing much for Western Greyhound's service 525 to aim at, commercially speaking, until the outskirts of Fowey. fbb's bus remained empty to the terminus.

A highlight of the journey, however, is the Polvillion Road/Lankelly Lane bus stop.
The shelter is cared for by a local resident and appears in various decorative guises. fbb passed at too great a speed to get a snap of its Christmas manifestation so the above Streetview view will have to do, plus a selection of past costumes.
Local resident Jane Tinsley said: "It was scruffy and horrible and the seat was broken and it is one of the first things people see when they arrive here. All the bits of furniture and paintings have been donated by lots of different people who all wanted to see the bus stop improved. We had plastic chairs at first but now they have been replaced by better quality wooden ones that people no longer needed in their homes."

She even made a curtain for the window and added a rocking chair, waste-paper basket and a selection of neatly pruned pot-plants. Cafe owner Jane was given permission to spruce up the small stone shelter by the town council after it suffered years of vandalism. Councillor Sally Bain said: "She's made it so attractive. In the early stages there was some vandalism but now it seems to survive. "I think it's rather lovely and it's very popular in Fowey."

But, back to business. The Fowey terminus is at the Safe Harbour pub which isn't at the Harbour.
With a happy snook cocked to Health and Safety nonsense, the bus reverses into a narrow side road and sits there awaiting its passengers. The WG stop ...
... has the expected full timetable; none of this departure list nonsense here. Hopefully nobody will wait for route 526 as that has long gone.
Waiting passengers have a substantial shelter ...
... and a view down the steep hill to church and harbour.
Faced with lack of pole space, First have simply hijacked the "no stunt riders" road sign and thereupon applied their timetable frame.
fbb does wonder whether the highway authority people will mind! But a good house point for initiative.

fbb's 525 turned into a 524 at Fowey and left promptly but empty at 1040. First's 24 was due in at 1056 and out at 1100 leaving your chubby blogger inadequate time to explore further. Creaky limbs, some modest corpulence (?), steep hills and the consequences of an early start meant that "nipping" was not an acceptable agenda item.

Anyway at 1050 Malcolm arrived.

Malcolm is a First Bus inspector and declined fbb's offer of a starring photographic role in this blog. He had been dispatched from central control at Camborne to "keep an eye on things" and distribute timetable booklets. Two real genuine passengers turned up for the 1110 525 and Malcolm promptly advised the earlier service 24 departure.

1056 came and no First Bus. 1100 came and no First Bus. 1110 came and no First Bus. But the scheduled WG motor arrived on time.
The bus, by the way, once served the residents of Washington (Tyne and Wear) as operated by GoAhead.
Our two ostensibly enthusiastic and potential service 24 passengers left. Still no First bus.
Eventually it arrived 17 minutes late. Oh dear.
An embarrassed Malcolm rushed to investigate. The tale was revealed later in the day when fbb was chatting to another First employee. Apparently 53801's ticket machine did not function. Was the delay necessary? Back in the good old days of Setright, TIM, Ultimate, Bellgraphic and Willebrew, conductors were often issued with a pad of emergency tickets; a simple solution no longer allowed in this technology-driven world.

In their absence, could not the offending machine have been removed and attended to, leaving the bus to run on time but with free rides? The loss of revenue would be insignificant but reliability and, most importantly good PR on the first day of the new service, would be maintained. 

For obvious reasons, fbb was, once again, the only passenger until three fifths of a handful joined in the more built-up areas of St Blazey. Watching buses of both operators as they travelled in the opposite direction (here is WG turning into Biscovey Road) ...
... it was clear that both were carrying mostly fresh air. There is simply not enough business to sustain four buses an hour. 

The barbie Optare was originally based further east and is seen here "branded" for the Lyme Regis town service once  operated by First Hampshire and Dorset.
But, at last, we are on our way to Mevagissey. Snozzle Shemozzle continues to Mevagissey next week.
Bargain Offer
from Stagecoach in Northampton ...
... as seen on a Service 17 travelling north to Obelisk Rise, shown as Sunnyside on the screen. It's that weekly ticket offer emblazoned on the side.
Sales might be a bit slow?
 Next bus blog : Friday 9th January 


  1. Most bus companies still issue emergency tickets to drivers for when ticket machines fail and the sort of delay fbb was indicating would tie with the driver being on emergency tickets for a period before this. Filling out emergency tickets isn't a quick process for a driver so their use almost invariably results in late running vehicles.

    There is a separate issue over whether you should just offer free rides instead to alleviate the delays, one of my previous employers did this as it was felt the lost revenue was countered by the better reliability but that was a major city & interurban operator who had officies & supervisory staff with spare machines on the routes to easily swap. A more rural or geographically spread operator where it would be a more difficult to swap machines quickly may feel that too much revenue could be lost before a machine could be swapped. You can also find some of the latest ticket machines can be prone to entire system crashes which can take out all machines for a day or more, many operators couldn't afford to take that hit of no revenue so would need some method of fare collection during a period like this though whether a more simplified streamlined system should be used is another question.

  2. The delay was not due yo slow ticket issue, but to attempts to use a lump hammer to get the machine to work, possibly.

  3. Sadly it's summer only, but there's another operator between Fowey and Mevagissey and that's the ferry across the bay - I had a lovely circular trip from Par via the 524 and Ferry and back to St Austell then train in July - once I'd worked out which side of the road to wait for the bus in Par. Recommended for you, fbb, and Mrs fbb next summer!

  4. "... has the expected full timetable; none of this departure list nonsense here."

    Hmmm, FBB - you've mentioned that before, but why do you think that?

    I think you should remember that the information provided should be determined on the needs of the users, not the ability of the operator to provide it. I imagine that you are aware of the concept of "information overload"? Computer systems can be good at that, leading (for example) to a lot of wasted time reading excessively long log files trying to find a few characters of relevant information.

    However, providing too much information on a bus stop timetable is also "information overload", as the user (passenger) doesn't need it at that point, and the process of filtering out the irrelevant information (e.g. departure times from other bus stops) takes time, and hinders the assimilation of the relevant information. All that the passenger needs to know at the bus stop is where the buses from that stop go (including principal intermediate points), and when they go. The time taken to get to the destination may also be useful, but it is of secondary importance; similarly information about fares and tickets. Anything else is simply not relevant at the bus stop.

    As a child, in the late 1960s and early '70s, we took holidays in the West Country, and I recall that Western National had a practice at that time of displaying the timetable pages of groups of several local routes in the bus stop timetable cases, although not all of those routes would necessarily have served the particular stop. Of course, if the stop in question was not a timing point in the timetable, then we had the ultimate useless timetable display - lots of departure times, from lots of stops, except not the one where the reader was standing!

    Interestingly, German operators seem to be perfectly happy to use lists of departure times on the bus/tram stop timetable displays, together with journey times to the destinations. Route maps and adverts about fares sometimes feature, but these are sufficiently visually different that the user in a hurry can ignore them.

    Of course, there is value in having full timetables, but there is a time and place for everything, and the bus stop is not the place for full timetables!