Wednesday 9 March 2016

Minister is App-alled!

Sadly, not a Minister of Transport or any other servant of the people at government level. This tale involves a minister of religion, the minister, no less of fbb's place of worship in Seaton. Said minster is shy of publicity, so we will call him "Ewan" for want of a better name.

On his day off, Ewan was visiting Cornwall, as you do; and found himself at the end of the Falmouth branch line. The next hop was to take a bus to Penzance for a return trains. Being a connected cleric he turned, as you might, to the first bus app.
Here, he reminded himself of the route number 2, clearly shown as linking Falmouth with Penzance via Helston of Floral Dance fames - actually correctly known as the Furry Dance. The service 2 is littered with coloured shading, blobs and twiddles as shown in this extract.
On a schoolday, for example, you can get to Penzance in the afternoon by taking a U1 to Penryn then a pink shaded 2 as far as Helston. Nearly half an hour later another pink shaded 2 will pick up the non-schooldays timings through to Penzance. But Ewan's trip was on a Saturday so the green boxed journey would work.

So to the timetables section of the app. Now what Ewan would have liked is a timetable. Not much to ask from a "timetables" section of the app.

But First, with all its millions invested in technology, cannot do anything simple like that. Heyho. Choose a departure stop ...
... from a list of very few options. Choose an arrival stop ditto ...
You can go no further than Helston. According to their App, First do not run any buses between Falmouth and Penzance.

So, still clutching his iPhone, he then might seek solace from the journey planner ...
... where you have to choose your time (fair enough) and your mode. fbb's addiitonal enquiry is in the Cornwall section but, probably due to old age ...
... he cannot quite remember which Cornish locations have trams and a tube.
We will seek bus. But, belay that order cap'n; First's unappy app cannot cope with "Falmouth". It can offer Falmouth in Worcester, Falmouth Gardens in London, Falmouth Street in Southampton, and Falmouth Road in Congleton amongst others.

We are in Cornwall, so why all the guff? fbb supposes that there is a remote possibility that someone in Falmouth Cornwall will be itching to escape from the land of piskies and pasties and ask about buses in London; but then they would seek infromation from a section headed "London".

But, having asked for a journey after 1500 up comes the answer ...
... a bus at 1139. As well as being useless, the journey involves a change in Helston with only 2 minutes to make the leap. OK, fbb and Ewan both know that it is the same bus but an untrained user of the App will not know that subtlety and ride from Falmouth in a state of unbridled panic wondering what will happen if he misses the connection.

Of course he won't; he wants to leave after 1500. And, after another few frustrating minutes, a "correct" (snigger snigger) answer appears.
No person in their right mind would choose the four leg 1504 option, but, again we are offered a two leg two leaving at 1544.

But, hang on a bit. Didn't we glimpse a timetable extract above.
And didn't the bus leave at 1550. Of course First Bus, there is a little walking man. That's what it is. We have to take a six minute walk from Falmouth Moor to catch the service 2 from ...

Falmouth Moor. Deep, deep joy.

Of course, Ewan could have looked at a timetable book ...
... unobtainable in Falmouth. Or he could have tried the First Bus web site via his phone (slow and almost unbelievably tedious); or he could have found the First Kernow site and downloaded the appropriate timetable before he left Seaton.

How utterly foolish of Ewan to think that First Bus would make all that unnecessary by providing a neat and tidy app with timetables in the "timetables" section! "Stupid boy."

In fact, being a person of omnibological perspicacity as well as theological knowhow, said minster stuck with the app "timetables" feature and, realising that First's technology was round the bend, he accepted a journey from Falmouth to Helston and then "rebooked" electronically and sought a journey from Helston to Plymouth.

His bus, of course ran through without hesitation, deviation or repetition. 'Tis a pity that First Kernow doesn't know that!
Bath Succeeds where Norwich Fails
And talking of timertables; fbb sought such from First at Norwich and from a direct request to their manager by email. Offered a wait of up to 14 days (why?) from "the office" and no reply from the manager, it was simply a case of waiting and (not) seeing.

Then, yesterday, a correspondent from Bath sent fbb a timetable.

Only it wasn't. It was a departure list with a hint of Ray Stenning about it (see First Kernow above).
Question : What time does the 0740 arrive at Poringland Church?
Question : what time does the 0745 arrive at Norwich?

Answers (derived from the panels above) on a postcard to the usual address.

fbb eagerly awaits a reply (and even a timetable!) from First.

 Next bus blog : Thursday 10th March 


  1. I appreciate the point of your article is to point out the difficulty of using the First journey planner, but if Ewan had gone straight to Traveline South West for a journey from Falmouth to Penzance after 1500 on a Saturday, the through bus at 1550 would have come up instantly.
    Ken - Blowing the trumpet for Traveline.

  2. How many people know about Traveline? It says "First" on the side of the bus!