Sunday 6 March 2016

Mothers Day Collection

Or Mothering Sunday?
Today is Mothering Sunday in the Church Calendar and, surprisingly it is nothing to do with our Mothers! It was, historically, a day for churches to travel to their Mother Church (e.g. the Cathedral) and join in festivities there. Mothers Day began as a separate event on a different date, invented (as one might expect) by an American lady. Generally speaking churches have accepted the "be nice to mum" theme.
The coach company is making much of the day with special fares offers and "revised" destinations.

High Wycmumbe
Westward Mum!

Chortle, chorlte. Of course this could set a trend. Hallowe'en brings Northwitch and many more, Liverpool Airport Spook, Ghoul, Kingston upon Hell, Fangcaster ...

Chortle chortle! Christmas? Santa Helens? Snowsley? Hollyton (Devon)?
Wessex Red Gets Paler?
Wessex "One" started as a frequent (up to every 10 minutes) service in competition with First's "1", branded with a yellow slash.
News from our Bristol cirresponded that Wessex are cutting back to every 20 minutes in order to launch a competitive onslaught on First's route 2.
But instead of emulating First's wiggle to Cribbs Causeway, Wessex will terminate at Southmead Hospital. Is this commercial wisdom or last ditch desperation by dilution?

We shall see.

Will fFrst now cut out their competitive service enhancement on service 1 and move the buses two the to, too?
Very Unreal Times?
When fbb was in Sheffield last November he reported that the next tram infromation at the Station stop bore no relationship to what trams actually appeared and when. In the above shot, the first tran due will arrive in "5 min" as it pulled up at the stop.
A week ago the Sheffield morning paper carried this headline and picture.

The city’s transport body pledged in October that the £1.46m LED displays, which were installed at tram stops in a bid to provide up-to-date departure times to thousands of passengers for the first time, would be up and working by the end of 2015 after Middlewood resident Alistair Nicoll raised concerns.

An internal email said that not all trams in the city were being tracked for real time travel information because the new technology will not work alongside older equipment on the network, which is now more than 20 years old.

Of course that is daft. 20 years ago the trams did not show real time information. Compatible with nothing!

The retired market researcher, who met with transport body representatives last year, added: “I have spoken with a number of the tram conductors and all have said that these dot matrix should be turned off or covered up until they can provide accurate information. It is not as simple as the showing of ‘scheduled’ and ‘actual’ time of next tram as all to often the data for the actual time of the tram is complete fiction."

One of fbb's contact who works for Sh*ff**ld S*p*rtr*m" reports that the system will be in full working order "soon"

Last Wednesday, fbb and No 3 son stood on Sheffield High Street and watched a couple of dozen buses arrive and depart. NOT ONE OF THEM agreed with the time on the stop displays. Some left late, some arrived late after the appropriate display had vanished; but one service 1A was "Due", then coming in 1 minute, then "Due" again and finally, as it arrived, it was back to arriving in 1 minute. It departed three minutes late due to a crew change!

The Sheffield Bus Partnership has been effusive in claiming a dramatic improvement in reliability "now over 90%". Leaving aside the fact that 90% means one bus in TEN is late (or, worse, early), how do these claims stand up against fbb's 100% wrong?

 Next bus blog :  DUE  Monday 7th March 


  1. The problem with the tram information - Is that the trams don't run to the timetable. They often run earlier than timetabled, and as its a frequent service, nobody really notices. The screens were correct one day last week when it showed a 23 minute wait for the next yellow tram - On the one day you hope its wrong!

  2. If "nobody really notices", then why spend money on (un)real time screens? If trams "don't run to the timetable" then, surely, real real time screens should show when the tram will arrive. Every 20 minutes on Sundays between Halfway and Gleadless and between Hillsborough and Malin Bridge or Middlewood is not very "frequent". Likewise low frequency every day at Herdings Park.

    1. The money for the tram screens was allocated from the DfT Sustainable Transport fund allocated some 5 years ago. SYTPE & the 4 councils in S Yorks all applied for money and guess what? they got virtually everything. An embarrassment of riches meant that the money had to be spent on even the 'crack-pot' "we'll never get the funds" ideas. This included the trams screens that were so far behind they had to be paid for and largely installed in a great hurry in February/March 2015 before the DfT asked for the money back. As we know from previous FBB blogs the 'un' real time system is pretty hopeless on the buses but surely it would work when applied to fixed rail? No - it really is that hopeless. There's no money to replace it so don't look for a solution to be 'timetabled' anytime soon.

    2. "If "nobody really notices", then why spend money on (un)real time screens?"

      Well clearly, the plan wasn't for them to spend money on screens that didn't work!
      The plan was for screens that did work. Evidently it's not gone well, but even so, they're still trying to make them work - so your comment makes no sense.

  3. I have also observed buses passing up to three minutes ahead of the time shown that they are due. No doubt there is more than one reason for this, which may include the following:
    1. The time taken for the signal from the bus to travel through whatever computers are in the chain before it appears on a screen. (Compare with the time lag of a digital radio behind its analogue counterpart).
    2. I believe some systems will adjust the expected time based on the speed of the previous buses. If a particular problem causing delay has disappeared in the meantime (eg parked car - or indeed the crew change cited above) the bus may arrive earlier than the computer anticipated.
    3. Too many tall buildings in city centres which means some buses are not picked up and some signs don't receive their signal.
    4. Too many buses for the system to process simultaneously.
    On the basis that the signal will first go from bus to operator, the data there should be more accurate than that which requires further processing before it appears on the streets.
    Quite probably it can all be solved with money. I think I once saw a figure for the London i-bus system as costing £11,000 per bus - that is about 5% of the price of a new diesel double decker, or something north of £4m to equip every bus in Sheffield.

    1. "..something north of £4m to equip every bus in Sheffield."

      Alternatively, the money could be used to fund a few extra buses and drivers, and provide a genuine improvement to the bus service!

    2. That's just crazy talk! Partnerships are about profits and self importance and not about passengers.If you show real time buses or trams every 5 minutes then you have the perception of a frequent service even when it's not reality. Public transport has just become about massaging figures and not about the public it's supposed to transport.

    3. London's I-Bus system is far, far, far more complicated than anything anyone anywhere else in the country would consider using (though that extra cost may account for the extra robustness & reliability there seems to be in the system). Most operators use a simpler system that relies on a little box, either mounted on the bus or in most more recent fittings inside the ticket machine, to do the tracking. This then sends a signal back to the base with the details & location of the bus enabling the real-time to work. The problem is that the system isn't anywhere near as reliable as people think it is though a major urban city like Sheffield is where it works best (our tracking rates for our real-time averages around 50% of vehicles tracking but that ranges from over 80% at our city depot to closer to 20% at one of our more rural sites). There are a number of fault points ranging from simple dead spots in the tracking to the drivers entering the correct information on the machine so the bus can be identified. It can also depend on who has set up the data as buses arriving at stops before the signs say they are due (or long after they would appear to have been due to arrive) can be down to the intermediate times being set up wrong on the base files (probably done by the operators but it is probably not checked by anyone after it goes in as all the operators will look at is the public timing points not every stop). Why the trams have such a problem is less clear, they have limited stops with known running times and they could adopt a simpler system with a beacon on each tram read by receivers at each stop which updates the system with where each tram is and can then work out when it should arrive at each stop (which is how many, like London before I-Bus, of the early real-time systems worked before modern GPS driven systems were introduced). There may be some inconsistencies if delayed due to traffic or passenger loading but it should be more accurate than the apparent un-real time they are currently displaying for limited set-up cost.

      I would point out the definition of on-time used by the bus industry is between 1-min early & 5-mins late at the registered timing points, as laid out by the Traffic Commissioners which is supposed to allow for all the vagaries of running services on public highways.

  4. Tin foil hat time again.

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